Character Thursday: Mrs. Moore

It feels so long since I last posted!  Since school started, most of my reading time has been for school.  I read on the bus, at school, and at home, but there is always more…  Anyways, I managed to squeeze in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and The Hobbit (still re-reading).  For British history class, I also read E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India

Mrs. Moore was, to me, the main character of that novel.  I don’t know that I have ever read a book (apart from Miss Marple) where an elderly lady takes on such a huge role, and Mrs. Moore is even more unique because she does not actually “take on” any role.  She philosophizes, she talks, she visits India, but she doesn’t do anything.

At the same time, I felt that she was the reason the relationships between the other characters had substance to them. She has some strange influence over them, which is never fully explained.  Dr Aziz, a young Indian doctor, befriends her, but it is never described exactly what they have in common or see in each other.  Finally, her influence causes one of the characters to make a vastly important decision, where another character’s honor and career are at stake.

I’ve got to say that, for all that, I did not like Mrs. Moore (or the book, for that matter).  Her “powers” were vague and unsubstantiated, and I felt like the book promotes turning to people (e.g. Mrs. Moore), instead of God, for ultimate spiritual and moral guidance.  Also, it doesn’t help that Mrs. Moore takes a sort of indifferent view of morals altogether and hardly cares what happened or might have happened to her potential daughter-in-law.  This was what particularly stopped me from warming up to her character.

Character Thursday: Octave Mouret

I am three chapters into The Ladies’ Paradise, by Émile Zola, and so far I love it.  Set in late-1800s Paris, it is about a clothing shop called the “Ladies’ Paradise”, which threatens to destroy all the other shops in the neighborhood with its business innovations, cheap prices, and unheard-of variety.  The shop is currently the brainchild of a man named Octave Mouret.

Usually, I prefer to talk about my favorite characters, but Mouret is so bad that he outshines all the other characters (most of whom are rather horrible as well).  This guy is an evil genius.  So brilliant, he can convert a nondescript corner of the neighborhood into a bright, clean, vibrant, mini shopping mall, creating jobs for hundreds of jobless people, including veterans.  So low, he would pretend to be a friend (and boyfriend) to women, simply to make business connections and improve his profits.  He is utterly shallow, and he encourages everyone around him to be the same.  Part of his power is rooted in his charisma, which can ensnare both women and men.  He loves no one but himself.

They all belonged to him, they were his property, and he belonged to none of them.  When he had extracted his fortune and his pleasure from them, he would throw them on the rubbish heap for those who could still make a living out of them.

As an aside, I find a lot of parallels between this book and modern-day life (particularly the discontent and greed).  I don’t know what to think of the small, old-fashioned shops vs. the new superstores, but it’s an interesting topic that still comes up today.

Character Thursday: Ned Land vs. Captain Nemo

[It’s not yet Thursday where I live, but I thought I would go ahead and post this.  🙂 ]

As I near the end of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I realize one thing: I don’t like book!Nemo.  And it is (partly) Herman Melville’s fault.

Ever since I read Moby-Dick, I have had a huge admiration of, and appreciation for, whales.  I love whales.  Thus, when Captain Nemo decides to attack a pod of sperm whales–to even the odds for some weaker, baleen whales nearby–I had mixed feelings. 

   What a struggle! Ned Land quickly grew enthusiastic and even ended up applauding. Brandished in its captain’s hands, the Nautilus was simply a fearsome harpoon. He hurled it at those fleshy masses and ran them clean through, leaving behind two squirming animal halves.

At this point, I knew for sure this was horrible.  A little later on, Ned Land agrees, once again demonstrating the importance of common sense:

   The sea was covered with mutilated corpses. A fearsome explosion couldn’t have slashed, torn, or shredded these fleshy masses with greater violence. We were floating in the midst of gigantic bodies, bluish on the back, whitish on the belly, and all deformed by enormous protuberances… The waves were dyed red over an area of several miles, and the Nautilus was floating in the middle of a sea of blood.
   Captain Nemo rejoined us.
   “Well, Mr. Land?” he said.
   “Well, sir,” replied the Canadian, whose enthusiasm had subsided, “it’s a dreadful sight for sure. But I’m a hunter not a butcher, and this is plain butchery.”

Vingtmillelieue00vern orig 0034 1This whole episode reminds me of a news article from earlier this year, about the government’s attempts to save spotted owls by killing barred owls.  The success of this kind of approach is debatable.  I personally believe it is wrong, both ethically and logically.  The end result is theoretical enough, and can we say that it justifies the means?

On another subject, I wonder who can be called the real antagonist: Ned Land, or Captain Nemo?  Ned stands in the way of Professor Aronnax and Conseil’s adventures on board the Nautilus.  Ned would even rebel and take over the Nautilus, were it possible.  But Nemo–in spite of any good intentions he may have–defies everyone, that he may take matters into his own hands and attain his ideals the way he sees fit, like a dubiously benevolent dictator.

I like James Mason’s portrayal of Nemo in the Disney movie.  While he is still the antagonist, he doesn’t strike me as one who would enjoy slaughtering whales, as long as they hadn’t bothered the Nautilus.  Book!Nemo, in contrast, truly comes across as someone aspiring to rule the sea, with an iron fist if “necessary”.  Perhaps the book version, like the book version of Moby-Dick‘s Captain Ahab, is a more realistic–if darker–character.  However, I think the movie versions do better at portraying Nemo and Ahab as anti-heroes, for whom you might feel some amount of sympathy.