Wednesday, December 29, 2010

To A God Unknown

I'm currently reading Moby Dick and Steinbeck's To A God Unknown. I am favoring the second more and dividing my time between them quite unevenly. I just finished the chapter in which Joseph and Elizabeth get married and travel back to their valley home--and I'd like to share some of the quotes that stirred me. Enjoy.

At the wedding ceremony:
And suddenly Elizabeth was sorry for Joseph. She thought with a little more frantic sadness, "If my mother were here, she could say to him, Here is Elizabeth and she is a good girl because I love her, Joseph. And she will be a good wife once she learns how to be. I hope you will get outside the hard husk you are wearing, Joseph, so you may feel tenderly for Elizabeth. That's all she wants and it's not an impossible thing.
Elizabeth's eyes glittered suddenly with bright tears. "I will," she said aloud, and, silently, "I must pray a little. Lord Jesus, make things easy for me because I am afraid. In all the time I've had to learn about myself, I have learned nothing. Be kind to me, Lord Jesus, at least until I learn what kind of thing I am."

Crossing the precarious pass over the river into the valley on their wedding day:
"Joseph," she said. "It's a bitter thing to be a woman. I'm afraid to be. Everything I've been or thought of will stay outside the pass. I'll be a grown woman on the other side. I thought it might come gradually. This is too quick." And she remembered how her mother said, "When you're big Elizabeth, you'll know hurt, but it wont be the kind of hurt you think. It'll be hurt that can't be reached with a curing kiss."

They walked slowly through the pass, in the blue shade of it. Joseph laughed softly. "There may be pains more sharp than delight, Elizabeth, like sucking a hot peppermint that burns your tongue. The bitterness of being a woman may be an ecstasy."

As Joseph ran back across the pass to get the horse team:
But when he was gone, Elizabeth cried sadly, for she had a vision of a child in short starched skirts with pigtails down her back, who stood outside the pass and looked anxiously in, stood on one foot and then on the other, hopped nervously and kicked a stone into the stream. For a moment the vision waited as Elizabeth remembered waiting on a street corner for her father, and then the child turned miserably away and walked slowly toward Monterey. Elizabeth was sorry for her, "For it's a bitter thing to be a child," she thought. "There are so many clean new surfaces to scratch."

I love the way words can grip you and leave you feeling a certain way. Stories and words don't always have to be the same thing. Steinbeck has a way of saying things that leaves you contemplative and sympathetic. Or maybe that's just for me, as I sometimes feel like a character is some troubled Steinbeck novel.

1 comment:

  1. i hate to ruin it for you, but everyone ends up dead or alone. after all, it's steinbeck.

    sassiness aside, i really appreciated those quotes. i'll have to mull them over a bit.