Research Update Again: Media Form and Thoughts

Dr. Gates’s comment on a previous post that got me thinking about the different media forms of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and St. Leon. I remember briefly thinking about their media difference in the beginning, but dismissed it as I wanted to really focus on the their stories. I had thought that I might go down a rabbit-hole about how different people enjoy different media forms and so on, but her comment made me realize that it does have a place in my argument. It cannot be avoided that you can either read the manga with pictures and dialogue or simply watch the anime versus having to sit down and read St. Leon.

The only problem is that I do not want to make it seem like modern audiences may enjoy Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood more than St. Leon because they would rather watch something or read a Japanese comic book (which is pictures with easy-to-read dialogue). Then again, reading manga is not exactly the easiest thing to do as English readers, but is also not the hardest thing either. Since the Japanese read and write from right to left, the manga is arranged as such so English readers have to adjust in what we would consider “backwards.” (Just as our reading and writing directions may be considered “backwards” to Japanese readers.)

Speaking from experience, it took me some time to getting used to from right to left, but after a few volumes, I got the hang of it to the point that when I pick up a comic that reads left to right (like American or Korean), my first instinct is to go to the “back” of the book and read from right to left. However, again, this is my own personal experience and my friends in middle school had varying times of adjustment. One friend got the hang of it quicker than me, and another took longer while also reading slower. So adjustment and reading time cannot be really generalized.

My point is that I want to draw attention to the anime and manga media forms of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood without making it seem like it is more popular with modern audiences because it’s “easier” to do than to read St. Leon. I know that with the antiquated language of St. Leon and the fact a person would have to actually read it (or listen) makes it seem “harder” to consume, but that was not true for Godwin’s original audience. At least, I do not think so.

That is another question I need to answer: could anyone have read St. Leon in that time period? Could have a literature person of lower class even have access to St. Leon? The money? (I am going to look that up right after this.)

Back to what I was saying originally: I do not think that the difference in media forms is a major contributing factor to a modern audience’s preference for Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood or St. Leon. I think it is a small contributing factor in how Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood as an anime/manga may be more accessible for a modern audience. For one thing, the manga is broken up into multiple volumes so while it is a “long” story, it has been broken up in bite-sized pieces that can be manageable even for struggling readers or those who do not fancy reading a full length novel. (I personally think that Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood has a lot more going on plot-wise than St. Leon, but it is not as noticeable or intimidating due to the smaller chunks of either episodes or manga volumes.)

As for St. Leon‘s media form, I think four hundred pages of antiquated language is an obstacle that modern readers are faced with and is one that Godwin’s original audience did not have. I do not necessarily want to say that this is “harder” than reading Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood or watching the anime, but I think it is a small contributing factor for modern audiences. It is unavoidable. Just look at the first line of the Preface: “The following passage from a work, said to be written by the late Dr. John Campbell [1], and entitled Hermippus Redivivus ^1, suggested the first hint of the present performance” (Godwin 50). In just that first line, not only is there a footnote, but also a reader would have to go to the back of the book to find out what the heck Hermippus Redivivus is. This can ward off potential readers who may have picked up the book just because they liked the cover. Even if the reader gets past that first line, St. Leon is simply not written like modern novels. The dialogue and prose may not be completely (if at all) understand during the first read. To be honest, the novel is not a kind of book that meant for modern readers to enjoy and somewhat turn off their brain.

Not to say that there are not novels written nowadays that are meant to make the readers think, but what a lot of popular literature is meant to be read like that. It is made to not necessarily be simpler, but easier to comprehend with more modern language and context that a modern reader can understand. Think of Harry Potter. It is written so that even a younger audience is understand most of what is going on, but it has deeper themes and situations that older audiences can enjoy and dissect. A reader does not necessarily need to be in Sherlock mode to understand and enjoy the series. The same cannot not exactly be said for St. Leon. Again, that is not a bad thing, but is an obstacle that has to addressed when considering modern audiences’ response to the novel.

