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Analysis of Jacob Have I Loved

Louise, the protagonist of Katherine Patterson’s Jacob Have I Loved, infuriates me. She fights against ghosts of what she wishes to be and against what she really is, kicking and screaming all the way. I don’t debate that she struggles with good reason — certainly the neglect from her family, whether perceived or real, and the expectations her culture (I really want to say environment here) has placed on her gender role have contributed to her plight — but her great inner strength and insight belies her inability to overcome or at least circumvent those obstacles. To me, she is a rebel with the sole cause of declaring her independence from her expected gender role. And, in that, I find myself, a young man with no common ground with my same gender parent, knowing that I am strong in not being so, and yet flailing loudly but vacuously against that fact as if it were not good enough. I do not like Louise because she is a female reflection of me whose wounds are mine.

Early in the novel, the roots of Louise’s issues are easy to trace to her resentment of her sister and the attention she commanded, resulting in my initial disregard for her as, to use a colloquialism, a whiner. Indeed, I did not at all identify with this other than my experience with younger siblings (I am the oldest.) whining in much the same way about me. This certainly made it easy for me to create an objective distance from Louise and in fact, made it possible for me to tolerate listening to her since I could see nothing in her like me — she was no threat and even though I didn‘t like her, it was more a matter of taste than sensibility.

This changed dramatically when she suggested that the school’s Christmas show be reconsidered in light of the war and was met with indifference by her teacher, Mr. Rice. Her reaction to his rejection (to her at least) cut me to the bone:

…but the hot shame and indignation inside me made me forget the wind as I walked. I was right. I knew I was right, so why had they all laughed? And why had Mr. Rice let them? He hadn’t even tried to explain what I had meant to the others… (31)

First, the power of this quotation overwhelms me with the exact same hurt I always felt when rejected by peers and/or abandoned by a trusted adult (whose gender and role also hold significance, as I will show shortly) in the face of that rejection.

Analyzing the Characters of Waterland

Analyzing the Characters of Waterland

In “Waterland” Swift weaves a magical yet haunting tale of ordinary characters who live through they’re own struggles and problems unadorned by the complexity of world history yet forever revolving around the isolated and mysterious Fenns. His characters are a formidable mix of the stereotyped and the unordinary as he shows us how even the most common person can lead the strangest and most complex life and display a vast range of opposed emotions and thoughts.

“Waterland” is a profound study of human nature that not only displays the intricacies of people but also analyses the men and woman that live among us and for which each of us can find a name. Thus we all know an Ernest Atkinson, a bourgeois born into wealth who finds a meaning in life in the texts of Marx which push him to oppose the life that has been imposed on him thus angering his town and family. Ernest is the most interesting character in that he shows how geniuses and men with unorthodox ideas are often called rebels and segregated from the rest of society in their uniqueness and intensity. Mary in “Waterland” leads a disturbingly bizarre life that ends with her kidnapping a baby; the transformation of her personality following the abortion and her increasing mental instability shows the fragility of the human mind. Her character as that of Ernest is astoundingly realistic and thus one of the most effective characters in the novel.

One of the most compelling characteristics of Swift’s writing is his mysterious characters, he only describes people at the most important and relevant part of their lives and the rest is left to the readers imagination. He also surprises the reader by withholding vital information about a character for a couple chapters than suddenly revealing it thus changing the reader’s perspective completely. This permits him to build up formidably complex minds in very short periods of time as he only describes what is striking and always brings new dimensions to old characters thus he shows what Mary was like when she was a “little Madonna” and abruptly changes our whole perspective of her when we learn of her adventures thus shedding the first layer of mystery and giving the reader something new to reflect on. Swift also for some of the characters gives us information at the very the beginning of “Waterland” and it takes the whole novel for us to learn how that person died (in the case of Dick) or became insane (in the case of Mary).

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