I cannot truly express to you how delighted I have been to run through some classics. I’ve not had a single disappointment thus far, which is a feat in and of itself because classic doesn’t always equate “great story” to me.
Take Wuthering Heights, for example. It’s a well-known, classic by Emily Brontë that I despise with a passion. Why? Because Heathcliff and Catherine are never set to right. They are selfish, vain and completely ugly to every other human, and they die in that same stead without ever learning a smidgen of goodness. Blech. I would have liked it were it not for this glaring absence of value; if only one of them would have changed just a tiny bit from their mistakes. Then I would find a redeeming quality in it. Poor Cathy and Hareton… they are caught in malevolent, vengeful whims of Heathcliff. Most of their youth is wasted on his ill-intents. Never was I so glad to see a hateful, black character pass away.
See? It’s a classic – well, told and lyrical in its wording, but I cared not for its overall story. I’ve already said in earlier reviews that a story doesn’t have to have a perfect or happy ending, but it does have to have some redeeming value in order for me to list it as read-worthy.
Fortunately for me, Anne Brontë, Emily’s sister, also wrote a now classic story that I found to be fraught with emotions, but charming overall. Agnes Grey is a wonderful tale about a woman determined to contribute to the happiness of her family, even if it meant foregoing her own.
Set in the Victorian era, Agnes Grey is an honorable clergyman’s daughter who goes into the world to seek employment as a governess in order to contribute to her family’s financial well-being. Her several positions are described with deadly accuracy–the bratty children, the secretly disdainful other servants, the uninvolved parents, the lack of common decency or compassion for Agnes from any of the family members. All are rendered here in minute and descriptive details.
Brontë uses her calm, measured, extraordinarily accurate descriptive skill throughout the novel, which more than makes up for the fact that the plot is simple and the action mostly tranquil and uneventful. She renders lifelike characters that are easy to acknowledge emotionally, be it in liking or disliking them. Agnes, in all her sweetness and good temperament, is completely capable of gathering the readers into her corner while unruly Bloomfield children and later the conceited Rosalind Murray and her sibling are quick to repel the reader due to their vanity, selfishness and general air of self-importance.
One jewel that Brontë weaves into this unpretentious and insightful tale is the idea that the characters get what they deserve, which is, fittingly, what each explicitly asked and worked to obtain. This proverb is expertly revealed as the story progresses through the years. I will tell you that their getting what they deserve is a very good thing, especially for Agnes.
So yet again, I am recommending another book. If you are looking for a good, easy to understand classic, I definitely suggest Agnes Grey. You’ll love Agnes herself, her charming family and the outcome for them all.