Top Ten Tuesday adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ceasedesist/4812981497/

Top Ten Most Frustrating Characters Ever

Top Ten Tuesday adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ceasedesist/4812981497/

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday asks who the most frustrating characters in literature are. I know I’ve wanted to shake all of these people at some point.

  1. Father Ralph de Briccasart from The Thorn Birds. He could have been really happy with Meggie, but his ambition to rise in the Church was more important than anything else.
  2. Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye. I think Stradlater said it best when he said, “Shut up, Holden.”
  3. Catherine Earnshaw from Wuthering Heights. Oh, come on. Horrible, manipulative snot. Plays on the affections of both men who love her and drove one to vengeful madness.
  4. Willa Alden from The Wild Rose. Quit being a jerk and accept that Seamus loves you. He doesn’t care about your leg.
  5. Romeo from Romeo and Juliet. Can you dial back the impetuosity? You are ruining everyone’s lives.
  6. Pip from Great Expectations. Estella does not deserve you. Quit obsessing over her. She’s horrible.
  7. Lady Bertram from Mansfield Park. Did she get off her butt once in that novel? Because I can’t remember that she did.
  8. Lia in Wintergirls. EAT.
  9. Achilles in The Iliad. Get out of the #$%&@ tent and go fight. Hector thinks Paris is a tool, but he still stands up for his country. Hector deserves more credit. If he had been Greek instead of Trojan, he’d have had it.
  10. Captain Ahab from Moby Dick. As Starbuck says, “To be enraged with a dumb brute that acted out of blind instinct is blasphemous.” Unfortunately, Ahab doesn’t listen to him, and everyone on the ship, excepting Ishmael, of course, is killed.

Honorable mentions go to Sir Walter Eliot of Persuasion, who values all the wrong things in life; Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire, who sticks with an abusive (albeit hot, especially as played by Marlon Brando) guy who rapes her sister (for crying out loud!); Ennis Del Mar of “Brokeback Mountain,” who can’t let go of his self-hatred and allow himself to be happy with Jack Twist; Daisy Buchanan of The Great Gatsby, who is just awful; Guinevere and Lancelot in all their iterations because they just ruin everything; Tom Sawyer in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for being an ass and playing around with a man’s life for sport; Hamlet from Hamlet, who dithers for most of the play and then kills some of the wrong people; and finally, the doctor from The Boxcar Children—why on earth did he not call DFCS when he found out those kids were living in a boxcar? That’s nuts!

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Mansfield Park, Jane Austen

Mansfield Park (Penguin Classics)I finished Mansfield Park just under the wire with less than 24 hours remaining in the year, which means that I have also completed the Everything Austen Challenge.

Mansfield Park is the story of Fanny Price, daughter of the poor sister of Lady Bertram of Mansfield Park. The Bertrams offer to take Fanny in as a favor to their sister, who has had the misfortune to marry poorly and have yet another child practically every year. Fanny is at first treated disdainfully by the Bertrams and her aunt Mrs. Norris, the other sister of Lady Bertram, but she proves her worth to the family through her constancy of character, her forbearance, and her usefulness. Her cousin Edmund, the second eldest son, is the only member of the Bertram family to love Fanny from the first. She develops a love for Edmund beyond the sort of brotherly love he feels for her and is appalled when Henry Crawford, a man with what Fanny deems to be a dubious character, begins trying to win Fanny’s heart. Even worse, Edmund falls in love with Henry’s sister, Mary Crawford. Will Fanny ever catch a break?

This book is very different from the other Jane Austen books I’ve read. I always enjoy a trip into her world. However, it is in this book that Austen truly shows us a peek into the lives of people outside the gentle class with her portrayal of the Prices. Mary Crawford is a nasty little piece of work, and I never liked her. Very selfish and vain. I never liked the Bertram daughters, Maria and Julia, either. They were spoiled and reminded me of the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella. In fact, their aunt Mrs. Norris compares well with the wicked stepmother in that story as well, and of course, Fanny is the too-good-to-be-true, long-suffering Cinderella. She always puts others before herself. I feel at some points in the book, she plants herself on a bit of a moral high horse. But worse, she doesn’t seem to have a single fault. It’s no wonder that some readers don’t like her. She’s a bit too perfect. On the other hand, she is spunky in defying the Bertrams in refusing to marry Henry Crawford. She alone seems to have the true measure of his character.

Here in this novel we have an elopement even more scandalous than that of Lydia and Mr. Wickham. I was extremely puzzled by that plot turn, even though I knew it was coming, because I didn’t feel the groundwork was properly laid for it. I didn’t buy that either Maria or Henry Crawford were interested enough in each other to run off together they way that they did. On the other hand, I did feel Jane Austen explored some issues in this novel that she didn’t explore in her others, and the ending is not nice and neat. Maria has irreparably damaged her reputation and relationship with her family. Tom is sick, and it looks like consumption. Julia didn’t fare much better than Maria. Definitely not a happy ending for all.

Ultimately, I liked the novel better than I expected to, but not as much as Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, or Sense and Sensibility. However, now I can say I’ve read all of Austen’s complete novels.

