Monthly Archives: November 2014

Historical Line: Personal Growth

The personal growth of the individual.

 

The Jolly Corner: Brydon is forced to grow up with his return to America by overcoming his fears as well as falling in love. He learned to let go of his past insecurities and come face to face with himself, something he feared doing because he was not entirely proud of who he was. He also learned to trust another person and allow her into the deepest corners of his heart where is the most susceptible to be hurt. However he allows her there anyway, which is a testament of his growth (James 1908).

 

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: Stephen grows as an individual through his growing opinions of different yet very influential institutions in his life. His ability to form an opinion on his own based on the personal experiences he had is a sign of maturity and growth. Furthermore, his decision to leave and pursue his desire to express himself in other lands also shows his growth as he is gaining the courage to try new things in new places.

 

Untouchable: Bakha’s growth is related to his view of his personal situation. He wants to grow in status to be higher than an untouchable. He also wants to be given the respect he does not get in his home or community and so he worships the British and their ability to take power. The novel looks at various solutions to his problems, which include the acceptance of a new religion (something he dismisses), a voice on behalf of the Untouchables (something he is interested in) and the introduction of a flushing toilet (which he believes will solve his problems). The novel does not give a definite answer as to whether he will continue to be engrossed with the British or if he will listen to Gandhi’s words and fight for his respect. However we do get to see that a spark has been lit, and perhaps as time goes on it can be assumed that the spark turns into a full-fledged fire. Bakha must grow as an individual to truly understand Gandhi’s words in his situation however the reader can see that he has come a long way from where he was in the beginning (Anand 1935).

 

Their Eyes Were Watching God: Janie’s relationship with the three men gave her experiences she would not have otherwise seen. She grows by learning to become an independent individual and how to become a woman, rather than just a girl. With each new significant relationship she enters and leaves, she learns something from it, growing as a person (Hurston 1937).

 

Granted, many of these examples of personal growth can also be argued as a sign of lack of growth. However it is all perspective. To some, making the decision to leave one’s homeland to explore and discover is a sign of growth but to others, it may be a sign of immaturity and lack of dedication or responsibility. However it can also arguably be a sign of growth or the desire to grow. It is all about perspective. I think this is apparent and recurring in all of the above examples.

Race and Class

Heart of Darkness, Melanctha, Untouchable, and Their Eyes Were Watching God all present images of a set of people different from the author. To differing extents the authors try to make the these “others” believable and to present their speech.  While race is the defining characteristic in three of the novels, it is class that marks the dividing line in Untouchable.

The historical arc of these four novels with respect to race and class is one that shows an increasing degree of identification with the oppressed race or class. In Heart of Darkness Conrad does nothing to make the africans seems human. He includes common steroetypes of the time to insure they are seen as lesser than whites. In Melanctha Stein makes a concerted effort to illuminate the lives of blacks in America. However she still falls into the use of stereotypes and a dialect that assumes ignorance. Untouchable by Mulk Raj Ananad argues for the basic humanity of all people. There is little of the superior attitudes seen in Heart of Darkness and Melanctha. Their Eyes Were watching God takes a further step in not just dropping the racism, but by presenting african americans as fully realized people and not trying to excuse  the faults of the characters.

 

Class and Structure

The texts Mrs. Dalloway, Untouchables, Their Eyes, and In Our Time are all completely different yet have a theme that runs throughout them. Throughout each one I noticed a reoccurring theme of social class and structure. Each one displays evident class differences and it affects the entire structure of the novel. Mrs. Dalloway Clarissa is consistently affected by social class; she is an upper class woman who hates where she is. She despises being wealthy and upper class because she doubts her decision to marry Richard the entire novel. In Untouchables Bakha is considered a lower class citizen, he is the one who cleans the system and keeps the place clean. He is the lowest of the low and the separation is evident. Their Eyes displays a black community. Already we see a social class separation especially when they had the flood that killed many people. The black men were forced to separate the whites and the black dead people from each other. In Our Time shows some social class differences through the way the different characters speak and where they live. It just shows so much evidence of social class differences and the theme is reoccurring throughout all the books.

Not only that but Mrs. Dalloway, Untouchables, and In Our Time there is a use of parataxis throughout the three.

Narratives and Individualism

The readings in class include  Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (1925), Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying (1930), Anand’s Untouchable (1935), and Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). All four novels and authors have a unique and different take on the narrative form as well as the view of the individual. Both Woolf and Faulkner’s narrative form went from one person to another, which confused the reader at times, but worked with the story. Mrs. Dalloway’s confusion in finding herself, and the chaos surrounding the death of Addie Bundren go hand in hand with the constantly changing perspective and narrator of the story. Anand uses the narrative of Bakha to show that even people in the untouchables are still people with individuality. The opposite is true for Their Eyes were Watching God. Janie, who becomes a woman of high class and wealth, suffers at the hands of gossip and talk of the town. She finds her individualism by coming to the realization that she need not mind anything that is said about her. She just needs to live her life the way she wants and she will be happy.

The Doctor

“Mischief unravels and the fine high hand of Heaven proffers the skein again, combed and forgiven!” (Barnes 24).

I’m going to be honest, I don’t really understand a lot of what the doctor is saying. However I think in this conversation, he is talking about how religion is almost meaningless because God will forgive you of your sins regardless. I don’t think he’s really a religious man and believe that you are born a Christian and so you will die a Christian and God is happy enough with that.

