Is Ophelia actually crazy?

 

Warning: I am assuming that you have read both book and play. If you have not, you have been warned that there will be spoilers. I am sorry to tell you this, but there are spoilers!!!!! So if you are afraid that this will ruin the book for you, stop reading here. Read the book. And then continue on.

So I don’t normally do this, and I do not know if I’m going to continue to do this. But I’ve been meaning to talk about this, both in my own context and in context with Lisa Klein’s Ophelia, which I reviewed a while ago. I recently reread Hamlet for school, and my teacher said that Ophelia is the only character who is actually crazy, which I disagree with. I see her point, obviously, since there’s not a ton of evidence to say that she’s not actually crazy without the context of Klein’s novel. But, having read Klein’s novel before taking the class, I had already thought about Ophelia as a perfectly sane person, and so naturally found evidence to support my own thoughts.

First: Ophelia’s songs. Ophelia knows exactly what is happening. I’m talking, of course, about after she is “mad.” There is a scene in the play in which she comes in singing songs to an audience of Claudius, Gertrude, and later on, her brother. Of course, to anyone without context, her songs have no meaning. They’re just songs. And for someone with a little context, she’s talking about her dead father, Polonius. But the songs can also be taken another way. (It’s been a while, but I believe Klein’s novel points this out:) one of the songs she sings has the lines:

