Harrison, the Unnamed Westerosi Villain

Elizabeth Bowen’s novel, The Heat of the Day, tells a story about espionage, war, and trust in a way that puts the modernist era on its head. Despite the fact the novel was written several years after the end of the modernist era, Bowen doesn’t shy away from using modernist concepts like non-linear storytelling and limited point of view to get her story across. While the novel does a lot of ‘good’, in the sense that it makes one reflect on the greatness of modernism while looking forward to the age of post-modernism, it’s important to acknowledge one of the best/worst characters in it – HARRISON.

When reading this book, I was drawn to Harrison’s character…unfortunately. That being said I do not like Harrison, I think he is a manipulative who goes wherever the meek and mild are so he can raise hell. But, I will recognize that his weasel-like personality and unlikable nature means he would most likely fair well in another war-themed novel, A Game of Thrones. The series, written by George R.R. Martin highlights the worst parts of humanity and puts them on display, showing that when it comes to getting what you want, there is no end to the possible ways to get it. The series presents an overwhelming amount of villainous, manipulative characters for readers/audiences to love and hate at the same time. Ultimately, I would argue that Harrison fits that bill perfectly and would make a great addition to Westeros.

harrion jerk meme

Harrison is an intelligent character whether I like to admit it or not. He’s involved with British Intelligence and works diligently to ensure the safety of his country from spies. That being said, I think he would be fitting in A Game of Thrones because he could have told Stella about Robert being a spy out of the duty to his country, but instead chose to try to manipulate her into dating him – a very “Little Finger”-move in my option. Another reason why I think Harrison would be a fitting addition the life of Westeros is because of the fact that he’s a spy. In Westeros, people throughout the continent are a spy or have spies working for them. The most notable person being Varys who came from nothing, but with the more information, he was able to get his hands on the safer he was and the more he was needed. In the same way, I think this is how Harrison views himself a little bit since his role in the story and the war are monumental even though they aren’t well known.

Throughout the novel, Harrison plays an integral role in Stella’s life and, since Stella is the main point of view offered, in the reader’s life as well. Even though he is an unlikeable character, it’s important to recognize that The Heat of the Day wouldn’t be the same without Harrison’s presence. Overall, due to Harrison’s sneaky and scummy nature, I think he would be a fantastic fit in George R.R. Martin’s series.

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The War on the Home Front

Bowen’s novel, The Heat of the Day, tells the story of Stella Rodney and how her life takes a turn for the worst after learning her lover could be a spy for the Germans. The story is set in World War II and adds a twist to the everyday modernist text since the novel is technically written several years after the end of the Modernist Era. That being said, Bowen is able to place her work at the intersection between the dying age of modernism and the up and coming age of post-modernism, leaving the reader in one of the weirdest literary, liminal spaces imaginable. The reader is forced to recognize the modernist elements while also recognizing the beginning signs of post-modernism, creating a war in itself, a seemingly great fit for a war novel. But the war between the allies and axis powers and the modern and post-modern themes aren’t the only battles in the novel, there is an inexplicit battle written throughout the novel that can go unnoticed. That battle is deciding whether or not to trust someone and how facts and perceptions can be used as weapons to get someone’s point across and lead them to a win.

The themes of war and trust are evident throughout the entirety of the novel, beginning with the reader meeting Harrison and learning about his plan to coerce Stella into dating him. From there, Bowen continues to give examples of the way someone’s trust can be used as a weapon against someone, ultimately playing a role in the overarching war theme. The unnamed war is especially evident when paying attention to the way the information is presented to the readers via Stella. The readers don’t learn about the story in a linear fashion, instead, they are jumping back and forth throughout Stella’s experiences. By only giving the reader this lens to view the story and characters through, it makes the reader hesitate to trust the information they are receiving. For instance, it was shown that Harrison’s accusation about Robert being a spy was correct, but due to Stella’s perception, the reader is meant to rule out the truth in Harrison’s words. Furthermore, it isn’t until the readers (and Stella) learn that Harrison was telling the truth about Cousin Francis that both parties begin to finally question the possibility of Robert being a spy. Again, if the story were told from a different perspective, a more linear fashion, or from a third person point of view, the reader may have come to the conclusion much sooner than Stella did. Ultimately, in choosing to use Stella’s perception as the reader’s main point of view, the reader isn’t allowed the chance to come to their own conclusions with the facts but instead is meant to trust Stella as a narrator.

Interestingly enough, in reflecting on the story-telling method utilized by Bowen, it forces the reader to acknowledge the modernist concept of nonlinearity and to recognize the way it interacts with the new era of postmodernism. In this case, it’s been shown that the modernism has taken thematic shots at post-modernism furthering the war between the two in the novel. Consequently, by Bowen’s use of language and point of view, she is able to paint the scene of war taking place in civil England despite the fact that the war hasn’t touched the land for years.

