All posts by AMM15

(Not) Father’s Help

“As he entered the school gate an idea occurred to him, a sort of solution. He wouldn’t deliver the letter to the headmaster immediately, but at the end of the day—to that extent he would disobey his father and exercise his independence. There was nothing wrong in it, and Father would not know it anyway. If the letter was given at the end of the day there was a chance that Samuel might do something to justify the letter” (69)

Narayan, R.K. “Father’s Help.” Malgudi Days. New York: Penguin Classics, 2006. Print.

This passage stood out because it shows the way that children want independence from their parents. Swami’s thoughts as he tries to decide what he was going to do shows what goes through the mind of a person who wants to do the right thing, but is unclear the way to go about it. Here, the reader wants to root for Swami and understand his reasoning, but by the end of ‘Father’s Help’ I wanted him to have listened to his Father and just given the note to the headmaster.

Historical Context—Perspectives

In Gertrude Stein’s Melanctha, published in 1909, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man written by James Joyce, published in 1916, Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, published in 1925, and William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying published in 1930, all contain some type of use of perspective change. While every text does provide the reader with certain characters’ perspectives, the authors each have their own way of depicting it. Stein, Joyce, and Woolf’s texts seem to consistently change perspectives and voice without warning. They are the most similar when quickly changing perspectives, though still unique to their own texts. One sentence could be the narrator’s perspective and the next is Jeff, Stephen, or Clarissa, respectively. An example from Stein’s use of perspective is the sudden shift from Jeff’s thoughts to the narrator’s perspective: “Slowly he felt that surely they must both have this feeling. It was so important that he knew that she must have it. They both sat there, very quiet, a long time” (69). Five years after Woolf’s novel, Faulker made the perspective changes in his novel clear by giving sections for each character to use their voice and tell the story from their point of view. By doing this, the reader follows the same story, but understanding it through many different characters’ views. Inserting different perspectives throughout these texts establishes new ways of thinking, writing, and reading.

Understanding the language

“It’s hard for me to understand what you mean, de way you tell it. And then again Ah’m hard of understandin’ at times” (7)

Neale Hurston, Zora. Their eyes were watching God. Harper Perennial Modern Classics Edition, 2006.

This passage stood out because I felt as though I could relate to this exact statement. The way that Janie speaks is hard to read and get used to. As she started telling her story, I thought it would be hard to follow because of the language used. I think this line is as much for the reader as it is for Pheoby.

An overwhelming desire

“And he had soon become possessed with an overwhelming desire to live their life. He had been told they were sahibs, superior people.” (11)

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. England: Penguin. 1940. Print.

‘An overwhelming desire’ really struck me as a moment in the beginning of the story that set up how the rest of the novel would go. The desire to be somebody else is a theme that this character shares, as well as something that readers can relate to.

Cora and her thoughts

‘“She ought to taken them,” Kate says, “But those rich town ladies can change their minds. Poor folks cant.” Riches is nothing in the face of the Lord, for He can see into the heart. “Maybe I can sell them at the bazaar Saturday,” I say. They turned out real well.’ (7)

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text. First Vintage International Edition. New York: Vintage Books, 1990. Print.

Between the dialogue, the line about the Lord, caught my attention because it seems to come out of nowhere. We get a sense of Cora’s thought, or what she thinks about, before she actually answers out loud. This happens often in each of her sections, as she makes references to the Lord.

Peter’s thoughts

“Oh it was a letter from her! This blue envelope; that was her hand. And he would have to read it. Here was another of those meetings, bound to be painful! To read her letter needed the devil of an effort…But it upset him. It annoyed him. He wished she hadn’t written it. Coming on top of his thoughts, it was like a nudge in the ribs.” (151)

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Harcourt, 1925.

This insight into Peter’s thoughts allows the reader to understand and connect to how he feels about Mrs. Dalloway; the reader sees that he even knows her handwriting. Peter is somewhat happy about receiving a letter, but quickly retracts those thoughts because he knows that nothing will come of it, and it adds to his pain.

