Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Influential Ladies and Inner Vows

So there I was over the weekend -- stuck in bed-- when I was blessed with being reunited to two of my favorite literary ladies: Catherine Sloper of Henry James' Washington Square and Bette Fischer of Balzac'x Cousine Bette. I first met these ladies when I was around 12. And, as I watched them, I realized they have influenced me and my characters more than I could've guessed.

Other women joined their ranks by the time I reached 15 or so: Clytemnestra, Medea, Antigone, Phaedra. Yeah, I had a thing for angry relentless passionate women who got all hard and cruel out of some strange deeply-felt cause --generally familial, but often they just were against their society.

Now, about the inner vows part. These women were often carried away by an emotion. Something the totally repressed me totally loved. Quite literally, they could not help feeling the way they did. Now, I'm older. I know now that inner vows are hard to remove. Even if the person's mind has forgiven, it's as if the heart has some weird control of the soul in some weird way (yes, I know...I'm using the word 'weird' a lot and I'm supposed to be a writer..but honestly, I can't think of another word right now.)

Example: One has totally forgiven someone. One understands why the person did something. And one really really really wants to befriend the forgiven person. Yet, one's stomach simply throws up whenever one is near the person. It's not as if one has told one's stomach to do this...but there you go...the stomach has a mind of its own that reacts to this forgiven person.

Am not sure what it is. In the old days, I liked seeing such feminine strength so strong that it denied life. (Antigone means literally against giving birth, against life...and most of these women had reached a kind of un-manning self-destruction in order to hold on to some principle or to avenge some hurt.) But now --even though I think the women simply could not free themselves from the inner impulse-- I find myself rethinking this. Why? Simply because I don't like inner vows. They take over. Hurts take over as well.

The thing is these women simply could not change their actions. The impulse of the hurt and the inner vow/inner need for justice and freedom and healing was too great. Quite simply, these women chose to be downright passionately destructive -- even if it meant destroying themselves-- in order to heal themselves. Kinda like someone saying, "I'll never love again." Even if they fall in love again, they really can't fall in love totally. Because the inner vow has so rooted itself into their being. If they DO try to accept the fact that they've fallen in love, they really don't give all their hearts because the inner vow has taken hold.

When I see these women now, I see that their grief and anger hurt their own lives...and that sometimes they understood this. Some didn't. I would've liked Catherine Sloper to have been able to accept love after Morris Townsend messed her up. What's his name loved her with all his heart. But she couldn't have accepted his love....even if she had accepted it.

It's good seeing how these women have affected my life and my writing. Who knew the stories one reads as a kid can affect one's attitude toward how to deal with being hurt etc. I find myself thinking that I don't want anyone reading my stories and becoming hard-hearted...even against their will. These literary characters have so much power.

As a Christian, I suppose I should believe in restoration. Theologically and theoretically, I believe in the removal of inner vows. Just as theologically I believe in restoration. But since I've been fighting off the pessimism and fear-of-irony lately, I know how hard it is to uproot these literary seeds that have planted such deep roots in my soul. I shall just have to hope that the spirit of Life in Christ Jesus can do wonders in freeing my soul. Where the Spirit of God is, there is Liberty


J. M. Butler said...

I always felt so sorry for these characters. Therese Raquin was one I felt particularly sad for. It was if they had no hope for any restoration, but I personally am a firm believer in that.

I actually wrote a paper on this subject for European Literature. I think it was called The Redemption of the Cold or Redemption of the Lost Women. Something along those lines. Great post!

Carole McDonnell said...

:big grin: Wow, you're a woman after my own heart. -C

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