# Logic in Math and in the Arts

This post is prompted mainly from my first-year writing seminar, English 1170: Short Stories. A couple days ago we discussed “The Necklace” and “Araby,” by Guy de Maupassant and James Joyce respectively. Being a math/logic person, I found there’s just something uncanny about literary analysis—something similar, yet not the same—as if it requires a subtly different kind of logic. I felt I was thinking in a completely different manner in that class, and asked myself, are logic in math and logic in literary analysis the same? Today, in a discussion on “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe, I think I found my answer.

The discovery is not that the logic is different: logic is when one thing follows another, and this chain is the same for mathematics and literature. Rather, the primary difference is in the direction of the chain.

In math, we often have to prove a theorem. We know exactly what it is we’re trying to prove: we’re just supplying what gets us there. Of course, this can get very tough sometimes, but we know at least what the end result is.

The difference in analyzing literature is that we at first don’t know what we’re trying to prove—we don’t know what argument about the work we want to make.

Literary analysis is therefore more open-ended. I’m not saying mathematical proofs are easy—many of them are unsolved or have taken centuries to solve—but they are defined problems that can be solved (or be shown to be unsolvable). Analyzing literature is really weird since I’m so used to mathematical logic.

Also, the reason I made this post and not earlier is that I’ve never done literary analysis on this level before. In this case there is a noticeable difference between high school and college.

# Young Goodman Brown

All right, I must first get this out of the way: I don’t like Nathaniel Hawthorne’s writing style. I mean, he’s the guy who wrote The Scarlett Letter.

But I’ll have to admit that his short story “Young Goodman Brown” is a very intriguing piece of work. The context? I’m taking an English class (ENGL 1170: Short Stories) for my writing seminar, and our primary book is 40 Short Stories compiled by Beverly Lawn. “Young Goodman Brown” is the first story. Of course, I don’t intend to write a blog post on each one, but I will share the ones I find the most awesome. This means I will be adding to this blog another category: Short Stories.

I would encourage you to read “Young Goodman Brown” if you haven’t already. In case, here is an online copy of the text: http://www.online-literature.com/hawthorne/158/.

Dream or Reality?

In the fifth to last paragraph, Goodman Brown wakes up in a forest and doesn’t know whether the previous events of his being at a devil worship in the forest were real or a dream. Hawthorne leaves it ambiguous. (Remember, this was published in 1835, fully 175 years before Inception.)

I would argue it’s a dream.

First, the story is too supernatural. The devil figure in the woods carries a serpentine staff that seems to animate twice. The first time Brown dismisses it as an “ocular deception” (p. 2 of 40 Short Stories). The second time, though still uncertain, is quite vivid:

So saying, he threw it [the staff] at her feet, where, perhaps, it assumed life, being one of the rods which its owner had formerly lent to the Egyptian magi. Of this fact, however, Goodman Brown could not take cognizance. (5)

The fact that Brown sees the staff coming to life twice may imply it isn’t just by mistake. And even if you don’t take the staff’s animation as a sign of the supernatural, perhaps you will take the actual devil figure as supernatural.

Second, it’s too coincidental. Of course, most literature have those moments when the right thing happens at the right place, at the right time, but here, one scene does seem very contrived. It is scene in which Goodman Brown sees the pink ribbon fall from the sky, the pink being ribbon a part of Faith, his wife. It is an extreme coincidence that the ribbon happens to fall in the middle of the woods precisely where Brown is sitting, and at precisely the time he calls out for Faith. (Then again, the very much real ‘A’ that appeared in the sky in The Scarlett Letter was a super coincidence as well.)

Third, when Goodman Brown wakes up he is in an uncorrupted forest. The most telling sentence is this:

He staggered against the rock, and felt it chill and damp; while a hanging twig, that had been all on fire, besprinkled his cheek with the coldest dew. (12)

So, when just before, the twig had been on fire and the rock had been hot and dry, they are now cool and moist. This isn’t even in the morning. He wakes up to find himself here in the middle of the calm night. Thus, we have sufficient reason to believe the journey of Goodman Brown is but a dream.

