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Inlandia Literary Journeys: Follow characters on trips that end with a renewal of hope

By in Press Enterprise on December 23, 2017

By Victoria Waddle

Ralph Waldo Emerson is one of the most quotable people who ever lived. One of my longtime favorites of his is: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

I’ve been rethinking this idea during the public turmoil of the past year. What lies behind us creates what lies within us and, if we hope for a new path to lie before us, we have to deal with old stuff. Which is to say: what lies outside and what resides inside are in no way separate.

Victoria Waddle

Today, Christmas Eve, is a day when the Christian faithful contemplate the beginnings of spiritual hope. Indeed, winter rebirth is part of many metaphysical traditions and particularly pertinent as we make our way through the darkest days of the year. Our desire is to take from our past and create a map for our future.

For readers of all backgrounds, this is a great time to select books in which characters model the spiritual journey that ends in a renewal of hope. As they come to terms with their own pasts, quite often, they deal with a larger cultural history which has caused them suffering. In creating a genuine portrayal of internal change, fictional successes serve to inspire us.

We can revisit the classics for such inspiration. Hester Prynne in “The Scarlet Letter” is forced to acknowledge her past through the “A” on her bodice, yet — also through that “A” — she eventually becomes someone whose hard-earned wisdom is valued.

The narrator Marlow in Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” reinterprets a long-ago physical journey into the cradle of evil as a spiritual one. Raskolnokov in Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” is the most obvious example of a man whose past is stained by transgression. He suffers deeply and, […]    

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