Welcome to the Master Post for the Madame Bovary Read-along! As the 1856 debut novel by French author, Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary is the story of Emma Bovary, a bored doctor’s wife looking for romantic excitement only to face the devastating consequences.
Please join Juliana at Cedar Station and C.J. at ebookclassics for this read-along April 1-30, 2014.
Step One: Sign-up by commenting below or linking to your blog post using the widget. (NOTE: Widget will be available on April 1st)
Step Two: Grab the button below and post it to your blog.
Step Three: Make a note of our posting schedule.
Every week either Juliana or C.J. will host a check-in post with thoughts and discussion questions. Please note the posting schedule below.
Part One – April 10, 2014
Part Two – April 20, 2014
Part Three – April 30, 2014
Step Four: Twitter Users - Don’t forget to use the hashtag #MadameBovary2014 throughout this event to help other participants find your posts and for informal chats about the book.
Step Five: Please visit the blogs of your fellow read-along participants and say hello (this post will be sticky and the list will be regularly updated):
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to give us a shout. Thank you for joining us for the Madame Bovary Read-along!
* CONTAINS SPOILERS
Paradise Lost starts with a bang and doesn’t stop until the tragic end. When I look back, the poem plays like a grand opera in my mind. John Milton fires the imagination with images of battles in Heaven, twisted and dark demons languishing in Hell, an all-powerful God presiding over the world, the lush and beautiful Garden of Eden, and the lovers Adam and Eve cuddling in the bower. But not only that, Paradise Lost gives the reader so much to think about. The poem is every bit the masterpiece of verse it is famously known and I doubt my review can give it the accolades it so rightly deserves, but I’ll give it a try.
Paradise Lost by John Milton is an epic poem from the 17th century based on the Bible story depicting Satan’s expulsion from Heaven by God and his part in the fall of mankind. God’s human creations, Adam and Eve, enjoy the pleasures of the Garden of Eden until they are targeted by Satan to eat fruit from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge. Although warned many times to not eat the fruit, Eve is successfully tricked by Satan to disobey God. In an act of love, Adam also eats the fruit and both the lovers and Satan must face the consequences of defying God.
The Narrator – Milton is as much a character in this story as Satan or Adam and Eve, his thoughts and opinions interwoven throughout the verse. He summoned muses for inspiration, but I think he did that for dramatic effect and knew exactly what he wanted to say.
Satan – The ultimate bad boy, one of the greatest surprises about Paradise Lost is that Milton presents him as an anti-hero. Satan is intelligent and strong. He struggles with sadness, anger, jealousy and pride. He is the kind of character you love to hate, and reminded me of the ambivalence I feel for TV characters like Walter White (Breaking Bad) and Frank Underwood (House of Cards). But he is the villain of the story first and foremost.
Adam and Eve – The first man and woman of Earth constantly reminded me of living dolls, such perfect specimens of physical beauty as described by Milton, but in their innocence a little vacant upstairs. I pictured them listening to the angels Raphael and Michael, blinking with wide-eyed stares completely unable to comprehend anything beyond what berries and leaves to eat that day.
God – The big guy must get so tired of dealing with his children. First, he has a group of ungrateful angels rebel against his authority and he has to send them to Hell, but one of them keeps stirring up trouble. Second, he nags Adam and Eve relentlessly about the Tree of Knowledge, sends his most trusted angels to warn them about Satan and the consequences of disobeying, and they still eat the fruit. Thank goodness he has the Son.
The Son – Interestingly not called Jesus in Milton’s poem, the Son eagerly volunteers to take care of business when God must remain in his role of just and merciful Father. The Son confronts Satan in a final showdown and sends him back to Hell. Oh, and he also agrees to sacrifice himself for the sins of humans. No big deal.
Other Demons and Angels – I often read words in this poem and didn’t realize it was meant to be a character until the word Belial or Moloch started speaking. Whoops!
Most of us are probably familiar with these Bible stories, but Milton fleshes out both stories with such delicious imagery and drama, compelling characters and their relationships. Many of us doing this read-a-long agreed we would love to see the poem put into the right hands and made into a movie.