# I Write Like…

George Orwell, Arthur C. Clarke, Ursula K. Le Guin, Isaac Asimov, and Chuck Palahniuk, according to this funny online tool called “I Write Like.”

Actually, what I did was, I fed into the “I Write Like” analyzer the first five chapters of my Mirror novel, one at a time, and got these five different authors. I recognized Orwell, Clarke, and Asimov, but had no clue who Le Guin or Palahniuk were, so I wiki’d them. Considering my story is dystopian/science fiction, the results are pretty accurate for the content.

Chapter One: George Orwell

English writer best known for the novels 1984 and Animal Farm.

The opening of George Orwell’s 1984:

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the class doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.

I’m not going to give any spoilers on my novel, but the first paragraph won’t hurt:

A dark and sweltering city, where light shined from only one cluster of buildings: the chief luminosity came from a circular structure of steel and glass, rising twenty-two stories into the sky. On the roof was a grid of solar panels that, in the daytime, rotated to the Sun. Inside the structure, a maze of plants freshened and purified the air. The building, like most around it, was completely sustainable, running on its own power grid, producing not a breath of carbon dioxide. It was, in every sense of the word, environmental.

(Note: I used the entire chapter for the analysis, not just this paragraph. If I just enter this paragraph, it gives Arthur C. Clarke, whom I match for my second chapter.)

Not the clearest comparison, but at least the subject matters are somewhat similar.

Chapter Two: Arthur C. Clarke

English science fiction writer best known for the novels Childhood’s End and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Also, I should mention that of the five authors, Orwell is the only one I’ve actually read. Being a sci-fi person, I’ve obviously heard of Clarke and Asimov, but am not familiar with them.

An excerpt from 2001: A Space Odyssey by Clarke:

Bowman was already up, pouring himself some coffee from the dispenser, when Poole greeted him with a rather worried “good morning.” After all these months in space, they still thought in terms of the normal twenty-four-hour cycle – though they had long since forgotten the days of the week.

Now an excerpt from my novel’s chapter 2:

Spek left the room in disgust. As he walked out into the unlit night street a lash of warm air caught him for a moment before he started walking again. It was a hotter March than ever. Global warming. It reminded him of the difficulty in modeling the weather, of adding in all the cycles, inputs, and outputs. And how chaotic it was: if there was one wrong piece of data in one frame of the simulation, it would cause the next frame to be wrong as well, causing eventually the entire simulation to fail.

Note: I’m trying to pick passages of similarity.

Chapter Three: Ursula K. Le Guin

American author notable in fantasy and science fiction, known for the two universes of the Hainish Cycle and Earthsea.

Based on what I saw find online, I couldn’t find a matching excerpt, so I’ll just insert a paragraph from A Wizard of Earthsea:

The island of Gont, a single mountain that lifts its peak a mile above the storm-racked Northeast Sea, is a land famous for wizards. From the towns in its high valleys and the ports on its dark narrow bays many a Gontishman has gone forth to serve the Lords of the Archipelago in their cities as wizard or mage, or, looking for adventure, to wander working magic from isle to isle of all Earthsea. Of these some say the greatest, and surely the greatest voyager, was the man called Sparrowhawk, who in his day became both dragonlord and Archmage. His life is told of in the Deed of Ged and in many songs, but this is a tale of the time before his fame, before the songs were made.

Excerpt from my novel’s chapter 3:

An asteroid collision sixty-five million years ago shuffled the gene pool, wiping out the great beasts who had clawed their way to the top, and leaving behind a new competition for survival. But this time, there was to be no competition to determine which species would succeed the human. There would be no other species. Maybe a few microbes, he thought. But that was it. Nothing capable of intelligence.

