Romance and Outlaws

I listed Lorna Doone as a re-read on my Classics Club book list, but suspect I hadn’t actually read an unabridged version before. I didn’t remember whole pages worth of conversation written in dialect or so much time spent building John and Lorna’s childhood relationship in the first half of the book. Pretty sure I read a copy that modernized the dialogue and skipped straight to the most exciting action. That’s probably why the book felt so long this time through, though I was thoroughly enjoying it by around the half-way point.Lorna Doone: Romance and Outlaws #theclassicsclub | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Grounded In History

Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor by R.D. Blackmore is a historical novel published in 1869 and set in the late 1600s. I hadn’t realized before re-reading it how much the novel borrows from real events. My falling apart ex-library copy (published in 1943) even includes pictures of the locations Blackmore references. The brief introduction written by Basil Davenport states, “Blackmore made good use of his schoolboy memories of Devon; the outlaw Doones, the De Whichehalse family, the highwayman Tom Fagus and his mare, and even the mighty John Ridd, have at least some foundation in fact, while the book is full of local historical allusions, like the bales of wool that were used to repel bullets at the siege of Exeter Castle.”

The historical grounding is perhaps the most interesting aspect of this classic novel. It soaks through every page in tiny details, sweeping historical allusions, and our narrator’s word choice. Though I had a little trouble getting really “into” the first half of the story, it’s not because Blackmore isn’t painting an immersive world. Since this is a first-person narrative, we get to see the world through John Ridd’s eyes. And John isn’t shy about sharing his opinions on everything from farming to women to outlawry. It really feels like we’re there listening to John tell the story as he lived it.

Lorna Doone: Romance and Outlaws #theclassicsclub | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Carl Benton Reid as Sir Ensor Doone and Barbara Hale as Lorna Doone (1951)

Outlaws As Villains

We’ve all read stories where the outlaws are romanticized. Stories with dashing rogues, defensible pirates, and code-following outlaws fill our collective imagination. Not so in Lorna Doone. Even beloved highwayman Tom Fagus must mend his ways and conform to law and order before securing his happy ending. The more prominent outlaws in the story, the Doones, are decidedly cast in the role of the villain. Rather than seeking to romanticize and excuse the outlaws à la Robin Hood, the story focuses on rescuing Lorna (and by extension the romance plot) from them.

Several times, John talks about the Doones as a fixture in the neighborhood. The surrounding people have gotten used to them and they’re willing to put up with certain things. Since the Doones are a noble family, their neighbors consider it their right to steal sheep, run off with a few unmarried women, and even kill people who get in their way. The Ridds and their neighbors even resent external efforts to bring the Doones to justice, partly because they fear pay-back if/when the Doones win and partly because the Doones just seem to belong. But that doesn’t mean they’re happy about having a nest of outlaws in their backyards.

Lorna Doone: Romance and Outlaws #theclassicsclub | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Polly Walker as Lorna Doone and Sean Bean as Carver Doone (1990)

But What Does It Mean?

Though tolerated and occasionally defended, the Doones are viewed as a local plague, not as tragic heroes or admirable figures. They eventually cross a line and are wiped out by the very people who put up with them for so long. Interestingly, all this happens at a time of political unrest in Britain as a whole and there are numerous tongue-in-cheek references to political corruption and the failures of the nobility. I suspect that on some level at least, we’re meant to identify the overtly lawless Doones with the more subtle legalized injustice running through the British government. And we’re to root for the common man of good sense rising up to put an end to his “betters” ruining the country.

On a more obvious level, Lorna Doone really is a simple romance novel. And while there are plenty of romantic novels I enjoy more, I do love the story. John and Lorna aren’t my favorite literary characters, but even the fact that I didn’t like them 100% is in a way a testament to Blackmore’s writing. Though John is telling the story and he worships Lorna, Blackmore manages not to present either as unrealistically idealized “perfect heroes.” It reads like the honest account of two real people navigating romance in a world of outlaws. And that makes for a good story.

Lorna Doone: Romance and Outlaws #theclassicsclub | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Amelia Warner as Lorna Doone and Richard Coyle  as John Ridd (2000)

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Balancing Views On Singleness and Marriage

Most modern Christian churches develop a culture that prioritizes marriage. We know marriage is a good thing and that it’s part of God’s plan for humanity. Marriage pictures the union between Christ and His church. Beyond the spiritual aspects, it’s also held-out to young people as a sort of “prize” for listening to what the Bible says about purity pre-marriage.

Since we think of marriage as such a good thing, we think of the opposite as something negative. Western culture is, on the whole, very binary. If something is good, the opposite is bad. Our minds don’t naturally consider that both could be good in the proper context. With this mindset, singleness is treated as less-desirable and if a single person doesn’t want to marry we think there’s “something wrong” with them. But is this really how God views things?

Seeking Balance

It’s a safe bet all my Christian readers know of the verses discussing marriage in a positive light. The marriage relationship was established at creation and in the New Testament Paul connects it to Christ and the church (Gen. 2:18-24; Eph. 5:22-32). Proverbs 18:22 maintains that “he who finds a wife finds a good thing.” Marriage is certainly seen as a good thing in the Bible. I’m not disputing that and I still hope someday to get married. But I think we make a mistake if we assume marriage’s goodness makes being single a bad thing. Continue reading

The Church Isn’t Ruining Your Love Life

This past week, Boundless.org shared two posts related to Joshua Harris and courtship culture on their Facebook page. One was an NPR interview with Harris and the other was a link to Harris’ call for feedback on the ways I Kissed Dating Goodbye has affected you. It’s a popular topic, since so many people in the churches blame courtship culture for problems in their relationships and hurt in their lives. They say the church’s attitude towards dating and courtship made them feel ashamed of their bodies and their sexual desire, that it set up intimidating expectations for relationships, and it is why they’re still single (or, for some, unhappily married).