He is dead and gone, lady,
He is dead and gone,
At his head a grass-green turf,
At his heels a stone.
(4.5.29-32)
Of course, this could be about Polonius, who was recently slain by Hamlet. But it could also be about the late king, Gertrude’s dead husband. I took it to mean both: that she is both acknowledging her own father’s death, and telling Gertrude about her husband’s death, reminding Gertrude that her late husband is dead. Ophelia is literally telling Gertrude that her husband is dead and gone. Almost as if she is telling Gertrude it is okay, but also reminding her that her husband is dead. So of course, her other song rings true as well.
And will he not come again?
No, no, he is dead,
Go to thy death-bed,
He never will come again.
His beard as white as snow,
All flaxen with his poll:
He is gone, he is gone,
And we cast away moan:
God ha’ mercy on his soul!
(4.5.23-26)
Again, she could be singing for Claudius. But I think that she is also singing to Gertrude, about the late king. “No, no, he is dead…He never will come again,” is telling the queen that her husband is dead, and he will never return. Even if she remarries, it will never be the same. We also know that the late king has a beard. When Hamlet first hears about the Ghost, he asks:
Hamlet: “His beard was grizzled–no?”
Horatio: “It was, as I have seen it in his life,
A sable silver’d.”
In the song, Ophelia talks about a man with a white beard who has died. We know that Polonius and the late king both had silver beards. And so it can be said that she talks about both men within her song. It is not necessarily explicitly Polonius. It is also important to note that she sings these songs to Gertrude, not just a general audience. By singing to Gertrude, she makes it seem much more like a pointed moment than if she had just gone into a chamber at random and sung to some civilians. Instead she seeks Gertrude out, and sings these songs to her.
Second: The Flowers. When we next see Ophelia, she is carrying flowers and herbs. (Whether they are real or imaginary is up for debate, and really up to the reader). And each have specific meanings. Rosemary: remembrance. She gives these to her brother, along with Pansies, for thoughts, in order to tell him to remember and to keep her and their family in his thoughts. To Gertrude, she gives Gertrude (or Claudius; we’re really not told in the play) Fennel, which represents deceit and flattery, and Columbine, which represents ungratefulness, and “forsaken lovers”. She gives these to make a jab at their deceitfulness in their marriage, since Gertrude was once married to the king whom Claudius killed, and Claudius was his brother. Ophelia also gives Gertrude a Daisy, representing innocence. And, of course, no one gets the violets (faithfulness), since they withered all when her father died (her words, not mine). In Ophelia, Klein makes it a point to say that one of these flowers (I don’t actually remember which one but I’m pretty sure it’s Columbine) is a remedy for snake’s poison. And, of course, Claudius killed the king with snake’s poison poured into the ear (Claudius is also very snake-like in that he is cunning and poisoned the king in a Garden, cough cough, Eden). In her own way, Ophelia is telling them (and us) that she does indeed know about the plot against the king’s life. (There are more flower meanings here. I’m not going to go any further with the flowers from Ophelia, but if you’re curious…).
 Of course, in Klein’s Ophelia, she is doing all this because she needs to be protected, so she pretends to be mad. She also needs to get out of Denmark and this is her last herah!
I’m not going to spoil the book more than necessary. If you want to know what happens after this in Ophelia, you’ll just have to read the book.
But I will say that I do not think that suicide would have been her answer. I do think that Ophelia wanted to escape her life, and so suicide would have made sense. But not after what she went through. But I’m speaking from the year 2014. And this brings me to my third point.
Third: History. In the time that Shakespeare would have written this play, women had absolutely no rights. The only  jobs you could have occupied as a woman would have been a maid (maybe), a teacher, or a prostitute. You could only have occupied a teacher’s job if you were educated (naturally). So of course, a woman in Ophelia’s position, who was probably not educated the way teachers needed to be (piano, art, fluency in French, etc.) would have had very few options. She could have gone to a nunnery (as Hamlet suggests), or to a whore house (also as Hamlet suggests), but those were really her only two options. Unless, of course, she marries Hamlet. She was being courted by him, after all. Before the Ghost came, she might even have ended up marrying him. But because she was lured into spying on him by her father, or in Ophelia he scorns her to protect her from his own revenge on Claudius, she never gets that chance. Instead, Hamlet says that he never loved her, and that she should go to a nunnery (which means both a convent, and a whore house). Now, her chance of marrying into wealth is gone. She is no longer under the protection of Hamlet. Which leaves her father. Who is killed by Hamlet. Her brother, being away in France, cannot be there for her in a time where she cannot support herself. She is completely alone. Now, think back to what I said about women in this time: they had absolutely no power. The average woman could do almost nothing to take care of herself financially. And Ophelia, if she is truly sane, probably sees suicide as the only escape, her only true choice. If she goes to a nunnery/whore house, she’s doing what Hamlet said. And she can’t become a teacher, since she doesn’t have the proper education. So the only option that is hers, and only hers, is suicide (and by hers, I mean that it is not doing what someone else said to do. It is completely her choice, without getting the idea from someone else).
Personally, I still like the idea in Ophelia, where she is using suicide to escape from Denmark. Because Denmark is a prison, as Hamlet so eloquently states. Again, not going to spoil the novel. But I like that version a lot more than her just giving up, succumbing to her madness. And even despite the fact that a lot of people are going to disagree and say that she is crazy, that there is not enough evidence to say otherwise, I’ll forever believe that Ophelia is perhaps the sanest character in the play. Which, I realize is not saying a lot considering. But I’m definitely on the side that says she isn’t actually crazy. This play deals a lot with players and the fact that everyone in the play is an actor in their own life (just for example: Hamlet is pretending to be a crazy person). I believe that Ophelia is one of those people, pretending to be crazy.
But I also don’t want to influence your decision. So you read the play, and the novel if you chose, and then you tell me: sane or crazy?

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

The Sea of Tranquility is about Nastya, a girl who survived something awful (no spoilers!), and Josh, a boy whose name is synonymous with death. Their story is about love, and forgiveness, and about salvation; not saving others, but about saving yourself.

Okay, okay. That summary was really cryptic. I’m trying not to spoil anything, and I’m not sure how to summarize the novel without spoiling anything.

I really liked this book. Originally, I was looking for a book to bridge the in-between, as in in-between Monsters (the third book in the Ashes Trilogy, which, by the way, was AMAZING!) and another book, which I had not decided yet. I didn’t need it to be fantastic, or even overly amazing, I just needed it to be good enough to bridge the gap between really intense and whatever I read next. I thought that this book would be just like any other romance novel I read: fairly okay, with a hell of a lot of cliches and empty words said between two characters. I wasn’t looking for umph. I was looking for passable.

I found umph.

This book was absolutely and positively amazing. At first glance, I thought that it wasn’t too good. I actually debated putting it down after the first few pages, because Nastya’s narrative was so moody and annoying. And then I got about ten pages in. And it started to get really good. And then it got really really good. And then it got so amazing that my toes were literally curling and my heart was beating a little faster and I actually did not hear anything around me and forgot that I was even on the planet earth. It was that good.