Chapter Four: Isaac Asimov

A prolific American writer considered a master of science fiction, and most known for the Foundation series.

From Wikipedia: “One of the most common impressions of Asimov’s fiction work is that his writing style is extremely unornamented.”

An excerpt from Asimov’s short story “The Last Question”:

The energy of the sun was stored, converted, and utilized directly on a planet-wide scale. All Earth turned off its burning coal, its fissioning uranium, and flipped the switch that connected all of it to a small station, one mile in diameter, circling the Earth at half the distance of the Moon. All Earth ran by invisible beams of sunpower.

As usual, from Mirror, this time chapter 4:

Almost as soon as she put the thermometer in place, the level began to rise. 26, 27, 28 within seconds. Unbelievably, the temperature was increasing.

That wasn’t due to the sun, in case you were wondering.

Chapter Five: Chuck Palahniuk

American; Wikipedia describes him as a journalist and “transgressional fiction novelist.” Turns out that this genre is the one in which a character feels confined by social expectations and breaks out of them. His writing style is also described on that page as “minimalist.” Known for the novel Fight Club, which was made into a famous film.

From Fight Club:

And this is how Tyler was free to start a fight club every night of the week. After this there were seven fight clubs, and after that there were fifteen fight clubs, and after that, there were twenty-three fight clubs, and Tyler wanted more. There was always money coming in.

And chapter 5:

He saw, as it passed overhead, a dark, high-flying bird that didn’t flap its wings. The sound was loudest as the bird passed overhead. And then it became quieter and quieter, until it was gone. A strange sight—but strange things happened every day. He continued rowing.

And the Winner Is… George Orwell

If I analyze the five chapters together, the result is George Orwell. Clarity for the win!

Other Matches, According to “I Write Like”

• The essay in my previous blog post, “Do Androids Dream of Science Fiction?,” matches the writing style of H. P. Lovecraft.
• My IB Theory of Knowledge essay matches H. P. Lovecraft. Hmm, it seems my nonfiction writing matches him a lot, even though I have never read anything by him.
• The “Plot Similarities in Blizzard Games” post matches Arthur C. Clarke again.
• The play Lewis’s Adventures in Wonderland (or at least, the 50% of it that I have so far written) unsurprisingly matches Lewis Carroll.
• My review of Toy Story 3 matches… H. P. Lovecraft. Again?
• A spoof of Othello (Shakespeare) written in the style of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead matches James Joyce. What?!
• The essay “Video Game Physics: A Case Study on the Falcon Punch” matches Ursula K. Le Guin again.
• The post about my novel matches Dan Brown.

Next I just need to add some wit and get Oscar Wilde.

# Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

A great work of imagination, with some very intriguing questions. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic future: owning animals is a sign of social status though many animals are fake, i.e., electric; a radioactive dust cloud envelopes Earth, causing many to emigrate; and bounty hunters find and “retire” illegal androids. The novel focuses on the day of one bounty hunter, Rick Deckard.

The Will to Live

Yet, the dark fire waned; the life force oozed out of her, as he had so often witnessed before with other androids. The classic resignation. Mechanical, intellectual acceptance of that which a genuine organism—with two billion years of the pressure to live and evolve hagriding it—could never have reconciled itself to.

An android coldly accepts death. It is programmed. A human fights to live. It is evolved.

But does this alone mean an android is less alive than a human? Is the will to live a prerequisite to life? It seems not. Androids, we learn, are capable of committing suicide via holding their breath. But human beings at times, when the cause is sufficient, sacrifice themselves as well. In Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Shadow (parallel of Ender’s Game), for example, we learn that the only reason Ender is able to defeat the Buggers is that the Bugger queen thought humans, as sentient beings, were incapable of self-sacrifice. His final attack was a mass sacrifice.

In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the androids die for different reasons, however, than humans. Some androids, on learning they are to be retired, give that “mechanical, intellectual acceptance.” They don’t fight back or argue for the truth. It would be analogous to a criminal being ordered the death sentence. Rarely do they immediately accept death.

