Monday, September 15, 2008

I'm feeling highly unsatisfied by the end of the novel. A lot of loose ends are left flapping in the breeze. And that nice grunt of satisfaction I emit when I finish a book refused to rise to my lips.
I'm not saying all literature has to have a neat, perfect ending in which everyone gets what they deserved and all plot lines are closed. Authors may use their artistic license as they please. But I certainly expected the classical Jane Austen-style writing of Ruiz de Burton to deliver as it had promised.
Mr. Hackwell sort of fades into the horizon, his retribution seeming mild. I wanted to see him suffer....he was no ambiguous, conflicted villain; he was clearly possessed by greed and lust, he was capable of the worst treachery without thinking twice. He should have been disgraced in front of society, made to plead and cry and feel the pain he inflicted upon others.
The reunion and imminent romantic bliss of Julian and Lola was left largely unmentioned, apart from a few basic sentences. The whole novel, I longed for them to have some explosion of passion and joy after so many trials...I'm not saying I wanted a sex scene (it can't be expected from a book like this, sadly), I just wanted all their goodness to come back to them, for them to be rewarded for being so pure and kind and moral.
The return of Doctor Norval, the beloved and benevolent patriarch, was hardly described. The mystery of his disappearance was left a mystery. His reactions to all that had happened in his absence, which I awaited eagerly, were omitted. He was such a big character in the first half that I expected much, much more.
On a lesser level, the weak and greedy Cackles continue their shenanigans in the government without any recognition of their blatant idiotic political ladder-climbing, and Ruth gets to marry a rich Cackle and continues with her superficial life.
Only Mrs. Norval losing her mind satisfied slightly my hunger for retribution. Even in her insanity, the kind Doctor protects her and keeps her from going into a mental institution.
And don't ask me WHAT was the deal with the last few pages.....Ruiz de Burton's political commentary getting out of hand and taking over the plot and becoming tedious. A bit of a disappointment.
But maybe Ruiz de Burton's intent was for us (or people in those days) to see that this stuff would continue on and on...that the bad guys don't always get what they deserve and neither do the good guys. That corruption and materialism and inequality are realities that transcend all time periods. And I see her point. I just wanted a Hollywood ending.


Jon said...

It's true, as I also mentioned in class, that the ending is a let-down. As you point out, we see little or nothing of Dr. Norval following his long-awaited return from Africa, and nothing at all about Julian and Lola's subsequent life in Mexico.

Indeed, more generally, the "good" characters are off-stage for the vast majority of the novel. Isaac is penned up in a Southern prisoner of war camp. We don't even see Julian very much. (Lavinia is perhaps the one exception, but her main purpose is to show us how bad and uncaring the US government is.) It's as though goodness can't survive in the real world, in Ruiz de Burton's view. It has to be protected by being kept out of sight.

All in all, it's a fairly bleak outlook.

saucey boy said...

I must agree that I was biting my nails waiting for Lola and Julian to consummate their love, because denying Lola's sexuality is a far cry from feminism. The book does linger on love and romanticism, but leaves too much to the imagination.

deanna-maria said...

I wanted a happy ending too! I feel as if this novel had no closure in it whatsoever. Dr. Norval, Lola's good Samaritan and savior disappears from his (more) major role in the novel, then comes back as more of a walking-corpse than a character.

This novel really does seem to revolve around the more dynamic (and more villainous) charachters such as Mrs. Norval. I mean, Issac and Julian are gone at war. Lola is in a convent, and Dr. Norval is MIA...the only people that seem to have a solid plot and who are mostly staying in the same place are the Norval girls and the Cackles.

Beth said...

I wouldn’t say the ending was a complete let-down either. Although, from hearing the opinions of Jon and our classmates, you would think Ruiz de Burton had decided she was bored and abruptly ended the book mid-sentence. No, it was not the most scintillating, satisfying conclusion I have ever come across, but I would not go as far as to say it was a terrible ending. I feel the ending just seemed to suit her style of writing. Throughout the entire novel, I got the impression that although Ruiz de Burton was thoroughly enjoying the telling of her marvelously satirical story, her priority was to convey the social criticisms that comprise the better part of her novel. Considering her proficiency with the written word, I am relatively certain that if Ruiz de Burton’s primary agenda were to produce a deliciously satisfying read for her audience we would have seen a far more sensational and leisurely ending. By concluding the novel with an excessively satirical, deliberate emphasis on the hypocrisy and self-righteousness of the impudent Cackles, I feel Maria Ruiz de Burton remained loyal to her fundamental literary purpose.