“His first sensation of the bazaar was of its smell, a pleasant aroma oozing from so many unpleasant things, drains, grains fresh and decaying vegetables, spices, men and women and asafoetida. Then it was the kaleidoscope of colours, the red, the orange, the purple of the fruit in the tiers of baskets which were arranged around the Pesawari fruit-seller, dressed in a blue silk turban, a scarlet velvet waistcoat, embroidered with gold, a long white tunic and trousers; the gory red of the mutton hanging beside the butcher who was himself busy mincing meat on a log of woof, while his assistants roasted it on skewers over a charcoal fire, or fried it in the black iron pan; the pale-blond colour of the wheat shop; and the rainbow hues of the sweetmeat stall, not to speak of the various shades of turbans and skirts, from the deep black of the widows the the green, the pink, the mauce and the fawn of the newly wedded brides, and all the tints of the shifting, changing crowd, from the Brahmin’s white to the grass-cutter’s coffee and the Pathan’s swarthy brown.”
When I initially read this, I marked it for commonplacing; it didn’t occur to me that this entire passage was one really long sentence until I was actually typing it out. I do love this passage though. I think it portrays the sensation of being overwhelmed by worldly/cultural wonder extremely acutely. I once walked through a street market in Portugal and felt much the same way – surrounded by strange and wondrous sights, smells, and strangers; it is a very humbling experience.
“It was a cityfied, stylish dressed man with his hat set at an angle that didn’t belong in these parts. His coat was over his arm, but he didn’t need it to represent his clothes. The shirt with the silk sleeveholders was dazzling enough for the world. He whistled, mopped his face and walked like he knew where he was going. He was a seal-brown color but he acted like Mr. Washburn or somebody like that to Janie. Where would such a man be coming from and where was he going?”
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. pp. 32.
The word “cityfied” stuck out to me here; I think that this passage captures the vague distrust between urban and rural characters. The drifter archetype is generally a harbinger of misfortune, so this meeting is tense.
“Kabnis has stiffened. He is conscious now of the night wind, and of how it chills him. He rises. He totters as a man would who for the first time uses artificial limbs. As a completely artificial man would. The large frame house, squatting on brick pillars, where the principal of the school, his wife, and the boarding girls sleep, seems a curious shadow of his mind. He tries, but cannot convince himself of its reality.”
Toomer, Cane (114)
Kabnis is an interesting character with an equally notable perspective, given the context of the novel. The fact that he seems so out of place, fascinated by the contrast of the state’s beauty and ignorance all at once, is something I didn’t expect to see in this book.
“By the way the world reckons things, he had won her. By measure of that warm glow which came into her mind at the thought of him, he had won her. Tom Burwell, whom the whole town called Big Boy, also loved her. But working in the fields all day, and far away from her gave him no chance to show it. Though often enough of evenings he had tried to. Somehow he never got along. Strong as he was with hands upon the ax or plow, he found it difficult to hold her. Or so he thought. But the fact was that he held her to factory town more firmly than he thought for. His black balanced, and pulled against, the white of Stone, when she thought of them. And her mind was vaguely upon them as she came over the crest of the hill, coming form the white folks’ kitchen. As she song softly at the evil face of the full moon.”
This passage was beautiful. The descriptions of emotion in this novel are particularly striking, but this specific passage highlighted what I’ve always interpreted how it feels to experience emotion in this context, and describes indelibly.
“Gutman smoked a cigar and read Celebrated Criminal Cases in America, now and then chuckling over or commenting on the parts of its contents that amused him. Cairo nursed his mouth and sulked on his end of the sofa. The boy sat with his head in his hands until a little after four o’clock. Then he lay down with his feet towards Cairo, turned his face to the window, and went to sleep. Bridget O’Shaugnessy, in the armchair, listened to the fat man’s comments, and carried on wide-spaced desultory conversations with Spade.”
-Knopf, Alfred A. The Maltese Falcon, pp. 199
I think this image captures Knopf’s method of describing a scene through character description/body language rather than actual dialogue or action, and also gives each character a unique profile for this particularly tense moment.
