Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Class-lad Reading of "Rob Roy"

I think this first response from a class-fellow to Rob Roy is well worth sharing....

Rob Roy brought back memories of throwing my head against the wall trying to get through Trainspotting. Luckily, the narrator wasn't a Scotchman as well. I found it kind of peculiar that the title character wasn't really revealed until 200 pages or so into it and it makes me wonder whether or not Scott originally set out to write about Rob Roy. Even in the earlier encounters with Rob Roy when he was known as Cambell, he didn't really make that big of an impression on me. I find it hard to believe that Scott would have written more than two hundred pages on Francis Osbaldistone to set up Rob Roy. Then again, maybe that's why I'm not an author.
Aside from the nature of the story, I think Rob Roy is considered ladlit because of the assumptions that the narrator makes in his storytelling. Some of Frank's episodes offer little in motivation, but I still understand why he acts the way he does because we share the biological trait of not having a uterus. Also, Frank acts without thinking very hard, as he follows Rob Roy to see Owen in jail without knowing for sure whether or not he means him harm. That directly contrasts Villette in that Lucy thinks too hard about everything and ... she doesn't really do much as far as I know.
I guess it's necessary for Frank to act on instinct for the story to progress smoothly and maybe that's another characteristic of ladlit that we have yet to discuss. hmm. curiouser and curiouser...


Anonymous said...

I think Rob Roy is about the narrator, not about Campbell/McGregor/Rob Roy, and I think this notion is hinted at on p.6 and 7 in the reference to Sully's Memoirs. No?

Christine said...

I definetly agree with the comment that it was bizzare that the title character appears so late the the novel. Though I have to say that my class-fellow made quite the assumption that he could understand Frank's actions "because [they] share the biological trait of not having a uterus." Now, though I'm not in agreement with all of Frank's actions, I too--despite lacking a penis--can understand some of his actions. I don't know that it's neccesary to have a penis to empathize or understand this lead character.

Frank, as a male lead character, is unarguably more brash and decisive than Lucy Snow; but I'm thinking it doesn't really take a whole lot to exceed her passivity at times. Also, Miss Vernon is just as bold if not bolder than Frank, so I don't know that the issue of character autonomy and action neccesarily revolves around gender.

On another note, I found the interactions between Frank and Miss Vernon to be highly melodramatic--perhaps even soap-opera melodramatic; isn't this a style used in Romance novels? Take the following dialogue from Chapter 6 for example:

'And now,' said I, 'give me leave to ask you frankly, Miss Vernon, what you suppose I am thinking of you?--I could tell you what I really do think, but you have interdicted praise."

'I do not want your assistance. I am conjuror enough to tell your thoughts without it. You need not open the casement of your bosom; I see through it. [...]" (66)

She vanished as she spoke, leaving me in astonishment at the mingled character of shrewedness, audacity, and frankness, which her conversation displayed. I despair conveying to you the least idea of her manner, although I have, as nearly as I can remember, imitated her language. In fact, there was a mixture of untaught simplicity, as well as native shrewdness and haughty boldness in her manner, and all were modified and recommended by the play of the most beautiful features I had ever beheld. (68-69)

NOTE: I'm using a Penguin classics edition of this book, so the page references are probably not exact, but I think you can find the passages--they're pretty distinct.

Anonymous said...

Something that struck me about Miss Vernon is how unrealistic she is as a woman. At first I though she was a strong female character, but as an afterthought, she seems more like the constructed female character of a male voice afraid of a woman who stands on her own. To me it feels as if Mr. Osbaldistone cannot look her in the face. He describes her power and energy and her flushed cheeks, but saves most of his physical description for things he can handle like her tiny feet. He seems able to face those features which are petite and feminince...Maybe this is just a misread of Miss Vernon. I would be interested to know whether people thought she was a convincing character or not...these are just thoughts, and I am completely up for a debate about her authenticity.

Anonymous said...

I thought Die Vernon was an accurate description of how a men percieve women. Nothing in her description made her unconvincing to me. Aside from the possibility that she may very well be a stock character, she was convincing enough. For me, Frank's description of her said more about him and his... character than her. i think. I don't know where I'm going with this anymore.

Anonymous said...

What about the soap opera like qualities of Die Vernon? She always seems so prepared, cool and collected. Her emotion is only appropriately appealing. To me she is comparable to the brooding male hero so characteristic of romance novels. She is untamed, stunningly beautiful, intelligent, she "flushes" when she hunts but could you picture her sweating??? and so on... I still like her, but she is the same sort of guilty pleasure that I get from reading 'airplane novels'.


Vesper said...

I like Die Vernon because she's a badass. :) She has her own thing going on. And I love that Frank doesn't quite know what to do about her. She gets after him for talking to her like she's a woman, and he is completely shocked. I like that she challenges him. Frank seems to be caught between conventional or traditional views of what a woman should be versus the more alternative stance that there can be complete exceptions and deviations from the "rule".

But I'd like to go back to the initial blog post: The class-fellow wrote:
"Some of Frank's episodes offer little in motivation, but I still understand why he acts the way he does because we share the biological trait of not having a uterus."

I don't have a penis, but I'm totally relating to Frank because he is the main character and the narrator. I would say that the act of reading...which consists of the act of the reader bringing meaning to the novel (which perhaps *defines* reading in many ways)....makes gender boundaries blurred. That's a hypothesis...up for debate. I'm not saying that when I read my gender disappears, but that it isn't as concrete. I am the silent but active reader, in the fantasy land of my head, at times relating and at times not relating to the narrator and/or main character.

Probably just over half of the novels and non-fiction that I read is written by men and/or has a masculine first-person voice. I haven't had any problems relating to the male characters. Is this just me? I'm totally curious?

Dr. S.A. Ogden said...

That's a very good follow-on to Maggie's Wednesday presentation.

For myself, I first read the "Anne of Green Gables" books when I was in grade three and I remember clearly absolutely loving them -- deeply deeply loving the character & the atmosphere. It is one of my "big" fiction experiences. I was also captivated by Elinor's plight in "Sense & Sensibility." As for the Brontes .... well, you know what I think about my county-women!

This agrees with "Kiki's" experience --I have no trouble relating to female characters. And as a literay scholar, I find much to commend the experiential mode of explanation; and at this stage of my academic development I am persuaded. To parade in "Big Theories" with support of massive ranks of threatening ordnance indeed cowers the inhabitants; but loses the invading force the honour of engaging the rustic inhabitants in free & amiable exchange of understanding.