One of the things that I value the most about exchanging views with you guys is precisely that we frequently have different perceptions about books. That enriches my reading. Although at first reading I tended to coincide more with Joffre (seeing, perhaps naively, Glas as a "freedom fighter" from the more liberal society of the future, inserted in a religious, conservative one), I can also see now Sterling's point. But this takes us into a possibly uncomfortable discussion about the role of religion (since we have different positions on it): Helga indeed says she was not in any way coerced into marriage, but actually she seems to have been, by religion, guilt, and this urge to marry off girls as soon as possible to the "best" candidate available.
This is not, at first sight, Gregorius's fault (as Sterling says). But it is, since it is very unlikely that a young, pretty girl really wants to have sex with an old, ugly, sanctimonious guy. Maybe there was no way out of it in the Stockholm of the early XX Century, but there it is: she is repulsed by her legitimate husband. Sadly, she doesn't have the divorce option, so she is left with a passion for a younger, more suitable man who can't be her husband and so uses her as a diversion until a serious marriage opportunity comes along.
And Glas... well, he is the subject of psychoanalysis, a man clearly troubled with a disastrous father figure, who probably hates Gregorius as a substitute for his own father (I'm getting Freudian here!), and has a crush on the beuatiful girl he is unable to attain in real life. He IS a murderer and has no business fixing Helga's life, but he is also a fascinating narrator, reliable or not, and that's what gives this subtle novel its value, I think.
: Okay. I feel that the glimpse the doctor gets
: of her at the very end, creeping hurriedly
: out in the middle of the night to mail a
: letter looking "chalk-white" pale,
: is meant to illustrate her despair. The
: last two entries suggest a man whose life
: has fallen to ashes. I'm not sure what
: you're taking from the end of the book that
: this is not obvious.
: Helga explicitly says, "Nobody cajoled
: me; nobody put any pressure on me."
: This is not a case of "marrying off
: young women to old men." The "old
: man" simply states that he is
: interested. Clearly, she could have simply
: refused and that would have been the end of
: it. She marries him for distorted reasons
: associated with guilt and religion. Since
: she was not pressured in any way (except by
: her own conscience, of which Gregorius could
: have no inkling), it is not unreasonable for
: him to think that she wishes to be his wife
: in all ways. I have to think that Vollman
: is the exception, not the rule.
: The doctor specifically says that he has
: hated Gregorius since the first time he saw
: him, twenty years before the events of the
: story. It is explicit that he despises him
: for purely physical reasons. There is no
: particular sense that the doctor hates all
: pastors. It is not even explicit that he
: despises religion. He hates Gregorius
: because he finds the man to be ugly, which
: is, of course, pretty loathsome, because
: obviously the man can't help how he looks.
: Of course he's lying to himself. The entire
: diary is filled with rationalizations and
: self-deceptions. He believes himself to be
: diabolically clever. In fact, he's pretty
: clueless. Guillermo asked for psychiatric
: insight. Well, I spend my days listening to
: people who do not understand themselves, who
: are hiding things from themselves, who
: pretend that they don't know things about
: themselves that they obviously do know but
: don't want to admit. To themselves.
: Unreliable narrators are not necessarily
: looking to fool others. Often they are
: fooling themselves.
: --Previous Message--
: We seem to be reading not a confession but a
: personal diary meant for the doctor's eyes
: only, so he has no reason to be lying to us.
: He may, of course, still be lying to
: himself, and is unreliable to that extent. I
: do think he is unaware of the source of some
: of his feelings.
: He feels distaste for the pastor even before
: Helga comes to him. Why? Perhaps some of it
: is the distaste of a man of science for a
: man of faith. Perhaps the pastor really does
: have an ugly face; that is reason enough to
: dislike someone until they make some
: favorable impression. Most of it is probably
: because of his attraction to Helga. He knows
: the pastor has a pretty wife before she
: comes to him. Does the pastor deserve the
: doctor's distaste?
: pastor seems to be
: hypocritical, lecherous, selfish, cruel and
: Surely that would have described most of the
: town. Sterling says his main crime is that
: he wants to have sex with his wife and that
: he can't be blamed for that. But to me this
: seems like one of those old situations in
: which the pretty young girl was married off
: to the established older man. Of course, we
: can't expect all men to be as sensitive to
: young women's feelings as our dear Vollman
: from the Bardo (by the way, I came across
: the term Bardo in yet another book I'd never
: read before; it seems to be the word of the
: year), but such a thing is surely sufficient
: to heighten distaste for a man, at least
: once the young woman's distaste is
: I am not sure the doctor ruined anyone's
: life. He cannot be said to have ruined the
: pastor's. He has ended the pastor's life; it
: is no longer a source of pain or pleasure to
: him, or if he was right, as a pastor, his
: state has improved. Whether or not he has
: ruined Helga's life depends on the situation
: she is left in. If she is financially
: secure, she is almost certainly better off.
: And as he seems to be in no danger of
: arrest, the doctor has certainly not ruined
: his on life.
: I think the doctor is in a quiet revolt
: against his time or his society. Why does he
: bring up the abortions at all? He
: sympathizes with the women and would like to
: help them, but feels he can't in his world,
: and surely he was right. Part of his
: distaste for the pastor is his distaste for
: the practice of marrying off young women to
: old men they couldn't possibly be attracted
: to, indeed with the whole philosophy of
: marriage of the time. His distaste for the
: society he lives in makes him think of
: suicide, of his right to die whenever he
: wants, and so he carries his pills. Is there
: anything wrong with him? Well, he is who he
: is. Could he feel better, be happier? Maybe,
: but he could also take one of his pills.
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