One of the things I loved was that the book felt real. The chemistry between Josh and Nastya felt very tangible, and it made it more realistic to me that they didn’t just fall in love all of a sudden. It took time. They developed trust. And it made me trust their relationship a little more. He doesn’t just say, “Baby you’re beautiful. Want to go upstairs and hang out,” with a wink and a smile, and she doesn’t swoon immediately after, professing her undying love. Nastya is so much stronger and independent than that. When the guys in the story do that, she practically punches them in the face, or gives them a look that says, “Not in your life-time.” She’s this amazing, sarcastic, funny person, who yes, has a dark past. But she’s also strong enough to hold her past on her shoulders and carry on. She holds on to it, and wallows a little in it, but she more than just her past and her problems. And she was one of the reasons I kept reading.

While I’m on the subject of characters…there were very few that I outright hated. There were the obvious dislikes, but I never really hated any characters, with the exception of the most obvious: the reason for her pain. But I did fall in love with a lot of characters. The first, aside from Nastya, being Josh. Which you’d think would be obvious, since he’s the other narrator. First, his pet name for her is “Sunshine,” not “Baby,” or “Babe,” or “Honey,” or “Princess.” Sunshine. Not only was that one new to me, but it actually fit him and the way he thinks about her. Second, he’s literally Prince Charming, with a few more flaws and problems. He’s not perfect. But he’s close enough that he seems to be a knight in shining armor. I also loved his friend, Drew, who was the flirt in the opening of the book. We’re introduced to him before we are introduced to Josh, and I thought he was an absolutely fantastic friend and character. He’s a beautiful, hilarious person.

There was also Tierney, who was hilarious but I won’t touch too much on her, and Clay, another person I won’t touch on too much but who was a fantastically awesome person, both of whom I wish were real so that I could meet them.

I definitely recommend reading this book. I do have to warn you: there is a lot of mention of sex, use of alcohol and drugs, abuse, violence, dirty and “bad” language, and it is fairly intense. It will also make your stomach drop, it will make you laugh, and it will probably make you cry. But you should definitely read it.

What Goes on Tour by Claire Boston

This book is about a writer named Libby, who goes on a book signing tour, during which she meets Adrian, AKA rock star Kent, and ends up taking care of his niece.

Let me just start by saying this was definitely a guilty pleasure book. I was originally not going to read it, and was saving it for when I needed a book late at night but didn’t want anything heavy. This was the perfect solution. It was heart-warming, and lovely, but it didn’t weigh on my mind when I wasn’t reading it.

That being said, I did enjoy the book. It just wasn’t a I-have-to-find-out-this-second-what-happens kind of book.

There were aspects that I really liked. I liked Libby; she was a fun, interesting character, who let her insecurities eat away at her, but who was still strong. Her point of view was pretty interesting as well, since it wasn’t just about the romance aspect, but also about her friendship with Kate. (Speaking of…) I really loved his niece, Kate. She and George (Adrian’s manager) were by far my favorite characters. Kate was cute and adorable, and she made me laugh most of the time (the rest of the time I was thinking, Oh God, baby it’s okay. You’re going to be okay). George was just an all around great character; he was originally introduce as Adrian’s manager, but it is clear from the start that he really cares about Adrian and Kate.I can’t say that I felt anything significant for Adrian; I definitely liked him; but I also thought he was a total idiot and at times even came close to hating him. At the same time, though, I never really blamed him for anything that happened in the book, mostly because of his past (no spoilers!!! But I gave everything he did in the book some serious thought before posting this, and why he would do some of the things he does, and it sort of made sense to me. Still made me a little upset with him. But it made sense). I really loved his niece, Kate. She and George (Adrian’s manager) were by far my favorite characters. Kate was cute and adorable, and she made me laugh most of the time (the rest of the time I was thinking, Oh God, baby it’s okay. You’re going to be okay). George was just an all around great character; he was originally introduce as Adrian’s manager, but it is clear from the start that he really cares about Adrian and Kate.

I’d have to say, though, the best part was the ending. I didn’t much care for the beginning of the book (although it captured my interest enough to get me curious, it wasn’t as giggle/gasp inducing as the last 100 or so pages), and the writing itself hit me as kind of plain, which happened to work in favor of the text (what I mean is that it allowed the story itself to develop through the characters rather than having very flowery or beautiful writing that would work in a different novel; I don’t think it would have made the book better, although it may have been more fun to read). Overall, I have to say I wasn’t too impressed, although the story itself made me smile.

