Tag Archives: characters

I Thee Read

Another blogiversary, another year of reading bliss.

Blogiversary Two

For better, . . .

Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Crime and Punishment
Anna Karenina
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Red Badge of Courage

for worse, . . .

Madame Bovary
The Return of the Native
The Portrait of a Lady

for richer, . . .

Rodolphe Boulanger
Augustine St. Clare
Stepen Arkadyevitch Oblonsky
Lord Warburton

for poorer, . . .

Berthe Bovary
Sofya Marvelodov
Avdotya Romanovna Raskolnikov

in sickness, . . .

Nikolai Demitrich Levin
Ekaterina Alexandrovna Shcherbatskaya
Ralph Touchett
Clym Yeobright

and in heath, . . .

Pansy Osmond
Huckleberry Finn

till death us do part . . .

Evangeline St Clare
Uncle Tom
Emma Bovary
Katerina Ivanovna Marmeladov
Alyona Ivanovna
Lizaveta Ivanovna
Anna Karenina
Mrs. Yeobright
Eustacia Yeobright
Damon Wildeve
Daniel Touchett
Ralph Touchett
Pap Finn
Miss Watson

So who did you love and cherish most this past year?


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Stupid Question about Portrait Characters

Has anyone else noticed that Henry James likes to bring new characters into his story, to write several pages including Mr. and Miss. X in the scene, and then to name them?

Example: Chapter 22.  It takes half of the chapter before we find out that the father’s name is Mr. Osmond and the child’s is Pansy.


Posted by on February 6, 2013 in The Portrait of a Lady


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Venn Diggory Diagram

Was Venn a Super Hero or just an Average Joe?  Yes.

Venn Diggory Diagram


Posted by on January 13, 2013 in The Return of the Native


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Stupid Question: Dickens Edition

I have a question, and it’s going to mean that you need to think back a little bit, and not just back into the early chapters of Anna Karenina (although quickly find your place in Part One, Chapter 11.)  We need to think back several authors.

That’s right, I’m calling on your Dickens knowledge.  Although he’s likely the first guy I’ll run to after we’ve finished the WEM  list I’ve only read Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol and I don’t think either of them are the answer to my question.  Here’s what I’m wondering:

When Levin is explaining to Oblonsky that he is afraid of virtueless women, his friend, who does not share the same fear, replies, “It is all very well for you to talk like that – just like the character in Dickens who used to fling all embarrassing questions over his right shoulder.  But denying facts is no answer.”

Which Dickens novel?  Which character?


Posted by on October 6, 2012 in Anna Karenina


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Unknown Gentleman

Crime and Punishment Part III, chapter 4

Sonia has asked Rask to come to the memorial dinner for her father  (Wasn’t Marm’s death sad and disturbing?).  On her way home, she’s followed by an “unknown gentleman”.

The man is described as a well-dressed fifty-year-old with light hair and beard.  His healthy coloring shows that he’s a visitor to St. Petersburg.  “His eyes were blue and had a cold and thoughtful look.”

In the margin of my book I wrote, “Who is this man?”  “Is it Porfiry?”

He follows Sonia all the way to her door where both Sonia and the reader are told that he’s renting a room right next door.  Oh, I was afraid for Sonia.  Those cold eyes had me worried.  Did you like how Dostoyevsky let us finish the chapter not knowing the man’s identity?  He’s a sneaky one that Russian author is, and he seems to enjoy leaving his readers in suspense.

Did you know who the mysterious stranger was?
or like me… did you have to keep reading?


Posted by on August 25, 2012 in Crime and Punishment


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An Ugly Riding Habit

I’m having a hard time enjoying the beauty of Flaubert’s writing when his characters are so ugly… and I’m not talking about their physical appearances.  Their insides are ugly!

You need evidence?  Proof?  How about Part II, chapter 9.

Rodolphe has purposefully stayed away from the Bovarys.  He’s playing a game with Emma, a game with which she’s not familiar.  A game that he has mastered.  The game of seducing a married woman.

At the start of the chapter there’s a little flirtatious conversation.  Oh, not between husband and wife.  Between Rodolphe and Emma.

Then Charles Bovary becomes part of the scene.  Here’s where I imagine Rodolphe twirling his greasy, handle-bar moustache.

“Wouldn’t horseback riding be good for your wife?”  says Rotten Rodolphe.
Clueless Charles: “Why, yes it would, but sadly we don’t have a horse.”
More moustache-twirling by Rodolphe, “Well, I have a horse that I’d be happy to share…
very happy to share.”
Charles: “Golly, that’s just great!  I love my wife so much that I’m willing to send her off with you, a
stranger I’ve only recently met.  You seem concerned about my wife, so I like you.”

Now here’s where Emma gives us a glimpse of how ugly she is inside.  Rodolphe has left and husband and wife are discussing the riding proposition.  Oh, yes.  It’s a proposition.

