First and Second Impressions

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Sky Alton
Cleansweep Three
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First and Second Impressions

Post by Sky Alton » Sun Jan 26, 2020 7:25 pm

Have you ever read a book and found it very difficult to warm to the protagonist? Did you return to the book and realise that you’d judged them unfairly the first time? Or were your first impressions merely confirmed by a re-read?

I had both situations happen to me recently when I re-read a couple of classic novels that I first read when I was around 12; while I enjoyed the books themselves, I found the central characters hard to take. Ironically, it’s a pair of Catherines.

When I first read Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, I found Catherine Morland incredibly silly and vapid. She creates a lot of unnecessary drama by letting her imagination run away with her. On my second read, I found myself having more sympathy for her. The book’s premis is that she finds her life quite dull and wishes it were more like one of the dramatic novels she likes to read (something any reader can understand). She’s very adventurous (almost a tomboy, in fact) and very well-intentioned; though she does come off as a bit stupid at times, particularly when it comes to people, this mostly stems from the fact that she’s naïve and nervous of offending people. Her central mistake is still incredibly frustrating though, so she doesn’t get an entire free pass.

A character I absolutely did not reconcile myself to liking on a re-read was Catherine from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (the first character to bare that name, not her daughter Cathy). Though I think we were meant to admire her high spirits and wildness to some extent, I just found her childish, snobbish and cruel. Though she was inhibited by the standards of the day in terms of her gender and social standing, her solution each time something didn’t go her way was to make herself ill or threaten to. Even with the limited options for rebellion open to her, this is just pathetic and not at all compelling. (To be fair, I didn't much like many of the other characters in this novel either, though some at least had the curtesy to be interesting.)
"Does the Walker choose the path or the path the walker?" -Garth Nix
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