~ The mystery of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ ~ 🖤🌹

‘The Phantom of the Opera’ is definitely a tale about escapism- Christine spends her whole life being coached by a ‘mysterious voice’ that mentors her to do better and achieve beyond what she thought possible, when she finally steps through the mirror and meets the man behind the voice, her illusion shatters and she is repulsed by his deformed face. 💀

Instead, she goes for her childhood sweetheart Raoul, and, the phantom realises that despite all he’s given her, she still turns away in horror. She pities him and yet still agrees to lay a trap, by going along with his grand plans for her on the stage, but in the end, his jealousy still destroys them (and the opera house which is also his home.) 🎼🎭

We see him as the villain of the story, but we also feel sorry for him, hiding away with no love and kindness- and perhaps it’s this forced solitude & space to develop his talents that turns him into a musical genius. There are many things to learn from it, that you can’t force love, that you can’t expect too much from anyone, yet also the power of forgiveness and also dedication throughout a lifetime. 🖤🖤

Another thing I love about the Phantom are the aesthetics, the opulent backdrop & historical references- after all it’s a theatre, the masquerade balls, the grandness, and of course, the amazing soundtrack!! Andrew Lloyd Webber really transformed it and made it his own- hence why it still stands the test of time. 👰🏻👻🎞⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

~ 𝔔𝔲𝔬𝔱𝔢 𝔠𝔬𝔯𝔫𝔢𝔯~

“They played at hearts as other children might play at ball; only, as it was really their two hearts that they flung to and fro, they had to be very, very handy to catch them, each time, without hurting them.”

“And, despite the care which she took to look behind her at every moment, she failed to see a shadow which followed her like her own shadow, which stopped when she stopped, which started again when she did and which made no more noise than a well-conducted shadow should.”

Robin Hood ~ the return of a legend?

I’ve probably analysed all adaptions to death in my previous post, but here’s another update! (This doesn’t help the ‘nerd’ image in the slightest…)

*spoiler alert*

So what comparisons can we make?

This movie takes the darkness of the Russell Crowe version, combined with the humour of the TV show (Marian looks the spitting image of Lucy Griffiths). It delivers the action, the evil, and combines it with a lot of assassins creed. Riding horseback over rooftops, shooting 100 arrows a second, their modern outfits, buildings that look more eastern than medieval 🏰 … we know how unrealistic this is going to be, but that’s also what keeps us riveted to the screen. It isn’t going to be accurate. But we also know that RH didn’t exist in his ‘current form.’ RH is a great bowman, (my jealousy knows no bounds) and if nothing else, it’s good to have a heroic figure to believe in.

John takes over Azeem’s role in ‘Prince of thieves’, that of mentor and companion, Will Scarlet actually becomes the new sheriff (bet you didn’t see that coming!) There is no gang, at least not without a beginning and each has a story to tell. The dynamics have shifted between them, and they’re not the beloved characters you remember them to be.

The concept of RH to me isn’t just the rich robbing to give to the poor. It’s about the idea of justice, of doing what’s right, and caring for those around you. It might seem two dimensional, (he is a killer, and surely has done some terrible things during the crusades. Isn’t stealing from the law equally as deplorable?) But to this day, and what makes it such a popular legend to portray, is that it shares some important qualities~ of staying loyal (Robin & Marian throughout the time he’s at war), of friendship (in this case striking a bond with those you fight/ work alongside and having a common cause), fairness and sacrifice- death seems but a notion, if its fighting for what you believe in/ those you love.

Yes all versions have a bleak view on the corruptness of the church. The crusades were dark, horrific times and nothing is pretty about heads being lopped off, or peppered by a thousand arrows. They fight for a cause directed by another’s hand and it’s only upon his return home does RH realise the corrupt villains at his own door.

So isn’t he justified in taking action? To strike at the root of evil? No matter what face he wears over the years, he represents an ‘idea’, to stand up against tyranny.

All along it seems a tug of war between RH and the sheriff, of deception, both equally dependent on the other. So it’s interesting to see their relationship throughout the process.

For this movie, RH keeps his personae as robin of Loxley (rich Lord of the Manor) as well as his doppelgänger Robin of the hood. His disguise is never doubted and the sheriff trusts him all too easily. Which is what makes it so intriguing. You’re always waiting for that moment when he’ll be found out.

