All posts by JA

“The Big House”

“The rest of the town looked like servants’ quarters surrounding the “big house”. And different from everybody else in the town he put off moving in until it had been painted, in and out. And look at the way he painted it- a gloat, sparkly white.”

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print. 47

The fact that this passage is focalized by the narrator gives the affect that the narrator is speaking the popular opinion of the townsfolk. This passage is centered around class distinction and separation, as shown by the act of painting the house. The narrator explicitly states, “different from everyone else in town” in order to single out Jody as being akin to grandeur, showing tendencies of a higher class. Plus the fact that the townspeople refer to Jody’s house as the “big house” and the emphasis on it being painted “gloaty, sparkly white” are both allusions to the days of slavery.

Imperialism

“Then he picked up a long poker and prodded the fire. Quickly it flared up, suddenly illuminating the furnace with its leaping red, gold, and black flames, an angry consuming power, something apart, something detached from the heaps of straw it fed on.”

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. New York: Penguin Group, 2014. Print. p.20

In this passage the fire seems to be representative of an imperialist nation. The description of “an angry consuming power” would be the view of a colonized people towards the imperialist nation controlling them, such as Bakha’s people towards the Tommies. The duality of the phrase “something detached from the heaps of straw it fed on” is interesting as it could be interpreted as either the fire using the straw as kindling, or the imperialist nation feeding off of the colony it has taken control of.

Death: Neither End or Beginning

“I can remember how when I was young I believed death to be a phenomenon of the body; now I know it to be merely a function of the mind- and that of the minds of the ones who suffer the bereavement. The nihilists say it is the end; the fundamentalists, the beginning; when in reality it is no more than a single tenant or family moving out of a tenement or a town.”

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. New York: The Modern Library, 2000. Print.

Peabody stated this before Addie’s death. Peabody being an experienced medical doctor has come to conceptualize death in a highly non sympathetic fashion, calling it a “tenant or family moving out of a tenement or a town.” Peabody views death as more of a transitional period for those close to the deceased, rather than placing it along with a feeling of finality or beginning. By doing this he is making death out to be a more social process than an emotionalized one.

Septimus and Lucrezia: Emotional Inequality

“And it was cowardly for a man to say he would kill himself, but Septimus had fought; he was brave; he was not Septimus now. She put on her lace collar. She put on her new hat and he never noticed; and he was happy without her. Nothing could make her happy without him! Nothing! He was selfish. So men are. For he was not ill. Dr. Holmes said there was nothing the matter with him. She spread her hand before her. Look! Her wedding ring slipped- she had grown so thin. It was she who suffered- but she had nobody to tell.”

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, Inc. 1925. Print. p.23.

This passage demonstrates the disconnect from prewar life that a veteran faces postwar, and the stress this disconnect puts on the family of the veteran. The free indirect discourse of Lucrezia, “Nothing could make her happy without him! Nothing!”, albeit melodramatic sounding is a good juxtaposition to the emotional numbness that Septimus is feeling postwar.

Disconnect and Finality in, “The Three-Day Blow”

“Nick said nothing. The liquor had all died out of him and left him alone. Bill wasn’t there. He wasn’t sitting in front of the fire or going fishing tomorrow with Bill and his dad or anything. He wasn’t drunk. It was all gone. All he knew was that he had once had Marjorie and that he had lost her. She was gone and he had sent her away. That was all that mattered. He might never see her again. Probably he never would. It was all gone, finished.”

Hemingway, Ernest. “The Three-Day Blow”. In Our Time. New York: Scribner Paperback Fiction, 1958. Print. p.47.

Hemingway’s usage of words such as “might” and “probably” in the last few sentences call into question the theme of finality that is being presented by the narrator. Also a sense of disconnection from reality is presented in the quote by the succinct sentences stating things known as truths in the plot (the fact that Nick was drunk) to be untruthful.

Internal Monologue Spoken Aloud

“That’s all, I think,” he murmured to himself. “Stay- I may as well have you –  you may come in useful – one never knows.”

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

The direct quotation of an internalized thought spoken out loud is an interesting aspect of Sayers’ narrative form. Whereas in “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”, Joyce would use free indirect discourse to display the thoughts of a focalized character (Stephen) through the narrator, Sayers has Lord Peter speak his own internalized thoughts aloud. Joyce would even go as far as to have the narrator transcribe characters idiomatic phrases as the narrators own, bringing in the question of representation and narrative bias. By having Lord Peter speak his thoughts, there is less distance from reader to character, thus negating any possibility of a biased narrator.

The most interesting aspect of this quote is the phrase, “Stay- I may as well have you” as Lord Peter is alone in this scene. Its a questionable thought but it seems as if Lord Peter is speaking directly to the reader at this point. If so, Lord Peter’s actions would be concurrent with the typical conventions of a detective story, as this half of the quote strongly bolsters Peters bombastic ego. Needing a seemingly omniscient detective to retell the story of the crime in order to solve it is the mark of a conventional detective story, and this quote seems to reassure the reader that Lord Peter is in fact that character.

Wandering: an Interpersonal Experience

“They were very happy all that day in their wandering. They had taken things along to eat together. They sat in the bright fields and they were happy, they wandered in the woods and they were happy.”

Stein, Gertrude. Three Lives. N.p.: Bedford Cultural Edition, n.d. Print.

Stein’s choice to not use the characters full names, as she does in most of the book, but pronouns instead adds to the mystique of this theme of wandering and interpersonal experience.

The Relative Nature of Criticism

“Admitting the vagueness which afflicts all criticism of novels, let us hazard the opinion that for us at this moment the form of fiction most in vogue more often misses than secures the thing we seek. Whether we call it life or spirit, truth or reality, this, the essential thing, has moved off, or on, and refuses to be contained any longer in such ill-fitting vestments as we provide.”

Woolf, Virginia. “Modern Fiction.” In The Common Reader, 149. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, 1925.

The problem with categorizing fiction into forms is the same problem of criticism in general, being that the opinion stated is strongly affected by the setting in which it is being stated in. These classifications are best done in retrospect, as you cannot affect a literary movement if it has already happened.

American Truth Limiting Our Imagination

“The crude commercialism of America, its materializing spirit, its indifference to the poetical side of things, and its lack of imagination and of high unattainable ideals, are entirely due to that country having adopted for its national hero a man, who according to his own confession, was incapable of telling a lie, and it is not too much to say that the story of George W. Washington and the cherry-tree has done more harm, and in a shorter space of time, than any other moral tale in the whole of literature.”

Wilde, Oscar. “The Decay of Lying.” In Intentions. London: James McIlvaine, 1891. Cambridge: Chadwyck-Healey, 1999. Page 27.

The conversation between Englishmen shifted to our many American faults (they’re still bitter about the whole colony thing) when Vivian read this passage of his article. The morality that comes along with idolizing a man who cannot lie is said to shape our American society. The duality of the ideas of a “lack of imagination”, and “high unattainable ideals” is interesting in this excerpt because in order to dream up these unreachable ideals, one would need to think outside the box, thus showing a clear and present representation of imagination.