“Untouchable” Common

“But he didn’t mind the cold very much, suffering it willingly because he could sacrifice a good many comforts for the sake of what he called ‘fashun,’ by which he understood the art of wearing trousers, breeches, coat, puttees, boots, etc., as worn by the British and Indian soldiers in India” (10)

“His tongue was slightly burnt with small sips because he did not, as his father did, blow on the tea to cool it. This was another of the things he had learnt at the British barracks from the Tommies.” (32)

These to passages show the influence of a colonial legacy on Bakha as he tries to fashion himself into a sort of mimic man, equating British tastes as superior to Indian ones as he sees them (as the dominating colonial power) as more modern and fashionable. This is seen as a detriment. His English clothes are ill-suited for the environment and his western style blanket is unsuitable for keeping him warm at night. Even simple affectations, such as the way he takes his tea in the English fashion, harms him as he burns his tongue. He is nettled nettled by his fascination.

“The Postmaster” Common

“When the postmaster had finished his supper, the girl suddenly asked him: ‘Dada, will you take me to your home?’ The postmaster laughed. ‘What an idea!’ said he; but he did not think it necessary to explain to the girl wherein lay the absurdity.” (166)

 

What I found interesting about this passage is that while the Postmaster does not feel it necessary to explain the absurdity of Ratan’s request to Ratan, he (or the narrator) also does not feel it necessary to explain that same sentiment to the reader. Thus, the absurdity must be intuited by the reader just as Ratan must intuit it. This seems to suggest that Ratan is ignorant, or flying in the face of, some sort of social or cultural norm which the reader may or may not also be aware of.

 

 

“Their Eyes Were Watching God” Common

“These sitters had been tongueless, earless, eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and other brutes had occupies their skins. But now, the sun and the bossman were gone, so the skins felt powerful and human. They became lords of sounds and lesser things. They passed nations through their mouths. They sat in judgment.” (1)

 

This passage separates existence for black laborers along the lines of work and agency in a very interesting way. Their labor robs them of person-hood, becoming robbed of perception and relegated to the role of a mere convenience – robbing their work of any potential personal value. The theft of agency is compounded by the possession-like language of their skin being occupied by dumb beasts suited to the drudgery. However, once the influence of the work day and the “bossman”dissipate, they come once again into their humanity at night. Power is stratified once more, the community becoming lesser lords who nevertheless have the power to judge Janie.

“Cane” Common

“Time and space have no meaning in a canefield.” (16)

 

This to me seems like a powerful metaphor for the ongoing repercussions and echoes of slavery. The canefield, representative of slave labor, is unable to be erased by time or distance. The marks that it leaves upon a society and a people are indelible. It also points out how such histories and narratives have tended to be erased from record, that the canefield has no meaning to some people’s conceptions of time and space.

“The Maltese Falcon” Common

Sherlock Holmes and Lord Peter Wimsey both had character flaws which complicated their relationship to the work they did as detectives, but Samuel Spade seems the most morally questionable. He works purely for money rather than for any desire or thrill within the detective process, even willing to chase up false stories for a pay day, “‘We believed your two hundred dollars'” (33). We learn early on that he has had an affair with his partner’s wife and more or less drops her after Archer’s death. The author goes out of his way to characterize him in problematic ways: “He looked rather pleasantly like a blond satan” (3), “Spade grinned wolfishly, showing the edges of teeth far back in his jaw” (10).  Spade is definitely cast more in shades of grey than the previous detectives and I wonder if that will impact his successes and his detecting processes.

Sherlock Holmes Common

“Male costume is nothing new to me. I often take advantage of the freedom which it gives.”(19)

“She has the face of the most beautiful of women, and the mind of the most resolute of men.” (8)

“A Scandal in Bohemia” was the most interesting of the three stories that we read because it seemed to be the one that flipped the script a little bit – Holmes did not win. Irene Adler outmaneuvered Holmes and beat him at his own game. This was accomplished through an interesting case of gender performance. Through her training an an actress and her skill in disguise (mirrored in Holmes) she is able to shed her female identity and gain a male one which allows her the greater freedom and agency to move within society and outplay Holmes. This is complicated for me through the description of her in the narrative as having the mind of a man. In a way, the narrative makes it seem that the only way that Irene (a woman) was able to defeat Holmes (a man) was because she affected the thinking and dress of a man. This seems to subtly devalue the efficacy of “woman’s wit” (20).

“As I Lay Dying” Common 2

“‘He is my cross and he will be my salvation. He will save me from the water and from the fire. Even though I have laid down my life, he will save me.'” (168)

This was another oddly prophetic moment where Addie seems to predict events that transpire after her death. She correctly predicts that Jewel will save her from water (the river crossing) and fire (the barn burning). She correctly predicts that these events will occur specifically after her death and that Jewel would be the one to safeguard her. Cora states several times that she feels Darl is the most like Addie. While that can be taken with a grain of salt, it is hard to deny that they both share some sort of tie through prophecy.