Rating: ★★★½☆

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Reading Update: December 26, 2010

Reading

I hope that you had a nice Christmas, if you celebrate it, and of course, I hope you received a lot of books. My daughter gave me a copy of Catching Fire, which is the only book in The Hunger Games Trilogy that I didn’t own. When I read it, I borrowed it from a friend. Curiously, that was the only book I received, but I think the thing is folks know it’s almost better to give me a gift card or certificate instead of an actual book. I gave several books for Christmas, though. My son received copies of Art & Max by David Wiesner and The Logo Design Workbook by Noreen Morioka, Terry Stone, and Sean Williams, which might seem like an odd book if you don’t know my son. He’s fascinated by logos and is on his way to being a graphic designer when he grows up. My younger daughter Maggie received a box set of Judy Blume’s Fudge books and a version of A Christmas Carol illustrated by Brett Helquist. My oldest daughter Sarah received Incarceron by Catherine Fisher and a collection of Shakespearean insults edited by Wayne F. Hill and Cynthia J. Ottchen. My husband received his very own Kindle. I didn’t give books to my parents, but I did cross stitch bookmarks for them.

I’m still reading Mansfield Park, and I really hope to finish it by the end of the year so that I can say I finished the Everything Austen Challenge. If I do, I will have completed all the challenges I tried, so I’m going to try to finish. I have to say I’m finding it to be very different from Austen’s other books. I’m not finding much spark in the characters, but the situations are different. It’s really interesting to contrast with her other works.

I’m also still reading The Lady and the Poet by Maeve Haran. At this point in the story, Ann More has met John Donne. Pretty much sparks right off the bat. I will be interested to see if Haran includes the story about the writing of “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning.” The story goes that Donne had to go to France and leave a pregnant Ann behind. She didn’t want him to go, and it’s said she had a bad feeling about his going. He wrote the poem urging her to remember they never truly were separated because of their deep connection to each other. Here is the poem, if you’d like to read it.

Supposedly while he was in France, Donne had a vision of Ann holding a dead child, and sure enough, the baby was stillborn. It sounds as if their marriage was a true romance. It’s nice to read about marriages in that time period that were based on love. As Ann’s cousin Francis says on p. 65, “What hath love to do with marriage? You are too sweet on such things, Ann. One would believe you had buried yourself in bowers of green with shepherds trilling on flutes and swains plighting love all day at Loseley. Marriage is a business arrangement, as you well know. Love can be found elsewhere.” Seems to have been the prevailing attitude for so much of history. I wonder what our ancestors would make of our insistence on marrying for love.

So what are you reading? And did you get any books for Christmas? Do tell!

photo credit: schani

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Last Austen: Reading Update, 12/12/10

Independent Study

I re-started Mansfield Park last night. It’s the only one of Jane Austen’s complete novels (not counting Sanditon or Lady Susan) that I haven’t read. I’m not sure I’ll be enough of a completist to read Sanditon or Lady Susan. I do want to try to finish Mansfield Park by the end of the year because it’s the last thing I need to do for the Everything Austen Challenge. It would be nice to say I completed every challenge I attempted this year, which I will be able to do if I finish Mansfield Park. Plus it’s just something I want to be able to say I did—read all of Jane Austen’s novels, that is. I’ve read the first four chapters, and it’s definitely not grabbing me the way her other novels have, but I knew going in that this novel was not as popular or well-liked, and I expected it. Fanny Price is a little bit of a Cinderella, isn’t she? I like Edmund though. Nice guy.

My husband watched Twilight today. It was fun. I have to say that there is a certain species of teenage girl—the kind that felt awkward and gawky and completely unworthy of being noticed by a cute boy—that Stephenie Meyer captures well in her series. Yes, I know Bella Swan is not the best role model ever, but she is recognizable.

Yikes. It’s snowing here in Atlanta, and I’m going to have to drive in it to pick up my daughter. Hope the other Atlanta drivers chill out and stay home. What are you reading on this cold, wintry day?

photo credit: eflon

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Reading Update

perfect place to readI am within 80 pages of finishing Thursday Next: First Among Sequels. I should be able to share a review soon.

I am about 70% in on Crime and Punishment, and I have to say that I am just not into it. I will finish it because I’ve gone too far to turn back. My judgment at this stage is that there are really interesting parts leavened by parts I either can’t understand or am just not interested in. It’s running on two stars at the moment.

I am also slowly moving through Mansfield Park, and not because I don’t enjoy it, but because my reading focus is on finishing Thursday Next at the moment.

Following Thursday Next I plan to pick up Pride and Prejudice again, which will serve as the third of my four selections for the Typically British Reading Challenge. In terms of my other challenges, the All About the Brontës Challenge and the Bibliophilic Books Challenge, I’m still thinking about what to read next. My scores stand thusly:

  • Typically British Challenge: 2 of 4 (3 of 4 once I’ve finished Thursday Next)
  • All About the Brontës Challenge: 2 of 3
  • Bibliophilic Books Challenge: 1 of 3 (2 of 3 once I’ve finished Thursday Next)

photo credit: Dawn Ashley

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