Monday, October 24, 2005

Portrait of an Artist?

I've tried reading like mad on Sunday, and managed to finish David Copperfield just in time for today, when we will be discussing it in class. I've decided (for now) to renounce listening to music, because it takes up hours of my time and is entirely unproductive, seeing as all I do when I listen to music and rock back and forth and daydream about my fame as an actor/singer/screenwriter/director/fantasy novelist/Hollywood social butterfly. I have also decided to limit my television to two hours a day (more on weekends), reading during the commericals, and staying up later to read into the night, and getting up early to read as I exercise on the bike.

David Copperfield was a good novel, and I've just finished reading it for the second time. I enjoy David's character very much, even if he does seem to be quite submissive - more an observer than an instigator. But the women in his life (with three exceptions - Betsey Trotwood, Peggoty and Agnes) are all twits. His mother is a push-over, with no self-confidence, who worries herself into an early grave instead of standing up for her son. Clara Copperfield's answer to verbal pressure is to burst into tears - which solves every type of problem, now doesn't it?
I hated the character of Mrs Strong, when I thought she was cheating on the Doctor with her idiot cousin Jack Maldon, and even in the end, when it is revealed that she never strayed, even though all circumstances contrived to make her look like an unfaithful gold-digger, I couldn't help but hold on to a bit of my dislike of her. Why didn't she come forward sooner?

Dora, while certainly good-natured, had the mental age of a six-year-old. A very cheerful, sweet six-year-old, but a child nonetheless, which disturbed me to some extent as to why, exactly, David was attracted to her in the first place. Especially since she had the nickname of his child-wife. She lives on in every girly, bubble-headed yuppie with a tiny yappy dog forever in tow - in short, she is the Paris Hilton of the Victorian Era.

I believe I felt the harshest feelings towards Emily. I know we are expected to feel more angry towards Steersforth than Emily (and he did lure her and used her, there is no doubt of that), but Emily made the conscious decision to go with him, in order to rise above her social station. I can respect that, even though it broke Ham's heart, and I would have had a great deal more fondness for her if she had stuck to her guns. But no! She insists on sending letters full of misery and self-reproach. "Oh, I hate travelling all around the world with a wealthy gentleman, gaining admiration and fame!" --This is a crude paraphrasing, "I'm a horrible, horrible, evil person, feel free to hate and forget about me!" If she feels so badly about what she is doing, why does she continue to do it? Get over yourself, woman!

What confuses me is that my English prof refers to David Copperfield as a kunstlerroman - that is, a portrait of an artist. David becomes a writer at the end, but what I disagree with is the suddenness that he turns to his craft. There is very little indication that he shows any sort of inclination towards writing - he tries things as a proctor, than a note-taker for Parliament, then suddenly "took a liking to authorship", by "writing a little something". Where did that come from? True, there was a period in his childhood where he read a great deal and loved all the adventure stories he had on his bookshelf, and in Salem house he told stories to the other boys, but once he runs away to find his aunt Trotwood, and starts living a better life, he forgets completely about this - until it resurfaces suddenly after his wedding to Dora.

It's much more obvious in books like, say, Anne of Green Gables, where everyone knows that Anne simply must become a writer, because there is no restraining her imagination and flair for the dramatic. I simply wish David would have remained more consistent, would have tried writing a little earlier while he was with the Doctor, and it would have made more sense.

I also learned today in Japanese class, that the Japanese are simply crazy for Anne of Green Gables (who is known in Japan as, translated, "Anne of the red hair"), and when a Japanese citizen says he's going to Canada, it is immediately assumed that he is going to visit Prince Edward Island. It's astonishing, really - nearly everyone in Japan has at one point, or will at one point, read Anne of Green Gables, or watch the anime adaptation (!) or read the manga adaptation (!). I can't imagine what part of the book would be so appealing to an entire nation (I enjoyed it myself, it's one of my favourite books, and my mother has always been convinced that I am Anne's twin in personality, imagination and verboseness) to such an amazing extent.

I guess admiring Canada for one literary work is similar to admiring Japan for one medium (anime). Silly me...

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:09 PM

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