So what if you found a role reversal, with RH as the villain, the sheriff as compassionate, albeit flawed man caught between his duty & personal affairs who isn’t fixated on capturing Robin Hood at all but merely surviving and protecting his family-what then? 🤔

Overall, it did fulfill what I can only describe as the RH ‘criteria’ and pay homage to the essence of what he represents. The true core of it stays the same, no matter how modern or glitzily revamped the adaptations are. It’s easy to be a critic of the movie, but the reason it stays in people’s minds is down to one thing. Whether he existed or not, he’s been turned into a household name that inspires courage and imagination through the years … and that’s the true legend of Robin Hood.

“Martin Chuzzlewit”- The Dark Horse of Dickens?

swirl-divider4Described by Dickens as “in a hundred points immeasurably the best of my stories”, we come to the 7th of his novels, “Martin Chuzzlewit.” Unfortunately, the general public didn’t seem to agree about it being the best, so it has always remained low profile.

You can argue it’s  natural and typical-an author’s pride, joy and dear baby never seems to be appreciated by others quite as much as they themselves do. So we can feel for Dickens.

1

Mr Pecksniff and old Mr Chuzzlewit

1) The themes explored in the novel include murder, satire, deception, selfishness, selfishness and more selfishness. (some are not very nice people).

2) The protagonist Martin travels to America to a colony situated in a swamp, he becomes very ill,  is at the brink of death and sinks into a period of ruin and despair. Despite his hardships, he becomes much improved by the time he returns to Britain, with the aid of his very optimistic and jolly friend Mark Tapley.

28bf47250c9a1ca0da28108e141216a8

3) It illustrates Dickens’s turning point towards the darker threads of human nature and refinement of his writing style, comparing the satire and humour of “Nicholas Nickleby” against his later novels such as “Tale of Two Cities”, “Our Mutual Friend”, “Great Expectations” and “Bleak House”. 

4) Dickens portrays America in a poor light; “deface the banner of the nation for an idle rag, pollute it star by star, and cut our stripe by stripe as from the arm of a degraded soldier.” Offensive to many of his American readers? It seems the novel and its characters are quite biased in regards to Dickens’s first visit to the country. He must have had a really bad experience….

Our Mentionable Characters:

  • Mr Pecksniff and his hypocrisy. He is a character you are itching to strangle. Even the online dictionary has an entry in his honour. Pecksniffery/Pecksniffian: adj- affecting benevolence or high moral principles.
mc9

Martin, Mr Pecksniff with his two daughters and Tom Pinch

  • The admirable Tom Pinch who puts others needs before his, humble and loyal. Everyone’s friend. You want to wrap him up in cotton wool and keep him safe. But without the juxtaposition of other villains and the unfair trials Tom must bear, his positive qualities cannot shine through.
  •  Martin is not the focus. He is weak minded, sometimes fickle and lacks a commanding personality despite his improvement later in the novel. An interesting question is how he is comparable to Dickens’s other protagonists?? Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, even Nicholas. (yes it has come to a point where I am on a first name basis with him)
  • Mrs Gamp. Described as a “drunken and verbose” nurse, she provides much comedic relief to the story. Honestly, the things she says hardly makes sense, but she is reliable and does her job well. That’s all we need to know.
22830s

Mrs Gamp immortalised on a stamp

5) Perhaps you need to be a die-hard fan to be motivated to finish this novel. It is quite wordy and so dedicated reading is a must, to pick up from where you left off. Maybe one day I will give it another chance from the beginning! Though it took me a lot longer to complete, nevertheless- I did enjoy it and will be sad when my collection of Dickens is finished! I console myself that there is yet “A Tale of Two Cities” to go…

“The Old Curiosity Shop”: A Strange and Moving Tale

swirl-divider4

This spiritual tale is Dicken’s 4th after “Nicholas Nickleby”.

“Dark and dream-like, The Old Curiosity Shop is filled with unforgettable, grotesque characters: Quilp, a demonic dwarf who eats eggs in their shells and drinks boiling rum, a loving grandfather with a terrible gambling addiction, frail but loving Nell and her wicked brother Frederick, corrupt, abusive lawyer Sampson Brass and good hearted hero Kit Nubbles. Famously one of Dickens’s most moving tales, The Old Curiosity Shop is also one of his strangest and most memorable.”

