Monday, September 21, 2015

The Betty and Veronica Effect in Victorian Fiction

Betty and Veronica are two comic book characters in the comic Archie.  The two women vie for the affection of the titular hero, forming a love triangle.  One would think that Archie would have a more difficult choice if both women were very similar, but no: they are dynamically different, with Betty being the wholesome girl-next-door and Veronica is the dangerous Vamp.  One need only refer to TV Tropes to see that this is a common storytelling technique, seeing whether the hero will choose safety or danger, good or bad, light or dark.  But as I’d like to point out in the following blog entry, this sort of character dynamic is much older than Archie.

I’ve read a lot of Victorian novels, and most—especially those written by male authors—have a tendency towards saintly female characters who are so very good and yet so very, very boring.  Most of them may have upright natures, but they are helpless to stop whatever injustice is done to them or their loved ones.  

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Novel Without A Hero: A Review of Thackeray’s “Vanity Fair”

I normally would NEVER use an image of marionettes,
Thackaray's novel is presented as a puppet show, so this image is unfortunately fitting.
William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel Vanity Fair is subtitled “A Novel without a Hero.” It’s a moral piece, meant to show the fallibility (the “vanity”) of every human being in a realistic, unapologetic way. It’s also a sort of parody or farce, a self-proclaimed “puppet show” where Thackeray is the puppet-master and omniscient of every action or thought of the characters, on or off the stage. Above all, it is what in literary jargon is referred to as a “picaresque;” an episodic story dealing with the various adventures and mischief-makings of  the hero, who is usually rude and amoral, but nevertheless charms the audience into liking him....or, in this case, her. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Iron Ring by Lloyd Alexander: A Review

I love classics. They are probably my favorite “genre” of book to pick off the shelf, though of course classics can’t be defined into one particular genre of romance, suspense, mystery or tragedy. Yet no matter how many classics I read—the centuries-old stories lauded by contemporary and modern audiences and critics alike, written about by scholars, argued by academics, and force-fed to students—I always eventually return to Lloyd Alexander.

I had already read all of Jane Austen’s novels, David Copperfield, Robinson Crusoe, several Shakespearean dramas, Jane Eyre, and all of the Sherlock Holmes stories before I picked up my first Lloyd Alexander YA novel. But for a shy, introverted bookworm such as myself, it was akin to meeting a best friend.