In Which I Read The Pilgrim’s Progress Section lll

MY NEW DOLL CAME IN! YAY! Please welcome to my collection my very first ever non-brown eyed doll (I didn’t do it on purpose, but 6 dolls in and all brown eyes? Come on!)

Anyway, I’m supposed to be working on my essay. It’s supposed to be 300 words and I only have *checks* 227. Well, at least it’s been 100 words since I last checked. Hey, writing an essay in your 2nd language is not easy. (It’s even worse when it’s your third.)

So, The Pilgrim’s Progress, section… well to be honest I lost track. I’ll go look it up…. later.

Disclaimer: I am not trying to bash this book, I really am not. I just see a lot of issues as I read this in my new adult brain, and, well, I call ’em as I see ’em. Even when I talk about all the problems, I truly do believe this is a really awesome book. Having that out of the way, let’s begin:

Picking up where we left off, Christian does not yet see Yonder Wicket Gate (Yonder Wicket Gate. Yonder Wicket Gate. I wish they would have more wicket gates in this book just so I can keep reading that phrase.) But he does see “yonder shining light.”  (Which, by the way, is not as cool a phrase as “Yonder Wicket Gate.”) Dimly. But as he looks at it more and more, the better he’ll be able to see it. I like this little bit of allegory because it fits neatly into our story and is completely true: the more you behold Christ, the clearer to you he appears. Or, so says everyone else, anyway. I have yet to experience this for myself. Christian is told he must knock on “Yonder Wicket Gate” and he will be told what to do.

So Christian starts running. He runs past his house, and his wife and children cry out after him. And this is the part that bothers me: but he stuck his fingers in his ears and ran on, shouting, “Life! Life! Eternal life!” So he didn’t look behind but ran on to the middle of the plain.

Christian (yes, his name is Christian now.) will later stop to listen when Pliable and Obstinate beg him to return (we are getting to that in a few paragraphs.) But he ignores his own wife and children? Furthermore, Christian knows that the city of Destruction is doomed to, well, destruction. Why isn’t he stopping, going back and begging his wife and children to come with him? Yes the text says he has tried to convince them before, however, this does not stop some people. Many friends and relatives, though they warned their loved ones about Katrina, and knew that they knew, literally begged their loved ones to get the heck out of NOLA before the destruction came upon them. These people did not give up until it was absolutely too late. Also, is it not the first impulse of the redeemed heart to go and tell others? Should not Christian, then, be trying to witness to his own family?  Why is he not turning around, begging and pleading with his family to come with him, at least to the wicket gate? Why is he not trying just one more time?

Furthermore, it’s in the text that Christian’s “insanity” is known all over town. Theoretically Obstinate and Pliable know all about it, yet Christian tries to witness to them. But his own wife and children, he immediately forgets, and, unless my children’s version edited out a lot more than I thought, they aren’t mentioned again, except in passing when Christian meets Mr. Worldly Wise Man. (Unless you’re counting the sequel, which I’m not, because Christian wasn’t in it.)

I know that “whoever loves his family more than me is not worthy of me” but come on, really?

Everyone in town sees Christian run away, but only two people, Pliable and Obstinate, are determined enough to fetch him back.

You could almost say that these men cared the most about Christian. I mean, think about it: from their point of view, he’s insane, chasing dreams. The way they see it, they’re trying to save him from himself. They’re supposed to be thought of as evil, and it’s true they should believe the bible, but I do believe that their hearts are in the right place. I believe Obstinate and Pliable are sort of like… non Christian people who are still decent people. (Yes, those really exist.)

That doesn’t mean I agree with their actions. Just that… I like these men, and I don’t think Christian understands the value of their friendship.

They catch up, and the man says, “why have you come?”
Pliable/obstinate: to persuade you to come back with us.”
Christian: that can’t be, for you dwell in the City of Destruction, where I was born. I can see what will happen, and if you die there you will sink down lower than the grave into hell. Be sensible, good neighbors, and come with me.

Except from the neighbors’ point of view, this is not sensible. Christian has had… we’re not sure how much time, days at least, probably weeks, to read the bible, evaluate it, and make a decision. These two are hearing it for the first time, and Christian is wanting them to make a snap decision. I don’t blame Pliable and Obstinate for being… well, Pliable and Obstinate.

But I also don’t blame Christian for acting this way. Yes it is not the most effective form of evangelism, but Christian is a new convert, and sometimes this is what new converts do: they see the danger others are in, so they seek to warn them in the most clear way possible, regardless of tact, expecting them to make a snap decision to convert. These people think that all that is necessary to convert people is to tell them.  I used to be like this myself. When I rediscovered God at the age of 14… I was one of Those People.  They were in danger, I had to warn them! I only had another 5 years or less before the end of the world!

Yeaaaaah. It’s a good thing none of you knew me back then (Unless Jacq is reading this, which I doubt) because none of you would be friends with me now.

So, I can understand both sides of this.

And…this next paragraph I don’t get. I think Bunyan was operating on the principle that everyone in their hearts “knows” that Christianity is the right way to go. I make this assumption because, instead of thinking none of this is true, Obstinate’s reaction is to say, “What! and leave our friends and comforts behind us?”

Sigh. It is possible that Obstinate has had enough knowledge and opportunity to know that Jesus is the way and has rejected it. Maybe Christian preached enough (though I doubt it, since we really aren’t shown him preaching/trying to reach out to people) that stirred something in Obstinate’s heart. Maybe. But it’s a stretch, since I think that whatever Christian learned from reading the bible has been spread by word of mouth through family. This is evidenced by the fact that we don’t see him preaching. Even if Christian did reach out to his neighbors (which is not indicated) he comes across as insane.

Since Bunyan is no longer alive to ask, we can’t know. We can’t know if Obstinate is obstinate because he’s Obstinate, or if he’s obstinate because he’s never had exposure to the truth. But I do know it’s a popular Christian belief that people who know about christianity know in their hearts that Christianity is the truth.

Erm, no, they really don’t. I know that’s probably considered blasphemy, but, some people just honestly don’t feel that way. And that’s fine. Some people are convicted that this is the truth right away, and some need a little more convincing. It’s as the Holy Spirit leads. And, to be perfectly honest, I’ve only found that people who were raised that way “know in their heart” that it’s true. And frankly, not everyone who hears the word preached instinctively knows that it is the truth. There are a variety of reasons which I won’t get into here, but not everybody who rejects Christianity is rejecting what “they know in their hearts to be true, and they just don’t want to admit it.” This is especially true if they’ve had minimal exposure to Christianity in their lives.

So, I see what Bunyan is trying to do here, but I respectfully disagree. But for the sake of the plot, I can agree to disagree and move on.

And here, here finally, Christian gets his name. Before he was just called “the man,” and I don’t think he was given a name when written about (the book is written like a play.) Someone can correct me if I’m wrong, it is kinda late, but this is the place where the name “Graceless” is changed to “Christian.”

CHR. Yes, said Christian, for that was his name,

And yes, that’s how something so significant, the name change, is introduced into the book. Sigh. I wish Bunyan would show us more name changes. I wish he’d explored that a little bit more. But then I also wish my essay would write itself, so, moving on.

Christian: that which I leave behind doesn’t even compare a tiny bit to what I will be given there, and if you come with me, you’ll be given the same as me, for there’s plenty for everyone! Come and see for yourselves!

Interesting. Christian here is witnessing… and he’s not mentioning the love of God, or what God has done for him in his life (well, we can forgive the last one, as God has not had time to do anything in Christian’s life except promise to set him free, he hasn’t actually done so yet.) Instead Christian talks about all that God is going to give him. This sounds like prosperity gospel to me, but maybe it’s just because Christian is a new convert and has yet to experience how loving God is. (Actually, so do I, but moving on.)

Obstinate: What are these things you’re looking for, that you’ll give up the world to find?

Christian: I seek an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fades not away. And it is laid up in heaven, and safe there, to be bestowed at the time appointed, on them that diligently seek it. Read it so, if you will, in my book.

Interesting, I thought Christian was seeking to be released from his burden? How about how Jesus sets us free from our sins? (Or at least, he’s supposed to).

One of the things I LOVE about the Pilgrim’s Progress is that you can read it with your bible. As I’m typing this up, I’m editing out the references to make the story flow better. but you could like, read the bible with this book very easily. There’s almost a verse every sentence!

Obstinate: tush! away with your book! Are you coming back with us or not?

Christian: No, not I, because I have laid my hand to the plow.

No turning back, no turning back.

