Please…Judge Me

WARNING: SOME MILD GAME OF THRONES SPOILERS

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We, as humans, are obsessed with being well-liked. We want the folks at work and the folks at home to think we are an amazing worker, an amazing child, an amazing parent. I know a lot of kids who cry when disciplined because being disciplined means they are not perfect and somebody else knows it. The NEED to be liked comes from family trouble as a kid or a mean teacher or whatever…but it stinks. It’s ruined my life.

So why am I writing about this on a blog about reading? Because that’s why we read. When we read, we do one or more of the following:

  1. Imagine ourselves to be a character.
  2. Imagine ourselves fighting a character.
  3. Root for a character.
  4. Root against a character.

In this way, we either become a character or we become an ally or enemy of said character. We like a certain character, and we start to identify with them because we are on their same side. So we start to think of ourselves as likable. Books tell us that we are good people. Take Game of Thrones, for example. We start out with Jon Snow feeling bad about himself because he is illegitimate. We identify with that. We’ve all felt crappy about ourselves. Then Jon rises above and becomes Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch (a looooong time coming). We feel as if we have risen above too. And who didn’t think Daenerys was a godlike figure when she stepped out of the fire with those dragon eggs? And who didn’t think they started out like a victim JUST LIKE HER?

Introverted people get little praise. The amount of reinforcement our society doles out isn’t enough for the emotionally fragile. And that sucks. Because we are children. Because we are obsessed with praise.

And that’s why a lot of people read. Or at least it’s why I do. And I’m ashamed of it. Any ideas for how to stop reading fiction for the wrong reasons?

Innocence

It’s a much overrused theme. One may argue it can be found in any novel. The children want to abandon it and the adults want to find it. We are all either closed white rosebuds, open red ones, or thorns.

A Separate Peace is one of my favorite novels (I know, I know, go ahead and judge me). It was assigned reading in tenth grade. Up to that point, I had always wanted to be worldly. We all were. We were all looking for ways to become more adult-like. The lipstick grew redder and the shorts grew shorter by the year. The boys grew more grabby, more dirty, more pardonable. But then I read A Separate Peace. And yes, I saw the struggle Finny went through to try to keep his innocence. Finny’s innocence killed him in the end. But it kept him happy and safe. It made the world into a good place and protected the people from all its dark thoughts. So I’ve been working backward toward innocence ever since. I think we all reach a certain age when we start trying to become children again. It’s human nature to refuse to be content. Has anyone solved this problem? I’d like to know.

Below is a poem that sounds sinisterly similar to “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time.” I think most people would argue the theme of both poems is carpe diem (seize the day). Shoutout to Dead Poet’s Society (also about innocence). However, I believe the below poem gives us some insight into “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time”. ¬†Even though the below poem was written two centuries later, reading the poems side-by-side gives us insight into the theme of innocence hidden in “Virgins.”

Asking for Roses

By Robert Lee Frost

A house that lacks, seemingly, mistress and master,
With doors that none but the wind ever closes,
Its floor all littered with glass and with plaster;
It stands in a garden of old-fashioned roses.

I pass by that way in the gloaming with Mary;
‘I wonder,’ I say, ‘who the owner of those is.’
‘Oh, no one you know,’ she answers me airy,
‘But one we must ask if we want any roses.’

So we must join hands in the dew coming coldly
There in the hush of the wood that reposes,
And turn and go up to the open door boldly,
And knock to the echoes as beggars for roses.

‘Pray, are you within there, Mistress Who-were-you?’
‘Tis Mary that speaks and our errand discloses.
‘Pray, are you within there? Bestir you, bestir you!
‘Tis summer again; there’s two come for roses.

‘A word with you, that of the singer recalling
Old Herrick: a saying that every maid knows is
A flower unplucked is but left to the falling,
And nothing is gained by not gathering roses.’

We do not loosen our hands’ intertwining
(Not caring so very much what she supposes),
There when she comes on us mistily shining
And grants us by silence the boon of her roses.

I believe the man who guards the roses represents Time. Time takes away innocence. He has no reason to do so–‘Oh, no one you know,’ she answers me airy,
‘But one we must ask if we want any roses.’

Isn’t it the same with “Virgins”? They must hurry up and gather the rosebuds while they still have their innocence. Roses represent innocence, meaning they must stay innocent for as long as they can. Time, as always, wants them to become worldly and lose their innocence.

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

by Robert Herrick

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
To-morrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.
That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time,
And, while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.

Introduction

Fitzgerald leaves much to the imagination. Did Daisy “love” Gatsby for his money, did she stick with Tom for the pearls, did Jordan Baker break it off with Nick due to his dishonesty…?

In Harper Lee’s classic novel, nobody will dispute that Atticus represented justice. But what if Atticus Finch represented God? Then he would represent Scout’s childhood innocence. His newfound predijuice in Go Set A Watchman would represent Scout becoming an atheist as she grows up.

Yep, I’m making you think about the illusive philosophies you thought you abandoned in high school.

I want to talk about the classics, specifically those with deep philosophical concepts that cannot be stated–that must be illustrated. These are more the ramblings of a young girl than anything else. I am young. Young and wise and literary and scared because literature is the death of reason in our society. There is nobody worse than an English major, no single citizen more worthy of reproach than the waitress who majored in Poetry. Therefore, the thoughtful become inherently worthless, not only in terms of potential income but in terms of present relationships.

So this blog is for the people who understand the worth of the social sciences and the freedom of a good book. It is for those who value thought and art and the compulsory strategies of existence. It is also for their sympathizers. It is not for the well-dressed men and women who know money and influence, who were born knowing math and science and the irrefutable indecency of the arts. Those socialized to scorn and demean with unquestioning infamy.

With the incredulous hope of Gatsby, with the infailing innocence of Finny in the tree or the hospital bed, with the fiery love of Scarlet O’Hara, with the unquiet honor of Jon Snow, with the proud courage of Elie Weisel, we will rise. For we know why the caged bird sings, and it isn’t a secret we’re giving out.