If you are like me and not used to reading verse of this kind, the text of Paradise Lost is dense and challenging to get through. I listened to an audio book while I read to get a better grasp of what was happening. I often re-read the poem and discovered I either missed a lot the first time or still didn’t understand what Milton wrote. Thank goodness Carolyn gave us two months to read the poem.
The themes of Paradise Lost are universal, but Milton adds so much more food for thought about free will, religion, and the relationship between men and women, and men and God in this story. I often shake my head in wonder because Milton fearlessly included many unconventional ideas in the poem and didn’t hesitate to stand behind them. Didn’t people in the 17th century die painfully for this kind of thing? Without doubt, he was an iconoclast and it is no wonder the poem has inspired writers, artists, musicians and readers for generations. Even though I struggled to read the poem, one thing was clear: Paradise Lost is powerful and truly unforgettable.
Thank you Carolyn for hosting this read-a-long!
I have to admit it feels like so much time has passed since I read these two books, but remember vividly that we have now arrived at the main event: The Fall. Even though I know what’s going to happen, I feel for Adam and Eve. They’re just two innocent, good-looking kids who got caught up in a showdown between God and Satan.
* CONTAINS SPOILERS
After Raphael leaves Eden, Milton invokes Urania to inspire him with words to describe what happens next to Adam and Eve. The lovers decide to separate to complete their work in the garden. Meanwhile, Satan sneaks back into Eden and decides to disguise himself as a serpent. He becomes overwhelmed with envy and some doubt, as he deeply admires the paradise of Eden and what mankind will inherit. But he is also bitter and full of pride, determined to show God that he doesn’t take his punishment lightly.
Satan finds Eve and begins to charm her, suggesting she eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. He convinces her that God only said not to eat from the tree as a test of their independence. God actually wants Adam and Eve to have the god-like powers the fruit can provide. Eve eats the fruit and she hurries to find Adam, so he can eat the fruit too. But Adam is horrified that she has disobeyed God’s order and fallen for Satan’s trick. Then in a grand gesture of love, he decides to they will be doomed together. He eats the fruit too and immediately feels energized, then frisky. Drunk of the fruit’s power, Adam and Eve give into their sudden feelings of lust.
For those of you like me who have no clue who Urania is supposed to be, I looked her up and discovered that in Greek mythology she is the muse of astronomy and a daughter of Zeus. I’m surprised that Milton felt he needed to invoke anyone to inspire him with words since he’s done a pretty good job now that we’re up to Book IX. What struck me the most about this book was how racy (and yet poetic!) Milton’s language was when Adam comes onto Eve and they run off to their flower-lined bower to satisfy their desires. I take great delight imagining how shocking this writing must have been back in 1667.
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All-seeing God and his angels know what has transpired. God sends the Son to the Garden of Eden to judge Adam and Eve. The Son finds the lovers hiding in the bushes because they are now ashamed to be naked. Once they admit to eating the fruit, the Son sentences the snake to remain forever an animal that will slither on the ground and eat dust. The Son sentences Eve to feel pain in childbirth and be submissive to her husband. Lastly, the Son sentences Adam to a life of toil obtaining food from the earth and death for both of them. After appointing Sin and Death to rule over the Earth, Satan returns to hell to gloat. However, he and his merry crew of angels turn into snakes and other nasty creatures. Everything they eat tastes like dust as the Son said it would. Devastated, Adam and Eve discuss what they will do next and decide it is better to live and for the rest of their days kneel before God, repent and beg for forgiveness.
Since I’m familiar with what happens in the Bible, it never occurred to me before that Adam and Eve might contemplate suicide. Even though they are now self-aware after eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, they are still relatively innocent and emotionally underdeveloped. Failing God probably feels like everything that is wonderful about life has been lost and there’s no point to anything anymore. Again, it makes me feel sad for them. On a side note, Satan and his angels turning into snakes was pretty cool!
Next on Paradise Lost … the grand finale.
