Hello, pals! Today I’m keeping with my 2019 resolution of reviewing all books I read — even the less fun ones like those I read for university! So buckle up, today we’re going on a trip to the (not so ancient) past and looking at two plays and a novel…
The Glass Menagerie (⭐️⭐️⭐️)
by Tennessee Williams
The first work I had to read for my American Literature (1945 — present) module I had to read was this Williams play. I had never heard of this one in particular, but I had been meaning (and still am) to read A Streetcar Named Desire. I was a little disappointed by the play… And here is why:
🌸 I did think the staging was interesting… I had never read a play by Williams or from the 1940s, for the matter, but I thought the use of lights, sounds, and words was done in an innovative and captivating manner.
🌸 The narrator/character was a great surprise! I wasn’t expecting to have a narrator breaking the fourth wall and being a character at the same time. Not only was it interesting to see how Tennessee nailed this technique, but it also added depth to the whole play.
🌸 The mother figure (Amanda) is a great Southern Belle and is excruciatingly annoying — in a good way. It’s hard to find a more annoying and suffocating character than Amanda. I mean, she would constantly correct everything both her (adult) children did, even to the tiniest detail! Whenever I hate a character this much to the point in which I don’t want to keep reading, the author has probably done something very well…
🌸 But nothing really stood out to me, it was very “meh.” What a forgettable play… The formal aspects are super interesting. But the characters? And the overall plot? Just very basic and not gripping.
My Ántonia (⭐️⭐️)
by Willa Cather
Then, for my other American Literature module, I did a presentation over Willa Cather. Since I didn’t want to go in blind only having read one short story, I decided to pick up this novel, since it is supposed to be her masterpiece. The reason why I chose Cather is mainly that I will be visiting Nebraska, a place where much of her work is set. But in the end, I was massively underwhelmed.
🌽 I loved the setting and the descriptions of the prairie. This is what truly shun the most in the novel. Seeing the great plains described with such detail was great. I especially loved the passages about the shift from Spring to Winter. Seeing everything come back alive was truly poetic.
🌽 The image of the immigrant is gripping. The main characters (with the exception of the narrator and his family) are mostly all immigrants. They have come to Nebraska to “settle the land” and have left their homeland (Bohemia, Scandinavia…) behind. It was both sad and heartwarming to see them pull themselves from poverty and offer their families the American dream.
🌽 What really irked me was the voyeuristic approach to the female image. The novel is told from the perspective of Jim, as he recounts to a friend the memories he has of Ántonia from his childhood and teen/young adult years. It was so… uncomfortable seeing this woman so deeply scrutinized by Jim. It reminded me a lot of Daisy Miller, a novella I hated with every fiber of my being.
🌽 It just went on and on and on! I couldn’t wait to finally finish the novel once I got to halfway through. Nothing was happening, and not in a good “slice of life” way either. I was so, so bored I am pretty sure I fell asleep while reading it. You can’t imagine how happy I was to finally put it down and pick up something enjoyable.
Educating Rita (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
by Willy Russel
The final book I read for university (at least so far!) was one that I finally liked!!! It’s a play set in 1980s England at a university. The only two characters are Frank, the Open University professor, and Rita, the 26-year-old student. Rita wants to improve her life as a passionless hairdresser stuck in a loveless marriage. Therefore, she enrolls into this program, attends night classes once a week, and seeks to change. It’s a lovely read.
🎓 I loved Rita as a character. Rita, in the beginning, is a poorly educated woman (who is aware of the fact) stuck with a life she is less than happy about. She really wants to change herself, and you can see her growth during the play (granted that in a clipped manner, as it is a play and not a novel). I loved how determined and proactive she was.
🎓 Education has a major role and leaves the reader to wonder… What really is education? Does it bring us happiness? Does it make us more aware of our own misery? Is it enough to make us escape what seems like fate? These are all questions we are asking ourselves in my Academic Writing English module and very thought-provoking. The play does a great job at bringing these issues up.
🎓 Frank is a pathetic character, and that’s good. I was so sick of books told from the perspective of men by the time I picked up this play. From short stories to poems to novels that completely disregard the feelings of the women, I had had enough. So it was great seeing a pathetic figure finally being shadowed by a strong female character.
🎓 The ambiguity is great, really, really great! You’re left to wonder if education really did bring Rita happiness. Would she have been happier had she ignored her itch for getting an education?