Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Literature as Personal Challenge

From John Fowles' The French Lieutenant's Woman:

"You know your choice. You stay in prison, what your time calls duty, honor, self-respect, and you are comfortably safe. Or you are free and crucified. Your only companions the stones, the thorns, the turning backs; the silence of cities, and their hate."

Overdramatic, even adolescent? Perhaps. But what is real in the novel is Charles' choice. He chooses humiliation, the scorn of society, the ridicule of his age, to "escape" to his freedom. He seeks his authentic self and authentic love, and to do so requires a clear break from his social world and from respectability. And that's the choice he makes.

I can't help but take Charles' choice as a personal challenge. It is not only Victorians that can avoid authentic actions, that can hide from their own freedom, for the sake of convention to remain "comfortably safe."

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