Friday, May 23, 2014

Realism, Romaticism, and Interpretations

Realism and romanticism - two different approaches to literature with their own individual quirks and perks. Of course, each reader has his or her own preference for one of the other or enjoys combinations of both. I fall into the latter category. I have a place in my heart for approaches, although I imagine I probably do have standards for each whether I realize it or not. However, I'm aware that I tend to read way more romanticized novels because they can be so magically fictionalized. "Unrealistic." My imagination is rather far-fetched, so just about any story will do as long as it's well-crafted and meets my standards for literature.
But lately, I've been noticing some things and have come to a few realizations. I think that someone's set preference can easily affect their opinions of a novel - I'm not just talking about if they don't like something, I'm talking about the why. But no one really talks about that.
Allow me to explain. I liked Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series even though there were quite a few that hated it. Like I said though, this discussion is all about the why. When people would talk about why they didn't like it, it oftentimes resulted in a full-blown discussion about how Bella was a weak character with an unnatural, unhealthy need to cling to her boyfriend. They spoke of anti-feminism scattered throughout the novel. I was utterly confused for a while (literally YEARS) because all the reasons they gave for disliking Bella sounded like reasons I would give for not liking a character.

So, this begged the question, why didn't I see what others saw in her even though the qualities they saw sounded awful to me? It took me such a long time to figure it out... But them BAM: Epiphany! I began thinking about New Moon, which probably made people the most irritated since it consisted of Bella feeling completely miserable over Edward leaving. And I understood something: If I read New Moon and took it all as realism, I would've thrown that book out of the window. But I didn't. I took it all as heavy romanticism. Why was Bella so miserable when Edward left? In the eyes of a realist, it was because all Bella wasn't independent and relied on her boyfriend in the worst way possible. In my romanticized eyes, it was like a fairytale where true love bound them together. The reason Bella was ever so drawn to Edward was because that magical concept of fate, where if you fight it, you're going to lose. It wasn't that she was independent because of a character flaw, it was because of that romanticized sense of fate.
Is it unrealistic? Yes. Stupid? Probably. But it's romanticism, and I think if people took it as lighthearted as possible, the way we took Cinderella when we were five, then more people would've liked it. I'm not saying that people have to be romanticists to any extent, I'm just saying people would have to in order to enjoy that particular series.

What someone takes from a book can be completely different from what someone else takes from it - this goes for realists, romanticists, and everything in between. I always use Cinderella for this example. Many view Cinderella's story as anti-feminist, that she relied on a man to "save" her, or whatever. My question is: How in God's name did the prince save her? If anything, the fairy godmother did. Still, one could argue that she relied on the prince for happiness, but once again, I think people give the prince too much credit. Marrying a prince wasn't the point; getting out of her horrible life situation was. But that's just my interpretation out of the millions of ways it could be interpreted. If we focus on the fairy godmother, Cinderella's theme could be "belief in a higher power can benefit your life." If we focus on how her social status shifts, it could be "if you live a hard life, there's light at the end of the tunnel." There doesn't always have to be one right answer when it comes to literature, and sometimes I think people forget about that. Sometimes, things are debatable. It all depends on the mindset of the reader.

But what do you think? How did you perceive characters like Bella Swan and Cinderella?

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