WHO IS IT? Dame Judi Dench has always been a force to be reckoned with as a veteran English actress of film, television and theatre. For the upcoming Academy Awards to be held on March 2nd, she has been nominated for her lead role in Philomena. It will be her seventh Oscar nomination! Probably my favourite Judi Dench movie is Mrs. Brown (1997), although I will always have a soft spot for her role as M in the James Bond movies.
WHY I LOVE THIS ACTRESS: Judi Dench has always struck me as being a genuine, no-nonsense woman. She doesn’t pretend to know everything and doesn’t hesitate to tell it as she sees it. She exudes confidence, wisdom and has always shown a bit of a cheeky side. I think she is a really classy lady.
FIRST ENCOUNTER: I’m pretty sure the first time I saw Judi Dench was in Goldeneye (1995) when Pierce Brosnan was still 007. I loved how M was so ruthless and bitchy. Judi played M perfectly with her raspy voice and fierce cat-like eyes. Meow!
FAVE MOVIE/SCENE: My favourite scene is when Viola (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) meets Judi Dench as the Queen. She speaks bluntly about the way love is depicted in plays and she casually makes fun of Colin Firth on the side.
CLASSIC BOOK FILMOGRAPHY
1981 ~ The Cherry Orchard ~ Mme. Ranevsky
1985 ~ A Room with a View ~ Eleanor Lavish
1987 ~ 84 Charing Cross Road ~Nora Doel
1989 ~ Henry V ~ Mistress Quickly
1994 ~ Middlemarch ~ George Eliot (voice)
1996 ~ Hamlet ~ Hecuba
2000 ~ Chocolat ~ Armande Voizin
2001 ~ The Shipping News ~ Agnis Hamm
2002 ~ The Importance of Being Earnest ~ Lady Augusta Bracknell
2005 ~ Pride & Prejudice ~ Lady Catherine de Bourgh
2007 ~ Cranford ~ Miss Matty
2009 ~ Return to Cranford ~ Miss Matty
2011 ~ Jane Eyre ~ Mrs. Fairfax
I started from the 80s, but to see Judi Dench’s full filmography visit Wikipedia.
GREAT QUOTE: “Shakespeare is wonderful for children. It fires their imagination – they recognise people being superstitious, greedy, envious and falling in and out of love.”
Who is your favourite celebrity in a classic?
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We’re in the home stretch for Paradise Lost! As usual, lots of stuff went over my head, but here are a few quick thoughts on Books VII and VIII.
* CONTAINS SPOILERS
Raphael continues his conversation with Adam, but this time he is relating the story of how God created the Earth and then mankind. As told in the Bible, creation take six days where land was separated from water and animals of every kind were created. Raphael infers that by creating the Earth, God is showing Satan and all the other rebellious angels that God’s power can be expanded in other ways and into other spaces. Then pleased with the results of his work, God rests on the seventh day.
I find it interesting how Raphael has come to provide Adam with, among other juicy info, this education about God. As if, even though God has a connection to Adam, he felt it was better to send a representative to discuss these matters. I get the impression that Adam is very innocent and naïve, the vacant-eyed doll I imagine him to be. Could God not have made him smart, strong and ready to face the dangers out there? On another note, I noticed that some of the language Milton used to describe the creation of the Earth was similar to language from the Bible, such as “God saw the light was good”. However, Milton’s version is much more eloquent and pretty.
* * *
Among other things, Raphael and Adam talk about how he and Eve was created and this leads to a conversation about love and sex. Adam admits he is strongly attracted to Eve’s beauty and the angel warns him that Eve is a weaker creature by nature and this will lead to Adam’s downfall. Raphael says that love should be pure and not based on passion or carnal desires, and Adam should strive for a love that will raise him to heaven.
I had wondered where Eve was during this conversation and was shocked when she gets up and leaves the conversation to tend to her plants, as if she was bored. I guess Milton felt she had nothing intelligent to contribute during the entire discussion. Raphael must have been so relieved Eve left because the man-to-man conversation he has with Adam is basically to slam Eve for being the weaker sex and wrong for Adam. Very subtly, Raphael suggests that Adam get some control over his hormones and prepare for Satan.
What will happen next? Well, I guess we kinda know, don’t we?