Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Getting Personal

Anyone who knows me very well can tell you what my favorite thing to do is: read. I DEVOUR books, and during times that I can't make it to the library, I re-reading anything I can find on my bookshelf. In the past two weeks I have finished reading Watership Down, Shadow of the Hegemon, A Voice in the Wind, and An Echo in the Darkness. And each of those books was at least 350 pages.

As I said, I love reading, but there is something about myself when I read certain books that really annoys me. Sometimes, the books get very personal, and I don't like it. It's not very pleasant when I get angry at a character in the book I'm reading, and a few hours later when trying to figure out why I'm restless and crabby realizing it's because I'm taking the characters actions personally. THEY'RE JUST BOOKS FOR GOODNESS SAKE!

*sigh* It's only certain books though, and none of the books that I finished recently elicited that reaction from me. (Although that might be because I'd already read them all before. I haven't been to the library in a while.)

It's the book I'm reading right now that is getting under my skin. I was prowling all the nooks and crannies in our house for a new book to read - we have a TON of books in our house, as I'm not the only one with a reading problem - and I stumbled upon a Christian Fiction book in the middle of a pile that I didn't know we had, so I decided to try it. Like most Christian Fiction books, unfortunately, this one is a little wanting in the literary department, but the story is pulling me in despite the deficiencies in writing quality. It's titled Pearl, the second in a series by Lauraine Snelling about a small town in the Dakotah Territory in the 1880's. We don't have the first, so I've had to make some guesses about some of the main characters regarding what happened before this book, but the main character, Pearl, is completely new as far as I can tell. And SHE is the reason for my emotional quandary.

She lives in Chicago with her family, consisting of her Father, brother, step-mother and half-siblings. She's 22 years old, and she has a scar on her neck from a childhood accident. (And like all the other main characters in the book, she's of Norwegian decent. I know there are a lot of Norwegian decedents in the U.S., myself included, but it's a little coincidental that ALL the main characters in a book, divided between 4 cities, would be Norwegian. But anyway, that's not what's keeping me up at night.)

Pearl's father is very controlling. It didn't really bother me at first, because he wasn't any more controlling with Pearl that he was in any other area of his life, and it seemed to be just part of his character. Another reason why it didn't bother me, his character isn't very realistic. Not in the way that he does things and makes decisions and says things that don't make any sense, but the author hasn't given enough information to explain WHY he is the way he is, and therefore justify the character she's given him. If something doesn't seem realistic to me in a book, it won't become personal. Until the character does something so stupid and selfish and egotistical that I begin to fume.

I'll explain: Throughout the whole book so far, Pearl's father has been hoping for her to marry one of his employees, Mr. Longstreet, a widower moved to Chicago from Duluth, MN (who woulda thought) with five kids. Pearl isn't interested, because he's not her type, and she knows she couldn't love him, even though as a teacher she of course has a soft spot for his kids. This didn't bother me, because I already know - from the back cover - that she's eventually going to move to the little town in the Dakotah to teach in a schoolhouse there. I still know that's going to happen, but the situation has gotten a lot more complicated. As Pearl lives in her fathers house, and as she's a Christian, she takes obeying her father very seriously, even though it's hard for her because she has a hard time believing that he actually does still love her. So when her father tells her that she needs to agree to Mr. Longstreet's request to court her, she has no choice but to obey. This was a little annoying, but I was under the impression that if Mr. Longstreet proposed she would have the freedom to say no.

I was mistaken. Mr. Longstreet never even proposed to her! Her father gave a party at their home, of course Mr. Longstreet was there, and during the party Pearl's father gave an announcement that his daughter was engaged!!! I mean, come on!!!

Gah, I HATE it when women are trapped by what they believe to be right. Pearl's father has put his foot down and is FORCING his daughter into a marriage, without her even being given the right to hear a proposal from the man she's supposed to marry.

Writing this, I feel really silly for getting so worked up, but this is the kind of thing that does it. Pearl knows she needs to obey her father, but I can't help but feel that this ISN'T what God meant.

But then I get to thinking, just because arranged marriages aren't the social norm anymore, does that make her father wrong? In biblical times, most marriages were arranged marriages. If I had been born in the time of Abraham or Isaac or Jacob or David, I would have had no choice but to marry whomever my father chose for me. But then again, I would have grown up with the knowledge that that would be the case. In this book, Pearl is taken completely by surprise. I'm sure she was under the supposition that if she were to ever marry, it would be to a man of her own choosing, someone she would have time to get to know and fall in love with. I know this story is set 120 years ago, and that society was much stricter for women especially, but I still can't see how her father is right in demanding this of her. When Pearl goes to try to plead with her father, and asks if she may say something, he responds with "only if it is to say 'yes Father.' " I just don't understand....

*deep breath*


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