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Archive for June, 2009

A brief introduction of the book: In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Bennet, the fussy and sometimes inappropriate mother of the Bennet sisters, aims to have her five daughters married. The novel starts with the arrival of the wealthy Mr. Bingley to town, who has newly rented a Netherfield estate. Mrs. Bennet wants him to marry her eldest and most beautiful daughter, Jane. However, the novel centers on Elizabeth, the clever and sharp-witted second oldest sister, and her relationship with, or “first impressions” of Mr. Darcy. He is the wealthy taciturn and superficially cold friend of Bingley. Issues of wealth and class are apparent in Pride and Prejudice: The Bennets live reasonably well, whereas Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley are extremely wealthy.

Pride and Prejudice also focuses on the silly, and often funny, social behaviors of people. Jane Austen displays how people, especially females, can manipulate their acquaintances and be aggressive toward others through social gestures (such as ignoring somebody or refusing to enter one’s house) and conversation.

At their first ball in Netherfield, Mr. Darcy shows total disinterest in dancing with anybody, and Jane forms an obstinate negative impression of him from that point, not even allowing him to prove otherwise. Pride and Prejudice deals a very wise issue, which is judging people by negative thoughts on them. This is displayed through Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth. Elizabeth makes the grave mistake of believing everything she hears, especially when it adds to her original opinion. Through a deceiving Mr. Wickham, Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship worsens, leading to an utterly unjust and harsh judgment of Darcy from Elizabeth, and to Elizabeth’s shameful regret for harming Darcy.

Although not my favorite of books, Pride and Prejudice is nevertheless very engaging, but it goes beyond that. Pride and Prejudice confronts very important social issues: prejudice and misunderstanding. Most of the novel is about Elizabeth’s misunderstanding of almost all of Darcy’s relationships, actions and intentions, and her prejudice toward him. He is a most pitiful character, in my opinion.

I think that throughout the novel, Darcy has been victimized by Elizabeth, the evil-intentioned Mr. Wickham, and all the people who dislike him, with the thought that he is proud. I never thought Darcy to be a vain or proud man. He is merely observant and solemn. First, Elizabeth despises him for breaking the relationship between her sister Jane and Mr. Bingley by advising Bingley to leave town, but after reading his long letter, she comes to face the truth that Jane never showed deep affection toward Mr. Bingley. This brings me to the conclusion that Mr. Darcy only cared for the happiness and best interests of his friend. After Jane learns more about him, she discovers that Darcy is a very sincere and kind man.

 

“Anyone who has gone along with the notion that the pride highlighted in the title of the novel in embodied in Darcy now has to contend with the discovery that both this quality and its pair are being attributed to Elizabeth.”

-Introduction in Oxford World Classics edition of Pride and Prejudice.

 

Regarding the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Kiera Knightley, I find it a pretty good interpretation of the book, enjoyable by readers of the book and nonreaders also. The movie wasn’t exactly accurate compared to the the book, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think that Matthew Macfadyen excellently performed the role of Mr. Darcy, making his character even more lovable. Although set in the 18th century, I felt the movie was modern. The style of the novel is formal, and I think the movie added a touch of satisfaction and fun for viewers. But to really appreciate the story, one should read the book in addition to watching the movie. One must put in mind that the movie is short, and many important scenes, such as Mr. Darcy’s letter, had to greatly shortened.

The movie did not ignore the issue of wealth. The glib Elizabeth seemed somewhat humbled and at the same time amazed as she gazed at Mr. Darcy’s extravagant paintings and sculptures at his colossal mansion, after roughly rejecting his marriage.

I must add that Mr. Collins, the man who is to inherit the Bennets’ estate, was overly caricatured. Elizabeth was not a very likable character throughout the movie. She was very mean to Mr. Darcy, and had a tendency of sticking her eyes where they shouldn’t be; but after all, she is a proud and prejudiced woman, and wasn’t meant to be admired in the novel. But she still gets a happy ending: a man with high merit, and a lot of money.

Mattew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy

"Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us."

Pride and Prejudice

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Kafka on the Shore is about a young teenager named Kafka Tamura who runs away from his father in search of his unknown mother and sister. Parallel to Kafka’s story is that of Nakata, an elder who lost most of his intelligence during a mysterious incident he went through as a child. As a result, Nakata gained the ability to speak to cats, and he finds people’s missing cats as a job. Although these two characters never meet, they are somehow related by a force beyond this world.

