Sunday, December 4, 2011

Howl's Moving Castle book analysis

“I feel ill. I'm going to bed, where I may die.”
― Howl, upon having a cold.
I've decided to call them "book analysis" because they're not really reviews that tell you how much I liked the book, rather,  me taking the book apart and looking at different aspects of it for my own entertainment. Read on. Also, read Howl's Moving Castle.



http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/a/a4/Howl%27s_Moving_Castle_(Book_Cover).jpg/230px-Howl%27s_Moving_Castle_(Book_Cover).jpg



This is the original cover of Howl's Moving Castle and I have got to say it is the UGLIEST thing I have ever seen. I like the new one much better.

Ahem.


First of all, I should point out that Howl's Moving Castle is a children's book. However, I like to hold all books I read to the same standard, after all, they're written by adults.

I had biased expectations of Howl's Moving Castle from the start, because I kept hearing from several sources how amazing, how fantastic, how hilarious and how romantic the book was, and hearing the perfectly gorgeous soundtrack by Joe Hizazi(something or other.)

Howl's Moving Castle never seemed to be in the library at the same time I was, so  it's been a couple months since I've heard of it, and my anticipation swelled. So did the book live up to my expectations? Well, let's see.

A young woman named Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three daughters living in the town of Market Chipping in the magical kingdom of Ingary, where many fairy-tale tropes are accepted ways of life. She is turned into an old crone by the Witch of the Waste, a powerful witch. Sophie leaves the shop and finds work as a cleaning lady for the notorious Howl, famed in her town for eating the hearts of beautiful young women, trying to make a bargain to be returned to her authentic age.
-Wikipedia

The setting for this book is incredibly charming and sweet. It's an old fashioned fantasy setting, with many villages and meadows and kingdoms and castles. (There are some twists thrown in, but I'm not going to spoil it.) It feels incredibly light, and not bogged down at all with boring old history and customs and backgrounds that fantasy settings are often plagued by. It's not complicated at all, and you don't have to worry about keeping track of names, species, and armies and all that.

Howl's Moving Castle is one of the best examples of a character-driven book I have ever read. The characters are stellar.

Sophie is a lot like Laura Ingalls. She's sensible, hardworking, compassionate, and good natured. She appears to be timid on the outside but shows her resolve and humor many times during the story. She often feels insecure and is resigned to the fact that she is plain and boring (even though she is pretty.) Instantly relatable.

Howl....is very interesting. XD. I love him. Howl is, to paraphrase Wikipedia "self-absorbed, dishonest and a dramatic but ultimately good-natured person (and an extraordinary wizard)," Add "cowardly" "spendthrift" and "absent minded" to the list. He spends two hours every day in the bathroom doing his hair and cologne. He doesn't take care of his house and spends all the money he gets. His favorite hobby is courting girls(he's very smooth) and then breaking their hearts. One time he throws a huge tantrum because Sophie accidentally turns his hair dye one shade redder. Sophie's the perfect foil for his flamboyant airheadness.

With that said, I felt there were way too many characters in this story. Often times, they weren't focused on enough. The minor characters would disappear for chapters at a time, and popped in just when I'd forgotten about them.

The plot was strange and often rough in some places. And that's fine, but it was also very dragged out. Howl's Moving Castle is deceptively long for what happens in the book. The doesn't move fast enough. And I felt that way too much went on for me to appreciate it enough.

But yes, Howl's Moving Castle is worth reading for the brilliant characters, the quirky setting, and the funny side events that happen in the story. I found myself not wanting the book to end(The plot could jump off a cliff for all I cared, I just wanted to read more scenes with the characters.) It is funny. Howl repeatedly overreacts or does something stupid, and Sophie rolls her eyes and throws her sensible, sarcastic comments his way. It also is refreshing to have Sophie 90 years old for most of the story. Elderly people aren't boring, and she has a perspective the younger Sophie wouldn't have lent.


“By now it was clear that Howl was in a mood to produce green slime any second. Sophie hurriedly put her sewing away. "I'll make some hot buttered toast," she said. "Is that all you can do in the face of tragedy??" Howl asked. "Make toast!”
Diana Wynne Jones, Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle is also incredibly clean. The evil Witch of the Waste has a slightly gruesome, slightly bothering fate in mind for Howl, and there are rumors that Howl eats girls' hearts(which, as we find out, is a euphemism.) But that's all.

Themes
This is where Howl's Moving Castle really falls short. The book is airy and, charming, but contains not much meaning other than the usual fairy tale stuff. Howl does change, but it's not really a change of character.(You'll understand once you read it.)  Sophie does start out insecure, believing that she's plain, not pretty, untalented, common, and doomed. But Howl calls it nonsense and said she just never stopped to think about herself before. Sophie's compassion, as in many fairy tales, does have positive repercussions. Most characters, even Howl, are decent to each other and kind to Sophie. Howl undercharges the poor.

Positivity can be found in Sophie's character. She stays calm through tough situations and works hard without ever complaining or grumbling, much to the contrast of Howl and other characters.


Conclusion
Go ahead, read it. It's summery and fills you with warmth. Howl will have you chuckling for a while. Sophie is someone we can all strive to be like.



"Well, he's fickle, careless, selfish, and hysterical,' she said. 'Half the time I think he doesn't care what happens to anyone as long as he's alright--but then I find out how awfully kind he's been to someone. Then I think he's kind just when it suits him--only then I find out he undercharges poor people. I don't know, Your Majesty. He's a mess.”

-Sophie, about Howl.


In the end, I guess Howl's Moving Castle is a refreshing version of a classic fairy tale. It's about the day we all leave our small, familiar hat shops in search of a magical destiny, an exciting fortune, and a moving castle of our own.




 



6 comments:

  1. OMG!!!!!!!!! THIS is one of my FAVORITE books and MOVIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeppppppppppppppppppppppp!
    Sorry. :) Not really. Heeheee!
    Well I loved reading this.
    ~Selina~

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  2. Haha, I had to laugh when you said that the cover was one of the ugliest things you'd ever seen, because I was thinking the same thing!! I saw the movie a few years ago when I came home sick from school and it was on one of our movie channels... I fell in love with it! It was so enchanting, and me being the romantic that I am, I found it to be quite romantic as well! The book wasn't exactly like the movie (but what book is exactly like its movie?), but I still enjoyed it. I like the cover I have on it better though, haha :)
    ~Lauren :)

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  3. @ Lauren

    How dare you?!
    Ahem.

    The book came first! It's not the poor book's fault the movie isn't like it! :( You mean the movie wasn't exactly like the BOOK, right? XD


    Sorry :P. The movie is enchanting, and it's so much more romantic than the book XD. I love the score, too. Do you have the newer cover with the castle on it?

    -Amaranthine

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  4. PS.But I still like the book better :P

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  5. I really liked your review..... er... analysis :) Can't say I see eye to eye completely but I thought you did a FANTASTIC job. And I always love your posts, so there. <3

    I've found I like the book and movie equally, but for different reasons.... I don't think I could pick a favorite......

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  6. I love the book better. The movie seemed so heavy whereas the book was just light read that takes you to somewhere beautiful.

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Amaranthine <3's you. Thanks for the comment!