“Will you kill me in a way that won’t hurt? I mean, do it carefully. If I don’t fight; okay? I promise not to fight. Do you agree?”

“I can’t stand the way you androids give up.”

Artificial Intelligence, and the Turing Test

The Turing Test is an abstract, hypothetical test on artificial intelligence. If a computer can successfully pass off as a human, it passes the test. If not, it fails.

In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, two such tests exist. The more prominent is the Voigt-Kampff Empathy Test. The tester asks the subject various questions drawing emotional responses to determine whether the subject is an android. More specifically, it measures response times in the eye. A human responds much faster to emotional stimuli than does a android. This is how Rick determines whether Rachael is an android.

The other is the Boneli Reflex-Arc Test, which is only mentioned, not used. According to another bounty hunter, Phil Resch, this test is “simpler” in that it does not require a tester to ask questions. It is fairly automatic and tests the inner biology of the subject. In a way, it almost cheating, and is not truly a Turing Test.

Intelligence

Right now, humans are still far more intelligent than computers. Douglas Hofstadter in Gödel, Escher, Bach points out that we humans are able to “jump out” of our thinking, thus starting a process of meta-thinking. For instance, we might be in the middle of calculating an 3-digit by 3-digit multiplication problem in our heads, and half way through, we suddenly realize, why don’t we just search the answer on Google? A computer calculating this problem, however, would never (at least our current generation of computers) think of doing that; it would simply go through the calculation. But at least it can do it in a split second.

Perhaps a more relevant example is the game of chess. A human grandmaster can look at a position, pick out three or four moves that seem good, analyze a few moves deep into one line, and then based on intuition, decide that the line is not worth analyzing any further, and then switch to analyzing a different line. The computer isn’t so smart. It has to go through EVERY possible move in the position, calculating EVERY possible reply to that move, and then EVERY possible reply to that too, and so on. The number of positions to calculate rises exponentially with each step, and eventually the computer is forced by programing to a stop. The computer, when analyzing an unpromising line, doesn’t say, “Oh, this looks bad, I won’t analyze it any more.” Instead, it will do as it’s been programmed to. The human will. The human can jump out of the current thinking process (analyzing one line) into a higher level of thought (this line is bad, so I’ll look at a different one).

In the same chess example, humans can jump out even further. Supposing the game is lasting very long, the human might need to go to the restroom at some point. At that point, the human’s subconscious, which machines don’t yet have, will tell him to do something other than stare at the chessboard. What if a fire starts? Our current machine won’t even notice. It’ll just continue analyzing the position. The human player would have long been gone. The human has jumped completely out of chess thought. The computer can’t.

In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the androids are often distinguishable from humans by this trait, that they cannot think at higher levels as humans can. Only one time I remember does an android demonstrate this human-like feat (correct me if I’m wrong):

“When I used the word ‘human,”‘ Roy Baty said to Pris, “I used the wrong word.”

Roy Baty realizes that by using the word “human,” he has betrayed the fact that he is an android, he catches himself. But other than that, androids seem to be characterized by their straightforward, mechanical thinking.

What is Deckard?

Is Rick Deckard himself an android? We have no idea. I strongly suspect he is. At one point, he asks himself a question from the Voigt-Kampff test and tells the other bounty hunter, Phil Resch, to watch the degree of the emotional response but not his reaction time. And as we know, Rick earlier used the method of measuring reaction time on Rachael to determine whether she was an android. Plus, Rick does not show much emotion in the book. The androids he retires seem to be more lively than him.

Blade Runner (1982) is the film adaptation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. It’s brilliant. 9/10.

It keeps the spirit of the book but changes much of the story, completely leaving out some themes. But that was necessary, and the filmography is excellent—they’ve created a convincing new world. Screenplay isn’t supposed to be the same thing as the original (I’m reading Syd Field’s Screenplay right now).

