Last blog tour event, guys! I’m over at the Book Binge talking about Le Morte d’Arthur and from there, judginess in English literature and my ambivalent feelings about stories where people are punished for being “jerks,” however the author happens to have defined “jerk.” Here’s an excerpt:
There’s a strong strain of what I’ll call “judginess” (it’s a technical term!) in British literature. Virginia Woolf described it best when she said about Dostoevsky, “There is none of that precise division between good and bad to which we are used.” The British reader is really, really used to a precise division between good and bad. You always know exactly which characters you’re supposed to approve of and exactly how much. And the rules are very strict, especially for female characters.
That kind of story makes me uncomfortable. I don’t mind a book having villains, obviously–In for a Penny has several. But I don’t like stories where I feel like the author is punishing characters for being the wrong kind of person, or rewarding them for being the right kind. I don’t like stories that feel punitive. I’ve never felt particularly good or triumphant about seeing mean people get their comeuppance. When I read the Grimm version of the Cinderella legend and discovered that the stepsisters had to cut off their toes and then have their eyes pecked out by birds, I was horrified.
It’s not because I’m just a generous, empathetic person or anything. It’s because I always had a sneaking suspicion I was the wrong kind of person, that I was a wicked stepsister and not a Cinderella.
By the way, I just looked up the Grimm fairytale again, and look at this:
“The two sisters were happy to hear this, for they had pretty feet. With her mother standing by, the older one took the shoe into her bedroom to try it on. She could not get her big toe into it, for the shoe was too small for her. Then her mother gave her a knife and said, ‘Cut off your toe. When you are queen you will no longer have to go on foot.'”