Not Half the Man I Meant to Be
In discussing the bifurcated structure of his book (thefirst section is entitled “More Than Halfway,” the second, “To the Clearing”)and the book’s concern with middle age as a subject, Ed Hirsch says “I’m morethan halfway to the grave, but I’m not half the man I meant to become.”
Mark Sarvas says he could have used that line as theepigraph to his book because his character, Harry, is not the man he wanted tobecome, either.
We already have a discussion of Jane Eyre going on the site(a book also made reference to by Meg Wolitzer in this episode) so it isperhaps not surprising that this idea resonates with the aggressive confessionthat Rochester makes to Jane during their first evenings talking together inthe dinning room at Thornfield.
When, in Chapter XIV, Jane tells him that his “claim tosuperiority depends on the use you have made of your time and experience,”Rochester replies “I have made an indifferent, not to say a bad, use of bothadvantages.”
A little later,
“ . . . ‘Nature meant me to be, on the whole, a good man,Miss Eyre: one of the better kind; and you see I am not so. . . . I am not a villain:you are not to suppose that—not to attribute to me any such bad eminence; butowning, I verily believe, rather to circumstance than to my natural bent, I ama trite commonplace sinner, hackneyed in all the poor petty dissipations withwhich the rich and worthless try to put on life.’”
How does this theme of mid-life disappointment in theproject of personal construction – expressed both in a classic 19th century work as well as in two 21stcentury works, one of fiction and one of poetry – resonate with you, either inyour life, or in literature?