Why The Good Soldier is the Saddest Story Ever Heard

Ford’s novel, The Good Soldier, was originally supposed to be named The Saddest Story. It was only after his publisher told him the title would hinder the sale of his novel that he decided to change it, jokingly, to The Good Soldier. Since Ford couldn’t keep his original title he decided to have the narrator, Dowell, begin the story with, “This is the saddest story I have ever heard” (1). Now, right off the bat, the reader is given this phrase and inexplicitly told to remember it, so they can come to their own conclusions about why the novel is the saddest story.

Originally, I thought the story’s tragedy was about Leonora, the wife of the unfaithful Captain Ashburnham. The main reason I felt this way is because I thought Leonora was simply a victim in the story; her husband cheated on her constantly and she was complicit in his cheating in hopes that it would make him realize how happy he was with Leonora. But, as I finished reading the novel I have a new theory about what the story’s real tragedy is: there are no good people. When looking at all of the main characters it’s evident that none of them are virtuous or good in any way, they only act like good people. Even the unreliable narrator, Dowell, is not a good person; his poor story telling demonizes one person for being unfaithful (his wife, Florence), while simultaneously praising someone else for the same behavior (Captain Ashburnham). Furthermore, Dowell, for a while, makes it seem like the remaining three main characters (himself, Leonora, and Nancy) are good, when they’re not. It seems like every single character in the novel has manipulated someone in some way, erasing any good qualities they may have once had. The only ‘good’ character in the novel is Maisie Maiden, who was tragically (and comically) died after trying to leave the sham that was Leonora and Edward’s marriage.

There’s another interesting part to note when realizing there aren’t good people, it’s the epigraph in the beginning of the novel. The epigraph reads, “Beati immaculate” or “Blessed are the undefiled.” Now, when first reading the novel I thought it was supposed to be hinting at the ‘undefiled’ characters in the story, who I originally thought were Dowell, Leonora, and Nancy. But, by the end of the novel I realized the quotation is an ironic jab at how all the character are defiled.

The best part of this whole ordeal is realizing that the true tragedy of this novel is hinted on the very first page, beginning with the saddest story quotation and ending on, “You will gather from this statement that one of us had, as the saying is, a “heart”, and, from the statement that my wife is dead, that she was the sufferer” (1). Immediately, Ford is telling the reader to question what it means to have a heart in the same way he wants the reader to question why this story is “the saddest story” ever heard.

The Good Soldier 3

Sympathy and Why I Have None for Florence Dowell

The Good Solider is a novel written by Ford Madox Ford detailing the 9-year-long friendship of the Dowells and Ashburnhams. John Dowell, who goes by his last name, appears to be the narrator of the novel and not the most reliable one either. Throughout his telling of their friendship, Dowell constantly must go back and correct himself because, while being physical present for most of the scenarios, he never knew the whole story and would learn about these instances only when someone else told him. One great instance where the reader is reminded of Dowell’s unreliable narration can be noted in the beginning of Part Three where he meets with Leonora to discuss her, now dead, husband, Captain Ashburnham. While recounting the actions of her late husband, Leonora informs Dowell that Florence, his wife, did not die from a heart attack, but from suicide. During this section the reader learns about how what he interpreted as Florence racing back home to take her heart medication was Florence overdosing on pills. Apparently, the affair between Florence and Captain Ashburnham was fizzling and he began to fall in love with yet another woman that is not his wife. Florence, after suspecting this, followed Ashburnham and arrived just in time to see him confess his love to another woman, breaking Florence’s heart and leading her to commit suicide. Now, I want to make it very clear that I have ZERO sympathy for Florence Dowell.

Florence is one of the most annoying characters I have read in a novel; her actions and lack of conscious are more infuriating than Dowell’s inability to accurately narrate the story. The first ‘crime’ Florence commits is by taking advantage of Dowell’s kindness and need to take care of her. For instance, when Florence and Dowell were on a boat and she gets ‘ill’ and must go to her room (in the company of a man who wasn’t her husband), it was decided that boat rides would be detrimental for Florence. With this information, Dowell didn’t want to take boats or travel anywhere that required a boat, this came back to bite her in the butt, especially when she begins to grow feelings toward Captain Ashburnham and wants to visit him. Eventually she went on to have a two-year-long affair with a man named Jimmy and shortly after that she began her affair with Captain Ashburnham. Her relationship with Captain Ashburnham would also come back to bite her in the butt, because the way she began her relationship with him (via affair) is the way she lost him. So, not only did she take advantage of Dowell and his kindness to take care of her, but she was shocked that a man, who is known for not being faithful at this point in the novel, would be unfaithful towards her. The only redeeming part of Florence’s existence in the novel for me at this point is that Dowell realized he was never in love with her, he only loved and took care of her as any man would.

Shakespeare Sunday Pt. I

Hello World Wide Web,

Today’s a beautiful day for me to talk about my first reading assignment in my Shakespeare class that I’m taking this fall. So, as a friendly reminder, I have three majors: Biology, Outdoor Conservation, and English. As I’ve progressed further and further into my English degree I knew I would have to take a course on Shakespeare eventually, the famed playwright that I never fully understood or like because of my little exposure to his works in high school. This fall, my 6 classmates and I waited patiently for the syllabus of the course to be posted. I think most of us were expecting to read Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet – plays that most high schools shove down students’ throats. Instead, we showed up on the first day of class to find out we, as a class, would be picking out the plays to read on the basis that we had to cover the major categories of Shakespeare’s plays: tragedy, comedy, romance, race, etc. We were also told that there were a few pieces we didn’t get to choose and one of those is Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream – a play I’ve heard little about and have never read.