Obstinate: come then, neighbor Pliable, let us turn again, and go home without him; there is a company of these crazy headed coxcombs, that, when they take a fancy by the end, are wiser in their own eyes than seven men that can render a reason. (proverbs 26:16)

Interesting here that even “the heathens” quote from the bible. I think “Crazy headed coxcombs” just became my new favorite insult. Next time someone does something I don’t like, instead of calling them a B*!@# or an A!##$, I’m going to call them a “crazy headed coxcomb.” Hey, if Bunyan wrote it in his book, it must have been pretty tame, even for the time period. So it’s not even a swear word. There, problem solved. Not that there ever was one you crazy headed coxcomb.

Pliable: don’t mock him; if what good Christian says is true [I love how even the people outside Christian recognize the name change without it being explained to them.] the things he looks after are better than ours; my instinct is to go wtih him.

Obstinate: Go back and be wise! who knows whither such a brain sick fellow will lead you?

Again, let us remember that Obstinate might not have had the same knowledge and privilege as Christian. Some people are more quickly convinced than others, Obstinate just may need more convincing. From Obstinate’s point of view, he is protecting his friend.

Christian: No, come with me!

Pliable: ok!

Obstinate: I will be no companion of such misled, fantastical fellows.  *stomps off*

Christian and Pliable then spend page after page talking about heaven. It gets boring. We’re skipping this part.

They’re talking and walking and reading from the bible and talking and walking and walking and talking and whoop! Down they go, into the Slough of Despond. I’m not sure how to pronounce the word “slough,” and my modern version is translating it as “dip or despair.” I can not help but hear this and think it is a reference to an ice cream flavor (Hi, I’d like a dip of strawberry, a dip of chocolate, and a dip of despair, please.) But it’s basically a pit of mud, so I’ll call it, “the Mud Puddle of Despair.”  The burden on Christian’s back makes him sink.

Pliable: Where are you?
Christian: I don’t know!
Pliable began to be offended, and angrily said, “is this the happiness you’ve told me about? If we have such ill speed at our first setting out, what may we expect betwixt this and our journey’s end? Go on without me, if I get out alive!” And with that, he gave a desperate struggle or two, and got out of the mire on the side of the slough which was next to his own house: so away he went, and Christian saw him no more.

Christian struggles toward the side of the pit that is closest to “yonder wicket gate,” but he can’t get out.

Along comes Help, who, very unhelpfully, asked, “what are you doing there?”

“Oh nothing’s wrong, just having a little swim…. live up to your name and get me out  you crazy headed coxcomb!”

Ok, he doesn’t say that, but I would love for him to, because, I mean, hello, he’s drowning in a pit of mud. If I came up to someone struggling in the mud, and asked what they were doing there, they’d look at me like, wtf?

No, instead they waste time, as Christian tells Help about Evangelist, and Help very unhelpfully goes, “but why didn’t you look for the steps?”

There were steps there? Really? Evangelist did not mention this. We are given no indication that Christian knows this. Christian is apparently just supposed to know these things… and I don’t see how he can. Help is a bit of a jerk here, even though he pulls Christian out.

Christian: I was so frightened that I ran straight in here.

Huh? Frightened of what?Before you fell into this pit you were happy.

Help finally then lives up to his name and helps Christian out of the big mud puddle.

And… here I stopped reading for a long time, because I couldn’t figure it out. It was never mentioned in my children’s book, and now as an adult I began to wonder: What did all this mean? This whole book is supposed to be an allegory. There wouldn’t be just a random mud puddle in the way. What was it there for?

Then I felt foolish when, upon returning to the book 2 or 3 weeks later, I find that the author explains it:

Then I stepped to him that plucked him out, and said, Sir, wherefore, since over this place is the way from the City of Destruction to yonder gate, is it that this plat is not mended, that poor travellers might go thither with more security? And he said unto me, This miry slough is such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore it is called the Slough of Despond; for still, as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place. And this is the reason of the badness of this ground.

The mud puddle of Despair is called such because the despair of the people, once they are awakened to their lost condition, pools here.

The king has tried to clear this ground, but to no avail. God doesn’t want this state of affairs to exist, but he can’t help it.

Despite the issues I  have with the allegory, I really do love this book. I think all of us have been in Mud Puddle of Despair at one point, or even several. Personally, I was in it not so very long ago, and even now, I guess. I’ve screamed and yelled horribly at God, and then things get better. Then I felt feel horribly guilty about screaming at God. I have been so bad, will he truly forgive me? I have done some awful things in the past. Some of those awful things I’ve found freedom from (Candyland, Ken, Issue #1*) and some things I have not. (Fred, BPD, #2). Sometimes all the guilt from the sins I commit just piles on top of me. I don’t love Jesus, I have a hard time reading the bible because of all the contradictions, I love my dolls and I love collecting them, I love the things of this world, etc.

Maybe if I stopped flailing around the Mud Puddle of Despair, and looked for the stepping stones, I would find them. But… I’m not sure exactly how the stepping stones translate to reality.

I wish I had the real life equivalent of Help. Sure He’s a bit of a jerk, but he’s a helpful jerk. I don’t even have anybody.

It is mostly the current things which hold me in this Mud Puddle, but some stuff from the past really bothers me still. Can God still take me back even though I used to live in Candyland? Does he still love me? Does he still love me even though I continue to do things (Fred, BPD, #2) that He has specifically told me not to do?

Time to find those stepping stones.

I like Pliable, so we’re going to talk about him this week instead of next. I do commend Pliable: He gave it a try. He might not have given it a good enough try, and it’s true his heart wasn’t really in it, but he went farther than Neighbor Obstinate. Pliable tried to come to Jesus, but he let his guilt and despair at his sinful condition get in the way.

I respectfully disagree with Bunyan (which sounds more like a sore on the foot than a name, but I digress) that Pliable turned around because he is pliable. You see, friends, Pliable didn’t actually start following God and then stop: he never was following God in the first place. Pliable wanted to come with Christian because of the good things promised. He had no real interest in God or a relationship with him, or even escaping the City of Destruction. He does not feel a burden of sin. Pliable’s heart wasn’t in the journey, as was Christian’s, and that’s why he was unable to complete it. Stepping stones? Poor Pliable didn’t even know about them. I don’t think Pliable should be blamed for being angry at that, because his real fault lies in not loving Jesus, but at this point, I don’t think Christian loves Jesus either.

On the other hand, I don’t really blame Pliable for his actions. Pliable was told that all was going to be easy in The Celestial City, and Christian did lead him to believe it would be an easy journey (all those bible verses, not one of them talked about sin… poor Pliable probably didn’t know about it.)

Herein I think the allegory is flawed. I love the idea of this allegory, however, I think that if you are going to make Deep Theological Points, make them go with the plot, not against it. If this sort of thing were to happen in real life, our sympathy would be with Pliable. However, it’s not, because of the allegory.

Christian did an ineffective job of witnessing to Pliable, so I can’t really blame him for turning back. What I can blame him for is not making the effort to get the information from Christian before making a decision. He was lured by the promise of riches, without being told of the hardship. Many people try to witness this way and… it doesn’t work. when I signed up for this, no one really told me it was going to be all hard work and sacrifice. By then, of course, I knew that the people who said, “come to Jesus and you can just relax and stop fighting” were full of Mud Puddle, but I still had absolutely no idea just how hard it would be. And I think that might be keeping me in the Mud Puddle of Despair more than anything else.

I’ve just decided mud puddle is going to be my replacement word for Sh*t. This is going to help me stop swearing. Thanks PP!

Anyway, what I really wanted to talk about. Pliable gets back home, and his neighbors come visit him. Some call him a wise man for coming back, some call him a fool for going in the first place, and some mock at his cowardliness, saying, “surely since you began the journey, you should not have given up for a few difficulties.”

Poor Pliable sat there humiliated. Then he got his confidence back, and they all began to mock Christian. So much for Pliable.

This is how the book officially closes the chapter on the story of Pliable.

So much for Pliable indeed. I wonder what he thought, while he was humiliated like that? I wonder if he thought about those who said he should not have stopped for a few difficulties, and considered what they were saying. I wonder if, after mocking Christian for a night, he considered these things for many years. I wonder if, later on, he crossed the Mud Puddle of Despair and changed his name to Steadfast.

And this time, his heart is in the journey.

I know this seems like a lot of thinking for a book character, but I think about this sort of thing a lot, especially when it comes to bible characters, and especially when I read Ellen White. (Truefax: for a long time when I was a kid before I read DOA, I thought there was a chance that Judas might have repented before he died. I mean, the bible never said, so we really had no way of knowing, unless, like SDAs, you believe in Ellen White, which I’m not sure if I do or don’t at this time.)

When reading about the rich young ruler, I often wonder what became of him. Did he ever decide, years after Jesus’ resurrection, to do what Jesus said? What about Pilate? Even if you read EGW, she doesn’t specifically say he’s damned… she does show him in the resurrection, but it is unclear which side of the Celestial Gates he’s on. I know he regretted what he did bitterly, but did he ever try to repent? If so, did God take him back? Or, in doing what he did, did he push the Holy Spirit away for the last time?

