Bakha’s Puzzle-like Clothing

“He had had glimpses, during his sojourn there, of the life the Tommies lived…. And he had soon become possessed with an overwhelming desire to live their life. He had been told they were sahibs, superior people. He had felt that to put on their clothes made one a sahib too. So he tried to copy them in everything, to copy them as well as he could in the exigencies of his peculiarly Indian circumstances. He had begged one Tommy for the gift of a pair of trousers. The man had given him a pair of breeches which he had to spare. A Hindu sepoy, for the good of his own soul, had been kind enough to make an endowment of a pair of boots and puttees. For the other items he had gone down to the rag-seller’s shop in the town…” (5).

 

The way in which Bakha views and obtains the British soldier attire stands out to me for many reasons. Initially, his desire to look like the British soldiers seems innocent. He wants to be like them after catching “glimpses” of them and their behaviors, mentioned prior to the passage above. However, this pure innocence begins to fade, slightly, when it is revealed Bakha wishes to look like the soldiers because they are “Sahibs” or “superior people”. No longer is Bakha’s wish simply to be like someone, but be like someone because they are supposedly better than others.  Another component of this passage that I really enjoyed examining was the fractured way in which Bakha attains the different parts of British soldier clothing. One part comes from a British soldier, another from a Hindu sepoy, and the rest from a rag-seller. This manner of depicting his clothes as coming from multiple sources paints Bakha’s clothing as not necessarily worldly or cosmopolitan, but almost inauthentic. Yes, they form an entire outfit, as a military uniform, but they are pieced together in this puzzle-like manner that make them almost seem forced together – possibly by Bakha – to create a certain image of himself.  

Narrating Identity in “The Postmaster”

“In the loneliness of his exile, and in the gloom of the rains, his ailing body needed a little tender nursing. He longed to remember the touch on the forehead of soft hands with tinkling bracelets, to imagine the presence of loving womanhood, the nearness of mother and sister. And the exile was not disappointed. Ratan ceased to be a little girl. She at once stepped into the post of mother…gave the patient his pills at the proper intervals, sat up all night by his pillow, cooked his gruel for him, and every now and then asked: ‘Are you feeling a little better, Dada ?'” (9-10).

This moment of the text sticks out to me because of the narrator’s characterization of Ratan. Up to this point, Ratan holds the label of orphan and child to both the narrator and the postmaster. However, at this moment, when the postmaster needs someone to care for him, particularly a “woman”, Ratan “cease[s] to be a little girl”. During this moment, Ratan seems to, conveniently, transition into the role of a woman, solely for her ability to care for the ailing postmaster. However, after this scene, especially towards the end of the work, Ratan seems to become a little girl again as well as a child without a family. This shifting identity for Ratan is interesting, but it also draws attention to the similarities in personality between the narrator and the postmaster. Both seem to see Ratan as useful rather than as a person they care for.

 

Janie’s Complete Story

“‘She got de land and everything and then Mis’ Washburn helped out uh whole heap wid things.’…”She thought awhile and decided that her conscious life had commenced at Nanny’s gate. On a late afternoon Nanny had called her to come inside the house because she had spied Janie letting Johnny Taylor kiss her over the gatepost….It was a spring afternoon in West Florida”(10).

After discussing this passage in class, especially as one that I also previously chose to write about, I gained a different insight on the significance of the passage above. Our class pointed out that the transition from a quoted Janie telling her story to an unmarked telling of Janie’s past represents the shift from direct discourse to free indirect discourse. With this in mind, I couldn’t help but question the motive for this shift, particularly in regards to the relationship between the narrator, Janie, and the idea of judgement. Whereas Janie tells her story to Pheoby (marked), it is through the narrator that readers gain a deeper insight into Janie’s life and perceptions. I wonder if this narrator is needed not just for a more omniscient look into Janie’s life, but for the narrator’s ability to provide a clearer picture, unhindered by the judgement Janie may feel in telling her story through quotations to a Pheoby-like figure.

Carma’s Strength & the Cane Field

“Bane was afraid to follow till he heard he gun go off. Then he wasted half an hour gathering the neighbor men. They met in the road where lamp-light showed tracks dissolving in the loose earth about the cane. The search began. Moths flickered he lamps. They put them out. Really, because she still might be live enough to shoot. Time and space have no meaning in a canefield” (16).

 

This component of Carma stood out to me for two reasons. While the work overall seems to subjugate and weaken Carma the character, her moments of strength stood out to me in comparison to the earlier passages of Toomer’s “Cane”, in which vulnerability and a lack of strength seem to be focused on. In Carma, the character of the same name achieves a certain level of strength that, while it does not seem to transcend her race, does go beyond her gender. This becomes clear through the way in which Bane reacts to Carma’s escape. Rather than follow her into the canefield, Bane “[gathers’] the neighbor men to come with him. Bane’s, as well as the other men’s, weariness of Carma becomes clearer through the words of the narrator. While the men supposedly extinguish their lamps because of the moths, the narrator explains that their true reason for doing so was their fear that Carma may still be “live enough to shoot.”

