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Friday, July 9, 2010

13 to Life: The Struggle with Sarah

Another one bites the dust...Well, another one in my ongoing effort to win Shannon Delany's Change is Good—Ask a Werewolf contest.  This is my entry of taking one of Jess's best friend's, Sarah, and reflecting on what Sarah's voracious reading selection may say about her as a character.

Sarah’s Book List
—Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
—Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
—The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
—Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
—Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
—The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

In 13 to Life, Jess is constantly telling us that Sarah is her best friend. In the beginning, we see Sarah as a very quiet character, mainly in the background.  Sarah seems very sheltered by the other characters.  When we do finally see her start to come out of her shell, she’s not exactly who we think she is—But I don’t think Sarah is who she thinks she is, either.

Sarah is a voracious reader.  I, myself, read a variety of books, and have read many on Sarah’s list, but I think it’s safe to say that Shannon Delany is using Sarah’s reading list as a clue to what’s going on with Sarah, and what might be coming.

A quick rundown of Sarah’s reading list:
Sense and Sensibility is a story about sisters, finding themselves in less than ideal circumstances and trying to find the balance in their lives between emotion and reason.
The Great Gatsby centers on Jay Gatsby, a character with a hazy past.  He’s in love with Daisy Buchanan, a materialistic woman whose love for Gatsby or any man is dependant on their status.  When it’s revealed that illegal bootlegging was the source of his wealth, it looks as though Gatsby will lose Daisy—With Gatsby’s abrupt demise, it’s difficult to say whether or not Daisy would have overlooked the shallowness of public perception to be with Gatsby.
Great Expectations is the story of Pip, a young boy born into less than ideal circumstances, and who wants to make something of himself.  When reading it, Sarah herself says, “It’s amazing.  It’s all about moral self-improvement.  The character wants to be a better person and works really hard at it.” 
Frankenstein is both about a doctor and a “monster.”  Doctor Frankenstein works in fervor, trying to create a better, more perfect human being.  But when Frankenstein’s creature is complete, the doctor is repulsed, believing he has created a monster.  The creature is actually very intelligent and articulate, he teaches himself to read and tries to befriend people, but all anyone sees is a monster when they look at him.  It is the doctor who is the real monster, for completely abandoning his creation to a life of fear, hatred, and isolation.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is about a person’s struggle within himself.  Dr. Jekyll represents the scientific, rational side of a person, while Mr. Hyde represents passion and reckless chaos.
The Catcher in the Rye is another novel where the main character, Holden Caulfield is struggling with who he is and his frustrations with society.

All of these novels seem to illustrate an inner struggle within Sarah.  But the real question is, which characters does Sarah identify with?  Does Sarah identify with Gatsby’s hazy past and efforts to hide who he used to be, and possibly even his efforts to hide who he still is underneath?  Or does Sarah see herself in the shallow trappings of Daisy Buchanan; is status more important to her than love or friendship?  If Sarah is really so clouded about her own past, why does she seem so drawn to Pip, a character that Sarah sees as someone bent on making themselves a better person?  What could Sarah’s past have been like, that she so desperately seeks to be something better?  Does Sarah identify with Dr. Frankenstein’s failings of trying to create something better?  Or does she feel isolated and misunderstood, like the Creature?  Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde especially seems to reinforce that Sarah feels conflicted within herself, that Sarah seems to see herself as two people.  But which version of herself does she see as the monster—Is it her current self?  Or does Sarah feel like the monster is a past version of herself, and possibly a future version, struggling to be free.  And, lastly, in The Catcher in the Rye, one of the most famous books about teenage angst, Holden struggles with who he wants to be versus who other people see him as, and his own view of others as being “phony.”

With a reading list like this, Sarah definitely seems on the verge of some major changes in her life.  She seems to want to be a better person, but which version of herself does she think is her better self?  Can she find a balance; or will she have to choose between the two?  Sarah’s character may have started in the background, but I have a feeling she’s going to be more and more present.

Well, my only answer is that we're going to have to read the upcoming sequel, Shadows and Secrets to find out!


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