Doesn’t anybody besides me wonder about these things?

Well, that’s all. Sorry if this isn’t what any of you expected. I can stop if you don’t like it and post something more interesting….

well, if no one says anything, Tune in next week to read about Christian’s encounter with Mr. Worldly Wise Man!

Help Me

*If most of you ask me what issue #1 is, the likelihood that I will tell you is sky high. The likelihood of Ken is medium-high, However, do not ask about Candyland. No one’s clearance level is that high.)

The Pilgrim’s Progress Section ll

We last left Graceless drowning in his misery.  His family insists he go to bed, but when he wakes up, he informs us that he is “worse and worse.” He spends his days in misery, crying, depressed. He often takes his bible out to the field to read and cry. Which, you’d think that if it was a real bible he’d stop crying already and read John 3:16, Hosea 14:4, and John 8:36. But, as this is an allegory, we’re apparently pretending that Graceless only has certain access to the bible at certain points of his life. At least, that’s what I’m choosing to believe because that is the only way this part of the story makes any sense.

One day, as Graceless is alone in the fields crying and reading his bible (I wonder which part he’s reading? The part in Revelation that talks about the destruction of the wicked?) Along comes Evangelist.

I don’t like Evangelist. Let’s see if you can all guess why:

{12} Now, I saw, upon a time, when he was walking in the fields, that he was, as he was wont, reading in his book, and greatly distressed in his mind; and, as he read, he burst out, as he had done before, crying, “What shall I do to be saved?”

{13} I saw also that he looked this way and that way, as if he would run; yet he stood still, because, as I perceived, he could not tell which way to go. I looked then, and saw a man named Evangelist coming to him and asked, Wherefore dost thou cry? [Job 33:23]

{14} He answered, Sir, I perceive by the book in my hand, that I am condemned to die, and after that to come to judgement [Heb. 9:27]; and I find that I am not willing to do the first [Job 16:21], nor able to do the second. [Ezek. 22:14]

{15} Then said Evangelist, Why not willing to die, since this life is attended with so many evils? The man answered, Because I fear that this burden is upon my back will sink me lower than the grave, and I shall fall into Tophet. [Isa. 30:33] And, Sir, if I be not fit to go to prison, I am not fit, I am sure, to go to judgement, and from thence to execution; and the thoughts of these things make me cry.

{16} Then said Evangelist, If this be thy condition, why standest thou still? He answered, Because I know not whither to go. Then he gave him a parchment roll, and there was written within, Flee from the wrath to come. [Matt. 3.7]

For those of you who don’t speak King Jamesian, let me interpret that for you:


Evangelist: *strolls up* Why are you crying?

Graceless: This book tells me that I’m gonna die! And then God will judge me! I don’t want to die, and I can’t stand up to God’s judgement!

Evangelist: Well, if your life is so bad, why don’t you want to die?

Graceless: Because this burden on my back weighs me down, and I’ll go to hell! The very thoughts of these things make me cry! *bursts into tears*

Evangelist: Well then, why don’t you do something about it?

My biggest beef with this section is this: Evangelist knows, from the first explanation Graceless gives, that he is seeking Christ. And yet he continues to ask stupid questions rather than say something like, “Oh! I used to feel like that too! But all is not hopeless! Do you see Yonder Wicket Gate?” We seriously could’ve skipped 3 of those paragraphs, and Evangelist would’ve been a lot more sympathetic a character.

Evangelist reminds me of those annoying Christians who, whether or not they are trying, are really really insensitive.

He basically comes up and asks, “why are you crying?” Which I guess could be said in a different tone of voice than I’m thinking of. Maybe at this point I should interpret this as a gentle “why are you crying?”

Ok, fine.

Then Graceless tells Evangelist he has A Real Problem. And Evangelist… says just the most stupid thing ever: life’s so evil, why don’t you just die? Ok, fine. Maybe he didn’t say that. Maybe I should interpret this as a gentle “well why don’t you want to die?”

Which, by the way,  it has been long established that that is something you should not say. If someone is telling you how bad their life is and that they don’t want to die, that they don’t want to die is a good thing. Asking them why they don’t want to die… just doesn’t make sense. It comes across as insensitive (because it is insensitive: “well, if you’re life’s so bad, why don’t you just want to die?” it’s like, because I’m human derkwad, and I have survival mechanisms built into me that cause me to attempt self preservation whenever humanly possible. Duh.)

Basically, it is a given that most people don’t want to die. So when a person doesn’t want to die, you should not ask them why. It almost sounds like the person asking the question is implying that Graceless should want to die. And that’s…. lame.

Moving on.

Graceless, again, in response to this dumbest question ever, repeats that He Has A Real Problem.

Evangelist then replies with…. the next stupidest answer I’ve seen ever: Why don’t you do something about it?

Well, duh you doe doe brain, if I knew what to do about it, WHY WOULD I BE STANDING HERE CRYING?! Like, HELLO!

Since this last question is insensitive, I don’t think it’s too far out there that his first two questions were said in an insensitive tone of voice as well.

Evangelist, in the 2 encounters I’ve seen with him so far (yes I read ahead, so sue me) is nothing but a great big jerk.

And herein lies the real tie in to reality: sometimes evangelists are just jerks. Some may mean well, in fact, most probably do. But they have either not been trained well, or their main purpose in life is to go around thinking, “na na, you’re saved, and I’m not, na na.”

Now, disclaimer: most people I know who evangelize are not like this. Most people I know who evangelize are sincere, tactful, and genuinely care.

That said, I have also met a lot of people trying to evangelize who were the exact opposite of the above characteristics. These people rarely help anybody.

Evangelist knows what to do about Graceless’s problem, but he doesn’t offer help until after he’s made Graceless feel worse. Some people are just like this. My appeal to those who read this, then, is: when you evangelize, don’t be a jerk, mmkay?

Evangelist is a jerk, but, I guess sometimes jerks are helpful, if one is truly desperate enough, and not the sort of person who would be turned off to Christianity by the evangelist’s jerkiness. And this jerk does point Graceless (who then becomes Christian) in the right direction, so, he’s a jerk, but he’s a semi helpful jerk.

On a lighter note, “Yonder Wicket Gate” is now my new favorite phrase ever. I don’t know why, it just…sounds so… tight? “Do you see Yonder Wicket Gate?” Yonder Wicket Gate. Yonder Wicket Gate. Yonder Wicket Gate. Snicker Snicker.

My goal for the day is to incorporate that into a conversation. Wish me luck.

Help Me

In Which I Pick Up Where I Left Off –What Katy Did At School, Chapter lll

Now that I’m on a computer that’s not throwing a thousand tantrums. Anyway, we last left off at…. I think I was going to discuss this paragraph:

Dr. Carr, looking at his watch, said that it was time to start for the train; and they set off. As they crossed the street, Katy was surprised to see that Lilly, who had seemed quite happy only a minute before, had begun to cry. After they reached the car, her tears increased to sobs: she grew almost hysterical.

“Oh! don’t make me go, papa,” she implored, clinging to her father’s arm. “I shall be so homesick! It will kill me; I know it will. Please let me stay. Please let me go home with you.”

“Now, my darling,” protested Mr. Page, “this is foolish; you know it is.”

“I can’t help it,” blubbered Lilly. “I ca—n’t help it. Oh! don’t make me go. Don’t, papa dear. I ca—n’t bear it.”

Katy and Clover felt embarrassed during this scene. They had always been used to considering tears as things to be rather ashamed of,— to be kept back, if possible; or, if not, shed in private corners, in dark closets, or behind the bed in the nursery. To see the stylish Lilly crying like a baby in the midst of a railway carriage, with strangers looking on, quite shocked them. It did not last long, however. The whistle sounded; the conductor shouted, “All aboard!” and Mr. Page, giving Lilly a last kiss, disengaged her clinging arms, put her into the seat beside Clover, and hurried out of the car. Lilly sobbed loudly for a few seconds; then she dried her eyes, lifted her head, adjusted her veil and the wrists of her three- buttoned gloves, and remarked,—

“I always go on in this way. Ma says I am a real cry-baby; and I suppose I am. I don’t see how people can be calm and composed when they’re leaving home, do you? You’ll be just as bad to-morrow, when you come to say good-by to your papa.”

“Oh! I hope not,” said Katy. “Because papa would feel so badly.”

Lilly stared. “I shall think you real cold-hearted if you don’t,” she said, in an offended tone.


