“The taint of the dark, narrow, dingy little prison cells of their one-roomed homes lurked in them, however, even in the outdoor air. They were silent as if the act of liberation was too much for them to bear. The great life-giver had cut the inscrutable knots that tied them up in themselves. It had melted the innermost parts of their being. And their souls stared at the wonder of it all, the mystery of it, the miracle of it.”
Untouchable, Mulk Raj Anand (page 27)
So far I am finding this book very interesting, but this passage stuck out to me in particular. It is interesting the way Anand equates their homes with prison cells, and how he portrays merely stepping into the sun as a form of liberation. I think that Anand highlights the one-roomed, tiny homes as a way to symbolize the low social class and how it limits freedom in such a stratified caste system. Stepping out of the homes, even for a moment, represents breaking away from the binding structure of their impoverished lives.
“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, called in the village doctor, 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?’”
“The Postmaster” from Mashi and Other Stories, Sir Rabindranath Tagore (pages 164-165)
I thought it was interesting the way Ratan assumes whatever female role the postmaster needed; the flexibility of her character is intriguing. During the nights by the fire when she is crouched at his feet, she serves as a listening ear or his confidant. During their daily activities, she listens to his every command and request. When he was sick in the passage I quoted above, she assumes the role of a mother. It is almost as if she matures just because he needs her to, and reverts to her old ways when he is healthy again. Because of the flexibility of her character, I found Ratan very intriguing.
“The familiar people and things had failed her so she hung over the gate and looked up the road towards way off. She knew now that marriage did not make love. Janie’s first dream was dead, so she became a woman.”
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston (page 25)
This passage is made up of the last two sentences in chapter three. As I am reading so far, I wanted to highlight this section because I think it foreshadows the coming events in the novel. The last words of the quote imply that a girl does not become a woman until she suffers some sort of major disappointment or tragedy in her life. This can be connected to the idea of women being viewed as resilient. Since Hurston ended the chapter with these lines, I think she is saying that Janie’s “dead dream” was the beginning of her journey through womanhood, which presumably will be revealed in the coming chapters.
Narration thoughts: I think the narrative and characters’ idioms in the novel are designed to work together and supplement each other. The dialogue in the novel, and the dialect that it is presented in, helps the reader understand what is actually being exchanged in conversation and follow along in the plot. The narration often gives us an insight into what a character is feeling, such as self-revelation, that we wouldn’t necessarily perceive just from reading the dialogue. This reminds me of The Maltese Falcon, where Hammett had no external narration and we had to interpret everything from the dialogue of the characters. This makes me appreciate the combination of narration and dialogue in Hurston’s novel that much more, because it makes it much easier to make sense of while reading and truly shows the value of what narration adds to a novel.
“O Dan. Wont see Dan again. Not alone. Have Mrs. Pribby come in. She was in. Keep Dan out. If I love him, can I keep him out? Well then, I don’t love him. Now he’s out. Who is that coming in? Blind as a bat. Ding-bat. Looks like Dan. He mustnt see me. Silly. He cant reach me.”
Cane, Jean Toomer (page 84)
In this section of the book, Muriel is at the Lincoln Theater and thinking about her previous encounter with Dan. I flagged this passage in particular because it shows the same frantic, disorganized, and even contradicting manner of thoughts that has been exhibited by several characters thus far. Muriel is continuously going back and forth about whether she loves Dan, and becomes even more frantic when she sees Dan enter the theater. I wonder if Toomer’s method of showing characters’ disorganized thought processes is meant to reflect the indecision and confusion that people have in real life. Maybe she writes this way so the reader can sympathize with the characters.
“The wariness went out of Spade’s eyes. He made his eyes dull with boredom. He turned his face around to Tom and asked with great carelessness: ‘What’s itching your boy-friend now?’”
The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett (page 20)
As I am reading the novel, the thing that has stuck out to me the most is the way the narration portrays Spade in a negative light. Specifically in this section, although he is being questioned by two members of the police force, the narrator makes a point to show his carelessness and sheer “boredom” from the conversation. It is interesting that he has this mindset while being accused as a possible suspect for murder. Spade’s attitude is very different from the attitudes of Holmes and Wimsey, and it makes me wonder why the narrator shows him in such a negative and unappealing light.