So, cut to the weekend after our first class, I begrudgingly open up my giant Shakespeare book, dreading the assumed cheesiness and clichés. I read through the character chart and took some notes so I could get a better visual of the connections between all the characters. Afterwards, I put on a brave face, much to the mockery of my boyfriend who knows this class is the one that I’ve been the most stressed about, and begin reading Act I. The assignment was to read only Acts I and II, so I will say that I have not read the play in its entirety, but man oh man was I in for a treat.

When I first started reading I had to take my time and try to translate the lines in my head so I could get a better understanding of what was happening. After a few lines I was able to get a better grasp of the emotion the characters were exuding and the tone they were speaking to one another in. Eventually, I got so wrapped up in the play I started tweeting about it because some lines and scenes were hysterical to me or I thought other people might have the same reactions. For instance, when Egeus first approaches Theseus to discuss his disdain for the suitor his daughter has picked, Lysander, versus the suitor he has picked, Demetrius. In the same lines, Demetrius essentially gives his daughter, Hermia, an ultimatum – she can either marry Demetrius or she can be killed. Hermia’s response, at least the way I read it, seemed like the way college students will jokingly say for a car to hit them when crossing the street – she could care less about the ultimatum or how much she’s sassed her father. As I finished reading Act II, I realized that I’m hooked and all of my assumptions of what this class would be are wrong. And I have to admit, I’m very glad I was wrong and can’t wait to see how the rest of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and this course pan out.

P.S. Puck had one job and I’m still angry that he messed it up.

An Adventurer’s First Encounters with Role Playing Games (RPGs)

So, when I started this blog back in the winter of 2018, I mentioned that I would use it to detail my experiences with Dungeons and Dragons, commonly known as “DnD.” I started playing after being convinced by my friend, Chuck. We first started talking about it after I talked about my love for The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, eventually I realized DnD is just like Tolkien’s famous trilogy. Essentially, each Dungeon Master is like Tolkien – they write the story and create some fantastic lore and worlds for their players to explore. The players are much like Frodo and crew in the sense that each player doesn’t have to be the same race (hobbit, human, elf, etc.), class (wizard, bard, barbarian), etc. or share the same views when it comes to good vs. evil (one character can be Chaotic Neutral, another Neutral, etc.). One of the best parts about DnD is that you’re able to take a group of individuals (the players/adventurers) and get them to work together to beat the Dungeon Master’s campaign.

Sounds fun, right?

Well, it is. Dungeons and Dragons, while wacky at times, can help people hone their strategy skills and develop confidence (there’s quite a bit of role-playing involved so it forces you out of your comfort zone a bit). I’ve been playing DnD for about 8 months now and have loved every minute of it. Dungeon Masters can take crazy creatures, items, lore, and skill to create an entire universe for their players to explore. The best way to describe it would be if you could open a book and jump into the action – the next thing you know you’ve been in there for 5 hours and could go for more.

Since starting, I’ve been involved in several campaigns and have tried out different kinds of RPGs. I’ve gone from a person who needed a cheat sheet about the role of each dice to someone who can show another newcomer the ropes. The best part is that you can always improve; with each class comes a different set of skills that requires the players to understand the way different characteristics interact. For instance, the first character I played was a dwarf cleric whose background was sage, by the end of the campaign I loved the way these different aspects of my character interacted. That character was the first of many and not to toot my own horn, but I think I’ve improved a lot over the last 8 months and have a deeper understanding of what it means to create a character that can be flexible, strong, and sharp enough to survive the campaign.

I know Dungeons and Dragons sounds like one of the nerdiest things you could be apart of, but it’s completely worth it. For anyone who has a deep love for the fantasy/adventure genres it’s amazing to BE your own hero – not just to read about them. The experience of being able to create a heroic story with my friends is something I’ll always appreciate and is the main reason I recommend everyone try Dungeons and Dragons or another RPG – it gives you a chance to escape from reality for a while and write an entirely new reality.

Picture can be found here.

Picture this.

Picture this.

A 6 year-old is taking shelter

behind a desk.

It’s another drill.

It’s not a fire drill

It’s not a tornado drill

It’s an active shooter drill.

 

At 6 years old I associated guns with the good guys

But I never imagined I would have

to worry about a good guy going bad.

 

What did I do?

I came to school for a field trip today

My mom packed me a special lunch

I didn’t get to even read her note yet.

 

What did I do?

I went to bed early last night like mom told me to

I didn’t miss the school bus this morning

Maybe I should have missed the bus?

 

What did I do?

I was told a hero would come in

but the first thing I see is a brown desk turned into a shield

I can see my coat hanging in the cubby

I hope my mom knows I might be late to dinner…