Thursday, May 10, 2012

Book Opinions Are So Changeable

It’s interesting to look back and see how a book which affected you when younger, affects you as you grow older.

A good example of this is Mansfield Park. Over at the Republic of Pemberley, I’ve heard many of the users comment on how much more they appreciate the heroine Fanny Price. I never had a problem appreciating her; in fact, I would say my problem is that I felt almost too involved in the story.

Most of the story occurs when Fanny is a shy 18-year-old. I read the story as a shy 18-year-old. Although I had a much better life growing up than poor Fanny did, I still felt everything she felt rather acutely. (This is why I believe that many of the critics who are very negative toward Fanny were probably of the more outgoing, confident sort-I haven’t met many of those types that can really sympathize with shyness.)

However, several years later, having worked with, and met more, people than I did at 18, I don’t feel quite as much likeness now. I still can empathize, but my feelings as I read through the novel have less to do with sympathy and more to do with a longing for justice. I want to get to the part where Mrs. Norris gets her just desserts, Mary gets a well-deserved put down, and Henry realizes he really did mess up. This can probably also be chalked up to less self-focus. I don’t feel for Fanny because she is like me; I feel for Fanny because no person should be treated as she is.

Currently, my favorite Jane Austen novel is Emma. It’s a strange thing, because I’ve never been anything like Emma. But somehow, I find it easier to see Emma’s good points, even when she is screwing up. It takes a few metaphorical 2X4’s to get through to her, but it does work. And what is better than seeing someone redeem themselves and find a happy ending?

With regards to other books, I find my feelings at the beginning of Lord of the Rings very different. Upon my first read, I was excited for the coming adventure. But now, I find myself more and more sympathizing with Frodo’s wish to simply stay peacefully in the Shire, and the bittersweet realization that he “saved the Shire, but not for himself”. This may be in part due to knowing the trials the characters will go through before the end, but I think it’s also connected to moving halfway across the country at the tender age of 19.

Personally, I’m looking forward to going back over these books in another 8-10 years, and seeing how they affect me then.


  1. Silly! you did'nt move halfway across the country. You moved to Illinois.....and I still miss you tremendously.Love you sweetpea.

    1. Close enough. It's 760 some miles. That's kind of a long ways away...

  2. I totally understand this. Especially the part about Lord of the Rings. We're reading the Fellowship out loud to Luther and Anthea now, and they're all about the action. I, on the other hands, want to linger on the songs and would like to spend hours with Bilbo and Frodo in Rivendell listening to stories and Hobbit gossip. I think you have to be a little older to appreciate what exactly everyone is trying to save, and what they have to give up to save it. I love being able to go back and read a book and find something new every time.