The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy

This book made me feel many heartwarming emotions in a cold, lonely winter. At first, I got curious about the title. I obviously knew the story of Hansel and Gretel, which is about two siblings who were abandoned by their stepmother and stepped into witch’s candy house. However, I didn’t know there was an actual story behind the tale. I glanced through the summary before I read and realized the book is about WW2. I began to get interested in this event after I read an another book called The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, which caused me to view the war from a different perspective, especially as a child. So, the book strongly drew my attention at first sight. I found how the original story is also absorbed, and I enjoyed comparing two different, yet similar stories. It begins with one Polish family of a father, a stepmother,  and two children. The children are abandoned by their parents with new names of “Hansel” and “Gretel” due to the severe situation. Just likethe  “actual” Hansel and Gretel, they found a house owned by an old woman known as a “witch” by villagers, which can also be compared with the witch with candy house in the fable. However, this book gave me totally different feelings. Love saved people. I learned the power of love, not only between couples but also within families. I felt it strongly when the stepmother sacrificed herself for Gretel, who was being sexually abused by soldiers. In the beginning, she abandoned the children and did not behave well towards them. Nevertheless, she attacked the soldiers alone just to protect Gretel. She sacrificed herself for her stepdaughter in that hard situation. Sacrificing for others is not an easy decision. Sacrifice can cost more than just injury. Nonetheless, some people sacrifice their lives because they actually love others. “To protect” was the only reason why they gave up their lives and safety. While reading this book,  I realized how love can easily transform the act of sacrifice and the significance of love in our daily lives. After I had finished the book, I called my family to tell how much I love them.

book cover: true story of hansel and gretel

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Pride and Prejudice

pride and prejudice cover

Jane Austen’s masterpiece, Pride and Prejudice, tells of unexpected love stories of persons despite initial biases. Knowing the general background of the book will allow for better understandings of the themes Austen writes about. This book was originally planned to be titled First Impressions, for throughout the entire book opinions on each character are developed and later on drastically contradicted. Austen remained unmarried her entire life; in fact, moving and living with family members from house to house. Her own experiences led her to write of the lack of women’s rights, the importance of marriage for women (of which she did not approve), and the unfairness of inheritance rights in that time period.

In fact, Jane Austen might have chosen to reveal part of her thoughts and ways of thinking through her name-sharing character, Jane Bennet (one of the main characters in the book). Miss Bennet proves to be one of the few characters in the book that remains neutral, agreed by most if not all (both the characters in the book and us as readers) to be a nice, rather innocent and pleasant young lady. A deep analysis can bring readers to realize, especially through close textual analysis of Miss Bennet’s letter to Jane regarding Miss Bingley, that she is not that simple; actually, she observes and judges all those around her, thus having a clear idea of the world around her, but chooses not to express her opinions on certain individuals or events due to her more reserved personality and her lack of need to speak negatively about people. Some debate that Miss Bennet seems fake, but I believe that she is real and honest in her beliefs; sometimes there can be sincerely good and positive people in this world despite their rarity. Nevertheless, Miss Bennet is considered overall as an unbiased background character who is a deep thinker inside, possibly reflecting Austen’s character of having great but controversial thoughts, which she conveys through her writings because she could not publicly express herself due to societal pressures of her time.

Another interesting character worth analyzing is Mr. Bennet, who proves to be an uncaring and ineffective man of the family. Playing the devil’s advocate, Mr. Bennet indeed possesses his own dependable judgment, and he values deep thinkers (hence why he prefers Elizabeth out of all his daughters). People believe he is immature and mean in mocking Mrs. Bennet on a regular basis, which does happen, but he only keeps on doing that because he knows Mrs. Bennet doesn’t understand his sarcasm and that she would not take it to heart. But, of course, his role as an inefficient parent cannot be disputed, and the underlying problem for his careless actions is pride: he does not care much for his wife and daughters because he looks down at them from a superior standpoint, additionally reflecting the title of the book.

Lastly, despite Elizabeth and Darcy being portrayed as the main protagonists, we should take a step back, clear our bias towards opponents of their marriage, and admit that this is an unfit marriage, in fact it is terrible for Darcy’s status. Lady Catherine’s warnings to Elizabeth in their conversation in the copse are true; Darcy’s reputation will suffer, his family members will not accept Elizabeth (at least for some time), and all these pressures will crash down on Elizabeth. The end of the book already reveals a bad start to their marriage with Lydia asking for money all the time, disclosing a direct burden the Bennet family has on Darcy.

Pride and Prejudice is a commonly required book for high school students, and I recommend this book for those who have not read it in English classes and who enjoy meaningful and interpretative writing because of the life lessons it teaches. To this day, Pride and Prejudice remains one of the most well-respected literary pieces propelling interesting discussion questions inside and outside the classroom.

 

King Lear

king lear title page

In our AP Literature class, we have recently read one of the most tragic of Shakespearean tragedies, King Lear. King Lear contains both the pessimistic realities and the signs of optimism in such well-crafted manner that the coexistence of the two seems natural. I would like to summarize, briefly, the coexistence of the two possible interpretations.

Unlike many other plays, King Lear could possibly be considered as the most tragic of Shakespearean tragedies not only because of the sheer number of deaths that happen but also because of how the nihilist idea perpetuates throughout the play. Along with Lear’s final illusion before his death that Cordelia still survives and with continued disregarding of Edmund by the nobility despite his death, Cordelia’s death shows the culmination of such nihilist values: the crucifixion of the Christlike figure and the pagan gods’ failure to meet the earthly demands.

Yet, as in all tragedies, some signs of optimism can be detected. Lear’s newly detected sympathy and the idea of socialism and the reestablishment of justice and natural order after Albany and Edgar’s survival all indicate some positivity left in the play. Moreover, Kent’s seemingly endless loyalty, even as he decides to follow his master, Lear, to his death at the end of the play, seems to indicate the power and the persistence of a relationship.

Filled with literary allusions, symbols, and ideologies, I strongly recommend that you read King Lear, and if you have already read the book, read it once more, searching for those enriching, hidden, and never-ending treasures that Shakespeare not-so-unintentionally offers.