 

Another part of the quote above that catches my attention is the line, “Time and space have no meaning in a canefield”. In context of Toomer’s work, this line evokes as well as emphasizes not just the position of Carma, but, in one way or another, the life of colored people during this time. The canefield on its own brings about images of slave work. When this canefield stands alongside the idea of timelessness and a lack of space, it seems to focus on this non-existence, this life outside of time and space, not unlike the life of a slave or subjugated person during a time of oppression.

The Maltese Falcon & Descriptions

“Samuel Spade’s jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth. His nostrils curved back to make another, smaller, v. His yellow-grey eyes were horizontal. The v motif was picked up again by thickish brows rising outward from twin creases above a hooked nose, and his pale brown hair grew down…in a point on his forehead. He looked rather pleasantly like a blond Satan”(3).

This description of Spade’s character stuck out to me, much like the descriptions of later characters like Archer and Ms. Wonderly, because of its level of detail and characterization. While we receive descriptions regarding characters in past novels, such as that of Holmes and Watson, the descriptions given in this work seem to have a certain gravity to them. This possibly occurs, for me at least, in result of the attention paid to the face of the characters in “Maltese Falcon”, whereas in other works descriptions lean toward body shape and clothing. From this description, the work seems to depict glimpses of Spades personality through his facial features. Not only is he handsome or “pleasantly like a blond Satan”, but the sharp features of his face seem to portray his own coarseness or seriousness as a character. This description of Spade becomes more important when he is surrounded by other characters and their respective descriptions. The characters, together, come to create this tableau of not simply a mystery, but one that reminds me of noir works, carrying an atmosphere of darkness and haziness.

 

 

Peter and Holmes

“‘Take my cab and tell him to hurry. He may for you; he doesn’t like me very much. Can I,’ said Lord Peter, looking at himself in the eighteenth-century mirror over the mantelpiece, “can I have the heart to fluster the flustered Thipps further—that’s very difficult to say quickly—by appearing in a top-hat and frock-coat? I think not. Ten to one he will overlook my trousers and mistake me for the undertaker. A grey suit, I fancy, neat but not gaudy, with a hat to tone, suits my other self better. Exit the amateur of first editions; new motif introduced by solo bassoon; enter Sherlock Holmes, disguised as a walking gentleman. There goes Bunter. Invaluable fellow—never offers to do his job when you’ve told him to do somethin’ else’” (Chapter 1).

 

The above passage’s portrayal of Lord Peter stood out to me through its almost blunt contrast with Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Although both works focus around a mystery and the detective protagonist, they do so in significantly different ways. In particular, the interaction between the detective and their society is handled differently in the two works. While both character’s show intelligence, Peter reveals a type of arrogance and self-absorption in the way that he addresses or sees those in society. In planning his visit to Mr. Thipps, Peter concerns himself with his “top-hat and frock-coat,” rather than focusing on Mr. Thipps’ current state of worry. On the other hand, Holmes seems to focus intently on the facts and inconsistencies in a case from the beginning, seemingly ignoring what Watson describes as, essentially, worldly or physical pleasures. This early distinction between the two caught my attention as it stressed the need to focus on how the two detectives go about not only solving the investigation, but who they willingly engage with and how to achieve an answer.

 

Darl’s Truth

“But after Armstid gave pa a drink, he felt better, and when we went in to see about Cash he hadn’t come in with us. When I looked back he was heading the horse into the barn he was already talking about getting another team, and by supper time he had good as bought it.  He is down there in the barn, sliding fluidly past the gaudy lunging swirl, into the stall with it… Then he returns and slips quickly past the single crashing thump and up against the horse, where it cannot overreach. He applies the curry-comb…cursing the horse in a whisper of obscene caress. Its head flashes back, tooth-cropped” (182-183).

 

This passage seems interesting to me because of the way in which Darl seems to gain insight on characters (and their actions), as he does in earlier parts of the work, that are not immediately around him. The change in the text from a normal script to italics suggests a difference in the way in which one should read certain components of Darl’s passage. While reading italic parts of Darl’s passage above, I judged those perspectives as not necessarily true. Rather, I took them as possibly true, but also possibly false depictions by Darl. I view the normal script parts of the passage as facts that, for one reason or another, Darl could confirm or learned in person, thereby explaining why the normal script is distinguished from the italic text. While the passage does not explain why the italics occur explicitly, the timing of the switches in script imply their significance. Darl asserts, “But after Armstid gave pa a drink, he felt better, and when we went in to see about Cash he hadn’t come in with us”. With this passage, Darl explains that his father did not enter Armstid’s home as well as that Anse received a drink from Armstid. This part of the text appears in normal script. However, after Darl and Anse separate, negating Darl’s knowledge of Anse’s whereabouts, the script switches to italics, wherein Darl describes Anse’s actions within the barn. This moment contributes to the way in which Darl’s use of perspective, in regards to script, must be viewed in order to fully understand the way in which Darl approaches and interacts with those in the work. While he may not have knowledge of each character at every moment in the work, he commonly creates an image of a character, portraying it as some form of the truth.

