Literary Friends

I’m enjoying Jane Eyre for my Victorian British Literature class. Taught by one of my favorite professors in one of my favorite literary styles, this class is my happy place right now. Early in the book, young Jane is befriended by a slightly older girl named Helen Burns. I thought I’d share some of narrator Jane’s descriptions of Helen and see if you think she would qualify as a Rare Rock. I mean, in the literary sense, of course!

Describing Helen’s unusual beauty when she discussed important things:

“– a beauty neither of fine colour nor long eyelash, nor pencilled brow, but of meaning, of movement, of radiance. Then her soul sat on her lips, and language flowed, from what source I cannot tell:”

Later, Jane describes Helen as the best kind of friend:

“she was qualified to give those who enjoyed the privilege of her converse, a taste of far higher things.”

I would certainly love to hear such comments made about me! (Oh, the beatiful language in this book will make you WANT to be a better person!) Jane learned much from her faithful friend Helen. Do you have favorite literary role models? Who would make your list of literary Rare Rocks?



Filed under A Rare Title, General, Rare Rock Profiles

14 responses to “Literary Friends

  1. First of all, I need to comment on Helen Burns’s presence in Jane Eyre — her final scene in the novel marked the first time a book ever made me cry. And boy did I cry…

    When I read Betty Smith’s novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn years and years ago, I found myself wishing the character Sissy could be my mother, my lover and my wife. And I wasn’t alone in this: my friend Ben felt the same way. Sissy is all things to all men, I think…

    As for as literary role models, though, I’m not sure I can say. I can, however, list my very favorite characters in fiction (in addition to Jane Eyre and Sissy):

    Eowyn in The Lord of the Rings
    Tristan in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith
    Antonia Shimerda in My Antonia
    Briony Tallis in Atonement
    Zooey Glass in Franny and Zooey
    Nan in Tipping the Velvet
    Rinaldo Cantabile in Humboldt’s Gift
    Demmie Vonghel in Humboldt’s Gift
    Jimmy Blevins in All the Pretty Horses
    Smilla in Smilla’s Sense of Snow
    Oliver Ward in Angle of Repose
    Susan Burling Ward in Angle of Repose
    Wemmick in Great Expectations
    Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield
    Agnes Wickfield in David Copperfield
    Barrabas in The House of the Spirits
    Eugene Wrayburn in Our Mutual Friend
    Steffi Rostenkowski in Never Come Morning
    Grigg in The Jane Austen Book Club

  2. Yes, Jason, I cried over Helen Burns, too. And I have NOT read enough of the books on your list, but I will and I will look for each of your favorites! What would we do without books?! Thanks for commenting!

  3. Start with (or be certain to include) Angle of Repose — it’s probably the best novel I’ve ever read. (Forster’s A Room with a View might be my favorite, but Stegner’s is the best.)

  4. Thank you! Angle of Repose is now officially added to my “After Graduation” reading list! 🙂

  5. Last Halloween, my wife and I had toyed with the idea of dressing up as Oliver and Susan Burling Ward from Angle… but didn’t, in the end, have the time to corral the necessaries for the costumes. Someday, when I lose all of the weight I need to lose, I want to go as Oscar Hopkins from Peter Carey’s novel Oscar and Lucinda — I would even dye my hair red for the occasion.

  6. I always liked the pretty girls like Anne, or Lucie Manette (Tale of Two Cities). But Sydney Carton changed my life. I cried so hard when I watched that sacrifice go down – and from such an unlikely soul. I like Jane Austen’s Emma too, because I relate most to the rare rock quality of being able to learn and change once you’ve seen your flaws.

  7. See, that was my problem with Elizabeth Bennet — she never changes. She reforms her attitude toward Darcy, but, in my view, she never really recognizes that her quickness to judge Darcy was part of a larger fabric, a quickness to judge others and — what is worse — to delight in judging them. I can’t speak to the change in Emma Woodhouse, as I’ve only seen the films (and from the films alone, I would’ve said Elizabeth Bennet does change in a larger way), but I’ll be reading more Austen in the future.

    Sidney Carton is one of the great Christ figures in fiction. And as unlikely as Christ himself. Who would’ve thought a humble carpenter would turn out to be and do who he was and what he did?

  8. One last thing, Felicity, before you go looking to read, wholesale, the represented books on my list of favorite characters: I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend any of them except Humboldt’s Gift. I may get a kick out of Rinaldo and have fallen a little in love with Demmie, but the novel, as a whole, is an overwhelming mess.

  9. Thanks, Jason, I will take that into consideration!

    And Sidney Carton – I believe he was the first literary figure I had a crush on!

  10. katieleigh

    I always adored Anne Shirley for her dreamy, impetuous, determined spirit. (I have a little of her stubbornness in me!) And I love Vianne in Joanne Harris’s Chocolat, and Cassandra in I Capture the Castle. (Clearly I admire spunky heroines.)

    I love so many of the characters in Lord of the Rings, for different reasons – but Eowyn is the one I’d most like to be.

  11. Kathy Nickerson

    The Grandfather in Heidi. Or, the blind grandmother, for that matter.
    Sydney Carton, of course. I could weep just thinking of him.
    Mrs. Mike, from the novel of the same name. Marmee – the novel version more so than the movie.
    Catherine Benson – Oh, wait. I’m creating her, but I hope she makes the list eons from now 🙂

  12. When I first discovered Jane Eyre as an 8th grader, I thought of her as a best friend and mentor. I wanted to be like her – to make a life for myself even though I was “poor and plain” (Obviously I was melodramatic too!) Through the years both she and Anne Elliott (from Persuasion) have been role models for perseverance and integrity.

  13. I would recommend just about anything written by any of the Nickerson women. And they are each excellent living role models. Who needs literary role models when you can get the real live thing…;->

  14. Thanks for commenting, hopeinbrazil. I have a friend in Fortaleza – she believes the same way!

    Thanks, Simone, good point.

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