The complaints aren’t all directed at courtship culture, either. Another article I saw this week was published by Relevant Magazine and didn’t mention courtship at all. How Christians Ruin Dating is specifically addressing ways that singles in the church feel their fellow Christians are ruining their dating lives. There’s too much obsession with romance, too much gossiping about couples, too much emphasis on marriage. We just need to chill, they argue.

For those of us who are single young adults in the church, there’s no denying that the culture we grew up in influences how we view dating and relationships. But we’re also grown-ups and it’s time to stop blaming the church for all our relationship problems and take responsibility for the choices we’re making. We can’t keep using the argument “Christians ruin dating” as an excuse for not finding relationships. Courtship culture, church gossips, the pressure to get married … those don’t keep us from finding a spouse. We do that when we use the problems surrounding Christian dating as an excuse to not ask someone out, or to turn someone down when they ask us out, or to sabotage potential relationships. Continue reading

INFJ User Guide

Congratulations on the procurement your new INFJ!* INFJs are highly sought after in the personality type collecting world given their extremely rare nature. INFJ spotting is a very difficult hobby, requiring forays into the deepest recesses of bookstores, yoga studios, and the internet. Keeping an INFJ in your life once you’ve found one can be even more of a challenge.

INFJs are widely considered one of the most amiable and empathetic personalities. Their minds offer a good balance of emotion and logic that helps them relate to most types of people, and they highly value commitment and relationships. As introverts, though, they have limited social energy and they don’t maintain relationships with most of the people they meet. Once you’ve found and INFJ, taking your acquaintance to the level or friendship, or relationship, isn’t simple. That is, unless you have this user guide.

INFJ User Guide | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Overview of the INFJ

The INFJ is a strange sort of creature, often compared to unicorns. Their uniqueness is a result of two things: the way their brains/personalities are hardwired and the rarity of their personality type. What’s perfectly normal for an INFJ seems unusual among humanity as a whole because so few people function this way. Understanding your INFJ’s basic functions is the first step towards successful interaction with the INFJ. Continue reading

The Single INFJ

It’s strange that a personality type for which “homemaker” is one of the top recommended career options has such a difficult time finding love. While not true of all INFJs, many of us are romantics in every sense of the word. We’re idealists who still believe in soul-mates. We’re eager to dive deep into relationships and prioritize the people closest to us. We’re among the MBTI types least likely to cheat in a romantic relationship.

But we also shy away from any type of deep relationship if we don’t feel completely safe. Our idealism means we often have unrealistic expectations for our (potential) romantic partners. The soul-mate type of understanding we crave is hard to find. And so here I am, turning 27 this year having been on 4 dates since I was 19 (all with guys I chose not to go out with a second time) and yet still wanting to be in a relationships (almost) just as much as ever.

The Single INFJ | marissabaker.wordpress.com

photo credit: On the platform, reading by
Mo Riza, CC BY via Flickr

So what’s a single INFJ to do? It sounds cliche, but I agree with Amelia Brown on Introvert, Dear that it’s important  to focus  on “the relationship you have with yourself.” If you’re not comfortable with yourself, you’re never going to be happy, regardless of whether or not you’re in a relationship with someone else. Also, if you haven’t taken ownership of your life, your choices, and your struggles then you’re going to have a harder time cultivating the sort of strong, lasting relationship INFJs crave. Continue reading

Nice Guys and Bad Boys

Killian Jones, from Once Upon A Time

Captain Hook, from Once Upon A Time

“Nice guys finish last” and “Girls like bad boys.” You hear it all the time. It’s common knowledge, so it must be true, right? I’ve even said or thought similar things my self — “He’s a nice guy, but I just don’t find him attractive” or “I know he’s a bad guy, but there’s good in him.”

There are several psychological reasons why girls are attracted to “bad boys.” They might be looking for someone who reminds them of their father, or someone who is his complete opposite. They might enjoy the thrill of being around someone who takes risks and seeks out adventure and excitement. They might want to redeem him or enjoy the idea of being the one person he actually cares about.

I think one of the main attractions, though, — and a reason that stereotypical “nice guys” fall short — is confidence. Bad boys project an image of “I know who I am, I like who I am, and I know what I want.” That’s incredibly attractive. Even if it’s covering a vulnerable core, that self-assurance tells girls that you aren’t looking for them to complete you or mother you. You don’t have to be good to be confident, or for that confidence to be attractive.

King Arthur, from Merlin

King Arthur, from Merlin

The problem with the stereotypical “nice guy” isn’t so much the fact that they are nice, but rather that they are self-effacing and lack confidence. They project an image of “I don’t expect you to like me,  but it would be nice if you did anyway.” Most girls would like to be treated well, but it’s not exciting to be treated well by a guy who doesn’t like himself and doesn’t give you much reason to see him as a romantic option.

But what happens if you pair being nice and gentlemanly with confidence? suddenly you’re the most attractive man in the room. You’re King Arthur or Thor. Even if you’re not confident romantically, simply having confidence in other areas and knowing who you are, why you have value, and what you want is still very attractive. Think Captain America and Mr. Darcy.