This is clearly intended to portray Lilly as a whiny child, particularly because she “recovers” soon afterward. However, I disagree with the narrative. Having gone to a boarding school myself, I understand that it is not for everyone. If you were paying attention, you could tell, at the beginning of the year, who was likely to leave and who was likely to stay.

And you always knew who the people were that wanted to leave but their parents wouldn’t let them. This is obviously Lilly. She is clearly more of a stay at home person. Lilly is also clearly from a family that is comfortable with showing their emotions.

And that’s fine. Really. There is nothing wrong with this: it’s Ok to be sad. It’s a sinful world, and if something makes us sad, it’s ok to cry about it.

Katy and Clover, however, do not see it this way. In their family, tears are something to be ashamed of. Now, if this was real life, Katy and Clover would’ve been harmed somewhat by this, because it’s not healthy to keep things inside all the time. However, if a person does prefer to shed their tears in private, that’s ok too.

What is not ok, and what I take issue with here, is the judging on all 3 girls’ part. Katy and Clover judge Lilly for crying in public, and she looks down upon them rather coldly because they don’t.

Actually, I can kind of see why Lilly is saying that, now that I think about it. From Lilly’s point of view, she’s about to be separated from her parents, which she dos not want. She “recovers” quickly afterward because Katy and Clover are there to distract her, and she seizes upon this opportunity. That’s a good coping tactic: find something to distract yourself with. 

Lilly might also feel embarrassed about crying in front of her cousins, and so to cover it up she pretends that this sort of thing is normal for everyone, and that those who don’t do it are coldhearted. This seems harsh of Lilly, but I think she is just trying to save face.

And the rest of the chapter is devoted to details about the school, which I think would’ve been better if the author had just inserted them into the book along with showing how Katy and Clover get adjusted to Academy life.

Katy and Clover are horrified to learn that they won’t have their own private washstands (this will become a big deal in chapter 4), discuss more of the rules, which I’ll cover in the next post. (This school seems to have more rules than GLAA, if that were possible.)

Then the train arrives at the school and Katy and Clover start meeting the other girls. Then, inexplicably, Dr. Carr pulls the girls aside and decides that they won’t begin school until tomorrow.

This is a really dumb move on Doctor Papa’s part. If he wishes his girls to fit in, they had better go with the other girls now. Otherwise they’re going to be the “new girls” who don’t show up till the second day. And trust me, that’s… awkward. I’m not sure how to explain this, or if I’m explaining it well enough… if they go with the school girls now, they can integrate a whole lot better than if they wait a day. I don’t know how it works, or why it works, but trust me, Dr. Papa is making a mistake. Or at least, it would be a mistake if this were the real world. But, this being only a book, everything always turns out happily ever after. Especially in children’s literature. Especially in 19th century children’s literature.

Help Me

What Katy Did At School, Chapter ll and lll

To distract myself from this caps lock ragey feeling (seriously, I don’t even have a fuckin car to go get a new one wtih!) I’m going to blog more about the book I just finished reading. I’m combining chapters because I don’t think anything actually happens in chapter 3.

Actually, given that this book is all about Katy and Clover going away to boarding school, I don’t even see why the author bothered writing the first chapter.

Dr. Carr receives a letter saying that Mr. and Mrs. Page are coming to stay. These are apparently Katy’s mother’s cousins (her mother’s been dead for a good long time, if you recall). Katy is anxious to please. And… here we see Dr. Carr treating his 17 year old daughter as… I’m not sure whether to think of it as housekeeper or wife, particularly keeping in mind that she does most of the child rearing.

“Mrs. Page was your dear mother’s second cousin; and at one time she lived in your grandfather’s family, and was like a sister to mamma and Uncle Charles. It is a good many years since I have seen her. Mr. Page is a railroad engineer. He is coming this way on business, and they will stop for a few days with us. Your Cousin Olivia writes that she is anxious to see all you children. Have every thing as nice as you can, Katy.”

If you’re familiar with 19th century literature, this is exactly how one would address a servant, slave, or perhaps a wife. This is not how one addresses a daughter. When also taken into account that Katy does most of the child rearing, one is inclined to wonder… moving on.

“Of course, I will. What day are the coming?”

“Thursday,—no, Friday,” replied Dr. Carr, consulting the letter, “Friday evening, at half-past six. Order something substantial for tea that night, Katy. They’ll be hungry after traveling.”

Katy worked with a will for the next two days. Twenty times, at least, she went into the blue room to make sure that nothing was forgotten; repeating, as if it had been a lesson in geography: “Bath towels, face towels, matches, soap, candles, cologne, extra blanket, ink.” A nice little fire was lighted in the bedroom on Friday afternoon, and a big, beautiful one in the parlor, which looked very pleasant with the lamp lit and Clover’s geraniums and china roses in the window. The tea- table was set with the best linen and the pink-and-white china. Debby’s muffins were very light. The crab-apple jelly came out of its mould clear and whole, and the cold chicken looked appetizing, with its green wreath of parsley. There was stewed potato, too, and, of course, oysters. Everybody in Burnet had oysters for tea when company was expected. They were counted a special treat; because they were rather dear, and could not always be procured. Burnet was a thousand miles from the sea, so the oysters were of the tin- can variety. The cans gave the oysters a curious taste,—tinny, or was it more like solder? At all events, Burnet people liked it, and always insisted that it was a striking improvement on the flavor which oysters have on their native shores. Every thing was as nice as could be, when Katy stood in the dining-room to take a last look at her arrangements; and she hoped papa would be pleased, and that mamma’s cousin would think her a good housekeeper.

Right. Because that’s what every woman desires to be in life: a good housekeeper. Whatever. You can totally tell that the author was writing of the ideals at the time, rather than how the culture really was. Most 17 year olds, even if they were responsible for the housekeeping, would want to be thought of as more, and frankly, probably wouldnt’ want to admit to having done the housekeeping. It tended to be something only the lower class did. Moving on to the important stuff.

“Don’t call me Mrs. Page, my dear. Call me Cousin Olivia.” Then the new-comer rustled into the parlor, where Johnnie and Phil were waiting to be introduced; and again she remarked that she “couldn’t realize it.” I don’t know why Mrs. Page’s not realizing it should have made Katy uncomfortable; but it did.

Supper went off well. The guests ate and praised; and Dr. Carr looked pleased, and said: “We think Katy an excellent housekeeper for her age;” at which Katy blushed and was delighted, till she caught Mrs. Page’s eyes fixed upon her, with a look of scrutiny and amusement, whereupon she felt awkward and ill at ease. It was so all the evening. Mamma’s cousin was entertaining and bright, and told lively stories; but the children felt that she was watching them, and passing judgment on their ways. Children are very quick to suspect when older people hold within themselves these little private courts of inquiry, and they always resent it.


wouldn’t know about the claim in the last sentence. I dont’ think I tend to pick up on those things. I don’t blame Mrs. Page for being uncomfortable at the thought of Katy being a good housekeeper “despite her age.” she’s probably looking at Katy thinking, “that’s all you are?” And seeing so much potential!

I like Mrs. Page. I am not supposed to like Mrs. Page. This is the first evidence of bad writing, right there. I will later come to dislike Mrs. Page, but that comes later. For now, I’m totally rooting for her.

Next morning Mrs. Page sat by while Katy washed the breakfast things, fed the birds, and did various odd jobs about the room and house. “My dear,” she said at last, “what a solemn girl you are! I should think from your face that you were at least five and thirty. Don’t you ever laugh or frolic, like other girls your age? Why, my Lilly, who is four months older than you, is a perfect child still; impulsive as a baby, bubbling over with fun from morning till night.”

“I’ve been shut up a good deal,” said Katy, trying to defend herself; “but I didn’t know I was solemn.”

“My dear, that’s the very thing I complain of: you don’t know it! You are altogether ahead of your age. It’s very bad for you, in my opinion. All this housekeeping and care, for young girls like you and Clover, is wrong and unnatural. I don’t like it; indeed I don’t.”

“Oh! housekeeping doesn’t hurt me a bit,” protested Katy, trying to smile. “We have lovely times; indeed we do, Cousin Olivia.”

Cousin Olivia only pursed up her mouth, and repeated: “It’s wrong, my dear. It’s unnatural. It’s not the thing for you. Depend upon it, it’s not the thing.”

This is why I like Cousin Olivia. There is nothing wrong with girls (AND boys! boys should learn to do this too) doing SOME housework. What’s wrong and unnatural, Cousin Olivia sees, is for Katy to be doing it all. (I know she also specifies Clover, but honestly, in the narrative, Clover never really does any housework.) Cousin Olivia sees Katy slaving away at the age of 17, when she is supposed to be coming of age, having fun, and, to use a better term, finding herself/her place in the world. This is what other 17 year olds of the time were doing, it’s not just a 21st century invention that 17 year olds are still children. I know of families (like the Duggars and Bates families) who keep their adult children at home and dump the responsibility of the children on the older girls. Cousin Olivia is watching this happen to Katy: Katy is becoming an adult before her time. The 17 year old acts 35.