Scan 18

1) I really enjoyed the book, it was partly this edition too (Penguin English Library) that started my more dedicated reading of his lesser known novels.

2) It is a tragic story of young, loving Nell who escapes from the inner city of London with her grandfather to take refuge in the English countryside. There is great juxtaposition between Dickens’s vivid descriptions of  the city versus that of the quiet solitude they experience on the road out of London. It is not hard to understand why the grandfather would develop a paranoia that they are constantly being chased and have to move on, further, quicker to their journey’s end.

3) The reason for their flight is due to- Daniel Quilp. Seen as one of Dickens’s most evil villains- a devilish dwarf who abuses his wife and terrifies everyone around him. He is controlling and takes sadistic pleasure in the suffering of other people. Nell’s grandfather borrows money off him, and naturally Quilp uses this to his advantage. He takes control of the old man’s property (the curiosity shop) upon his illness…in fact, there is nothing Quilp won’t do…as you will find out.

4

4) This illustration pretty much sums it all up. Quilp cackling away in a corner, delighting in terrifying people while Nell’s grandfather hides his head in despair; while poor, loving Nell comforts him.

5) When you read the novel, you have a feeling the end will be tragic. It is believed the inspiration of little Nelly Trent is from Dickens’ sister-in-law, Mary Hogarth. When she died in 1837 at the age of 17 he was heartbroken. He wore a ring of Mary’s the rest of his life, and wanted to be buried in the same grave as her upon his death.

6) “Then, on it came again, silent and stealthy as before, and replacing the garments it had taken from the bedside, dropped upon its hands and knees, and crawled away. How slowly it seemed to move, now that she could hear but not see it, creeping along the floor! It reached the door at last, and stood upon its feet. The steps creaked beneath its noiseless tread, and it was gone.” – This has to be one of the most nightmarish images in a Dickens book. I could just imagine a hunchbacked creature with spindly legs stealthily crawling about my room at night – right out of a horror film. Of course what makes it worse is this ‘creature’ Nell sees stealing money from her room is no other than her own grandfather.

the_old_curiosity_shop-large

Kit is taught by Nell in the old curiosity shop

7) The character of loyal and endearing Kit Nubbles creates a contrast against Quilp and the scheming lawyer Sampson Brass.  He is dedicated to the well being of his family and loves little Nell dearly. Quilp hates him with a passion, resenting his dedication to the family, taking great pains to destroy the boy. He even has a wooden figure head put up in his home to represent Kit, which he defaces and attacks at every given chance. Poor Kit!

8) The novel is definitely dreamy and dark, and as the summary makes reference to, is no doubt one of Dicken’s strangest and most memorable novels. It exists in a little sphere of its own – existing in a snow globe.

nell takes comfort among the tombstones

Nell takes comfort among the tombstones

9) Nell’s innocence is corrupted by her grandfather’s gambling addiction…weeks of weary travel and they are reduced to beggars. This no doubt affects her health.  She is often described as an angel, a little girl who takes comfort among the tombstones, appreciating the stillness and the quietude of the nature around her. Strangely her character is not as well developed as you might hope , and does not appear too often as the main protagonist.

10) I’m a big fan of illustrations in Dickens. There are great illustration per chapter in this edition which really brings the narrative to life.

Overall, the book was enjoyable and one of the first I finished before I began the idea of writing a review on Dickens. I really recommend “The Old Curiosity Shop” for those who are just starting on Dickens and want one of his lighter books to read. It is a touching story and one that you will remember for a long time afterwards…

“Nicholas Nickleby”: A Tale of Satire

swirl-divider4“I shall never regret doing as I have—never, if I starve or beg in consequence.”

Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens is a story critics have until recently, found fault in. But it has remained one of the general public’s favourite. Why?

Sure it has aspects of the theatrical and flamboyant. Though critics have found the characters “one dimensional and the plot too episodic”, it had immediate success upon publication. There is something about Nicholas that makes him worthy as Dickens’s male protagonist. He has a mixture of naivety, innocence, optimism and youthful gallantry- the people’s champion through his indignation towards injustice.

Nicholas_nickleby35

Let’s look at a summary: “One of Dickens’s most flamboyant and theatrical novels, Nicholas Nickleby is the story of an impulsive young man who, forced to make his way in the world encounters human life in all its variety: the tyrannical headmaster Wackford Squeers, the tragic orphan Smike, the  ridiculous Mantalinis, the hilarious thespians Mr and Mrs Crummles and their daughter, ‘the infant phenomenon’. Nicholas Nickleby is fired by outrage at cruelty and injustice, but is above all a work filled with riotous, life- affirming comedy.”

