unreliable narrators

Virginia Woolf wrote, “Most commonly we come to books with blurred and divided minds, asking of fiction that it shall be true, of poetry that it shall be false, of biography that it shall be flattering, of history that it shall enforce our own prejudices”(Woolf). I don’t really remember the first time I doubted the opinions of a character in a novel or when I realized that perhaps poetry did not always impart truth, but I do know that all those notions came together in quite a spectacular manner when I read Crime and Punishment. As early as page 2 Dostoyevsky invites readers into his very real and awful world,

The heat in the street was terrible: and the airlessness, the bustle and the plaster, scaffolding, bricks, and dust all about him, and that special Petersburg stench, so familiar to all who are unable to get out of town in summer—all worked painfully upon the young man’s already overwrought nerves. The insufferable stench from the pothouses, which are particularly numerous in that part of the town, and the drunken men whom he met continually, although it was a working day, completed the revolting misery of the picture. An expression of the profoundest disgust gleamed for a moment in the young man’s refined face. He was, by the way, exceptionally handsome, above the average in height, slim, well-built, with beautiful dark eyes and dark brown hair. Soon he sank into deep thought, or more accurately speaking into a complete blankness of mind; he walked along not observing what was about him and not caring to observe it. From time to time, he would mutter something, from the habit of talking to himself, to which he had just confessed. At these moments he would become conscious that his ideas were sometimes in a tangle and that he was very weak; for two days he had scarcely tasted food.

The suspect mind of Raskolnikov was penned with the use of an omniscient point of view, and it is in that murky place that we begin our troubles. This narrator is not to be trusted on any account, his warped and privileged preoccupation with his own superiority clouds his vantage. Yet for many hundreds of pages we are led into his dangerous train of thought.

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“Languishing” they call It

It wasn’t burnout — we still had energy. It wasn’t depression — we didn’t feel hopeless. We just felt somewhat joyless and aimless. It turns out there’s a name for that: languishing.

Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.

As scientists and physicians work to treat and cure the physical symptoms of long-haul Covid, many people are struggling with the emotional long-haul of the pandemic. It hit some of us unprepared as the intense fear and grief of last year faded” (Grant).

Last week, everyone read The New York Times article, everyone nodded a yes, and I too thought, this is exactly what I am feeling after this past year. Before I read the piece, I had coined the sense as ‘mopey’. Just that downcast and defeated feeling after a hard year of cynicism and despair might leave you moping around your living room. 

 

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Earth Day

Away, away, from men and towns,
To the wild wood and the downs, —
To the silent wilderness,
Where the soul need not repress its music.” —Percy Bysshe Shelley

As a Nine Cent Girl reader you are uniquely aware of the lovely places where I roam and know many are right out my front door. Having the very best of air, water, earth, with a fire in our hearth keep us balanced on this one small planet. This week as Spring is slowly emerging from her underworld and winter garb, there is the reminder that Persephone is rising with her mantle of yellow flowers and cape of greens. As all New Englanders, I anxiously await the ease this next season will bring and am always reminded how lucky I am to live here, in absolute beauty: under grey clouds or vast blue, each day is a gift.

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