“He had a word, too. Love, he called it. But I had been used to words for a long time. I knew that that word was like the others: just a shape to fill a lack; that when the right time came, you wouldn’t need a word for that anymore than for pride or fear.”
As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner (page 172)
Out of the whole book, I found this section in particular the most intriguing part. I was interested to see how Faulkner would write in Addie’s perspective, and it shocked me. You find out early on in the novel that Addie lived an unhappy life, but I didn’t expect her to be so straightforward and nonchalant about it. In this quote, she does not hide any of her negative feelings towards Anse. She thinks love is nothing more than an empty word, and essentially seems to think that it is meaningless. Additionally Addie’s idiolect is much more different than any of the other characters in the book, which it makes it stand out that much more.
”So that when I lay me down in the consciousness of my duty and reward I will be surrounded by loving faces, carrying the farewell kiss of each of my loved ones into my reward. Not like Addie Bundren dying alone, hiding her pride and her broken heart. Glad to go. Lying there with her head propped up so she could watch Cash building the coffin…”
As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner (pages 23-24)
So far I am really enjoying the way Faulkner puts each chapter in the perspective of a different character. Personally, I find it more interesting to read and I already feel more connected with the characters than I did with Stephen in the previous book. I chose this passage in particular because it does an excellent job of not only creating an image of Addie Bundren’s loneliness, but also gives insight to the way Cora feels about the situation. She compares herself to Addie and almost looks down on her with sympathy, feeling grateful that she will not be in the same situation on her death bed. I like that although it is in Cora’s perspective, the reader also sees Addie’s feelings and can sympathize with her.
“The very frequency and violence of temptations showed him at last the truth of what he had heard about the trials of the saints. Frequent and violent temptations were a proof that the citadel of the soul had not fallen and that the devil raged to make it fall.”
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young man, James Joyce (page 129)
This particular section of chapter four stuck out to me, because it reflects the subgenre called kunstlerroman. This is where Stephen begins to experience an extreme individual transformation. He isolates himself from the temptations of the surrounding world, and is embracing the church and his confessions. His tone is much more mature; it’s very different than what we have seen from him throughout most of the book.
“Stephen knelt down quickly pressing his beaten hands to his sides. To think of them beaten and swollen with pain all in a moment made him feel so sorry for them as if they were not his own but someone else’s that he felt sorry for.”
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce (pages 42-43)
I thought James Joyce’s use of character-bound focalization was a very interesting way to write his story. It reminded me a lot of The Middle Years because just as Henry James did with Dencombe, the Joyce filters the story through Stephen’s perception . This quote in particular was an instance where Joyce provides insight to Stephen’s thoughts. It is easy to forget that the book is still written in third person because of this prominent filtered perception.
“How shocking, and yet how wonderful it was to discover that these real things, Sunday luncheons, Sunday walks, country houses, and tablecloths were not entirely real, were indeed half phantoms, and the damnation which visited the disbeliever in them was only a sense of illegitimate freedom.”
The Mark on the Wall, Virginia Woolf (page 85)
I thought it was interesting how throughout this story, the narrator repeatedly returns to the idea of literature creating a false or almost deceiving reality. I thought this was an interesting idea, and also hypocritical, to be proposed in the middle of a fictional piece of literature. In the story, the narrator seems to have Woolf’s thoughts and jumps from one grand theme of life to another, all stemming from a supposed mark on the wall.
“What he dreaded was the idea that his reputation should stand on the unfinished. It was not with his past but with his future that it should properly be concerned. Illness and age rose before him like spectres with pitiless eyes: how was he to bribe such fates to give him the second chance?”
Henry James, The Middle Years (page 615)
This passage caught my attention because it is a shift in Dencombe’s attitude and overall character. Before this point, he was weary about his career and was in a gloomy mood. However after he fainted, his desire for writing was re-ignited because he wanted to fulfill his career. Also it introduces a fearfulness of death, which is a concept that has been incorporated in literature for decades.