Moments of concentrated empathy

In Our Time, Hemingway (1925). Hemingway’s spare prose style and repressed emotions are seemingly inadequate for capturing the trauma his characters undergo. In “Soldier’s Home,” Krebs feels intense frustration because he can’t “make his mother see” the trauma of war, which is something he can’t express.

Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf (1925). Moments when characters are so acute to each other’s emotions, they seem to pick up and respond to each other within their heads, such as exchange between Peter and Clarissa. Also moments when characters feel intently but are unable to convey this, such as Richard unable to tell Clarissa he loves her. Finally, moments where characters are only tenuously related (Clarissa, Septimus) but Clarissa feels intense empathy for Septimus at the party, despite differences in social class.

As I Lay Dying, Faulkner (1930). Between Darl and Dewey Dell, who seem able to communicate nonverbally. Even Darl and Dewey Dell’s accounts contradict what actually was said. Also between Darl and Cash, where Cash picks up a memory Darl recalls of Jewel.

Nightwood, Barnes (1936). Pattern of male characters unable to understand their wives’ emotions, (Guido in 6, Felix in 45), but Robin and Nora have a kindredness the instant they meet. On 64, Robin says “Don’t wait for me,” almost as if it were a response to Nora’s thoughts on their resurrection.

Experiences of shared thoughts in Hemingway and Woolf seem directly influenced by WWI, whereas Faulkner is interested in familial relations and Barnes is interested in kinship between misfits, women. But in Woolf and Barnes, awareness of other characters’ emotions is present in women-women relationships (Elizabeth feels sympathy for Mrs. Kilman and guilt). However, society (and law) prevents same-gender relations, so by the party scene, Clarissa not only feels little kinship with Sally, she feels a snobby towards her. In Barnes, the female relationship is open and Robin and Nora have a more empathetic relationship than Guido/Hedvig, Felix/Robin, whose relationships seem characterized by tragic miscommunications. Finally, three novels have moments where characters seem to pick up in speech where other characters’ thoughts trail off, whereas in Hemingway, the dialogue between Krebs and his mother is disjointed, jumping from one topic to another.

The expatriate experience

There seems to be a sudden change in the expatriate’s experience of return in the stories we have read following World War I, aside from just psychological effects.  In “Soldier’s Home” in  In Our Time (1925), Krebs remarks that “nothing was changed in the town except that the young girls had grown up,” and observes changes in women’s fashion.  In Mrs. Dalloway (1925), Peter Walsh notices on his return from India that “Newspapers seemed different,” and mentions a man who writes about toilets openly in “one of the respectable weeklies.”  In the postwar period, it appears there is more of a focus on external societal changes than on internal ones upon the expatriate’s return. In The Jolly Corner (1908) however,  we see the opposite, as Spencer Brydon seems to care much more about the internal, evident in his proclamation that “It’s only a question of what fantastic, yet perfectly possible, development of my own nature I mayn’t have missed.”  On first glance this difference could perhaps be chalked up to the war experience, but Peter’s making an observation in the same vein as Krebs without actually having directly experienced the war suggests that perhaps a widespread change in societal thought took place following the war, and that the war stunted internal conflict at large.

In the mind of self and other

Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf (1925)
As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner (1930)
Untouchable, Mulk Raj Anand (1935)
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston (1937)

Each of these novels deal with the common connection between the expression of some sort of self, whether it be their individual self or the self of some group they identify with, and the other, which is a group that they are facing that is different from themselves; it could be a cultural, social, class, or another difference that varies from their own. In these modernism works, there is continuity of how the readers are given the story from different perspectives that in some way have or form a relationship or purpose between the characters. In Mrs. Dalloway there is constantly the jump from one perspective to another, sometimes without there every being a clear distinction who’s perspective you are getting, but forming a blurred connection between characters and events, such as between Mrs. Dalloway and Septimus. In As I Lay Dying, it is made clear whose perspective you are getting with each section titled with their name, but with this clarity comes a different way the characters connect with each other, and in this case almost suggests and defines the separation of experiences of each character as their own, yet all brought on by a specific event, Addie’s death. In Untouchable there is the distinct separation between the Indians and the Europeans they come into contact with; particularly with Bakha, who knows the Indian world, yet supports the ideas and concepts of the European world there is the constant cross of concepts and ideals between each group for him as he tries to make sense of who he is and what he should follow. Finally, in Their Eyes Were Watching God the reader is given the story from mainly Janie’s perspective, yet we see her struggles through life dealing with how she is learning to define herself amongst different ranks of blacks in society; we see her mind and thoughts as she navigates through one relationship to the next.

Experience, Race, and Gender in Fiction

Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899), Stein’s Melanctha (1909), Anand’s Untouchable (1935), and Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) all explore the relationship of class and race. Through the 38 year span in which these novels were published, the gradual expression of race relations changes drastically.  Conrad explores the racial tensions tied to imperialism through Marlow’s close observation of Mr. Kurtz.  Stein stays close to home in her interperspective novel Melanctha, yet ties gender and class together while still depicting an ethnic alternative lifestyle.  Anand, while his novel was published much later, gives the audience a sense of what life is in India’s harsh caste system.  Untouchable explores class closely, but to an English audience, which introduced them to a world other than post-WWI American society.  Finally, Hurston thoroughly captures the relations of gender and race together in Janie Stark.  The novel focuses on her tribulations, instead of a broad sociological effects, allowing the harsh scenes of domestic abuse to expose hidden inequalities other than race.  Over time, fiction writers presented more topics that were not necessarily common knowledge, bringing them to the public eye.  While tackling cultural obstacles is nothing new in writing, the modernists relied on firsthand experience,  allowing for more raw, realistic stories that related to the audience.