Observation

“She screamed just as Nick and the two Indians followed his father and Uncle George into the shanty. She lay in the lower bunk, very big under a quilt. Her head turned to one side. In the upper bunk was her husband. He had cut his foot very badly with an ax three days before. He was smoking a pipe. The room smelled very bad.”

Hemingway, Ernest. In Our Time. New York: Scribner Paperback Fiction, 1958. Print.

This description of the room sounds a lot like a child making quick observations, when he entered the room. The reader gets an idea of what is going on, through the voice of the boy, Nick.

Describing the body

“The body which lay in the bath was that of a tall, stout man of about fifty. The hair, which was thick and black and naturally curly, had been cut and parted by a master hand, and exuded a faint violet perfume, perfectly recognisable in the close air of the bathroom. The features were thick, fleshy and strongly marked, with prominent dark eyes, and a long nose curving down to a heavy chin. The clean-shaven lips were full and sensual, and the dropped jaw showed teeth stained with tobacco. On the dead face the handsome pair of pince-nez mocked death with grotesque elegance; the fine gold chain curved over the naked breast. The legs lay stiffly stretched out side by side; the arms reposed close to the body; the fingers were flexed naturally.” (Sayers 8)

Sayers, Dorothy. Whose Body? 1923. Reprint, New York: Dover, 2009.

In her novel, Whose Body?, Sayers consistently gives the reader specific and detailed information on the characters as well as the events taking place. This passage directly tells the reader what the body in the bath looks like. This description distinctively states what Lord Peter sees, and therefore the reader gets a clear picture of the appearance of the body and can imagine himself at the scene. Contrastingly, in The Jolly Corner, Henry James is not as upfront with the reader. James’ character Brydon does not always relay to the reader the information needed to piece the story or scene together. There is not always an obvious picture of what he is experiencing, which leaves the reader frequently wondering about what is actually happening. This technique of delayed specification is not used by Sayers in this passage, which shows a clear difference between the two stories. One is very explicit in giving descriptions, while the other is continuously delaying in giving the reader information.

Stein’s use of repetition

“Melanchtha had not loved her father and her mother and they had found it very troublesome to have her.”

“The young Melanctha did not love her father and her mother, and she had a break neck courage, and a tongue that could be very nasty. Then, too, Melanctha went to school and was very quick in all the learning, and she knew very well how to use this knowledge to annoy her parents who knew nothing, Melanctha Herbert had always had a break neck courage.”

Stein, Gertrude. “Melanctha.” Three lives. New York: Dover Publications, 1994. 50-51. Print.

These two passages are very similar, and as I read through Melanctha, it was very easy to notice the repetitive style that Stein uses. I wondered, and still wonder why repeating the same information to reader was important. I think that a reason Stein repeats things so often is to make sure the reader is paying attention. If you missed it the first time, you will get the same information again. Repetition is used for emphasis, so maybe Stein wanted to stress certain details that the reader should not forget. These lines tell us more about Melanctha and how she feels about her parents, and also gives us insight into the kind of person she is.

The importance of words

“The man presented himself as a voice. Not of course that I did not connect him with some sort of action. Hadn’t I been told in all the tones of jealousy and admiration that he had collected, bartered, swindled, or stolen more ivory than all the other agents together. That was not the point. The point was in his being a gifted creature, and that of all his gifts the one that stood out preeminently, that carried with it a sense of real presence, was his ability to talk, his words—the gift of expression, the bewildering, the illuminating, the most exalted and the most contemptible, the pulsating stream of light, or the deceitful flow from the heart of an impenetrable darkness.”

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. “Heart of Darkness”, 152. Oxford: Oxford NY, 2002.

When Marlow realized that he would probably never get to meet, or speak with, Kurtz was a very key scene in the story. Marlow went on and on about Kurtz’s ability to talk and the words he could use. This passage really stood out to me because it expresses how important voice and the ability to speak are, and what that gift means to other people. I thought that it was interesting that Conrad wrote about a character whose voice and words had such a great effect on other people, and maybe wanted his words to impact his readers as well.