Charles: “I think you should go riding with Rodolphe.  He’s a handsome, wealthy man who seems
sooooo nice.
Emma pouting: “Nah. I don’t want to.”
Charles: “But, Emma sweetie, I think you should!  It would be good for your health.  You’ve seemed so depressed  since that attentive Leon moved away.”
Emma: “I still don’t want to go.  It would be weird.”
Worried Charles: “But your health?!”
Whining Emma: “I’d have nothing to wear on the date.”
Charles: “Dearest, we’ll buy you a new outfit to wear on the horsie!”
Emma: “Okay, I’ll go. (at the risk of ruining my marriage)”

Ack!  The text says, “The riding-habit decided her.”

The final touch of ugliness is when bumbling, bewildered Charles writes to Rodolphe that “his wife was at his disposal and that they were counting on his kindness.”

Get the scarlet letter ready.  Emma’s going to need it.



Posted by on July 1, 2012 in Madame Bovary


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Doorway to the Soul

I’m starting to feel smart, aren’t you?  You know that great rush when your’e reading along and then, BOOM!  Out of nowhere is a reference to another piece of literature, and you get it!?!

It just happened, my friends.  Hawthorne was describing the despicable character of Roger Chillingworth with this sentence,

Sometimes, a light glimmered out of the physician’s eyes, burning blue and ominous, like the reflection of a furnace, or, let us say, like one of those gleams of ghastly fire that darted from Bunyan’s awful doorway in the hill-side, and quivered on the pilgrim’s face.

Oh yes, the Pilgrim’s Progress passageway to hell for hypocrites and traitors, the reference made sense to me without the aid of an end-note!  Hoorah!  This DIY Master’s is really working.


Posted by on February 27, 2012 in Pilgrim's Progress, The Scarlet Letter


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A Theory fit for a John

My husband and I have nearly finished watching Showtime’s series about Henry VIII, The Tudors.  I know what you’re thinking, we only watch it for the history.  Really.

Anyway, one of the confusing things about that show is that 75% of the male characters are named Thomas.  No exaggeration.  It’s one of those awkward problems you run into when you adapt actual events into cable smut documentaries TV.

The beauty of fiction is that the creator gets to name her own creatures.  Which really had me scratching my head about Charlotte Brontë’s decision to name not two, not three, but FOUR of her characters John.  Here’s an abbreviated character list:

John Reed:  Jane’s nasty, mean, bully of a cousin
John:  groundskeeper at Thornfield, married to Mary
John Eyre:  Jane’s uncle from Madiera
St. John Rivers:  not to be confused with the gospel writer, Mr. Rivers is Jane’s cousin

So why all the Johns? A  I’ll avoid any poorly placed allusions to slang meanings, and instead provide you with this theory (caution, this contains a Chapter XXXIII spoiler alert):

I believe that Miss Brontë put all the Johns in the book so that when you hear about the death of the Rivers’ Uncle John in Chapter XXX you are less inclined to think that he must also be Jane’s uncle.  This saves a bit of surprise for later.

Truth be told, it didn’t fool me at all.  But it did help me justify the overuse of the name.

Now, if only I could figure out why she wrote in three Marys.

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Posted by on February 11, 2012 in Jane Eyre


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Describing Rochester

Jane would like to know about her employer Mr. Rochester.  Since he is not currently living at the manor, Jane asks the housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax for her impressions of the man.

“he has a gentleman’s tastes and habits, and he expects to have things managed in conformity to them.

“…I believe he is considered a just and liberal landlord by his tenants: but he has never lived much amongst them”

“Oh, his character is unimpeachable, I suppose.  He is rather peculiar, perhaps: he has travelled a great deal, and seen a great deal of the world, I should think.  I dar say he is clever: but I never had much conversation with him.”

“…you cannot be always sure whether he is in jest or earnest, whether he is please or the contrary: you don’t thoroughly understand him, in short–at least, I don’t: but that is of no consequence, he is a very good master.”

The descriptions do not please Jane.  It seems her questions did more to confuse the housekeeper than to encourage a detailed character sketch.  Jane will have to wait until the lord of the manor arrives “to gain a more definite notion of his identity.”

quotes from chapter 11

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Posted by on February 9, 2012 in Jane Eyre


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Meet Adele

I looked at my pupil, who did not at first appear to notice me.  She was quite a child–perhaps seven or eight years old–slightly built, with a pale, small-featured face, and a redundancy of hair falling in curls to her waist.

Jane Eyre chapter 11

In this chapter the reader learns that the French-speaking child Adele is Mr. Rochester’s ward.  Only by reading on into the story will Adele’s connection to Rochester be revealed.

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Posted by on February 5, 2012 in Jane Eyre


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