“Mr. Joel Cairo was a small-boned dark man of medium height. His hair was black and smooth and very glossy. His features were Levantine. A square-cut ruby, its sides paralleled by four baguette diamonds, gleamed against the deep green of his cravat. His black coat, cut tight to narrow shoulders, flared a little over slightly plump hips. His trousers fitted his round legs more snugly than was the current fashion. The uppers of his patent-leather shoes were hidden by fawn spats. He held a black derby hat in a chamois-gloved hand and came towards Spade with short, mincing, bobbing steps. The fragrance of chypre came with him.”
This man is described to appear villainous, overtly so. Makes me wonder if he is a red herring or the most obvious of bad guys.
“People have been known to do that sort of thing. You’re thinking that people don’t keep up jealousies for twenty years or so. Perhaps not. Not just primitive, brute jealousy. That means a word and a blow. But the thing that rankles is hurt vanity. That sticks. Humiliation. and we’ve all got a sore spot we don’t like to have touched. I’ve got it. You’ve got it. Some blighter said hell knew no fury like a woman scorned. Stickin’ it on to women, poor devils. Sex is every man’s loco spot – you needn’t fidget, you know it’s true – he’ll take a disappointment, but not a humiliation.”
Sayers, Dorothy L. Whose Body, page 123
This monologue sticks out. One can almost feel the discomfort in the other characters.
“But it’s a shame, in a way. Folks seem to get away from the olden right teaching that says to drive the nails down and trim the wedges well always like it was for your own use and comfort you were making it. It’s like some folks has the smooth, pretty boards to build a courthouse with and others dont have no more than rough lumber fitten to build a chicken coop. But it’s better to build a tight chicken coop than a shoddy courthouse, and when they both build shoddy or build well, neither because it’s one or tother is going to make a man feel the better nor the worse.”
William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying, page 234.
Cash is basically saying “nothing matters” here, framing it in the familiar and comfortable defense mechanism of carpentry to express his feelings about life and circumstance.
“Pa stands over the bed, dangle-armed, humped, motionless. He raises his hand to his head, scouring his hair, listening to the saw. He comes nearer and rubs his hand, palm and back, on his thigh and lays it on her face and then on the hump of quilt where her hands are. He touches the quilt as he saw Dewey Dell do, trying to smoothe it up to the chin, but disarranging it instead. He tries to smoothe it again, clumsily, his hand awkward as a claw, smoothing at the wrinkles which he made and which continue to emerge beneath his hand with perverse ubiquity, so that at last he desists, hand hand falling to his side and stroking itself again, palm and back, on his thigh. The sound of the saw snores steadily into the room. Pa breathes with a quiet, rasping sound, mouthing the snuff against his gums. “God’s will be done,” he says. “Now I can get them teeth.”
William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (51-52)
Anse’s complete emotional disconnection from his family is clear here. He tries to make things better by imitating the affection Dewey showed for her mother, but only ends up making the wrinkles worse. This reflects his relationship with his family.
“And for ages men had gazed upward as he was gazing at birds in flight. The colonnade above him made him think vaguely of an ancient temple and the ashplant on which he leaned wearily of the curved stick of an augur. A sense of fear of the unknown moved in the heart of his weariness, a fear of symbols and portents, of the hawklike man whose name he bore soaring out of his captivity on osierwoven wings, of Thoth, the god of writers, writing with a reed upon a tablet and bearing on his narrow ibis head the cusped moon.”
“White roses and red roses: those were beautiful colors to think of. And the cards for first place and second place and third place were beautiful colors too: pink and cream and lavender. Lavender and cream and pink roses were beautiful to think of. Perhaps a wild rose might be like those colors and he remembered the song about the wild rose blossoms on the little green place. But you could not have a green rose. But perhaps somewhere in the world you could.”
“He was lost, he was lost – he was lost if he couldn’t be saved. He was not afraid of suffering, of death; he was not even in love with life; but he had a deep demonstration of desire.”
This passage, set near the center of the piece, spoke to me personally. I felt the sentence itself was deeply moving, and given the deeper implications of the concept of life, loss, temporal influence, and death are explored here in such a succinct and powerful way. The repetition at the beginning of the sentence reminds me of T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” clincher and conveyed a similar feeling of dread.