Cleolinda Jones (cleolinda) wrote,
Cleolinda Jones

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I... well, let me preface this by saying that you need to read this entry, you need to hear it in your inner reader voice, in a very calm tone. As much as I like to rant and rave, it's usually to blow off steam or joke around. When I'm actually angry or upset, I tend to get very, very calm. As I once told someone, when I'm mad at you, you'll know it--but not because I'm yelling at you.

Wow, that's a dire buildup to a very ho-hum entry, isn't it? I'm just really stressed out, is all. We got an extension on the paper, but the difference is only from this Friday to next Monday. Which would be great, if I weren't also working on the book. And the book is seriously stressing me out. I don't have time to be burned out, y'all. I don't have time to be stressed.

The good news on the paper is that we workshopped my thesis/outline briefly today, and people thought it was a pretty interesting premise. I'm unusually ahead on this paper--I really am one of those people, as if you couldn't tell by now, who guns it out six hours before deadline, and by God, if I don't get A's doing it. But because this time I'm doing the paper on 1) the one book I really, really got into this semester and 2) a movie I watched approximately forty-seven times, I have a much better, more immediate idea of what I want to say and where I want to take it. Hell, let me just show you the thesis statement:

Susan Warner’s The Wide Wide World and James Cameron’s film Titanic stand as major sentimental events of their times, speaking in terms of popular culture. They both focus on the importance of community, though the novel insists that community is achieved through denial, restraint, and submission,* while the film casts restraint as the villain and insists that one must rebel from a “wrong” community in order for the greater good. While the novel is grounded in a nineteenth-century religious aesthetic, the film creates a peculiarly modern, American value system: rebellion as moral imperative.

*A totally stream of consciousness footnote/plot summary: The novel was the biggest selling title of its time until Uncle Tom's Cabin came out, but it's only recently been republished and, as such, is kind of rare. Most likely you won't recognize the name unless you have an extremely sharp eye for Little Women trivia (Alcott has Jo crying over The Wide, Wide World at one point). As the professor says, it's basically a lot of weepin' and prayin'. What you need to know is that the young heroine, Ellen, is urged by her dying mother and various people she encounters to submit to God and become a better person. Which is great and all, except... the book is really heavy on the "submit" part. Like, "verging on sadomasochism" heavy. She's informally adopted as a little sister by John and Alice, an adult brother and sister who have a real Flowers in the Attic vibe, if you know what I mean, and the brother's studying to be a minister and he's just the greatest, noblest guy since Jesus Christ Himself and... he's really good at breaking horses. By whipping them. Judiciously. And his sister talks about this one time he whipped a horse and... y'all, she sounds seriously breathless about it. And there's this one time where Ellen's being harassed by this guy while she's out riding and it's way sexual-creepy anyway and then in swoops John to save the day with his whip and... yeah. Anyway. P.S. John the brother is her only teacher and mentor, and he is teaching her how best to submit to God. Also, she is eleven. Uh huh. Not to get too deep into the details, it eventually comes out when she's about fourteen that Ellen isn't orphaned after all, that she has rich Scottish relatives and they want her back, but they're all into drinking wine and having fun OH NOES, so Ellen has to go live with them until she's eighteen and all and they won't let her write to John and they force her to drink wine, WOE, and they won't let her pray because it kind of gives them the wig, not to put too fine a point on it, and the uncle is kind of a John figure in his need to control Ellen, only he is not of the Lord. Because he drinks wine and makes Ellen read racy French novels instead of books about George Washington. Which--I mean, yeah, you kind of want to root for the Scottish uncle because you're like, "Damn, Ellen, live a little," but he's so forcible about the whole thing that it's like, "READ THE FRENCH PORN, ELLEN!" It's way creepy. Anyway. So she decides that she just has to endure it as best and as quietly as she can because that's what John Jesus would want. And finally John--who is twenty-five, let me remind you. Ten or eleven years older than Ellen--crashes one of the Scottish relatives' parties and, like, nothing eventful actually happens between them, but you can cut the sexual tension with a chainsaw. The fourteen-year-old and twenty-five-year-old sexual tension. Yeah. So then he charms the Scottish relatives and in, like, a paragraph, Warner wraps up the story and says, basically, "Blah blah blah, John made everything better, and then four years later when Ellen was of age she went back to live with the people who loved her best." Which is way vague, but it turns out there's an epilogue that wasn't published in the novel's original run as a serial, in which John and Ellen come back to John's family's home, and it takes you like three pages to even catch on that they're married, because Warner is so incredibly dainty about it. Like, I think the only thing that tips you off (I don't have the book at my desk right now) is a line like, "Not Miss Ellen anymore." And half my class was convinced that she was also pregnant by that time, but you only get that from some otherwise non-sequitur Here's a Painting of the Virgin Mary symbolism. So, what's Ellen's big happy ending? She marries John, gets a drawerful of petty cash to do with whatever she wants, and a study all to her precious self that's tucked between John's study and "John's room" (read, in extremely scandalized tones: bedroom), like, inside John's rooms, no other way in or out, where she can retreat from the world and submit to John God all the livelong day. And she's thrilled about it.

Yeah. You see why this is extremely interesting when set next to Titanic.

So... I'll be over here writing that paper in the back of my mind while I whistle a happy tune in the comedy mines. No, seriously, I'm going to be okay. I'm just stressed out. A lot.

ETA: You know what I just remembered? We have cake downstairs. Mmmcake.

ETA2: Heh. I think just rambling about The Wide, Wide World made me feel better.

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Tags: best of, book recaps, books, school, stress, wide wide world
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