Wow. So all that said and done, what did I think after reading it?

1. Sticking to this ‘outrage at cruelty and injustice’, the best example of this is through his punishment of the tyrannical Yorkshire schoolmaster Wackford Squeers. Taking up a situation as mentor/teacher without real knowledge of his situation, Nicholas witnesses the unjust treatment, starvation, illness, violent beatings and the shoddy education the headmaster preaches. In fact, Dotheboys Hall is not a real hall at all but a house with a sort of farm shed used for teaching the boys. Dickens portrays the horrors of many Yorkshire boarding schools for unwanted children (we are also brought to the attention the cruelty of “evil step parents” who sent their kids to boarding school to get them out of their lives)

Royal-Mail-Stamps-Charles-Dickens-Nickolas-Nickleby

The thrashing of Wackford Squeers, immortalised on a Royal Mail stamp

2. What makes Nicholas’s punishment of Wackford Squeers of Dotheboys Hall so satisfying is that he is not under obligation to Squeers. Nicholas is old enough to take matters into his own hands and make his mark in the world- if he chooses to. He can be impulsive and rash, but essentially he represents the voice and mind of the reader through his indignation of injustice and in this- he never fails.

3. Nicholas Nickleby is Dickens’s third novel after “Oliver Twist”. There are comparisons that can be made in his writing style and focus at the time of publication, to his later works.

4. Nicholas befriends a poor orphan named Smike- a truly tragic and heart breaking character who becomes his fast friend, escaping with him from the boarding school. Smike follows him on his journey throughout the novel.

xjf393881

The internal economy of Dotheboys Hall

5. Like many protagonists, Nicholas is under obligation to someone or another (may it be morally or financially). After his father’s death he becomes “the man of the family”, yet as a country boy in a large city and still ignorant of the ways of the world, must rely on the goodwill of others. Upon his arrival, he and his small family (consisting of mother and sister) are under obligation to his uncle. Well, we can guess how that turns out….

6. The villains in the novel are as bad as those iconic of Dickens. The cynical, miserable Uncle Ralph takes a disliking to his nephew and schemes to undermine and break him- even using his sister Kate as bait. Ralph Nickleby is a man consumed and destroyed by revenge, in which nothing can appease him.

7. The other notable character is Wackford Squeers himself. He is a deplorable and morally perverse character but the reader is often disappointed at how little he appears. The novel naturally follows Nicholas and save from various chapters where the narrative of Ralph takes over, Squeers fades into the background.

ourheritagemedia-fullsize-7c21f4887cef79d3baa7dfc5f51678a0

8. It has become a part of course really, the more I read of Dickens, for the summary to refer to each “book in question” to be the most SATIRICAL and contain Dickens’s MOST realised and comical characters. Each book claims this and well, there is truth in it. It just wouldn’t be a Dickens without them. As a writer, I only wish I could have even half the range of character development as he does…

9. Halfway through the book, Nicholas’s luck changes and so does the pace and structure of the narrative. You are still anxious for Nicholas as his enemies try to outwit and close in on him at every corner, but I found it harder to commit myself, and it took me longer to get through the book.

Nicholas Nickleby dickens-n-nickleby-4

9. I found myself getting bored with some of the events (his pursuit of Madeline Bray). In my opinion, there were characters and events taking place in “Our Mutual Friend” that kept the plot going far quicker. I can’t say I was disappointed exactly, because I was still satisfied with the ending, and how events turned out. However, some of the things in Nicholas Nickleby seemed a bit superfluous and failed to grab me like some of the other books.

10. I saw the BBC series of Nicholas Nickleby once upon a time, and it did influence my image of Nicholas, (softly spoken, tall, gentlemanly) so this was going round in my mind while I was reading the book. Dickens doesn’t actually describe his physical appearance or even his character in detail, so it is up to us; the reader to form our own opinions. But this does not desist from the point that it is almost impossible not to love such a, dare I say it; faultless character. He will remain in the vault, as one of Dickens’s most memorable protagonists to date.

2006052515030601329325

Nicholas Nickleby 2002 film adaptation