So now I am reading Jane Eyre, the same book I couldn’t force myself to plow through in 9th grade. While Schmidt employs the first person voice just as Charlotte Bronte does, if Doug and Jane were to engage in, say, a literary wrestling match, Doug would certainly win. Both characters have miserable backstories: Doug’s good-for-nothing father causes trouble for his family while the people in young Jane’s life are either horrible, kind but useless, or dead. But despite Doug’s initially cynical attitude, he comes off as a character worth rooting for, especially when he encounters and is changed by beauty, art, and the kindness of others. Jane, meanwhile, is just tolerable, although she’s got many lovely qualities (opinionated, reflective, good at arguing with adults) that don’t quite pull together to make a whole.
Imagining Schmidt’s characters in the role of Helen Burns, that sanctimonious little goody two-shoes, made Jane’s school years at Lowood a little more bearable, but now that Jane’s gone to Thornfield, only the Bertha Mason shriek keeps me going. Like “the terrified eye”, which Schmidt uses to great effect, my anticipation for the madwoman in the attic is turning me into a chump. Terrific.
P.S. While critics agree that the unexpectedly tidy ending is Okay For Now’s sole flaw, I’d like to point out a graver mistake. Aaron Copland most certainly did write for the flute! Even so, Schmidt’s endorsement increases Copland’s already awesome awesome-ness.