Ruth by Gaskell

In many ways, Ruth is another story about an independent woman.  Some compare it to Hardy’s Tess, but I think that Tess had more determination and independence than Ruth [and I would say read Tess rather than Ruth].  Ruth is a story about a woman who became an orphan as a teenager and was sent into the world to make money without any guidance.  She is innocent as she grew up in the country with her parents alone (so it appears).  Within the first fifty pages or so, she is courted and taken advantage by a young gentlemen outside her class.  And he leaves her.  Without much word, and she is left with the consequences of their sin.

The rest of the book is mostly about Ruth coming to terms with her sin.  She is apparently so innocent, that she doesn’t think what she is doing is wrong until an innkeeper tells her bluntly what she is “a mistress/prostitute”.  This is the first thing that I didn’t quite believe.  Is someone so innocent?  Even a country girl?

I was pleased by the approach of the minister (who was a dissenter), in that he did not combine the consequences of her sin with the act of sin itself.  A baby should be loved and cherished with the hope that he or she can do good in the world.  I hoped that this would be a novel of redemption, but in the end it really was not that.  Redemption apparently only reaches those who have been wronged for centuries — the woman.  When the man comes back into the story, he is given little chance to redeem himself.  I was shocked.  Ruth can be given a chance, but not the man.  Maybe it was because of his willfulness in deceiving her, but no matter his sin, it should still have the chance to be forgiven, just as Ruth’s was in the beginning.  Redemption should be shown to all, not just some.  Isn’t that was why this book was written in the first?  To show that women should not receive all the blame?  And to be held just as responsible as man?

And Ruth, in the end, was really only made independent because she was a good-hearted creature who strove to make right the rest of her life.  Throughout the book most of her decisions were her own, unless she was forced to make her own decision.  She was independent, but only to a point.  I would call Tess much more independent.  Even Emma from Jane Austen’s story as she manipulated the people around her.

Another good, but still failing, attempt by a Victorian to make a case for the independence of women.



I found this quote by Haruki Murakami slightly amusing, “what counts isn’t the number of copies a book sells but how the novelist’s messages can reach the readers”.

Recently he published his newest book 1Q84 in Japan (no talks yet of when it will be translated).  It was highly anticipated and mostly due to the fact that people only knew that it would be two volumes.  Murakami didn’t want any other information about the story to be leaked as he was worried the book would make less of an impact.  This is mostly due to when Kafka on the Shore was published as bits of the story was leaked and Murakami believed it took away from the impact of the story.

He has finally talked more about the story and it’s inspiration in an article from Guardian.  Which I felt to be too much, as Guardian tells quite a bit about the plot (so just read the beginning and end of the article if you don’t want it to be spoiled).

Murakami reveals Orwell and Aum as twin inspirations for new novel

Second Life and Literature?

A Second Life in literatureSince having to create an account for Second Life for the graduate school program I have been interested in the relation between academia and a virtual reality like Second Life.  I’m skeptical of the ability for it to work.  Perhaps it because its a virtual reality — a life that is only a dream and at least once removed from reality.  Now Guardian has posted a news article about the idea of having virtual literary worlds on Second Life to explore.  Imagine exploring Dante’s Inferno?  I can’t see how this acheives the goal of having people read more.  Why read a virtual book if you are not going to read in reality?  Who dreams of being an academic if they’re not already pursuing that goal in real life?  It may be interesting to explore literary worlds but why do so when I can imagine that world on my own?  If anything, this new step only takes away the ability of one’s ability to imagine.  An important aspect of reading is being able to imagine.  Great writers become great usually because they grew up reading vast amounts of books which caused their imagination to run wild.  It doesn’ take much imagination to develop a second life.  Especially if the options have already been created for you (you just might not realize it, but there’s only a certain amount of choices can only be made in the system).

Link to article at Guardian: A Second Life for literature