Monday, March 14, 2011

Book-Shaking Anger

Have you ever been so immersed in a story that you find yourself becoming completely irritated with the main character? I mean really truly pissed off? Like you’re sitting there reading, and it’s all quiet and you find yourself shaking the book back and forth yelling: “Shut up! Shut up! Oh for crying out loud would you just shut up already!” I find that this happens in two kinds of books: really horribly bad ones, or very well written ones.

Well I recently experienced it with the latter (thank goodness!). I finished Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy the other day and could not believe at how utterly annoyed and aggravated I became throughout the novel with the main character. And it was especially surprising seeing as how I think one of the main themes of the whole book was feminism and Hardy was reeeeally ahead of his time in regards to how women should have been viewed in that era. Yet, while you could tell that Hardy himself was very forward thinking in this regard, his main character and protagonist, Tess, was really not. Not that she was totally the opposite either. I’ll explain more in my review that will come later this week but it was BEYOND frustrating sometimes to read her thoughts and diatribes.

So the question is, has this ever happened to you? Have you ever been this put off by a character that you’ve shouted at the paper in front of you? Maybe you’ve even thrown the book across the room (yes I admit to doing that a few times). What was the book? Was it because the book was just horribly and totally bad in itself, or what?


Stephanie M. Hasty said...

in order to think of tess as a strong female i had to think of her in the same way i think of madame bovary or the main character in a doll's house by ibsen or edna in the awakening. they all made choices that we think of as deplorable until we think of them in terms of being strong females who made choices on their own terms.

and, when i really hate the main character...i can't even finish unless someone tells me something to make the character redeeming.

for tess, it's all about the situation, the time period and her independence over all else. tess is not my favorite hardy, but i do like her better than jude. :)

Christie said...

Edna in The Awakening, if you're talking about the good books. I want her to shut up and go away and die, and even then that ending doesn't satisfy me. I hate her. Loathe her. I yell at her. And yet I like the book and even Edna, a little bit-- or have a love/hate relationship with it and her.

Nothing is as satisfying as chucking a Hemingway across the room though, Llevinso. The main female character in A Farewell to Arms had me yelling. Heck, Hemingway is irritating in plenty of ways that make one scream.

llevinso said...

@Stephanie, there were definitely parts where I thought Tess was a strong female character and given the time period and situaton she was in I totally understood her times. But most of the time her whining about how she was nothing without Angel and how she'd kill herself just to avoid besmirching his good name and blah blah blah...SHUT UP!!

@Christie, haven't read The Awakening yet but I remember your post about it a little while ago. Must read that one sometime. And LOL about Hemingway, you and I share a common dislike of that guy ;)

Jet-Setting Divas said...

Sometimes I would get so mad---I would throw the book or put the book down if I get upset with main character (yeah I know weird right?) But if I remember correctly--I had to read Tess in one of my English classes--which was a while ago! Boy how I miss reading! Now I don't really have the time to!

vinobaby said...

I think the last book I had to put down because I just couldn't stomach it any longer was Leaving the World by Douglas Kennedy. Some people apparently love the novel, but I couldn't stand the main character's voice. She was just to snotty, passive and utterly miserable. I don't want to feel miserable when I am into a book. About a third of the way into the book another tragedy occurred and I just gave up and tossed it away.

llevinso said...

@Jet, that is so sad! When I was still in school I had basically no time to read just for me. But now I have tons of time (when I'm not at work that is) and I think it's one of the few things that keeps me sane ;)

@vinobaby, I've never read that one. I do like tragic books as long as I feel there's a point to them, if you know what I mean. Like I'm learning something or taking something away from it. If it's tragedy just for tragedy's sake then that's another story.

Anonymous said...

Every Twilight book I read I just want to slap Bella across the face. I don't really like the books and Bella doesn't help, but for some reason I still want to finish the series!

bookspersonally said...

Wow, what a great topic! Well I don't think I've ever hollered out loud at the book, but I can think of two recent reads where I utterly utterly disliked characters but in the end felt they had given me a lot to think about in the books (Freedom - Franzen, The Believers - Z. Heller). Perhaps they stay with you more than characters that are too easy to get along with?

Shannon Young said...

I completely agree about Hemingway. His characters almost always make me angry.

Every once in a while I think Jane Austen's Emma needs a good shake, but that's still my favorite Austen work.

I think Daisy from The Great Gatsby is frustrating too. This is quite a topic!

llevinso said...

@lucybird, that's probably because Bella (and those books in general) are probably some of the most anti-feminist books in recent pop-culture history. I haven't read them because I've heard the writing in itself is just plain bad but I've read literally dozens of blog posts and essays on them to convince me that Ms. Stephanie Meyers is simply not my cup of tea, haha. But I realize they have this cult-like draw so what can you do?

@books, glad you like the topic! Haven't read Freedom but remember thinking much the same with his book The Corrections.

@Shannon, I think that about a lot of Austen's character's actually, but Emma, yes I can see that especially. I can also see how that would make you like a book even more sometimes! And UGH Daisy! That's a character I really LOATHED!

Robyn said...

I think I have felt that way about Mrs. Ramsay in To the Lighthouse. Oddly, not when I was younger. She didn't annoy me then, but the last time I read this book, I just wanted to tell her to get over it. I think you're right that sometimes this reaction is just a sign of bad writing, and sometimes it's something else.