“As I Lay Dying” Common

“We picked on down the row, the woods getting closer and closer and the secret shade, picking on into the secret shade with my sack and Lafe’s sack. Because I said will I or wont I when the sack was half full because I said if the sack is full when we get to the woods it wont be me. I said if it don’t mean for me to do it the sack will not be full and I will turn up the next row but if the sack is full, I cannot help it. It will be that I had to do it all the time and I cannot help it. And we picked on toward the secret shade and our eyes would drown together touching on his hands and my hands and I didn’t say anything. I said ‘What are you doing?’ and he said ‘I am picking into your sack.’ And so it was full when we came to the end of the row and I could not help it.”

 

One thing that I find interesting about Faulkner’s language in the passage, and indeed the novel at large is how restrained and suggestive it is. The passage never goes out of it’s way to say that Dewey Dell and Lafe are headed towards a shady spot to have sex during their work (something that has huge reverberations throughout the rest of the novel). Instead, we get an interior look at Dewey Dells’s somewhat jumbled thoughts with very little grounding to understand what is happening unless someone picks up the context cues as she wrestles with herself to equivocate the situation. If her cotton sack is full by the end of the row she will have sex, if not then she won’t. I found this a bit troubling as Dewey is obviously unsure as to whether or not to have sex outside of marriage, thus she leaves it up to an arbitrary measure of chance to thus wash her hands of responsibility. Yet, she is denied even this small measure of choice as Lafe openly begins filling her sack, thus cornering her into a sexual encounter. The intimacy may have been at least partly willing, yet Dewey is ultimately denied the free mind to engage in it openly and then denied the choice overall.

“A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” Common #2

“To merge his life in the common tide of other lives was harder for him than any fasting or prayer and it was his constant failure to do this to his own satisfaction which caused in his soul at last a sensation of spiritual dryness together with a growth of doubts and scruples.” (128)

This section speaks to me of Stephen’s continued sense of self-alienation. Even after the re-dedication to his Catholicism following the Father Arnall’s sermon about hell, Stephen seems unable to totally devote himself to his faith or his church. This seems to come from a sense of individuality that he implicitly views as special and good, despite his attempt to indoctrinate himself. He refers to those around him as the “common tide” a term that seems to denote disdain for others. The mortification of his pride seems to be the one thing that prevents him from wholly committing to the church while reigniting his doubts about Catholicism – his “spiritual dryness”. Yet, this also allows him to retain his individuality. Though his alienation seems to cause him spiritual pain it also safeguards his identity against being subsumed by the church.

“A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” Common

“-O, he’ll remember all this when he grows up, said Dante hotly -the language he heard against God and religion and priests in his own home.

-Let him remember too, cried Mr Casey to her from across the table, the language with which the priest and the priests’ pawn broke Parnell’s heart and hounded him into his grave. Let him remember that too when he grows up.” (28)

The figure or Parnell looms quite a bit in the earlier part of the novel. I looked up Parnell and the controversy and saw that he was a proponent and leading figure of the Home Rule party and a member of Parliament. His career was ruined due to a scandal involving him and  Katherine O’Shea – a married woman. They had an affair and he had in fact fathered two of her children while she was his mistress. This led to maneuverings on both political grounds (those opposed to Ireland home rule) as well as on religious grounds (the Catholic Church) to ruin Parnell and oust him from political power. He died of pneumonia just two years after his affair was discovered and made public knowledge.

 

I picked this passage because it sets up a divide between religion and nationalism that Stephen internalizes early on and quite dramatically in his life. The fact that memory and his adult life is invoked suggests to me that this is an ideological struggle that may continue later on into the novel.

 

 

“The Mark on the Wall” Common

“Indeed, now that I have fixed my eyes upon it, I feel that I have grasped a plank in the sea; I feel a satisfying sense of reality which at once turns the two Archbishops and the Lord High Chancellor to the shadows of shades. Here is something definite, something real.” (89)

 

I liked this passage due to the irony of feeling a sense of fixed reality through the contemplation of an objectively undefined object. It seems that the very vagueness of the object allows the narrator to utilize her imagination to shape her own perception of things and, in a way, allows her to shape her own reality against patriarchal structures. When the object is actually “defined” (by a man, likely) all of the narrators liberating mental processes cease.

“The Middle Years” Common

“Dencombe had told him what he ‘tried for;’ with all his intelligence, on a first perusal, Doctor Hugh had failed to guess it. The baffled celebrity wondered then who in the world would guess it: he was amused once more at the fine, full way with which an intention could be missed. Yet he wouldn’t rail at the general mind to-day – consoling as that ever had been: the revelation of his own slowness had seemed to make all stupidity sacred.” (269)

This moment of the novel seemed pretty self conscious to me as a reader. While I grasped the overall story during my first reading, I feel I am missing deeper layers of significance. This also demonstrates that literary works can potentially have more than one interpretation, and begs the question as to whether or not there is a correct one – various reader interpretations or the author’s own purpose.