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The complexity of badness
on September 14, 2000
This is a novel that deals not just with envy. Elizabeth and Ruth are cousins, and Elizabeth gets adopted by Ruth's parents when her own parents are killed. The girls grow up as sisters, but all along Ruth develops an incredible ill for Elizabeth, even though she doesn't do anything to provoke that resentment. Ruth makes it her life's mission to destroy Elizabeth. Her dream is to see her in pain, suffering and humiliated. She resorts to extreme manipulations and convoluted schemes to achieve that purpose.
Ruth is an amazing character, who personifies badness in a thought-provoking way. Her selfishness, envy and greed are almost incomprehensible. How can a human being harbor such hate for someone who has never done anything wrong? This novel made me think and think about the issue. Is it possible that people are born bad? So many times i've heard that we are all born good, and it's circumstances that make us bad. Did Ruth turn bad when she saw her parents combing Elizabeth's hair? Was that the moment when Ruth became jealous of her cousin? What happened in subsequent years, how did that badness grow?
Almost as amazing are Elizabeth's reactions to her sister's attacks. As evil as Ruth is, so is Elizabeth gracious and forgiving. Elizabeth summarizes her philosophy of life during their final meeting, a cathartic episode for Ruth, who is deeply changed after that.
A fascinating, disturbing novel that i highly recommend.