So that is where my brain is at right now. I know I want to talk the media differences, but I do not want to go too deep into a rabbit hole. (I definitely do not want to even see the floating furniture.) Honestly, after writing this post, I’m thinking that maybe the media differences and audiences play a big part of my argument. I just don’t want it to overtake my paper . . . Unless I make that my entire paper. I don’t know. I think I’ll know for certain once I look up the accessibility of St. Leon in Godwin’s time.

(word count: 1062)

“The Two Part Prelude” and St. Leon: Nature as a Guiding Force

As we were talking in class today, Dr. Gates said something that got me thinking: in “The Two Part Prelude,” nature is a constant guardian for the speaker in the poem; that nature (the parent) would outlive the mortal parents. I find the concept fascinating, especially when it is applied to Reginald in St. Leon.

Reginald had never known his father because the man had died before Reginald was born. He had his mother until he was about seventeen or eighteen, losing her to death. He then had his maternal uncle for a couple of years until the uncle died. Reginald also had a kind of relationship with the king (if I am remembering correctly), but the king was kept prisoner and Reginald is never able to rekindle that relationship. Without a guiding force, Reginald succumbs to his vice of gambling and righted only when taken under the wing of his wife’s father. He, of course, loses this guardian as well, and Marguerite stepped up in fulfill that role by marriage. After this, Reginald is at peace until he is once left without a guardian and wrecks his life. His wife takes the reins, Reginald finally rights himself, and they manage to build a peaceful life once again. That is, until the stranger appears who, like Marguerite’s father, assumes a parental authority over Reginald.

Like how Marguerite’s father saw Reginald’s gambling as a problem, the stranger is upset with how Reginald is living his life under the “thumb” of his wife. The stranger continues in the man’s footsteps by attempting to “fix” Reginald’s relationship with his wife (along with getting Reginald to take care and listen to him, but that is irrelevant to my point). Much like Reginald’s other guardians, the stranger is successful and dies as well.

Once I looked at the line of succession for Reginald’s guardians and thought nature as a guardian, I realized that Reginald once found comfort in nature when he had gotten himself and his family exiled from France. He was distant from his family and walked for long stretches of time in nature. Nature actually functions as the other guardians do and gets Reginald to clean up his act. If I remember correctly, Reginald pulls himself together in that section because of a natural disaster and realizes the error of his ways. I don’t recall Reginald taking comfort and being disciplined by nature again further in the novel, but I think nature shows up in another way: he follows in the footsteps of nature.

Much like how he did what his mother wanted him to, attempted to follow his father’s footsteps as a soldier, straightened himself as Marguerite’s father wanted, and did as the stranger wanted, Reginald became a constant much like nature and now watches humanity like nature does. He is separated from humanity, no longer mortal and instead is a circular immortal like nature (starting young, growing old, and starting young again like the seasons). Though Reginald did sort of follow the stranger’s example, Reginald attempts to help and better humanity which I see akin to how nature (despite how we don’t like ice, tornadoes, and such) grows and tries to provide what mortals need to survive. Reginald just does not do it as well.

(Just an FYI, I think I might want to run with this for my final paper so any comments are welcome.)

(Word count: 567)

“Michael” and St. Leon: Isolated Fathers

After finishing St. Leon, I still could not understand why Reginald was attached to his son Charles more than his daughters. I wanted to chalk it up to the fact that Charles is basically his heir and a way to pass on the family name, but that explanation fell flat. Charles had taken up his mother’s name so I do not think that his children would have the name St. Leon. I then shelved that theory and reread the ending of St. Leon and came upon this quote: “[Charles] was my constant attendant, my careful nurse, and my affectionate friend” (Godwin 449). Reginald is talking about how Charles had been so close to him and so dear, but I could not see the relationship as Reginald did. I saw his wife Marguerite in that role more than Charles. However, then I read Wordsworth’s poem “Michael” and reevaluated my understanding of Charles and Reginald’s father-son relationship.

