Untouchable

“He shivered as he turned on his side. 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….But Bakha was a child of modern India.The clearcut styles of European dress had impressed his naive mind. This stark simplicity had furrowed his old Indian consciousness and cut deep new lines where all the considerations which made India evolve a skirty costume as best fitted for the human body, lay dormant.” (4)

Anand, Mulk Raj. UntouchableNew York: Penguin Publishers, 2014.

Perhaps it is suspect to pick a passage so near the beginning of the novel, but I do believe there is much to unpack here. Firstly, it introduces the narration as not being without sentiment towards the traditional ways of India. Perhaps the phonetic spelling of the word ‘fashion’ is meant to convey a sort of ridiculousness at chasing after the ways of the foreign British, something the rest of the passage seems also to do. Of course, despite the political implications of the passage, it is also worth noting the familiarity of this in terms of youthful aspiration and fashion chasing. Also, whereas Tagore’s stories had colonialism in the subtext, clearly this is a novel with the British colonization front and center.

The Postmaster

“When the postmaster had finished his supper, the girl suddenly asked him: ‘Dada, will you take me 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.

That whole night in her waking and in her dreams, the postmaster’s laughing reply haunted her…” (Tagore, 166-167).

Tagore, Rabindranath. “The Postmaster.” Mashi and Other Stories. London: Macmillan and Co., 1918. Accessed from HaithiTrust.

Here is an interesting turning point in the story. By all means, one might expect this story to be of a different sort completely, where the postmaster realizes his paternal care or love for Ratan and brings her with him to care for her. But of course it is not that story, that story to this particular character is absurd. He laughs at the idea. As the narrator tells us, despite Ratan’s calling the postmaster Dada, that the postmaster is in fact her master. Another moment of importance is when the text chalks up to the inscrutability of women why Ratan might be upset with being left the charge of another postmaster despite the continued material security (obviously a relative term here).

Their Eyes Were Watching God

“She knew now that marriage did not make love. Janie’s first dream was dead, so she became a woman.” (25)

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes were Watching God. New York: HarperPerennial, 2006.

Here marks a genuinely advancing moment in the Bildungsroman novel. not only does it confirm the anxieties of the previous chapters of finding love, but also shows how Janie’s position in worrying about love is unique in many ways to her social and historical position. She has the luxury to worry about love, as her grandmother reminds her, while her mother and grandmother both bore children as the results of rape. Furthermore, it fits in with the themes also presented by Janie’s grandmother about the condition or social ‘place’ of black women in society, that her ascension to womanhood is primarily a result of her dying dream.

Added for Wed. 11/15:

Here is a moment that to some degree is representative of the synthesis of narration in the telling of Janie’s story. This narrative voice is beyond here indirect discourse, to a degree it is hard to imagine Janie saying something so grandiose as this, however she may express the sentiment and here it is put into the broader, again more grandiose, terms of the narrator introduced in the first sentence of the novel. It is neither just Janie or neither just that narrator, hence the synthesis.

Toomer Cane

“When the first was born, the white folks said they’d hae no more to do with her. And black folks, they too joined hands to cast her out…The pines whispered to Jesus… The railroad boss said not to say he said it, but she could live, if she wanted to, on the narrow strip of land between the railroad and the road.” (8)

Toomer, Jean. Cane. New York: Liveright Publishing, 1975.

Here in the “crude melodrama” of Becky, Becky is in violation of racial norms of the South, a white mother of black children. She is ostracized by both the black and white community of the town, forced to live in psychically as well in a kind of liminal space between railroad track and street, as well in the kind of liminality this perceived transgression has placed her in. Also of note in this passsage is the interuption of the religious expression, “the pines whispered to Jesus” in the middle of this description of her situation.

Maltese Falcon and Noir tropes

“A voice said, ‘Thank you,’ so softly that only the purest articulation made the words intelligible, and a young woman came through the doorway. She advanced slowly, with tentative steps, looking at Spade with cobalt-blue eyes that were both shy and probing.”

Hammet, Dashiell. Maltese Falcon. New York: Vintage Books, 1992. 4.

I purposely quote here a moment in the very beginning of the book to comment on how typical this moment is, perhaps anticipatory, of the film noirs (a genre including a film adaptation of this very novel) that would come to define an entire host of detective tropes. Here we see the detective visited in his office by a mysterious, perhaps nervous young women, meant to be attractive to both the characters and the audience, who starts the case with some dubious story. The scene is so familiar it is difficult for a contemporary reader, or at least for me, to not envision the novel progressing cinematically. Here the young woman displays her vulnerability in classic femme fatale fashion, with perhaps the final word ‘probing’ a hint at something more nefarious the audience is meant to pick up on.

As I Lay Dying

“Darl is our brother, our brother Darl. Our brother Darl in a cage in Jackson where, his grimed hands lying light in the quiet interstices, looking out he foams.

‘Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes.'” ( Faulkner, 254).

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner, (New York: Vintage International, 1990).

In Darl’s last chapter, the perspective-form of the novel is again manipulated, in this case having Darl not only speak in 3rd person (assumably) in his interior monologue, but also do so about himself and do so while addressing himself. Here Darl seems to take the perspective of his family, the repetition of Darl being our brother is very similar to way Vardaman addresses the situation in the previous chapter. The repetition of ‘yes,’ written in the text as it were direct dialogue, here is also of note.

As I Lay Dying- Darl and his mother’s death

Jewel’s hat droops limp about his neck, channelling water onto the soaked towsack tied about his shoulders as, ankle-deep in the running ditch, he pries with a slipping two-by-four, with a piece of rotting log for fulcrum, at the axle. Jewel, I say, she is dead, Jewel. Addie Bundren is dead.” (Faulkner, 52)

As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner, (New York: Vintage International, 1990).

The chapter which narrates Addie Bundren’s death is labelled Darl, suggesting that Darl himself is present and narrating the events as they happen (as the present tense and the previous chapters would suggest). Of course, as this passage above and others like it reminds the reader, Darl is not actually present at the time. Interesting then that the descriptions of what could be assumed to be happening to Darl at the moment are seemingly set aside in the text with italics, put into the descriptions of Addie’s death as though they were interruptions in the perspective.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

“His lips would not bend to kiss her. He wanted to be held firmly in her arms, to be caressed slowly, slowly, slowly. In her arms he felt that he had suddenly become strong and fearless and sure of himself. But his lips would not bend to kiss her.”

James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, edited Jeri Johnson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 85.

Throughout the first two chapters, Joyce has set as one of Stephen’s focuses in his adolescence lips. This passage is a sort of affirmation of Stephen’s seeming lip-fetish (meant perhaps in both the religious and sexual, senses of the word) comes to some kind of head here, the repetition of the fact his lips (as though they were a force and will of his own) before he surrenders to the prostitute perhaps a potent symbol of blasphemy. Interesting also is the post made by KLA in which Stephen wonders about the idea of kissing much earlier in the text.

“The Middle Years” Theme of Second Chance

“‘Yes, it’s what passes.” Poor Dencombe was barely audible, but he had marked with the words the virtual end of his first and only chance.”

Henry James, “The Middle Years” (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1887), 620.

This, the last passage of the story, clearly is an important to the broader theme of anxiety over ‘a second chance’ and over Dencombe’s legacy after his impending death. What the ‘it’ specifically refers to is important, is it the frustration of life, the actual events of life itself as they are lived, or something else? What does it mean that this is definitively (as its position as the last sentence in the story would suggest) his only chance?