Week 7 Response

The very last chapter of “Charlotte Temple” is interesting to me because it goes back to Charlotte’s parents in England raising Charlotte’s child.  Up to this point, Belcour is killed by Montraville, and Montraville is left to spend the rest of his days “subject to severe fits of melancholy” and comsumed with guilt and remorse for what had become of Charlotte.  Charlotte, herself, is taken into the care of a kind servant, but it is too late to save her; she dies soon after.  Her father is there to witness his daughter’s last moments and to claim his grandchild, Lucy, and bring her back to safety in England.

What most intrigued me about the last chapter of the novel is that I thought Madame La Rue was going to get away with what part she had taken in Charlotte’s demise.  But Rowson instead saves the worst of all the “villains” for last.  She does not get away scot free; in fact, her marriage has fallen apart and her life has gone completely downhill.  She is treated with pity and kindness by Mrs. Temple, but La Rue feels that she does not deserve any of it, telling Mrs. Temple that “I am the viper that stung your peace.”  La Rue is the final image of the book, subjecting herself to “those miseries […] which I had unfeelingly inflicted on others.”  Despite the Temples efforts to set La Rue up in a hospital, La Rue does not live much longer after her confession.  Rowson’s last statement is perhaps the moral of her tale as well: “[La Rue] died, a striking example that vice, however prosperous in the beginning, in the end leads only to misery and shame.”  I feel this line best exemplifies why “Charlotte Temple” belongs to the world of moral tales and fables – it ends with the moral of the story, the ultimate lesson that is to be learned, the ultimate “truth” in this “Tale of Truth”.

lightning of possible storms

 “I dream about a kind of criticism that would try not to judge but to bring
an oeuvre, a book, a sentence, an idea to life; it would light fires, watch
the grass grow, listen to the wind, and catch the sea foam in the breeze
and scatter it. It would multiply not judgments but signs of existence; it
would summon them, drag them from their sleep. Perhaps it would invent
them sometimes — all the better.

“Criticism that hands down sentences sends me to sleep; I’d like a
criticism of scintillating leaps of imagination. It would not be sovereign or
dressed in red. It would bear the lightning of possible storms.”

-Michel Foucault, “The Masked Philosopher,” interview in *Le Monde,*
1980

lightning

Week 6 Response — Charlotte Temple

While reading “Charlotte Temple,” I was struck by the small passages written in first person by the author. These sections are meant to stand out from the rest of the story’s third-person narrative, and remind the reader of the author’s “intentions” as are stated in the Author’s Preface.

Rowson writes in the Preface, “If the following tale should save one hapless fair one from the errors which ruined poor Charlotte, or rescue from impending misery the heart of one anxious parent, I shall feel a much higher gratification in reflecting on the trifling performance, than could possibly result from the applause which might attend the most elegant finished piece of literature whose tendency might deprave the heart or mislead the understanding.”

This paragraph, to me, is the beginning of Rowson’s relationship with the reader. Before even reading a single line of the novel, we are lead to believe that Rowson is genuine and not looking for any kind of fame or success from this novel. That it is purely for cautionary purposes. I think it’s an odd way to start a novel, but at least we know what her intentions are as an author, and who she is writing for.

Also in the Author’s Preface, we are told that the story of Charlotte Temple is based on a true story, “thrown over the whole a slight veil of fiction.” I think Rowson includes this to control how the reader might think of the story while they are reading and the events are unfolding. By claiming that it’s based on true events, we might take the story more seriously and see Charlotte as a real person. I believe this is what made the novel so popular when it was first published; one article I read claimed that there were “Charlotte cults” and even a grave in New York that was believed to be the real Charlotte’s grave. People flocked to the grave just to get closer to the legend and to feel connected to her in some more palpable way.

Rowson continues throughout the novel to make the reader aware of her “re-telling”. It resembles a moral fable or fairy tale, with a lesson to be learned at the end. She writes, “Once more read over the sorrows of poor Mrs. Temple, and remember; the mother whom you so dearly love and venerate will feel the same, when you, forgetful of the respect due to your maker and yourself, forsake the paths of virtue for those of vice and folly” (p. 49). Here she asks the reader to reread while putting herself in the shoes of the character. It’s a very effective technique for getting the reader to identify with the characters, their situations and emotions.

Hello world!

my first entry.

let’s start with a picture…which is worth a thousand words, so they say.

the pompidou museum

this is what the facade of the modern art museum in paris looks like. it’s very colorful and crazy. outside the main entrance, there is a long concrete slope where people can gather and sit and stare at the building’s architecture. lots of art students gather here to sketch and draw. i wish there was a building like this in philly. i’d visit it everday.