Blade Runner makes the question of whether Rick is a human or android even more prominent. It does so via an origami unicorn that Rick remembers from his dreams. In the end he sees one in front of his door. If he were an android with implanted memories, it would make sense how somebody knew about the origami unicorn dream.

I actually watched the film first. The book is Cornell University’s summer reading assignment, and the first time, I believe, I have ever read a science fiction book for school. Anyway, both the book and the film are outstanding.

# The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde’s only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, is a beautiful work of art, and it tells us—according to the book’s epigram and preface—that “all art is quite useless.” Therefore, I shall try not to dig far into the meaning, but rather, present some of the most funny and quotable material from the book.

The following passage comes from the very beginning of the book, where the painter Basil Hallward refuses to send his portrait of Dorian Gray anywhere. Lord Henry Wotton is of the opposite opinion:

“Not send it anywhere! My dear fellow, why? Have you any reason? What odd chaps you painters are! You do anything in the world to gain a reputation. As soon as you have one, you seem to want to throw it away. It is silly of you, for there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about. A portrait like this would set you far above all the young men in England, and make the old men quite jealous, if old men are ever capable of emotion.” (page 4)

Basil is an eccentric artist in other respects as well, for example, on secrecy:

“Dorian Gray? Is that his name?” asked Lord Henry, walking across the studio toward Basil Hallward.

“Yes, that is his name. I didn’t intend to tell it to you.”

“But why not?”

“Oh, I can’t explain. When I like people immensely I never tell their names to any one. It is like surrendering a part of them. I have grown to love secrecy. It seems to be the one thing that can make modern life mysterious or marvelous to us. The commonest thing is delightful if one only hides it. When I leave town now I never tell my people where I am going. If I did, I would lose all my pleasure. IT is a silly habit, I dare say, but somehow it seems to bring a great deal of romance into one’s life. I suppose you think me awfully foolish about it?” (page 6)

This starts a chain of witty remarks:

“Not at all,” answered Lord Henry, “not at all, my dear Basil.” You seem to forget that I am married, and the one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties. I never know where my wife is, and my wife never knows what I am doing. When we meet—we do meet occasionally, when we dine out together, or go down to the Duke’s—we tell each other the most absurd stories with the most serious faces. My wife is very good at it—much better, in fact, than I am. She never gets confused over her dates, and I always do. But when she does find me out, she makes no row at all. I sometimes wish she would; but she merely laughs at me.”

“I hate the way you talk about your married life, Harry,” said Basil Hallward, strolling toward the door that led into the garden. “I believe that you are really a very good husband, but that you are thoroughly ashamed of your own virtues. You are an extraordinary fellow. You never say a moral thing, and you never to a wrong thing. Your cynicism is simply a pose.

Being natural is simply a pose, and the most irritating pose I know,” cried Lord Henry, laughing. (page 6)

Some more amusing lines:

The whole thing was a fiasco. The last act was played to almost empty benches. The curtain went down on a titter, and some groans.

As soon as it was over, Dorian Gray rushed behind the scenes into the greenroom. The girl was standing there alone, with a look of triumph on her face. Her eyes were lit with an exquisite fire. There was a radiance about her. Her parted lips were smiling over some secret of their own.

When he entered she looked at him, and an expression of infinite joy came over her. “How badly I acted to-night, Dorian!” she cried.

“Horribly!” he answered, gazing at her in amazement—”horribly! It was dreadful. Are you ill? You have no idea what it was. You have no idea what I suffered!” (page 89)

“I should think it was, Harry. But according to your category I must be merely an acquaintance.”

“My dear old Basil, you are much more than an acquaintance.”

“And much less than a friend. A sort of brother, I suppose?”