In “Michael,” a family of three live in almost total isolation, much like Reginald and his family. Michael and his son Luke work tirelessly every day and spend so much time together that Michael says: “—But we were playmates, Luke; among these hills/As well thou know’st, in us the old and young/Have play’d together . . .” (Wordsworth ll. 363-365). Michael says this after describing raising and loving his son Luke as a father and then proceeds to describe their relationship akin to friendship. After reading about Michael and Luke’s relationship in which friendship and family bleed into each other, something clicked in my brain about Reginald and Charles: they were a lot like Michael and Luke. Though Reginald has a considerably bigger family than Michael, he lacks male companionship like Michael. Reginald does not seek out friend for much of the book and what male friends he does gain end up dying. That leaves Reginald not exactly lonely, but instead isolated from male companionship. He has his family, but he has no father, uncles, male cousins, or any friends. He has only his son Charles to have any sort of male conversation and companionship that he seeks for often in the novel, illuminating a touch of humanity in Reginald that I often thought was missing.

(Word count: 368)

St. Leon: The Stranger’s Reason for Choosing Reginald

As we keep discussing Reginald’s character in St. Leon, I find myself circling back to the stranger and his motivation for telling Reginald the secret of immortality and boundless wealth. Payton has said more than once that perhaps the stranger needed to tell Reginald in order to die, that it is like a curse that has to be passed on before the cursed person can finally die. I do not agree with Payton’s idea, but it did prompt me to reread the stranger’s introduction in the story.

What struck me was what the stranger said to Reginald: “The only thing I have left to do in the world is to die; and what I seek at present, is a friend who will take care that I shall be suffered to die in peace. Shall I trust you? Will you be that friend to me?” (Godwin 156). His words leave little room for interpretation: he wants to die and wants to someone to care for him for just a little while. Of course, like Allee mentioned in class today, the stranger seems to subscribe to the sentiment of gentilesse which refers to the idea that the nobility are “naturally” good people and gentlemen: “You are, I understand, a Frenchman, and your name the count de St. Leon?” (Godwin 156). It is after the stranger is assured that Reginald is a nobleman that the stranger decides Reginald could be a possible friend and confidant. To a modern audience, the stranger’s subscription to the idea of gentilesse can (and mostly will) be met with disgust and eye-rolling, but I think with the exposure of stranger’s bias and archaic beliefs, the audience can infer some facts about the stranger that are not otherwise told to us.

For instance, notice how the stranger is not affected by the fact that Reginald is a Frenchman. In fact, he thinks that is another important trait of Reginald’s, a kind of proof that Reginald is “worthy” or “acceptable” as a friend/confidant. If the stranger was only interested in the fact that Reginald was a nobleman, then why would it matter what country Reginald is from? And for it to matter so much that the stranger mentions that fact first instead of Reginald’s nobility? At first, I did not think it matter, but after revisiting the scene, I picked up an interesting bit of truth that the stranger gives us about his origin: “My name is not Zampieri; I am no Venetian” (Godwin 156). Now, this information by itself is not much, but when examined next to what the stranger finds important about Reginald’s identity, that being his country of origin and social status, I think there is a subtle hint about the stranger’s origin: that he is a Frenchman and most likely of nobility. If the scene is revisited with that information, everything falls into place.

The stranger found a person that he is willing to tell his secret to and to trust to care for him. After reading what unfortunate circumstances that Reginald finds himself in (and makes for himself) and the paranoia that he starts to develop, the stranger’s lack of trust is more understandable. However, unlike Reginald who finds help with society’s outcasts, the stranger places his trust in the notion of gentilesse and thus seeks someone of similar nature. As creepy and disgusting as it sounds, I think the stranger came to trust only “his own kind” as the years went on, and thus would mostly trust someone that he considered as one of “his own kind.” This would explain why, despite our own concerns and thoughts of Reginald being a good candidate, the stranger chooses Reginald as his friend/confidant; because like Reginald, the stranger is/was a noble Frenchman.

On top of all that, Reginald never introduces himself to the stranger. Instead, the stranger already knows who Reginald, almost as if he had been searching for Reginald on purpose and/or purposefully chose Reginald’s house: “As soon as we were seated, the stranger began: ‘You are, I understand, a Frenchman, and your name the count de St. Leon?’ [Reginald] bowed assent” (Godwin 156). The stranger, with this confirmation, then immediately asks Reginald to be his friend/confidant. There is no building of their relationship nor significant passage of time. The stranger showed up in the evening, went to bed, and he talks to Reginald about being his friend almost first thing in the morning. So, for all intents and purposes, Reginald suppose to be a complete stranger to the stranger, but that is shown to be false due to the stranger’s knowledge of him. Thus, I argue that the stranger intentionally “stumbled” upon Reginald’s house and chose Reginald due to his similar status as a French nobleman.