And, unlike the passive bystander, Cousin Olivia is going to do something about it. So of course, she goes to Dr. Papa.

I will give Dr. Papa some credit. when Cousin Olivia brings the problem to his attention, he doesn’t just dismiss her like some fictional fathers would. He seems to genuinely be unaware of the problem. It’s a case of an overworked father not noticing that his own children need help. (In those days, doctors were more overworked than they are now.)

This was unpleasant; but what was worse had Katy known it, Mrs. Page attacked Dr. Carr upon the subject. He was quite troubled to learn that she considered Katy grave and careworn, and unlike what girls of her age should be. Katy caught him looking at her with a puzzled expression.

“What is it, dear papa? Do you want anything?”

“No, child, nothing. What are you doing there? Mending the parlor curtain, eh? Can’t old Mary attend to that, and give you a chance to frisk about with the other girls?”

“Papa! As if I wanted to frisk! I declare you’re as bad as Cousin Olivia. She’s always telling me that I ought to bubble over with mirth. I don’t wish to bubble. I don’t know how.”

“I’m afraid you don’t,” said Dr. Carr, with an odd sigh, which set Katy to wondering. What should papa sigh for? Had she done any thing wrong? She began to rack her brains and memory as to whether it could be this or that; or, if not, what could it be? Such needless self-examination does no good. Katy looked more “solemn” than ever after it.

I don’t wish to bubble. I don’t know how. Does Katy herself NOT see how troubling this is? The author’s tone of voice… I’m not honestly sure if SHE sees the problem with it either.

Katy has been shut up with an illness for so long she doesn’t know how to be happy, and just enjoy life. That… is sad. Beyond sad. No wonder Cousin Olivia is so worried.

It’s not clear whether it is this alone, but the author states that Cousin Olivia was not well liked by the family: they felt she was judging them. That makes sense for Katy but not the rest of the children…Saint Katy would not have told them waht Cousin Olivia had said, because Saint Katy is too good for that..So I don’t get this coolness toward cousin Olivia.

Later, we find out what Dr. Papa’s solution for Katy is: boarding school.

“Listen, Katy, and don’t feel so badly, my dear child. I’ve thought the plan over carefully; and it seems to me a good one, though I hate to part from you. It is pretty much as your cousin says: these home-cares, which I can’t take from you while you are at home, are making you old before your time. Heaven knows I don’t want to turn you into a silly giggling miss; but I should like you to enjoy your youth while you have it, and not grow middle-aged before you are twenty.”

I dislike the fact that Dr. Papa is negligent with his children so that he didn’t even notice this before it was too late (and by now it IS too late: as we will see later, Saint Katy is a grown up Katy before her time, and nothing can be done to change it.) but I can still like him because once he sees the error of his ways, he follows through to try and fix the problem.

Although, at 17, I find nothing wrong with being a “silly giggling miss.” Maybe he just means immaturity by that? Or a flirt? Not sure. I guess at 17 she should be more than giggly.

And then we get to the part where I decide I really really don’t like Dr. Papa.

“The girls call it ‘The Nunnery.’ It is at Hillsover, on the Connecticut River, pretty cold, I fancy; but the air is sure to be good and bracing. That is one thing which has inclined me to the plan. The climate is just what you need.”

“Hillsover? Isn’t there a college there too?”

“Yes: Arrowmouth College. I believe there is always a college where there is a boarding-school; though why, I can’t for the life of me imagine. That’s neither here nor there, however. I’m not afraid of your getting into silly scrapes, as girls sometimes do.”

“College scrapes? Why, how could I. We don’t have any thing to do with the college, do we?” said Katy, opening her candid eyes with such a wondering stare that Dr. Carr laughed and replied: “No, my dear, not a thing.”

No my dear, of course you won’t have a thing to do with the college. Jerk. You should see if Katy wants anything to do wtih the college first you dummy. And before someone tells me that, back in 1869 when this story is supposed to have taken place (written in 1870something) girls did not go to college, go do your research. Yes, it’s true that most of them didn’t, but from what I’ve been reading, it was becoming more popular. Women’s colleges were opening up. It would’ve been an uphill battle, but it absolutely would’ve been possible for Katy to have gone to college.

Remember Laura Ingalls Wilder? Her older sister, Mary, was blind, and she still went off to college. Laura and Mary grew up in guess what decades? The 1860s-1870s. And even before she was blind, Mary had always planned on going to college.

Dr. Carr is, even by the day’s standards, old fashioned and sexist.

“O papa! don’t make us go. I’ll frisk, and be as young as I can, and not grow middle-aged or any thing disagreeable, if only you’ll let us stay. Never mind what Cousin Olivia says; she doesn’t know. Cousin Helen wouldn’t say so, I’m sure.”

“On the contrary, Helen thinks well of the plan; only she wishes the school were nearer,” said Dr. Carr. “No, Katy, don’t coax. My mind is made up. It will do you and Clover both good, and once you are settled at Hillsover, you’ll be very happy, I hope.”

She sounds like a desperate employee begging to keep her job. Like “frisking” is something she can just force herself to do in order to keep her place at home… but then we all know it wouldn’t truly be “frisking” would it? So does Dr. Papa, apparently. He’s got good intentions, but he’s still a jerk.

The entire rest of the chapter –a good 9 paragraphs– (I counted) is devoted to travel plans. And tears. And boring details. I do not get why the authors think they must give detail of these preparations that go on, they’re quite boring.

End chapter 2.

chapter 3 opens with, you guessed it, more details of the journey. This continues on for 4 paragraphs before it gets interesting. Katy, Clover, and Dr. Papa are meeting up wtih Mr. Page and his daughter, Lilly, to travel to “the nunnery” (I always sniggered when I read that) together.

 For some reason this wretched windows computer I’m on because SOMEONE STOLE MY FRIGGIN POWER CORD keeps jumping me back a page, so apologies if this doesn’t flow well. It’s quite distracting to be suddenly taken away from waht you’re writing.

Lilly and her dad are in the restaurant, where Lilly proceeds to order 50 dozen waffles. The narrative does not say so, but it is implied that Lilly is a glutton for this. because for some reason in 19th century writing, and even some 21st, women are supposed to eat like butterflies.  But then Lilly tells us that “this is the only time I’m going to get good food, because ntohing is good at the nunnery, so I might as well makethe most of it.”

whoops, I made a mistake. Mr. Page and Lilly are not traveling with the Carrs, Lilly is traveling with the cars. And this… next part is… interextThis is probably supposed to be interpreted by us the readers as being a whiny person, but personally, I’ve been to a boarding school. And I don’t blame Lilly at al for taking the good food while she can.


ok, I don’t know waht this stupid windows computer is doing. now it’s moving my text around. I will pick up where I left off when I DON’T have a friggin’ Demon computer to wrok wtih.

Help Me


In Which I Read: What Katy Did At School, Chapter One

Generally I allow myself to read one secular book at a time. Well, two really: one on the iPod and one in paper. I can be in the middle of as many other books as I like. I’m not going to post about the paper book chapter by chapter, because it’s just a collection of comedic essays, which get pretty boring to blog about. Anyway, This chapter made me… well, the ending made me laugh, so hard.
This book is a sequel to the book What Katy Did. If you want to know the main things that happened in that, see wikipedia. I’m just going to touch on it briefly: Katy is a tomboy growing up in 1860s…Ohio? At first she’s a tomboy, getting into all kinds of interesting situations. Then she gets into a too interesting situation and loses the use of her legs. And the interestingness of her character. I don’t know if this is still a theme in children’s literature, I’ve only noticed it recently, but in 1800s/1900s literature, a disabled character is always perfect, or nearly so. It’s like, a rule or something. (One also sees the bitter invalid, but rarely, and they’re always the bad guys, unless they reform. Into a Saint.) So, Katy went from being an interesting little girl to Saint Katy. Which was not a boring read. I enjoyed it enough I didn’t have to force myself to slog through the book. But after she transformed into Saint Katy, she got a little boring, and stories started focusing more on her siblings. Of which she has a ton because birth control hadn’t been invented yet.
At the end of the book, Katy does get the use of her legs back, but slowly. So, at this point in the sequel, she’s walking, but not very much.

As the sequel opens, Katy is sitting down on a couch receiving visitors. Mrs. Worret is a friend of the family, and the author goes out of her way to tell us how very very fat she is. Nevertheless, Katy treats her kindly, because, unlike some fat characters in children’s novels that the author repeatedly tells us are fat, Mrs. Worrett is a kind woman. She doesn’t always understand things, but her heart is in the right place.

