Paulliver (paulliver) wrote in bookish,

"Olive" by Dinah Craik

“Olive” was a literary response to “Jane Eyre” by the less feminist but more commercially successful author Dinah Craik, published three years later (I don’t know if “Olive” sold more copies than “Eyre,” but Craik published a lot more novels). Olive was an artistically inclined ugly duckling, but more pious and compassionate and less abused and rebellious. I suspect if I was more aware of the religious issues of the book’s time I would understand the intended critique, but Olive is more spiritual than religious. Her love interest is an emotionally and spiritually troubled intellectual minister to whom Olive shows the light. While as a child and teen, Olive is isolated by her unattractiveness, she grows out of it as an adult and her compassion wins her a tight circle of friends.

Craik’s primary critique of “Jane Eyre” is the Rochester substitute character, who is Olive’s father. While some of Craik’s specific opinions are racist, and sometimes sexist, by our standards, her portrayal of the Rochester-Bertha relationship is more historically probable, as are the results. Over all the novel was progressive for its day. Olive probably took the news of her father’s morally dubious relationship with “the other woman” better than most English women would have, but Craik was probably trying to tell her readers than white women should feel a sisterhood to the women of color their men had relationships with abroad.
Tags: author: c, genre: classic, genre: fiction

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