Happy Sunday lovely readers!
Today’s #JNGReads blog post has been a looong time coming!
I started reading Elizabeth Gaskell’s *Victorian* novel Wives and Daughters before Christmas…and I am absolutely, unequivocally obsessed with it! What a perfect, delicious, gorgeously written novel! If you follow me over on Twitter, you’ll know how obsessed I am with this incredible work of fiction because I am constantly gushing about it and tweeting long, deep quotes. I actually encourage you to take a look at my Twitter page (you can see some of the feed over on your right) because I won’t be able to talk about every one of my favourite quotes in this post, but I do think it would be worth your while to go and check them out!
Wives and Daughters is another quintessential, word-perfect Victorian novel. Like the other Victorian novels I’ve raved about here on the blog, such as Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend, Gaskell’s other famous work North and South and my beloved Jane Eyre (among many others), Wives and Daughters is full of so many of the classic tropes, themes and motifs that characterize the 19th century in literature. There is gossip, intrigue, misunderstanding and, most of all, romance. True love jumps out of almost every page, and it is the two main heroines, Molly Gibson and her stepsister Cynthia Kirkpatrick, who drive the plot and create all of the suspense and emotional interest. This novel is, quite remarkably for the time, heavily focused on women and their role in the lives of the men around them (hence the title). These women, particularly Molly and Cynthia but also Cynthia’s mother Mrs. Hyacinth Gibson, are strong and opinionated and their personalities are not diluted in the slightest by the male characters around them. Mrs. Gibson is absolutely ridiculous, Cynthia is a well-meaning coquette, and Molly is…well…Molly is perfect, the picture of goodness, kindness, pure love and loyalty. Molly Gibson is one of those genuine, truthful heroines that a female reader can easily look up to, and her adoration and acceptance of Cynthia makes her stepsister a better person and a more remarkable character as well. I am deeply attached to these young women, who I see as my peers, and I am eager to learn how their love stories will conclude. I am so very reluctant to finish the novel, but if I know anything about the Victorian novel, I know that true love and marital bliss will prevail above all else. Is it any wonder that I love this era so much? 😉
And this leads me to a brief talk about the relevance of this particular Victorian novel to modern day life. Most of my friends, or at least the ones who didn’t study English literature as avidly as I did, would probably think that a lengthy, almost 800 page novel (I wish it were longer!) like Wives and Daughters that was written so long ago doesn’t have any relevance or significance to their 21st century lives. This may be true if one reads the novel on a surface level, but if a devoted reader chooses to dig deeper, he or she will find that many of the points about love and relationships can be adapted to the contemporary dating world. Take my two #JNGReads quotes for today, as an example:
“To him, she was the one, alone, peerless.”
“…a person in whose sight all her words were pearls or diamonds…”
– Wives and Daughters, Elizabeth Gaskell
Without giving away too many spoilers (because I really want you all to read this novel for yourselves), at a certain point in the story, one of the main male characters falls in love with one of the main female characters. Pretty standard stuff…EXCEPT for the fact that this male character treats this female character like the respectable woman that she is. Meaning, that he treats her with the utmost respect at all times, and he idolizes and adores her without restraint. She is “the one” for him; he has no desire to look at, speak to, or entertain love for another, and he never compares her to anyone else. He is amazed and grateful for the beautiful woman he has found and his search for a life partner, a soul mate ends there.
How often does that happen nowadays? I’ve spoken about my disdain for dating services like Tinder before, but now more than ever, I see that dating sites like this one create too many options for a person. All too often, men and women are highly critical of people that they are dating, simply because they know that they have so many other options simultaneously. Instead of looking at the one person they are dating as “peerless”, as a person whose opinions and traits are as rare and wonderful and unique as “pearls or diamonds”, people today are quick to overanalyze, nitpick and reject based on tiny, inconsequential details. Of course, it is definitely important to be attracted, both physically and mentally, to a person, but I find that people today have become increasingly picky, specifically because so many other options for partners are right before their eyes. Sure, it’s possible that there is a man out there who is better for me, who would make me happier than my boyfriend (I think this unlikely, but let’s entertain the possibility for a second), but I don’t know this man; I haven’t met him, I don’t have his picture and profile in front of me, so I would never, ever dream of risking my happiness and the contentment I feel with my boyfriend for some hypothetical potential that might be out there. But on Tinder or other dating services, that man might be right in front of me, and so, if I were going on dates with him and my boyfriend at the same time, I might be more critical of the things that I now absolutely adore about my boyfriend because they are the traits that make him uniquely who he is.
Anyway, sorry to go on another rant – but I just do feel that, in the Victorian era, love was simpler and it was kinder and it was truer, if only because men and women were willing to give up their hearts and not keep searching endlessly for the next best thing. So, my parting words of wisdom: if you find someone that your heart desires and feels connected to, leave it at that for awhile, enjoy the ride with that person, and let your heart fully get to know them before moving on to the options that inevitably exist out there.
Girl with a Green Heart