Saturday, April 25, 2009

What Life Is...

So in the midst of writing an essay about what life is according to Arnold Bennett in The "The Old Wives' Tale" I thought about what I think life is according to me.

I was at Starbucks tonight, organizing my essay and as I was leaving I took stock of what my life looks like at the moment. I have a steady job, good pay, a fantastic roommate, a nice apartment, a great car, a family who is more amazing than I could special order from a catalog, wonderful friends, and am really close to a college degree. I don't know how much better I could have it. Sure, there are things that I want that I don't have... sure, there is a crapload of debt coming along with my impending degree... sure, I don't have any great love story to add to my list... but that's okay. I'm twenty-six years old and I have a damn good life going for me. So I thought I'd put that in writing so I can remind myself of it when I'm having a bad day or two down the road.

I should start out by saying that one of the main characters, Sophia, really struck me when I was reading this novel. She fell head over heels in love with a man she barely knew, ran off to Paris with him and got married, quickly discovering that things weren't as they seemed. Instead of returning home when things didn't work out, she stayed in Paris on her own and made a life for herself out of business and no pleasure. Reading this book was life-changing for me specifically in the end of her relationship with her husband, Gerald Scales.

"Her eyes were the eyes of one who has lost her illusions too violently and too completely. Her gaze, coldly comprehending, implied familiarity with the abjectness of human nature. Gerald had begun and finished her education. He had not ruined her, as a bad professor may ruin a fine voice, because her moral force immeasurably exceeded his; he had unwittingly produced a masterpiece, but it was a tragic masterpiece"

and a little later on the same page:

"She had accepted Gerald as one accepts a climate. She saw again and again that he was irreclaimably a fool and a prodigy of irresponsibleness. She tolerated him, now with sweetness, now bitterly; accepting always his caprices, and not permitting herself to have wishes of her own. She was ready to pay the price of pride and of a moment's imbecility with a lifetime of self-repression. It was high, but it was the price" 361 - Arnold Bennet - The Old Wives' Tale

Reading this was a wake-up call of a familiar situation. And I realized afterwards that I don't want to be a Sophia Baines, consistently punishing myself for one moment of weakness or one mistake I have made. She lived out the rest of her life cold and calculating, focusing on nothing emotional and wrapping herself up in monotony and work. That's just not me.

Anyway, there's a lot more I could say on this subject, but I'm heading to sleep now. I'm still not finished with the essay on this book and it's breaking my brain into tiny little pieces because I'm only allowed two double spaced pages to write everything that I want (WITH QUOTES AND SOURCES!) and I'm struggling to pare it all down.

So, I may revisit this topic again... but for now, that is all.


  1. "I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.'"

    -- Kurt Vonnegut, "Knowing What's Nice", an essay from In These Times (2003)

  2. Going through old blog posts and saw this comment from years ago and thought I would add that I now have this quote hanging on the wall in my classroom :)

  3. Going through old blog posts and saw this comment from years ago and thought I would add that I now have this quote hanging on the wall in my classroom :)