The Structure of Kafka on the Shore is very creative. Kafka and Nakata’s stories are narrated parallel to each other, and they run alternatively. Kafka, the runaway, narrates his own story in the first person. Nakata’s story, on the other hand, is narrated through the third person, but that narration, in a subtle way, approximates to Nakata’s own manner of talking and thinking. Since Nakata’s accident made him lose a part of his intelligence and maybe made him less eloquent, the author gave him a voice through the third person, but personalized it to suit Nakata himself. I found that very impressive.

Kafka on the Shore is a dreamy novel, yet it is sophisticated and modern. In this story, characters encounter ghosts, it rains fish and leeches, and the characters visit completely different worlds, such as a place hanging between life and death. Sometimes the characters’ subconscious minds narrate parts of the story. Murakami’s writing makes the reader actually live in his dreamlike world. He very well manages to put you in the situation of his characters, and when you begin reading the stories of those two characters, especially Kafka’s, you will soon drift inside their worlds and share their feelings and thought.

Kafka on the Shore is rich with allusions to old theories, Greek Gods, literature, and Franz Kafka. Not only that: Kafka is haunted by an oedipal prophecy during his escape. The supporting the characters in Kafka on the Shore are very memorable; they stand out. The theme of this novel is gloomy and depressing, but it has a great sense of humor in some parts.

Kafka on the Shore is not the type of book which one will forget after reading. Although I found some parts of the novel tedious, I find it is sophisticated and grand. There are many mysteries still remaining in this book, and Murkami makes the reader feel there are elements blended in the book way over the top of one’s head.

Haruki Murakami writes in a sort of Kafkaesque style, and his world is fully believable and livable. If you would like to escape, this is the book to read. Not everyone might enjoy Kafka on the Shore; however, there is no denying  Murkami has a dexterous hand at writing, and his technique is worth mentioning.

One review said, “…[Kafka on the Shore] attempts to tap into the same fevered dream-logic as Franz Kafka’s novels and stories, but unlike those metaphysical dead-ends, Murakami’s narratives offer his characters a way out. (Though never a way back.)” —Scott Blackwood, Austin American-Statesman

I find this true; Murakami’s not-absolutely-innocent characters are spared, for they are only human, and they have a second chance to live their lives all over again and start from the beginning.

Buy from Amazon

Haruki Murakami’s website

New York Times review

New Yorker review

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In The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Alex Haley chronicles the story of the controversial civil rights leader, Malcolm X. In his youth, Malcolm X engaged in issues such as drugs, robberies and gambling. While spending time in prison for 5 years, Malcolm converted to the Nation of Islam, inspired by Elijah Mohammed, whom his siblings had told him about. Through spending time in jail, he changed his life by vigorously studying several subjects and completely changing his life habits. After he was released, Malcolm X worked for Elijah Mohammed to spread the Nation of Islam and later became a powerful speaker for black people’s rights.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X is a very rare and inspiring book. By showing the prejudice and racism Malcolm X faced since he was young, the reader understands what he advocates for more. I think that Malcolm X is a focused man with sharp perspective. His story is a remarkable one; he progressed from a “hustler” to a serious and educated person. He went through various changes in his life. While he was under the influence of Elijah Mohammed, who changed his life by introducing him to the Nation of Islam and later betrayed him, Malcolm X agreed and advocated that white people were “blue-eyed devils” and that they couldn’t help African Americans in their fight for equality. He was attacked for this, but his views changed after he visited Mecca. He came to the conclusion that problems could be overcome by brotherhood that not all whites were racist. He came to these conclusions on his own through experience. Although he may have said wrong things which he admitted to and later changed his views to the better and the wiser, the public still attacked him by calling him “reverse racist” and an extremist.

In the Autobiography, Malcolm X discusses the subtle and mixed feelings about color. He thought that his mother was specifically harsh on him because he was fair-skinned.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X is a very honest book. Malcolm X sparked anger and hatred because he revealed the hard truth about racism and had great faith in justice and truth:

““I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.””

He advocated for brotherhood because he understood that it was the only way to overcome racial barriers.

“I am in agreement one hundred percent with those racists who say that no government laws ever can force brotherhood”.

Malcolm X is an important figure because he reminded people that history cannot be forgotten or ignored, and reading his autobiography will increase one’s appreciation of Malcolm X and make one realize that what he preached was correctly said.

 

Malcolm X also said,

“I know that societies have often killed the people who have helped change these societies.”

http://www.malcolmx.com/index.html

book cover image: http://i43.tower.com/images/mm102134021/autobiography-malcolm-x-x-paperback-cover-art.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malcolm_x

watch a PBS Documentary, Malcolm X: Make it Plain

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