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Old 01-02-2019, 08:36 PM   #108
bfisher
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Quote:
Originally Posted by issybird View Post
I agree with this, but for me there's something else, too. With a great book, I think it exists on its own. I don't care about how it's been influenced by the author's life or how it's a representation of its times; it has its own self-contained world. I'm not saying those things might not come up, for fun and insight, but they don't matter.

With a flawed book, though, those factors become interesting and possibly even compelling to me. It's impossible for me now not to see The Scarlet Pimpernel and other books of its stripe as representative of a reactionary impulse in the zeitgeist. The age of the common man was dawning, and the Orczy element was resisting with all its worth. Save the nobility at all cost, pay lip service to its centuries of cruelty to the oppressed, patronize the working class. (Sally's "little mind.") So Orczy drew on her own experience as having fled a peasant uprising and cast her mind back to the start of it all, the French revolution. One wonders, as you implied above, just what would have got the aristocrats' attention short of the Terror? France did keep returning to the kingdom/empire mode for the best part of the next century; that tendency was hard to root out for good.
How well you put that, issybird. One needn't accept the morality of whaling to savour Moby Dick.

I enjoyed The Scarlet Pimpernel the first time I read it, without really thinking about its messages. This time around, I was much more aware of the ideological overtones of the novel, but I still enjoyed it as an adventure novel, even knowing the plot, which says something about Orczy's skills as a writer. Deciphering the author's views gave it an extra level of interest, and helped to explain so many of the odd phrases and portrayals in the novel
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