 

 

Darl & Perspective

“Pa stands beside the bed. From behind his leg Vardaman peers, with his round head and his eyes round and his mouth beginning to open. She looks at pa; all her failing life appears to drain into her eyes, urgent, irremediable. ‘It’s Jewel she wants,’ Dewey Dell says…’You, Cash,’ she shouts, her voice harsh, strong, and unimpaired. ‘You, Cash!'”(47-48).

 

While Faulkner portrays a novel use of perspective and narration in his work through each character, it is his portrayal of Darl’s point of view that stands out to me the most. Whereas other characters in the work seem to usually focus on their present location or thoughts in the world of the novel, Darl seems able to achieve a level of knowing that resembles that of an omniscient narrator. In the passage above, Darl depicts the death of his mother, positioning characters around his mother as well as describing her last words. This painting of the moment would not seem odd if given by an omniscient narrator or one of the characters in the room with Addie. However, this moment is described by Darl: someone not present at the moment of Addie’s death.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man & Nature

“He drove their echoes even out of his heart with an execration; but, as he walked down the avenue and felt the grey morning light falling about him through the dripping trees and smelt the strange wild smell of the wet leaves and bark, his soul was loosed of her miseries” (Chapter 5, 176).

 

This passage caught my attention while reading because of its depiction and positioning of Stephen, relative to his family and nature. Prior to this scene, Stephen leaves his family happily, regardless of his mother’s words that he is different now (negative connotation) as well as his father’s wish to not see him. Still, in this leave, from the home to a forest like area, Stephen achieves a certain peace and tranquility that I don’t believe the character gets to experience commonly throughout the work. Also, in this occurrence of peace manifests a moment of development and growth for Stephen: one that extends beyond the inclusion of others and focuses on the character.

The Cold & “A Portrait of the Artist as A Young Man”

“The cold slime of the ditch covered his whole body; and, when the bell rang for study and the lines filed out of the playrooms, he felt the cold air of the corridor and the staircase inside his clothes. He still tried to think what was the right answer. Was it right to kiss his mother or wrong to kiss his mother” (14-15).

 

This passage stuck out to me while reading “A Portrait of the Artist as A Young Man” not simply because of its plot, but its connection to the past moments in the work. From the beginning of the work, the narrator paints the life of Stephen Dedalus as an unhappy one. While the narrator mentions Stephen separating from his parents to attend school as well as the character’s feelings of separation or loneliness from his peers, these plot occurrences alone do not emphasize these emotions. Rather, it is this plot along with the narrator’s repeated use of specific words and phrases that solidify and draw attention to the solitude of Stephen. Much like the passage above uses the word “cold” in a way that depicts Stephen as being surrounded by coldness, and therefore experiencing a kind of separation and solitude, the previous passages of the work do the same. They constantly use “cold” or “damp”, tying it to Stephen and/or his surroundings, ultimately painting a bleak or depressing setting for the character to develop in.

 

Henry James’ “Art of Fiction” & The 16th Century

“It is still expected, though perhaps people are ashamed to say it, that a production which is after all only a ‘make-believe’ (for what else is a ‘story’?) shall be in some degree apologetic—shall renounce the pretension of attempting really to represent life. This, of course, any sensible, wide-awake story declines to do, for it quickly perceives that the tolerance granted to it on such a condition is only an attempt to stifle it disguised in the form of generosity” (377-378).

This passage stood out to me because it reminded me of Sir Phillip Sidney’s work, “Defense of Poesy”. While this work was written in the 16th century and focused on defending the merits of poetry, Henry James’ work mirrors it in its justification as well as criticism of fiction as a form of art. Much like Sidney portrays poetry as an art able to provide humans a better image of what they could be, James mentions, in the passage above, the ability of fiction, or ‘make-believe’, to still represent life. While poetry and fiction may not be one and the same, witnessing their judgement by society at differing periods in time demonstrate their merits as well as society’s developments and changes over time.

“The Middle Years”: The Narrator & Dencombe

“One of the ladies was large and mature; the other had the spareness of comparative youth and of a social situation possibly inferior. The large lady carried back Dencombe’s imagination to the age of crinoline; she wore a hat of the shape of a mushroom, decorated with a blue veil, and had the air, in her aggressive amplitude, of clinging to a vanished fashion or even a lost cause” (610).

 

While this passage appears in the beginning parts of the work, I found that I always thought back to it as I moved throughout the story. Although I can’t say that the narrator and Dencombe are one and the same, the two do seem to mirror one another in how they view or characterize others. In the passage above, the narrator depicts Miss Vernham and the Countess. However, this depiction is done in a way that resembles the belittling nature of Dencombe. Rather than depict the Countess in a neutral manner, the narrator explains that the woman reminded Dencombe of “the age of crinoline” and seemed to be “clinging to a vanished fashion”. In a similar tone, the narrator paints Miss Vernham as having a “social situation” that is “possibly inferior”. In this supercilious tone of narration, the narrator stays close to the personality or nature of Dencombe, creating an interesting relationship between the two as well as influencing the way in which the story is told and understood.