Mrs. Worret issues an invitation for Johny and Elsie, two of Katy’s sisters (no, that’s not a typo. Johnny is a girl, it’s short for Joanna) to visit her out in the country. Elsie (whose constant whining in the last book reminded me of Elsie Dinsmore, read that at your own risk) begs to go, thinking that it will be cooler and so much fun. The father, Dr. Carr, tells her she wont’ enjoy it much and tells her she shouldn’t go, but Elsie begs, and is considered “willful” for doing this. Finally, Dr. Carr agrees, saying that, though they are invited to stay a week, he will let them try it for 3 days, see how they like it, and take them away if they don’t.

So off Johnny and Elsie go. And, like any adjustment, they have problems. The country is not the city. Are they living in a city? or was it a town? Whatever. Elsie immediately falls ill because… it’s not quite clear why. Lack of sleep is given as a reason (it’s hot and her windowshade bangs) but she starts getting sick even before that, so that’s not the only reason.

Mrs. Worrett is somehow convinced that Johnny loves to chase chickens. I’m not sure how old Johnny and Elsie are at this point. My guess is that Johnny can be no more than ten. I think most ten year olds have outgrown chicken chasing, but I digress. Johnny is too polite to tell Mrs. Worrett that she does not enjoy chasing chickens, and even if she did, it’s way too hot for running.

Elsie gets sicker, and tries to lie on the couch, but it’s a narrow, slippery couch and she keeps falling off. Which makes no sense, because, I’ve never seen a kid fall off a couch, no matter how narrow. Or slippery. In fact, children are small. If a couch was that small, an adult couldn’t use it comfortably. Elsie is apparently just talented at falling off couches.

Finally, after 3 days, her father’s hired man (slave? It’s not clear. This was published in the 1870s, so after slavery had ended, but meant to take place sometime in the 1860s. I’m not sure if the civil war has happened in universe, or if there even was ever any slavery in Ohio, so… nevermind.) comes to take her away, and Elsie is overjoyed.

When she and Johnny get back, the family all laughs at her misfortune, which I don’t get, since nothing THAT funny happened, and anyway, Elsie is sick. And in 1860, sickness was nothing to laugh about. If someone got so much as a head cold, everyone got concerned, because it could mean something serious was happening, and most medicines hadn’t been invented yet.

Everybody laughs at the poor girls, except Saint Katy, who notes that Elsie feels hot, and says that Dr. Pappa should give her something. And….I’m not sure how to make of this next sentence:

Papa gave Elsie “something” before she went to bed,— a very mild dose I fancy; for doctors’ little girls, as a general rule, do not take medicine,

(I’m still fuzzy about how to put things into quotes on wordpress…. bear with me.)
Really? I have never heard this. I would think that doctors’ little girls take lots and lots of medicine. There’s a saying that  “a doctor is his own worst patient,” but I don’t know any doctor, especially back in the 1860s, for whom that was true of his children. It’s easier to imagine a doctor-parent being overzealous than under.

And what if one of his children did get seriously sick? Would there be medicine then? What about when little girls get sick with something very mild, and it turns from mild into full blown illness because they don’t get medicine? Did this author actually have any children? *checks* no she did not. The siblings in this book were based on her siblings, with Katy being a Mary-Sue insert for herself. (I’ll write about the Mary Sue character next week, or you could just, you know, google it.)

But we all know that having younger siblings is not the same thing as having children. You can only get so much of how to be/understand a parent without being one yourself. So, I don’t think I trust the author on this one. (I think that, from now on, I’m going to look up to see whether an author did or did not have children before I read the books: it really does affect how I read books, at least prior to around 1980sish shen child psychology became more popular.)

Moving on to the next interesting part.

and many and many a time, “It will end like your visit to Mrs. Worrett,” proved a useful check when Elsie was in a self-willed mood and bent on some scheme which for the moment struck her as delightful. For one of the good things about our childish mistakes is, that each one teaches us something; and so, blundering on, we grow wiser, till, when the time comes, we are ready to take our places among the wonderful grown-up people who never make mistakes.

Sigh. Where do I start?

1. Children do not learn from their mistakes. Any parent knows this. Maybe some children learn a lesson after one time, but most do not. I could actually see darling little Elsie here in an argument with Dr. Pappa, going, “but this will different!” In a high pitched whiny voice. This technique of constantly bringing up the visit to Mrs. Worrett’s never would have worked, at least, not with a normal child.

2. Wonderful grown up people who never make mistakes? Does Miss. Woolsey live in some kind of fantasy world? Grown up people who never make mistakes? Where is this wonderful world of grown up people who never make mistakes, and, more importantly, how do I get there?

I’m go glad I read this chapter when I did. It gave me a good laugh. If I hadn’t been lying down, I would’ve fallen over and died from laughing.

wonderful grown up people who never make mistakes. Woooooooow. What a message to send to that generation of children. My kids are going to get a talk about that if they ever read this book.


Help Me

In Which I Read The Pilgrim’s Progress Section l

(this post will be short, because, it’s bedtime.)

The Pilgrim’s Progress is not divided into chapters in the original version, so I’m dividing it up myself into sections. These sections don’t actually exist, except inside my own head.

One of the things I’ve always LOVED about PP is the names. At first I didn’t like it, because, in my little child’s abridged version (that book is seriously worn, and I used to have nightmares about Apollyon), it leaves out certain details.

I noticed right off that characters are named for, well, their character. For example, some of the names include:






Mr. Worldly Wise Man

You get the idea. I thought, at first, then, that the condemnation of the characters wasn’t fair: they couldn’t help it if their name was Obstinate. In my mind, the characters were incapable of coming to Christ because their personality had been set in stone and was unchangeable because, well, you couldn’t help your name.

And then I read the Pilgrim’s Progress in full. This is seriously the only thing I got out of the original version of PP as an 11/12 year old. Anything else I read I didn’t understand. I was able to pick up on this one thing. Ready? Here it is: Christian’s name wasn’t always Christian.

Shocked? I know I was.

Wanna know the name Christian was born with? Graceless. Wanna know how many people know that? Exactly. That’s the point. Christian’s original name was Graceless. And nobody really knows that.

This blew me away when I first read that. It showed me that characters don’t always have to be like their names. I started thinking: What would my original name have been? Well, I know the answer to that, but it’s one of my darkest secrets. Jacq’s the only one (who still talks to me) that knows about it. Maybe someday I’ll talk about it, but not today. (Candyland.)

I’ve got no idea what my name is now. I’ll let you know when… when I love Jesus?

But it also showed me something I didn’t think about it until now: no one remembers Christian’s former name. When a person becomes a new creature in Christ, no one remembers or knows who he used to be.

All that and I haven’t even gotten to what I wanted to talk about. I’m going to hurry through this, because I need to go read the bible so I can go to bed.

As the story opens… well, actually first, there’s this super long barely readable poem called The Author’s Apology for this Book, in which he writes this huge poem about how he wasn’t sure he should publish the book or not… bla bla. I read it to say I’d read it and move on.

As the story opens, we see a man whose name is not at first given. He’s severely distressed. He’s just read in the bible (which is referred to only as “his little book” or “his book.”) that the city he lives in, called Destruction, is going to be, well, destroyed.

At first he tries to keep quiet about this knowledge, but then he eventually tells his wife and children. His wife flips out (understandably, I mean, within the context of the story there’s no reason he shouldn’t appear nuts.) and sends him to bed.

When we feel our need for a savior, and feel how sinful we are, it can result in depression. Even if it doesn’t, sometimes our family and friends think we’re crazy, and, that really sucks. Especially when they don’t believe.

At this point, Christian does not love Jesus. I think this is a very important point to bring out, because so far all the book has talked about is how Christian– Graceless at this point, I’m just going to call him that till his name officially changes– is terrified because of his impending doom. He feels a burden on his back (representing the weight of sin) and is literally torturing himself because he’s scared and doesn’t know what to do.

At first as I read this I thought about all the people I know who are Christians because of God’s love. I was not happy, at first, about how God was being portrayed as some vengeful vindictive God. (The fact that I mostly see him as such is beside the point.)

But then I realized: Graceless doesn’t know any of that yet. He doesn’t see any hope of a loving God because he doesn’t know about it.  (How he manages that when he reads his bible I don’t know, but moving on.) Graceless needs someone to show him that salvation is possible. That God loves him, and will provide a way for him.

And… it’s been a while since I’ve even read my children’s version, but, I remember it showing more of the love of God than what I have seen here. Maybe it doesn’t get better, but I’d like to think it does. If it doesn’t, you’ll be hearing about this again.

