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Monday, August 26, 2013

The Red Badge Of Courage

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

I really liked this book. A lot. Surprisingly. I’m not too big on war novels but this book, which takes place during the Civil War, was written very well. I liked how Crane never really gave the characters names. Only when directly spoken to by another character would you learn their name. They were described. The main character that the novel follows is called the youth. He has two other friends that are in the book called the tall soldier and loud soldier. We also meet Generals and Lieutenants among other soldiers of the regiment. I really liked that no one had names. It was easier to put myself in the role of the youth and get a sense of what the character went through.

The book takes place over a few days as far as I can tell. It takes place over a couple of battles. It’s the youths first few battles. We follow the youth and learn about his struggles and victories of war.

I really like what it says on the back of my book. It really captures what I’m trying to say well.

War is many things. It is waiting and boredom and rumor, as well as shot and shell and the Flag flying in a brave charge. It is men against the many minor enemies of sodden discomfort, fatigue, fear, and uncertainty, as well as the human enemy with a gun. 
Men have made war – and written about it – since before the dawn of history. It would hardly seem there is anything new to say. Yet when Stephen Crane wrote The Red Badge of Courage in 1895, it met immediate wide popularity. Others had written of gallantry, of glory, and grand strategy; but what Crane’s readers found was the simple human tale of a young recruit, bewildered by the mad pattern of battle, often weary and frequently afraid. It was in effect a truth about war – and about men – which old soldiers might tell, but which was seldom set down in books. 
Stephen Crane was born in Newark, NJ, in 1871, and died in 1900. He was 25 when he wrote The Red Badge of Courage, and the war he told about had been over before his birth. But veterans praised his book’s accuracy – because he had listened to their talk and understood their feelings.

I do recommend this book. It’s well written and makes you think. I really enjoyed reading it.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Great Expectations

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

First off a couple of quotes I liked while reading the book.

"If you can't get to be oncommon through going straight, you'll never get to do it through going crooked. So don't tell no more [lies], and live well and die happy." -Joe (Page 71) ... That's some good advice right there. If you can't be uncommon without lying then it's not worth it.

"Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts." (Page 145) ... I love this quote. It's so visual and true.

And my review. It's long and has spoilers. Sorry.

Great Expectations was a difficult book to get into. Charles Dickens uses every sentence to describe something so if you skip a line you have already missed something. I thought it would get easier to read once I got the cadence of the storytelling down, but it didn’t. I got more used to it but it never got easy. The other thing about the story was that I had a difficult time judging the ages of the characters and how time passed for them. It wasn’t until the end of the book that realized that Pip was about seven in the beginning of the book. The third thing I have to complain about is the story plot itself. It was complicated and made more complicated by the super-descriptive sentence and the lack of time explanations.

That being said I thought the story had the potential to be a great story. I know Dickens is a great writer because I read A Tale of Two Cities and I loved it. But this book, Great Expectations, was a cynical commentary on how life can treat a person. This book was long and complicated, sometimes like life.

"Which I meantersay, Pip..." by John McLenan. 1860. See it Here.

*spoilers beyond this point*

Pip is a young boy/man who doesn’t like his lot in life. Especially after he meets Estella. She is a well-to-do young girl/woman who was adopted by a bitter woman. Pip, unknowingly, falls in the good graces of a convict who makes a fortune in America. The convict makes arrangements for Pip to become a gentleman, thus “adopting” Pip and raising his lot in life. So follow me here… There is Pip who is adopted by a rich “Uncle Provis”, a man who makes Pip into something he can never be. And then there is Estella, the adopted daughter of Miss Havisham, a woman who was in love with a conman but never knew it. Her lover left her on the day of their wedding leaving her heartbroken and bitter toward men. She is a woman who dislikes men and thinks they are all the same. Miss Havisham raises Estella to use men like puppets. These are the four plot point characters. But there are other plot driving characters. We have Pip’s caretakers, first of all. His sister was is 20 years his senior and we never learn her first name. And her husband and Pip’s friend, Joe Gargery, the blacksmith. Then there is Herbert Pocket, Pip’s London friend, and Herbert’s girlfriend, Clara. There is Mr. Pumblechook in Pip’s childhood whom everyone believes made Pip a gentleman. We also have another convict who is tied to the background stories of Provis, who pops up in the story whenever it seemed conveniently needed. Let’s see who else was in the story… Oh! Biddy. Biddy helped Pip when he was in a child to learn how to read and write. We also have the lawyer, Mr. Jaggers, and his assistant, John Wemmick, whom conveniently are connected to Miss Havisham, Provis, and Pip. They are the ones that keep the story going. Sometimes they are even the people that hold it back.

So Pip meets Provis, whose real name is Magwich, when he is seven years old. A few years later he meets Miss Havisham and Estella. He starts his apprenticeship with Joe. Pip is dissatisfied with life. He gets a mysterious rich benefactor who doesn’t tell him who he is until he is 22. Shorty after coming into the money, pip meets Herbert. They become best of friends and remain friends for the rest of their lives. Pip and Herbert live together in London and have a grand time spending money and being young gentleman. Meanwhile Pip is in love with Estella. And I feel like if left to her own ways Estella could, and does, love him too. But with Miss Havisham’s teachings Estella never gets that chance. By the way, Pip thinks that Miss Estella is meant for him. Okay, so throughout the years Pip is learning how to be gentleman and he has dealings with the lawyer, Mr. Jaggers. Pip comes of age and fully expects to meet his benefactor on, of shortly after, his 21st birthday. But that doesn’t happen for another year or so. A man comes to Pip in the middle of the night and reveals that hi is both his mysterious benefactor and the convict that Pip met when he was seven. Oh and the great thing is that Provis is pretty much banned from England on penalty of death if he comes back. So Provis is risking his life by being there. Pip and Herbert hide Provis the best they can. At first they are appalled to think that the money Pip has been receiving is from an escaped convict. But they come to love him and trust him. Who knows how much time passes while Provis is in London? I got the feeling it’s just been a year or so. The time finally comes when they try and sneak Provis out of the country. But of course they get caught. Provis is put to death a month later. Herbert just goes on his merry way, marrying Clara and moving to India to be a partner in the shipping business he had been a part of. Pip becomes ill and thought it would have been an acceptable ending if he had died from his illness. But Pip gets nursed back to health by Joe and goes to live in India with Herbert and Clara. Shortly after Pip’s illness he finds out that Joe and Biddy are married. Meanwhile we also find out that Estella marries a rival of Pip’s becomes widowed a few years after that. Miss Havisham dies shortly before Provis is put to death. So I thought that with Estella benefactress and her husband gone she would have been able to be happy but she never was. No one was happy in the end of the book, save for Joe and Biddy and Herbert and Clara.

*end of spoilers*

If I didn’t really like the book in general, I really disliked the ending of the book. Plots get loosely tied up and then the book just ends.

I don’t really recommend this book after my first reading of it. Maybe my opinion will change after I read the book a second time.