Oh, brothers! I don’t care for brothers. My elder brother won’t die, and my younger brothers seem never to do anything else.” (page 10)

To be good is to be in harmony with one’s self,” he replied, touching the thin stem of his glass with his pale, fine pointed fingers. “Discord is to be forced to be in harmony with others. One’s own life—that is the most important thing. As for the lives of one’s neighbors, if one wishes to be a prig or a Puritan, one can flaunt one’s moral views about them, but they are not one’s concern. Besides, Individualism has really the higher aim. Modern morality consists in accepting the standard of one’s age. I consider that for any man of culture to accept the standard of his age is a form of the grossest immorality.”

“But, surely, if one lives merely for one’s self, Harry, one pays a terribly price for doing so?” suggested the painter.

“Yes, we are overcharged for everything nowadays. I should fancy that the real tragedy of the poor is that they can afford nothing but self-denial. Beautiful sins, like beautiful things, are the privilege of the rich.” (page 82)

Anyway, the novel was quite unlike anything I had ever read. I’m not exactly sure I liked it, but it is certainly an amusing read.

A typical Oscar Wilde play, this is one of the wittiest works imaginable, and is the origin of many famous quotes such as “I can resist everything except temptation” and “Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it.” Although this play might not be as famous as The Importance of Being Earnest, and it might not have as sophisticated a plot, it is most certainly as witty, and has also more social commentary.

LORD WINDERMERE: Ah, Margaret, only trust me! A wife should trust her husband!

LADY WINDERMERE: London is full of women who trust their husbands. One can always recognise them. They look so thoroughly unhappy. I am not going to be one of them.

Here is another awesome passage, this time on superficiality:

LADY WINDERMERE: Lord Darlington, you annoyed me last night at the Foreign Office. I am afraid you are going to annoy me again.

LORD DARLINGTON: I, Lady Windermere? […] I am quite miserable, Lady Windermere. You must tell me what I did.

LADY WINDERMERE: Well, you kept paying me elaborate compliments the whole evening.

LORD DARLINGTON: Ah, nowadays we are all of us so hard up, that the only pleasant things to pay are compliments. They’re the only things we can pay.

LADY WINDERMERE: No, I am talking very seriously. You mustn’t laugh, I am quite serious. I don’t like compliments, and I don’t see why a man should think he is pleasing a woman enormously when he says to her a whole heap of things he doesn’t mean.

LORD DARLINGTON: Ah, but I did mean them.

LADY WINDERMERE: I hope not. I should be sorry to have to quarrel with you, Lord Darlington. I like you very much, you know that. But I shouldn’t like you at all if I thought you were what most other men are. Believe me, you are better than most other men, and I sometimes think you pretend to be worse.

LORD DARLINGTON: We all have our little vanities, Lady Windermere.

LORD DARLINGTON: Oh, nowadays so many conceited people go about Society pretending to be good, that I think it shows rather a sweet and modest disposition to pretend to be bad. Besides, there is this to be said. If you pretend to be good, the world takes you very seriously. If you pretend to be bad, it doesn’t. Such is the astounding stupidity of optimism.

It is Lady Windermere’s very dislike of compliments that leads to the farcical temptation quote:

LORD DARLINGTON: Ah. what a fascinating Puritan you are, Lady Windermere!

LORD DARLINGTON: I couldn’t help it. I can resist everything except temptation.

Another charming line is Lord Darlington’s speech on good and bad:

LORD DARLINGTON: Do you know I am afraid that good people do a great deal of harm in the world. Certainly the greatest harm they do is that they make badness of such extraordinary importance. It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious. I take the side of charming, and you, Lady Windermere, can’t help belonging to them.

Also, near the end of Act 3 are three now-very-famous quotes, quite close together:

DUMBY: I congratulate you, my dear fellow. In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. The last is much the worst; the last is a real tragedy! But I am interested to hear she does not love you,. How long could you love a woman who didn’t love you, Cecil?

CECIL GRAHAM: A woman who didn’t love me? Oh, all my life!

DUMBY: So could I. But it’s so much different to meet one.

