I’m often annoyed when bookworms are mocked or criticized in books. Around the world, little bookworms are often unfairly ostracized and isolated from their relatives or friends due to their choice of entertainment. Being misunderstood by people surrounding you is hard enough, and being misunderstood by authors who write books for bookworms to feed on is even harder to swallow. Book reading is just a hobby, very much like skydiving, shopping, fishing, hunting, following sports. No more and no less. To be fair, we should just treat it like another innocuous pastime. However many authors consciously and subconsciously refuse to do that. When describing a character, they are very unlikely to say he is silly because of his fishing hobby or she is awkward because she skydives too much. However these authors can be very quick to combine a person’s weakness with his or her love of books. Usually an author will not explicitly say that book reading is directly connected with certain stupidity, but the two things will be put together to create a juxtaposition to imply that the two are related.
The Image of Cecil And Charlotte
E. M. Forster’s “A Room With A View” mocks bookworms left and right. It’s a story about a young English woman Lucy Honeychurch who’s engaged to marry Cecil Vyse, but a newcomer George Emerson budges in and marries Lucy instead. Cecil is described as a pedantic bookworm by the author from his first appearance to the last. Whenever he shows up, he will utter something unforgivably silly while holding a book. E. M. Forster almost holds the readers’ ears and shout into them,”look, he is so stupid and he loves books. Don’t you see the connection?” Actually in my opinion, a silly person will be silly no matter what hobby or job he or she takes. Somehow I am convinced if Cecil loves gardening or football, E. M. Forster would never dream of making the connection between his silliness and his hobby.
Lucy has an aunt, Charlotte Bartlett, who lives on the margin of the society and this story. The author describes her as a stereotypical old maid–her over-observation of good manner is ridiculous; her interest in reading romance novels is mawkish; her friendship with Eleanor Lavish, who writes silly sentimental books, is farcical and mischievous. I can hear E. M. Forster say, “Look, both Eleanor and Charlotte are old and silly. One writes silly books and the other reads them. Don’t you see the connection?” Actually doing chores every day is as damaging, if not more, to women as reading romance books. Not chatting enough with friends is also quite damaging. There is no reason to single out book reading (or writing) among all other activities to be connected with silliness. It is quite unfair to books. And it is also quite unfair to Eleanor and Charlotte, both struggling financially, both having gone through life with wisdom and experiences. They are not the silly women E. M. Forster wants to believe. They have a lot of worthy things to say, probably even more so than George or his father.
I wish my friend C will never read this since she loves E. M. Forster and she will certainly be offended when she reads my unflattering description of her favorite book. I love this book too, but there are certain aspects of this book that I don’t agree. Actually I have more objections, but it is unrelated with books or bookworms. It is quite off topic if I talk about them here and now.
I also want to talk about Mary from “Pride And Prejudice”, Lady Amelia in “Period Piece” by Evelyn Waugh, and bookworms in “The Public Library” by Isaac Babel. However the post is getting a little long and I want to take a rest today. So I will do it some other time, over the weekend or during next week.
(To Be Continued)