Graceless had to grow. He didn’t love God because he wasn’t yet capable. His stone cold heart had, so far, been untouched by anything except fear. Graceless is on the very first step of that ladder –seeing his need. He hasn’t seen Jesus respond to his need, therefore his character is not able to love Him. Is this making sense? I feel like I’m not explaining this well enough.

Christian did not start as Christian: his name does not change to Christian until he starts on his journey. Before he starts on his journey he does not love God. But by the end of it, he does. Graceless/Christian doesn’t love God yet, but he will. Soon he will not only see God’s love, he will be able to respond to it.

Christian did not start out loving Jesus, and neither did/do I. I don’t honestly know when I will, or even if I’m capable. Maybe, because I haven’t really truly experienced the love of God for me, my character currently isn’t able to. But one thing we can learn from The Pilgrim’s Progress, even if it’s not stated over and over in the narrative, is that people’s characters change. People’s names change. I can change. I can cultivate and form my character in such a way that I will be able to see the love of God, and respond to it with a love greater than anything else. Dolls. Money. Books. Close friends. Someday, if I work hard at it, this will happen.

Just like it happened to Christian.

What was my name? That’s not yet to be public knowledge. What’s my name now? I don’t know. I’ll have to start my journey to find out. Just like Graceless/Christian.

Help Me

In which I start reading the pilgrim’s progress

Question: if I start blogging regularly about the books I’m reading, are people going to get bored? Because I can stop and write something more interesting. Feedback would be nice. I know people out there are reading, but i don’t want to bore my audience.

I’m in the middle of about 5 books. Today I’m goin to talk about an old classic: The Pilgrim’s Progress (from this life to the next.) I’m reading a “bilingual” version: one side is king James English (it was published at about the same time, I think.)

I have been fascinated with the pilgrim’s Progress ever since I was 11. I was visiting my grandma’s church, going to sabbath school with my cousin Mary. I don’t remember why, but in our primary class we were given copies of a very abridged version for children. You might’ve see them: they’re he little green square ones. (Mary’s copy go so bent hat during the church service she tried to rip mine out of my hands! Grandma stopped her, and she is not like that today. I’m so over it. Anyways.)

When I read it, I could TELL it as an abridged copy because certain plot lines otherwise made no sense. I found a copy of he original, however, there was a problem: I could NOT understand 1611 English. I TRIED. I had tried all my life to understand the bible (king James and otherwise) and was unable to read for myself until I was given a simple enough children’s version. And even finding that took a few tries.

Now I feel like going off topic and telling you all how I was EXCITED that I could read the bible for myself and understand it! I immediately set out to plow through the gospels. You have no idea how good it felt to be able to read the bible “in my own language!”

Anyway, I never found a readable unabridged English version till very recently. Three months ago, actually. But by the time his happened, I had trained myself to read king James. (when I web through my very brief KJV only phase at about 14-16, give or take).

All this is a very Long way of saying that I will be reading both modern and old style, usin the one to supplement the other.

I’m quitting now.. Autocorrect hates me and typing on an iPod is HARD. I’ll write more about PP tomorrow, unless I get comments telling me you think it’ll be a snoozefest. Which I totally wouldn’t mind. I mean, this is a VISIBLE journal, so it’s up to you guys.

Help me

In Which I write About A book

Sigh. Why does wordpress like to eat my posts? No, really, this always happens. I had a LONG post about this and now it’s gone. Swearing would follow if I had promised that this post wouldn’t be positive. I guess it’s my fault for not periodically saving it, but I still feel it’s wordpress’s fault, and wish to start throwing things.

So, as always, I’ve been reading. If I don’t manage to get a job, I will be doing a lot MORE reading. (seriously, pray that I get a job.) Most recently I just finished a book called Pollyanna Grows Up.

For those of you who might not be aware of the book Pollyanna, and have never seen the movie, here is a brief plot summary from wikipedia:

The title character is named Pollyanna Whittier, a young orphan who goes to live in Beldingsville, Vermont, with her wealthy but stern Aunt Polly. Pollyanna’s philosophy of life centers on what she calls “The Glad Game”, an optimistic attitude she learned from her father. The game consists of finding something to be glad about in every situation. It originated in an incident one Christmas when Pollyanna, who was hoping for a doll in the missionary barrel, found only a pair of crutches inside. Making the game up on the spot, Pollyanna’s father taught her to look at the good side of things—in this case, to be glad about the crutches because “we didn’t need to use them!”

With this philosophy, and her own sunny personality and sincere, sympathetic soul, Pollyanna brings so much gladness to her aunt’s dispirited New England town that she transforms it into a pleasant place to live. The Glad Game shields her from her aunt’s stern attitude: when Aunt Polly puts her in a stuffy attic room without carpets or pictures, she exults at the beautiful view from the high window; when she tries to “punish” her niece for being late to dinner by sentencing her to a meal of bread and milk in the kitchen with the servant Nancy, Pollyanna thanks her rapturously because she likes bread and milk, and she likes Nancy.

Soon, Pollyanna teaches some of Beldingsville’s most troubled inhabitants to “play the game” as well, from a querulous invalid named Mrs. Snow to a miserly bachelor, Mr. Pendleton, who lives all alone in a cluttered mansion. Aunt Polly, too—finding herself helpless before Pollyanna’s buoyant refusal to be downcast—gradually begins to thaw, although she resists the glad game longer than anyone else.

Eventually, however, even Pollyanna’s robust optimism is put to the test when she is hit by a car and loses the use of her legs. (In the movie adaptation, she falls off a tree after sneaking out of the house). At first she doesn’t realize the seriousness of her situation, but her spirits plummet when she was told what happend to her. After that, she lies in bed, unable to find anything to be glad about. Then the townspeople begin calling at Aunt Polly’s house, eager to let Pollyanna know how much her encouragement has improved their lives; and Pollyanna decides she can still be glad that she at least has her legs. The novel ends with Aunt Polly marrying her former lover Dr. Chilton and Pollyanna being sent to a hospital where she learns to walk again and is able to appreciate the use of her legs far more as a result of being temporarily disabled.

Sigh. Even Wikipedia is decidedly in favor of Pollyanna’s ways. Let me tell you something: This girl has no tact or manners at all. I think the plot summary also edited out Jimmy Bean. See, Pollyanna loves adopting stray cats. Aunt Polly doesn’t like this but puts up with it because…. I don’t know. Anyway, one day, instead of a stray cat, Pollyanna brings home a stray child. In the book, Aunt Polly is portrayed as mean and nasty for not immediately taking Jimmy under her wing. I personally don’t think Aunt Polly is overreacting –having a child is a huge responsibility, and I believe it is every woman’s right to decide that she doesn’t want that.

So, apart from not liking how Aunt Polly was portrayed, Pollyanna’s lack of tact and manners, and the infantilization of women on the part of the author (even though Pollyanna is supposed to be 10-13 as the book progresses, she comes off as 8-10 throughout.) I enjoyed the book.

Pollyanna Grows Up is the book I actually just finished reading. I only included the above paragraph for backstory so you’d all know what in hades I was talking about. When I first read the title, I was doubtful about the “Grows Up” part. You see, it was common at the time this novel was written (1915) to portray women and girls as much younger than they really were. I don’t blame the author, therefore, for doing this. I blame society at large and patriarchy. And you know what, yes. Yes I do blame the author for this, even though she was influenced by society. Because books like this that portray the stereotype? They encourage the stereotype. But I suppose that is another rant.

What bothered me most about Pollyanna is that she had no manners or tact. I’m sure you all know people like this. You know what I’m talking about, those people who are all roses and cupcakes and sunshine and daisies –even when the situation doesn’t call for it.

I am not trying to condemn positive thinking here. That’s not what I’m doing at all, don’t misunderstand me.

However, there are times when a situation calls for it, and when it doesn’t. This world is sinful and ugly. Bad things happen. It’s unavoidable. And, here’s what to some people is a new revelation: it’s OK to be sad! When something bad happens to you or someone else, it’s ok to be sad about it. In fact, I’d say it’s a GOOD thing to be sad about such things. When Lazarus died, Jesus wept. And this even knowing that Lazarus would be ok in a moment. When Mary and Martha went to Jesus for comfort, Jesus wept. He did not plaster a smile on his face and joyfully exclaim, “oh, but we should be GLAD about it! Because Lazarus’s suffering is over now and the next thing he’ll see is my face when I come again!” (This, by the way, is similar to something Pollyanna actually said.)

Jesus Wept.

People, when they are sad, do not want someone to come up to them and be all happy happy joy joy. It is not merely because, “oh, misery just loves company and they want me to be miserable because they are.” Er, sorry, no. Maybe there are SOME people in the world like this, but, I think they’re a minority. No, the proper way to respond to someone who’s going through a hard time is to be sympathetic. Empathetic, if you can manage it. I’m still working on how to do this, but there are some people who don’t even try.

