Clergyman's Daughter (Penguin Modern Classics)

A Clergyman's Daughter - George Orwell full review below!

reading in progress, but i have a couple of minutes for a few ideas i'll develop later on in the review.

- i love this.
- i really love this.
- main character, a believable woman, Dorothy, she's smart, but the smartness is triggered through her liberation from her former life
- the narrative has a few glitches - like, what happened with her memory? i have 50 more pages to go, maybe i'll find out!!
- the use of the adjective "subhuman" reffering to an 11 year old girl's glance to the world is brilliant and perfectly integrated in the phrase
- human typologies, human typologies everywhere!
- a teacher named "Strong" who "failed" - me likey the use of language
- Orwell can write, and write GOOD, other things than political brochures and dystopian worlds of doom and pain
- it's sad that this had to be censored, would've loved to read the original version of this

i'll finish it soon and come back with a full review!

final review

i must confess. i have this weird habbit, ever since i was about 8 or 9 years old, to read out loud the scenes of a book that i really like, and to do the same thing to the last like 30 pages of it. it slows my reaing down by a lot, and it allows me to fully process what i'm reading, so i enjoy doing this. if i'm at home, i read it like it should be, with characters and an objective tale teller voice, and when i'm at school or in the bus i mumble it under my breath, so no one calls any law department. there are books of which i don't read like this any page, at all, and there are works that i almost fully read out loud, because of how many lines are really good and impress me.

out of A Clergyman's daughter, i read about 70 pages total out loud. that is a lot, even for me. it means i had a blast reading this. which i did.

the woman character of this book, Dorothy, the clergyman's daughter, is a 28 year old virgin, and her life revolves around the church and caring for her father and old people. it's a bidimensional life, nothing happens that would change the original order, and she is content with it. misfortune follows her, and they are poor, the beginning of the book finding her struggle to obtain more money so that they have something to eat. she is constantly under stress and finds no time for herself, so her entire existance hangs by other people's presence.

throughout the book, she goes trough three major phases. first, she is presented as this still young, naive girl, who has no preparation for the real world and lives in her bubble, a small country village, where everyone knows everything about everyone. the moment that changes is the first "change" of her statute: she abruptly loses her memory and wakes up eight days later with no notion whatsoever about who she was or what she used to do. she finds herself in the company of thieves and beggars so, forced by her hunger, she becomes one too. after working on a plantation for a while, she is woken up to reality after she gets a shock when her man friend is arrested for theft. she remembers who she was, and what she had done, but she still has eight days missing from her memory. after desperately trying to reach out to her father, she moves to London, where after a week of fruitless job hunting, she spends 10 days as a beggar in Trafalgar Square, surrounded by low life and pain. the climax comes when she gets into jail, and is bailed out. by chance, she receives help from a relative and becomes a teacher at a small, unregistered school where the head mistress only cares for money. in the third and final phase, she is abruptly dismissed from the school and saved by an old acquaintance, and then comes what i thought was the most brilliant part of this work: the lecture he gives her and her return to her old habbits and life, as a clergyman's daughter, in her home village.

for people that like thrillery stories, this won't impress you. but for the ones who like to watch and understand the development of the character through certain events, it is a fascinating story.

i have so many things to say about this i don't even know where to start.

from beginning to end, one of the main questions Dorothy comes with is if faith in God is good. she begins as a believer, but not an ardent follower. after she experiences hurt, hunger, pain, loss, detachment, she loses that faith, but still chooses to fake it, and go back to her mechanical, bidimensional life, because she thinks it's better to pretend you believe than to not believe and maybe make others not believe too. she thinks faith saves human beings, but it ironically didn't save her. any kind of philosophy she has doesn't seem to apply to her.

her returning to the old life resembles a "giving up" moment for most of us, but she really believes, in her heart, that going back to what dumbed her is correct and righteous and the best option she has.

at one point, near the end, the book becomes a sort of an essay on life and death, the meaning of both, the role faith plays in someone's life and how easy it is not to live, to truly live.

“And in every detail of your life, if no ultimate purpose redeemed it, there was a quality of greyness, of desolation, that could never be described, but which you could feel like a physical pang at your heart. Life, if the grave really ends it, is monstrous and dreadful. No use trying to argue it away. Think of life as it really is, think of the details of life; and then think that there is no meaning in it, no purpose, no goal except the grave. Surely only fools or self-deceivers, or those whose lives are exceptionally fortunate, can face that thought without flinching?”

these kind of moments i find beautiful written, and i was absolutely stunned at how much depth Orwell can reach. this is my first Orwell book who had no tags on it, like the two ones everyone knows, Animal Farm and 1984. I read those and i found them amazing, especialli 1984, but this reaches a whole new level.

in the end, i want to talk about the thing that really made me propel this book from 4 stars to 5 stars. while being a teacher, Dorothy gives lessons to a class of 22 girls, the older being 15, and finds them completely empty of knowledge, with no thinking done for themselves. she manages to change the system, for a brief period of time, and sparks their interest at certain objects. after she reads the word "womb"in Shakespeare's "Macbeth" out loud to the class, some of them go home and ask their parents what that is. revolted, they come to the school and almost get her fired because she dared to teach their children such a thing. she is forced to go back to the old ways. she goes back to feeding them prepacked information in a manner that allows no understanding, no critical thinking, no analysis, no processing, just swallowing and shitting it out in a verbal diarrhea that, let's face it, any child is capable of. it made me think of my education and how lucky i am to have been given a kick in the ass and a smack over my head and a single task: "think for yourself". annalyze, question, compare, combat, connect, recreate. it's these notions that have almost zero value in today's education and i say this is one of the saddest things that we have to deal with.

by all means the girl's minds become a void again, and there is a sentence that goes like "she learned the sad art of being a teacher" (i'm translating now, i read it in romanian). Also, "she learned to protect her mind and become ruthless, she learned to feel proud that an absurd, useless system is paying off".

i read that and thought about my teachers, all throughout the 12 years of school i had. most of them i hated because, on some unconscious level, i saw them hating me. not me personally, but rather what i represented: a generation of proud idiots, tomorrow's proud idiot leaders. and then i thought about my good teachers, the people that have shaped me, as much as they could in the little span of time they had. the people that i will always remember as "that teacher...", women and men who by the power of example showed me how to achieve higher standards. i thought about them, and how they get up every day and deal with the swamp we call school and the invertebrates we call students, how they put up with the bovine looks and stupidity and lack of respect from 90% of the kids, just for the chance to plant a seed in some better kid mind's soil.

and i hope, i really hope, i have never ever given any of my good teachers a "subhuman" look or reason to despair over how useless it is to plow so many minds and gain no harvest at all.

i feel like i've written enough for this review, but i don't feel like i emptied the well of things-to-say-about-it.

it's a beautiful book and if you're open enough, it will make you think. and the one thing that unites good books all over the world is that they make you think.