I’m not spoiling anything here. If at any point you read something about this that interested you, either here, the back of the book, or another review, by all means go ahead and read it. It didn’t enrapture me, although I did enjoy it as a guilty pleasure novel. I would say if you like this kind of romance novel (rock stars and authors), then I say go for it. I do not have many warnings, except to say that there might be some colorful language (I can’t remember for certain if there actually is any, but just in case), and that it probably won’t be a book you put down and think about the entire day. Once you start, it is certainly easy to continue reading; and it’s easy to pick back up. But it doesn’t consume your thoughts the way Charlie St. Cloud might have (if that was a book you liked. I certainly did).

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I’m not putting a summary down. Most people know what this book is about, and if you don’t, you at least have a vague sense of it as a romance novel.

So instead of telling you what the book is about, I’m just going to jump right in.

I did not like this book.

When I say that, I mean I really did not like this book.

It’s not because I don’t like the style, or this type of romance novel. I’ve read Pride and Prejudice, and I loved it. It’s probably one of my favorites. But I had a very hard time reading this book, partly because it was a summer reading book, as in I did not choose to read it (but if I’m being honest with myself, I would have eventually read it anyways). Mostly, though, it was because I could not find a single point at which I thought, Oooh. What happens next? I’d already seen the movie, so I had a vague sense of what happened, which normally wouldn’t have effected how much I enjoyed the book. But this one got to me. Usually, when you see a movie and then read the book, there is something interesting in the book that is not in the movie, or the movie is so good it makes you want to read the book. With Jane Eyre, though, it was like something was holding me back from enjoying it. And, sadly, I know exactly what it is.

This book is classified as a romance, right? But at no point did I see anything romantic about her relationship with Mr. Rochester. I found the man himself to be detestable in every way, and could not empathize with Jane when she called him her love. He treats her like a slave or servant the entire novel, he calls her ugly, he flirts with other women, and honestly, I just could not find any good point to him. And not only was he rude, but he was twice her age. Maybe that was okay then, but personally, it put me in a weird place where I was picturing this forty-so man with an eighteen-year-old girl who had just learned to be on her own two feet. And then he treats her with disrespect for the entire novel, so she proclaims her love for him! At no point did I see that as a romance, or even love. There was also the issue of redemption. If he had been redeemed, in some way, I may have appreciated her love for him more. As it was, though, he never did anything that said he should be the token of her appreciation; at least with Darcy she hates him until he proves that he can be a fair, just, and even kind person. At least Darcy fixes what he did, and all for Elizabeth. That I found romantic. But Mr. Rochester is just pitiful. And not only that, but is illogical and frustrating at times because he cannot be bothered to understand Jane as a person, her aspirations, her wants, her desires.

And that brings me to another point: Jane. I actually liked Jane, though at the beginning she annoyed me. I found parts of her narration to be pointless, like the first hundred pages, where we read nothing but her awful child hood. I couldn’t see how it was relative to the story while I was reading it, though now looking back, I guess it had some impact on my thoughts at the end of the novel, and I was able to see her character development. Only, her character didn’t seem to develop. She never seemed to change or learn anything new about herself after those first hundred pages. I’d say she never grew up, but I don’t think that’s true; she was simply mature from the start. But even after she learns what Mr. Rochester has been keeping from her the entire novel, she still pines after him, she only does it from afar. She never even tries to move on from him. I get that she’s supposed to be in love, but it never really felt like love to me. It just felt like loyalty and obsession. There never seemed to be warmth when she thought of him, until the very end. It also bothered me that Jane didn’t seem to have any faults. She was portrayed as an angel: smart, slightly (depending on your view) submissive, artistically inclined, maybe not beautiful, but not exactly horrible to look at either. She was basically the female stereotype for the time, and that really bothered me. Elizabeth, also a character of the time, was not good at piano, art, or really anything that was typical; she liked to read and take long walks, and didn’t have any real interest in fashion, though she loved to dance and be merry; she also had a temper on her, and was quick to judge. She was an interesting character, whereas Jane is too logical, and too calm, even when she should be angry, or distressed, or so happy her heart could burst. I wasn’t looking for dramatics; but a little bit of actual emotion would have been nice.