LORD DARLINGTON: How can you be so conceited, Dumby?

DUMBY: I didn’t say it was a matter of conceit. I said it as a matter of regret. I have been wildly, madly adored. I am sorry I have. It has been an immense nuisance. I should like to be allowed a little time to myself now and then.

LORD AUGUSTUS: Time to educate yourself, I suppose.

DUMBY: No, time to forget all I have learned. That is much more important, dear Tuppy.

LORD DARLINGTON: What cynics you fellows are!

CECIL GRAHAM: What is a cynic?

LORD DARLINGTON: A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

CECIL GRAHAM: And a sentimentalist, my dear Darlington, is a man who sees an absurd value in everything, and doesn’t know the market price of any single thing.

LORD DARLINGTON: You always amuse me, Cecil. You talk as if you were a man of experience.

CECIL GRAHAM: I am.

LORD DARLINGTON: You are far too young!

CECIL GRAHAM: That is a great error. Experience is a question of instinct about life. I have got it. Tuppy hasn’t. Experience is the name Tuppy gives to his mistakes. That is all.

DUMBY: Experience is the name every one gives to their mistakes.

I had certainly known of all three quotes before, but I never thought they were all located within a page of one another. Now, here are two more Wilde quotes, both located on the page before the previous passage:

DUMBY: Good heavens! how marriage ruins a man! It’s just as demoralising as cigarettes, and far more expensive.

and

LORD DARLINGTON: No, we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

That makes for five infamous quotes in the span of two pages.

By the way, the title Lady Windermere’s Fan is actually a sort of pun, as the fan could refer to both her physical fan, which Lord Windermere gave to her as a present, and Lord Darlington, who likes her. Again, it is maybe not as funny a pun as The Importance of Being Earnest, but the content is just as clever.

# The Count of Monte Cristo

I read this book in a truly Westwood style: about 10 pages a day for the first 10 days, 50 pages a day for the next five days, then 250 pages on the last day, today. That is, the Barnes & Nobel Classics edition of the book, which I have, is abridged to 591 pages—most unabridged versions of the story are well over a thousand pages.

Alexander Dumas’ work is a real page turner. Nevermind my slow start—it took me a few days to get through Edmond Dantès’ betrayal and unjust imprisonment because I was rather occupied by other activities, which may be seen from my last few blog posts (though I assure you they are not at all comprehensive). It turns out that this imprisonment, which lasts 14 years, also constitutes the majority of the story’s time. But once Edmond escapes from the Château d’If and acquires massive treasure, the book becomes very interesting and exceedingly difficult to put down. (In this edition he finds the treasure on page 143.)

At that point it is the story of what an honorable but vengeful soul can do with infinite wealth. The count can manipulate the feelings and actions of others, and eventually controls even life and death. This causes him to carry with him a mystical, God-like aura. For instance, when Edmond is overly confident about winning a duel against Albert de Morcerf, Albert’s friend Beauchamp was “somewhat disconcerted, for he could not make up his mind whether he had to deal with an arrogant braggadocio or a supernatural being” (p. 466).

Does this alone make the book a page turner? Not at all! Edmond has three main enemies to upon which to invoke revenge, and the three have families and are connected, so the reader desperately wants to know how Edmond’s plans will affect all three families simultaneously. And with unlimited wealth with which to bribe, to impress, or to deceive, Edmond can guarantee that his cunning plans will succeed.

The most powerful quotation from this book, for me, is actually before he finds his treasure—or rather, it is the search for the treasure itself. On page 141, he still does not know whether the treasure is real or imaginary.  He uncovers the entrance to the treasure’s cave and sees a staircase, whence Dumas inserts the following line:

Dantès descended, murmuring the supreme word of human philosophy: ‘Perhaps.’

After this moment, Dantès, with his unimaginable wealth, can obtain anything he desires. So ironically, the word ‘perhaps’ becomes obsolete.