(Word count: 789)

St. Leon: The Isolating Effect of Knowledge, a Parallel to Paradise Lost

As I have been reading St. LeonParadise Lost keeps coming back to my mind. Reginald refers to Paradise Lost in the novel so it is not surprising, but an interesting idea dawned on me when I read this quote in St. Leon:

“I might now be said to have reached the end of my adventure: I had closed one grand experiment upon the donation of the stranger. What had it produced to me? Not one atom of the benefits I anticipated; not a particle of those advantages which a little while ago had made the intoxications of my waking dreams. Its fruits had been distasteful and loathsome. Whether I looked to my person, my family, or my fame, I had felt in all the miserable effects of this treacherous and delusive gift” (243)

Reginald says this after he has been imprisoned for refusing to tell the magistrate about the stranger, where and why the stranger died, and Reginald’s part in the event. He also refused to clear up how and why he suddenly had an impressive amount of wealth after the death of the stranger. So while Reginald expresses unhappiness with his decision to do as what the stranger told him that Reginald could do (that is, become “immortal” and have an endless supply of money), he is sitting in a cell that he is in due to his refusal to grant the magistrate knowledge. Reginald keeps his silence because that he is what he promised the stranger that he would do, not necessarily to be difficult or to hoard his knowledge. However, this incident echoes previous points in the novel in which Reginald’s silence on the matter of the stranger and the money has negative affects on Reginald’s life and relationships.

A devastating example is when his son Charles demands to know the truth and for Reginald to prove that he is not a bad person and that he did not commit some horrible act to get wealth. Reginald refuses and pleads his innocence, but Charles uses undeniable logic against his father:

“You have given utterance to different fictions on the subject, fictions you now confess to be such; how am I to be convinced that what you say at this moment is not dictated more by a regard for my tranquillity, than by the simplicity of conscious truth? . . . Your character is blasted; your honour is destroyed” (213)

To sum up, Charles is saying that because his father (Reginald) has lied so much, Charles can never believe him. This drives Charles to leave his father, as to not be dragged down into disgrace, and to cut ties even with his sisters and his mother. Even when faced with Charles’ severance, Reginald keeps his mouth shut about the truth and does not reveal even a hint of the truth and knowledge that he gained from the stranger.

While the events with the magistrate and Charles do not parallel with Paradise Lost, the way that gaining and keeping the knowledge affects Reginald’s life does. Thinking back to how eating the Forbidden Fruit affects Eve is where I draw the parallel. For a moment, Eve does consider how she is now (or will be) superior to Adam, but it does not take long for Eve to realize that her action could isolate herself from Adam, emotionally or physically. The realization that now Eve could lose Adam and be alone is what drives her to give Adam the fruit. While Reginald has not currently given anyone his “fruit of knowledge,” he is experiencing what Eve did for a short instance: isolation, loneliness, and disconnection. There are multiple times in which Reginald expresses being cut off from humanity and from his family, like there is a distance between him and them that was not there before. The emotional response to that sentiment varies, but when he is in prison, Reginald hates that he did what the stranger had done which in turn is a hatred for his knowledge. He is where he is not only because he refuses to “give” his fruit of knowledge, but because his “eating” of the stranger’s “fruit” has led him there. If he had not listened, if he had refused to keep a secret, Reginald would not be in prison. His family would still be at peace, and his son would be at home. However, just like Adam and Eve, Reginald “ate” the fruit and thus was exiled from his Garden of Eden.