I understand that some people actually enjoyed this book. I’m not condemning them. But I did not want to finish the book; I did not want to read past page 50, let alone read a little over 450 pages of this.

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Summary: It started with the bank robbery. And then Ed got the first card in the mail. Three addresses. Three messages. And that was only the beginning.

Okay, that was a little cheesy. This book is about this guy named Ed, who, after helping to stop a bank robbery, receives a card in the mail, with three addresses on it. As I said above, each address contains with a message that he must first figure out and then deliver.

This book actually took me a surprisingly long time to read. That mostly had to do with the fact that I had a lot going on. On that note, I have to say that I really liked this book. The writing style is absolutely amazing, the narrative is absolutely hilarious, and the story itself is very heartwarming, and at times heartbreaking. I loved it. I would definitely recommend it.

One of the things I loved about the book was the writing. Markus Zusak has this way of writing that makes the story seem very lyrical, and poetic; it was beautiful to read. It was already an amazing story, but the writing made it seem even more beautiful.

I also loved the narrative. Ed is a very very funny character, with an almost dry sense of humor; from the very beginning, he is being a “smart arse,” as he says. The book starts with:

“The gunman is useless.

I know it.

He knows it.

The whole bank knows it.

Even my best mate, Marvin, knows it, and he’s more useless than the gunman” (1).

That’s kind of his sense of humor. It’s amusing to read, and even funnier when he’s in messed up situations, like the bank robbery, but still keeps up with his persona of “smart arse.”  It was one of the things where, after reading parts of the sample, made me want to buy the book.

There really wasn’t anything I hated about the book, or that bothered me. The characters were warm, and real, and absolutely hilarious; my favorite is a three way tie between Richie, Marv, and Father “Tommy.” Not one of the characters is two-dimensional, and every single one of them has problems that make them perfect. Even Ed has issues that he needs to work out, and it’s really interesting to see how he develops as a character throughout the novel. The only thing that urked me had nothing to do with the book, and everything the do with me not having enough time in the day to read it. I wanted to stay up absorbing Zusak’s words and Ed’s thoughts, but my eyes got too heavy at night, or there was something that needed to be done.

Overall, I definitely recommend this book to anyone who will listen. It’s an amazing, heart-wrenching novel, that everyone should read at least once in their lifetime. I do have a warning, and that is that there is violence, alcohol use, swearing, some confusing weather patterns for anyone used to America (like heat in December and cold in July), and there may be tears and laughter. Definitely pick it up at the bookstore, or as an eBook (however you read your books; I’m not going to judge, just read it).

Gravity by Melissa West

At its most basic, Gravity is about a girl named Ari, who has to try to prevent a war between two races: the humans, and the Ancients, with the help of her friends, Law and Gretchen, and a boy named Jackson Locke, who is actually more than just a boy.

I…guess I liked this book. It was enjoyable, and entertaining, but it didn’t keep my attention. I didn’t care if I was reading it or a different book, and it really wasn’t anything overly special. It was good, don’t get me wrong; I found that I liked some of the characters, but it was very predictable. At no point was I surprised by what happened throughout the novel. There were no shocking twists. It simply…was.

I think one of the issues I had with the book was that I didn’t love the main character, which is kind of an issue considering it’s told in the first person. In fact, now that I’m thinking back, I didn’t love any of the characters. I guess I sort of liked Jackson…but the truth is, I didn’t really care. I read the book purely for enjoyment, and I kept reading because I thought that it would get more addicting, that I would start to love the characters, or the plot, or just…something about the book that would keep my interest. But nothing did. I just kept reading, and reading, but nothing changed. I still didn’t love the book. And by the end of it, the characters just started to annoy me. It was like they had no real emotions, or at least not tangible ones. Like, they were all so black and white, that even when their emotions did show, I didn’t care, or it didn’t even matter to me. And it really bothered me that they thought they had to be strong the entire time; and it wasn’t even an actual thought, they just refused to show any emotion. Even when they were alone, there was no emotion. It was like they were robots, for the entire book.

