Friday, July 29, 2005

Something Borrowed, Something Blue

I am going to change the way I do things, since the way I do things has been unfruitful of late. Instead of just blithely reading books and waiting for passages/ideas from the text to forcefully strike me, I am going to revisit sections of a text until I can articulate something about it. Bear with me (if, indeed, you are still here at all) if this experiment doesn’t pan out.

Right now the text under scrutiny is Henry James’s The Europeans, which is a lot less stuffy and a lot more delightful than I’d expected it to be. A less-empty Oscar Wilde is what comes to mind, although I also see where comparisons to Jane Austen come from. Anyway, upon revisiting the first chapter, I came upon (appropriately) this passage:
You are irritating,’ said the lady, looking at her slipper.
He began to retouch his sketch. ‘I think you mean simply that you are irritated.’ (8)
There are a couple times in this first chapter when a character (consciously or unconsciously) attributes an emotion to a certain cause, when in reality the feeling is linked more to the character’s own mercurial disposition and passions, the core of which doesn’t change. For example, the woman, Eugenia, after exhausting the subject of first the weather, then her brother, immediately switches to complaining about how often their cousins will probably be. She’s not a pessimist, exactly (James describes her as having “a certain tranquil gaiety (16)"), but she never comes out and admits that she enjoys anything.

What is the consequence of being self-contained and unaffectable by outside circumstances? I don’t know, but at least now I have a question to ask the rest of the book. Will report further with my findings at a later date - keep your fingers crossed.