(Word count: 745)

St. Leon: The Stranger Poisons Reginald’s Garden of Eden

As our class has another date with St. Leon and another hundred pages is being read, a red flag jumps out at me: the stranger that Reginald encounters and takes into his home. At first, the stranger seems a unfortunate soul in need of compassion and help, but upon Reginald’s reluctance to keep a secret from his wife, the stranger spits poison that inevitably taints Reginald’s relationship with his wife and his children:

“Feeble and effeminate mortal! . . . Was ever gallant action achieved by him who was incapable of separating himself from a woman? Was ever a great discovery prosecuted, or an important benefit conferred upon the human race, by him who was incapable of standing, and thinking, and feeling, alone? Under the usurping and dishonored name of virtue, you have sunk into a slavery baser than that of the enchantress Alcina. In vain might honour, worth, and immortal renown proffer their favors to him who has made himself the basest of all sublunary things—the puppet of a woman, the play-thing of her pleasure, wasting an inglorious life in the gratification of her wishes and the performance of her commands!” (Godwin 157)

The stranger is directly attacking Reginald’s masculinity and the equal partnership that he shares with his wife Marguerite. The stranger verbally combats right after Reginald expresses how much he is attached to Marguerite’s hip: “My wife is a part of myself; for the last six years at least I have had no thought in which she has not participated; and these have been the most tranquil and happy years of my life . . . and I will not now consent to any thing that shall infringe on the happiness of my soul” (Godwin 157). Also, up to this moment (excluding Reginald’s unfortunate gambling problems), Reginald and Marguerite lived in harmony and happily with Marguerite somewhat in charge during times of crisis. Before the stranger plants his poisonous seed of not being man enough, Reginald is actually grateful and takes pride in his wife’s ability to clean up his problems and to keep the family together and alive. He and his family coexist in peace, communicating with one another and loving each other to the point that even after his gambling issue in Paris, they were able to meet the right people and piece together a life of “peace and tranquility” (Godwin 155). So, for the stranger to react negatively as he did raises a red flag not only because of what the stranger was attacking, but the way that his words make Reginald feel and incite change in his behavior.

As stated before, Reginald was happy as he was with his family before the stranger appeared, but the poison of the stranger’s words slowly killed Reginald’s Garden of Eden. Reginald resists at first and defends his wife and her character, but as the stranger refuses to grant the knowledge that Reginald so desires, Reginald weakens and falls prey to the stranger’s poisonous thoughts: “Shall I shut upon myself the gate of knowledge and information? Is it not the part of a feeble and effeminate mind to refuse instruction, because he is not at liberty to communicate that instruction to another—to a wife?” (Godwin 159). Notice the words that he uses: “feeble” and “effeminate,” the words that the stranger had thrown at him and used to degrade him. Reginald, after much debating and feeling awful for not being forthcoming to Marguerite about the stranger, settles on keeping the information a secret from her and the family:

“I reasoned thus with myself: what excites my scruples is simply the idea of having one single secret from my wife and family . . . Other men have their secrets: nor do they find their domestic tranquility broken by that circumstance. The merchant does not call his wife into consultation . . . the statesman does not unfold to her his policy and his projects; the warrior does not take her advice . . . the poet does not concert with her his flights and his episodes. To other men the domestic scene is the relaxation of their cares; when they enter it, they dismiss the business of the day, and call another cause. I only have concentrated in it the whole of my existence. By this means I have extinguished in myself the true energy of the human character. A man can never be respectable in the eyes of the world or in his own, except so far as he stands by himself and is truly independent. He may have friends; he may have domestic connections; but he must not in these connections lose individuality” (Godwin 166-167)

Though Reginald does not refer to himself as “feeble” or “effeminate” again, he does echo a concern that he is not behaving as a “real” man. Throughout the quote he compares himself to other men, creating a contrast between himself and “real” men that are manly men to ever manly and “don’t need no woman.” Because the stranger has planted doubts of Reginald, his masculinity, and his role in the family, Reginald is convinced to do as the stranger wanted and to keep the stranger’s knowledge a secret from Marguerite. This is the beginning of the end for Reginald’s domestic Garden of Eden, leading to him distancing himself from his wife and children which tears and wounds his bond with them. Because of the stranger and his elixir, Reginald is convinced that distancing himself from his family is the best thing despite how his wife and children protest. Reginald does this even after the stranger has died, too affected by the poison to save himself and his Garden.

(Word count: 931)