I found myself actually skipping paragraphs. I would be reading the dialogue, and then Ari would start to talk about something in her prose, and I would just skim through it, not even paying attention, because none of it interested me. And I know that that is awful, and that you’re supposed to read the entire book before deciding that you don’t like it, but I couldn’t read those paragraphs. It just bored me so much.

I do not mean to say the book was bad, it just didn’t hold my interest. I finished it, so I must have enjoyed it on some level, but I never felt any attachment to it. It wasn’t a page turner. And I don’t think that I’m going to read the sequel; it just doesn’t seem worth it.

For those still interested, the book is appropriate for any age (there weren’t any bad language, or scenes that were inappropriate). I do not recommend this to anyone looking for something that will keep them invested. But if you’re looking for an in-between book, this one works just fine.

More Than This by Jay McLean

This book is about a girl named Mikayla, who catches her boyfriend cheating on her with her best friend. Then she met Jake. Jake, who saw everything, the whole spectacle, and decided that she needed cheering up. Only, that’s not the end to their night, which only ends in tragedy.
I loved this book. Well, more like the books following it. This one didn’t capture me as much, but at no fault of the book’s. The other two (More Than Her and More Than Him) just happened to be better and more enthralling. I did, however, really enjoy this book, and could not put it down.
At its base, this book is a simple love story. There’s nothing overly special about it; it’s just a romance novel. And that’s actually fairly accurate throughout the book; it’s just a romance novel. But there was something about the characters that made you want them to be okay, even if some of it was a bit…strange, to say the least. It was very unconventional, and at points I didn’t entirely understand why the characters were acting the way they were acting (I’m trying not to spoil anything).
I really liked Micky. Throughout the book, she struggles with loss, and acceptance, and not leaning too hard on others, but at the same time, knowing when to accept help. I had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Jake, mostly because I wanted to smack him and tell him he was being an idiot at times, although even that wasn’t entirely “hate.” Really, I just got a little frustrated with him. The characters I fell in love with, though, were Lucy, Logan, Cam, Heidi, and Dylan, their friends. They were all so warm, and supportive, and just genuine characters, not to mention absolutely hilarious.
Like I said, though, the other two books in the series (so far) have been my favorite. The second book is Logan’s story, with the third being a continuation of the story, and I just thought it was better. I couldn’t put it down, and actually finished reading the second one night, and the third the next. It might have had a lot to do with the fact that it’s a more haunting story; Logan has a lot of problems to work out, as does Amanda, and it made it seem less like “just a romance”, and more like I was reading their actual lives. It also made the story more interesting, and I was able to get more of an emotional reaction from reading their two points of view than I did in the first book. Don’t get me wrong, the first one was still sad and amazingly beautiful; the second and third were just…more.
I should warn you: there is a lot of cussing, drinking, anxiety, social issues, mental issues, abuse, and it is graphic both in language (as in characters speaking) and in image (everything else, pretty much). The book doesn’t focus on the physical part of the relationship as much as the romance and chemistry and mental issues, but it is still present, still there.
I would say this, though: to anyone looking for a romance, pick up this series. But start at the first. Don’t think just because I didn’t like it as much as the others that it wasn’t good. It was. Don’t read the books out of order!

From More Than This:

*Mikayla*
In one night my fairytale ended. Or it may have begun. This is my story of friendship and love, heartbreak and desire, and the strength to show weakness.
*Jake*
One night I met a girl. A sad and broken girl, but one more beautiful than any other. She laughed through her sadness, while I loved through her heartbreak.
*This is our story of a maybe ever after.*
He was right. It made no difference whether it was six months or six years. I couldn’t undo what had been done. I couldn’t change the future. I couldn’t even predict it. It was one night. One night when everything changed. It was so much more than just the betrayal. It was the Tragedy. The Deaths. The Murders. But it was also that feeling. The feeling of falling.

For those interested, this is from More Than  Her:

“For every action there is an equal or opposite reaction.”

For every choice you make there are rewards, or there are consequences. It was my choice to walk away the first time.

And my choice to chase her the second.

But sometimes you don’t get a choice,

and all you get are the consequences.

 

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength,

while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

Unless that someone is Logan Matthews.

Because loving him didn’t give me

the strength to walk away.

It didn’t give me the courage to fight for him.

And when it was over, all it gave me was a broken heart.