Especially do I hate those people who insist that I not focus on the negative but rather the positive. I get what they’re trying to do, really, these people may be sincere, but they come across as hard hearted jerks. To put it mildly. Wanna know what these people are really saying? They’re saying that my only value is in my ability to put a smile on my face even if the world is crashing around my shoulders. Even if that’s not the intention, that is what they are implying.

People get sad. And that’s ok. If you take away nothing else from this blog entry, learn that.

So, I was truly surprised to find out that Pollyanna does actually grow up. Mentally. But we’ll get to that.

It is actually quite common (or was at one point, anyway) in children’s literature to have a happy, spunky, talkative orphan (or child) move into a home where the parent is mean/gloomy/strict/whatever. Anne of Green Gables springs to mind, along with Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. In the first book, Pollyanna moves in with “gloomy” aunt Polly. The second book starts out no different than the first. Except that this time, Pollyanna is toted as “the best medicine!eleventy!” Basically Mrs. Carew’s sister, Della, thinks that Mrs. Carew needs some cheering up, and arranges for Pollyanna to stay with her and go to school while Aunt Polly and Uncle Doctor whats-his-name flitter off to Germany. (It’s unclear why they couldn’t just take her with them, as that’s a GREAT opportunity for a child… maybe it was just something so understood back in 1915 that it didn’t bear mentioning.) The started purpose of this is so Pollyanna can go to school.

And that’s another thing that stood out to me in these novels: Even though we’re told Pollyanna goes to school, we never actually see her do it. We never really see her make friends with anyone her own age except Jimmy Bean. Pollyanna is supposed to be a character who loves people. Why, then, do we never see her running around with Children her own age? For the most part, that trend continues into the second book, except for when she meets Jamie, but that doesn’t count because it’s only for a plot device.

Anyway, Mrs. Carew is deeply depressed because her Nephew, Jamie, has been missing for years and she can’t find them. This is a legitimate reason to be depressed. The loss of a child, in any circumstances, is horrific, and does bad things to the child’s parents/guardians. I don’t blame Mrs. Carew for being depressed.

As I read that, I thought, hmm. I wonder if Mrs. Carew’s long lost Jamie is the same person as Jimmy Bean in the last novel? It turned out I’d have to plow through 1,000 pages and ten years (there’s a ten year time skip in the middle of the book) to find out.

Seriously, When I (and 99% of readers, probably) can figure out how the book is going to end in the first chapter, that’s BAD. Even for 1915 it’s bad, I think. And in the 1800s and 1900s, plotlines are always predictable.

So Pollyanna moves in with Mrs. Carew, and we get a repeat of the first few chapters of the first book with Pollyanna being rude and having no tact, all in the name of positive thinking.

Pollyanna meets a boy named Jamie in the park. Jamie is in a wheelchair, and plays the glad game too, only he doesn’t call it that. (Jamie is poor, and yet he shares his food with the squirrels…. which to me was the biggest wtf about the whole book. If you and your loved ones are starving, you DON’T feed the squirrels!) This is really the second time in 2 books where we see her interacting with someone her own age.

Therefore, you know she’s going to marry him. Though I do have to give Ms. Porter credit for having her marry the OTHER Jimmy, because I wasn’t really expecting that one. And, in 1915, in a coming of age novel, you KNOW the girls’ going to be married by the end of it.

Pollyanna then decides that this Jamie is THE Jamie, and rushes off to get Mrs. Carew. Mrs. C isn’t quite convinced, but, 5 chapters later, decides to take him in anyway.

Aunt Polly and uncle doctor whats-his-name flitter off to Germany again, this time taking Pollyanna with them.

Insert ten year time gap.

And… I’m surprised. At the end oft his ten year time gap, Pollyanna actually behaves… how old is she supposed to be now? 23? I’m not sure. The book states she’s either in her 20s or close to it. And she actually behaves like she’s in her 20s. She still plays the glad game, but a much more toned down version thereof. She has tact, manners, and, according to Jimmy, beauty.

But, even though Pollyanna tries to keep happy, aunt Polly doesn’t bother. You see, they returned to America basically because Dr. Chilton, aunt Polly’s husband, died. And the narrative has the nerve to show that Pollyanna is stressed at having to deal with Aunt Polly’s gloom. Um, yes, her husband just died. I might be aromantic and totally don’t understand romance at all, but I do know that when one’s life partner dies, It’s A Big Deal. Some form of depression is natural. Aunt Polly’s In Mourning. (I’m not sure how big a deal that was in America in 1915, but in some time and places, being officially In Mourning was a trial in and of itself completely aside from the death of the actual person. In fact, if I ever had to go into Mourning, I would mourn about having to be in mourning. So I’m not sure if aunt Polly is just mourning, or In Mourning. KWIM?)

It’s ok to be sad if your husband dies, folks. Being depressed afterwards? Is normal.

At least Pollyanna now has enough tact to realize that. But Pollyanna dos not have tact about the financial situation.

See, in addition to losing her husband, Aunt Polly has lost her money. Almost all of it. And I don’t get why Pollyanna is so flippant about this. She grew up dirt poor. She should therefore have more sense than to react like… well, like a Pollyanna.*

Aunt Polly is not just depressed about losing her husband, she is depressed because she has lost her money and doesn’t know how she will live.

I get this part. I sympathize 100% with Aunt Polly. Even though I was never as rich as Aunt Polly, my family was pretty well off during the 90s. Things didn’t really start going downhill until Bin Dumbo (or the government, whichever you believe responsible) knocked down the towers. The Great Recession (which is still ongoing, btw, in case you weren’t aware) didn’t help either.

When I was a kid, I could have things not many girls my age could. I had an American Girl doll (I was the only one in my entire SDA elementary school) I had a laptop (in the 90s, little girls didn’t have those. I only know one other person who did. Most of you are too young to remember those days, I think, but they did exist and very recently.) I used to have my dad telling me not to worry about keeping things, because we were so rich, we could just go out and buy more.

And then there’s now. Now, everything I have is falling apart, and I can’t afford to replace it. Heck, even my DAD can’t afford to buy me a new laptop. That floored me. Things must be a bit worse than he’s letting on, because there has ALWAYS been money for computers. Poor social skills plus bad economy does not lend itself to me getting a job.

As bad as things are for me, though, my family still has income. My dad might not be able to provide me with a new desperately needed laptop, but if something bad happened, I could always go to him for money for things like food, medication, and necessities. Aunt Polly does not even have this. She has no income. Pollyanna is too busy being glad to worry about money, Aunt Polly is too busy worrying about how to get money to eat and pay for the house to be glad. Really, I think the narrative is a little hard on Aunt Polly.

Mrs. Carew and Jamie come to visit. Good time is had by all, until Jimmy thinks that Jamie is in love with Pollyanna. Jimmy leaves Beldingsville to give Jamie a chance (because Jamie is a cripple) I’m going to fast forward through the awkward romance of about 3 couples (no joke) and just say what i thought would happen at the beginning of the novel:

Jimmy discovers he is really Jamie, and marries Pollyanna.

Mr. Pendleton, Jimmy’s adoptive father, marries Mrs. Carew.

Jamie falls in love with and marries other random girl Pollyanna helped out before the ten year time gap.

The end. That’s how it ends.

I think the book could’ve ended better if all this had happened sooner, with the exception of Pollyanna and Jamie and Jimmy marrying. That way, Mr. Pendleton and Mrs. Carew could’ve married while Jimmy and Jamie were still children, and Mrs. Carew wouldn’t have had to have spend 10+ agonizing years wondering if HER Jamie was ok. Even with a replacement Jamie, a mother always wonders. Jimmy and Jamie could’ve grown up as brothers. The time gap could come here instead, and THEN Jimmy could marry Pollyanna.

I think the book was ok. It annoyed me in parts, but it never made me want to throw the ipod against a wall (which is more than I can say for Elsie Dinsmore Dimwit.) So… I guess it was a goodbook, or at least an ok one. I’d give it about 3 stars and recommend it to anyone who likes 1800s/1900s children’s literature.

Boy this post was long. Next time I think we’ll tackle it chapter by chapter. not this book, another book I’m reading.

And that, folks, is this week’s positive post. And it might be the last one in a while because, as noted else where, The Depression is back, and it’s Not Going Away. Woohoo! Yippee! I missed it so much! /sarcasm.

Stay tuned. I promise it’s not all going to be thunderstorms, thorns, and lightening strikes. But, neither are there going to be a while lot of kittens, rainbows, and cupcakes.

Help Me

*These novels are so popular that, when someone is being stupidly positive, sometimes they are said to be “acting like a Pollyanna.”