All posts by JLT

Attila, the humanized dog

“But as time passed our Attila exhibited a love of humanity which was sometimes disconcerting. The Scourge of Europe—could he ever have been like this? They put it down to his age. What child could help loving all creatures? In their zeal to establish this fact, they went to the extent of delving into the ancient history to find out what the Scourge of Europe was like when he was a child.”

Narayan, R.K. “Attila.” Malgudi Days. New York: Penguin Classics, 2006. Print. pp 98.

It is both interesting and ironic that Narayan personifies the dog so much in this chapter as though he were human, yet at the same time he also never forgets to remind you that it is just a dog, and is incapable to actually communicate with humans or to be understood completely by them; as though their was some sort of gap between consciousness that cannot be breached as they try to figure out Attila. However, complicating things further, the reader is given access to Attila’s mind/thoughts.

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.

Hurston and Language

“There is a basin in the mind where words float around on thought and thought on sound and sight. Then there is a depth of thought untouched by words, and deeper still a gulf of formless feeling untouched by thought. Nanny entered this infinity of conscious pain again on her old knees. Towards morning she muttered, ‘Lawd, you know mah heart. Ah done de best Ah could do. De trest is left to you.'”

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 2000. Print. pp. 35

Here it is interesting how Hurston juxtaposes the language of the narrator with that of the character’s dialogue and suggests how inner thoughts are not always mirrored in outer speech.

Reactions from sensations

“A couple of brisk rubs and he felt the blood in his cheeks rising to the high bones under the shadow of his eyes and into the ears which shone red-tipped and transparent at the sides of his head. He felt as he used to do when, on winter Sundays in his childhood, he used to strip himself naked, except for a loincloth, to stand in the sun, and rub mustard oil on his body. Recollecting this he looked up at the sun. He caught the full force of its glare, and was dazed. He stood lost for a moment, confused in the shimmering rays, feeling as though there were nothing but the sun, the sun, the sun, everywhere, in him, on him, before him and behind him.”

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. New York: Penguin Group, 2014. Print. pp 33-34.As

As seen in other works, such as Woolf, we get a moment here where Bakha has a sensation that leads him to memories and greater sensation that is rich in description.

Delays and implications

“It was then, and then I saw Darl and he knew. He said he knew without the words like he told me that ma is going to die without words, and I knew he knew because if he had said he knew with the  words I would not have believed that he had been there and saw us. But he said he did know and I said “Are you going to tell pa are you going to kill him?” without the words I said it and he said “Why?” without the words. And that’s why I can talk to him with knowing with hating because he knows.”

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. New York: Modern Library. 2012. Print. pp. 24

Faulkner seems to often use delayed writing, along with slight implications to control the revelations of many things, revealing them gradually to the reader.

Shifting perspectives

“It was wonderful. Never had he done anything which made him feel so proud. It was so real, it was substantial, Mrs. Peters’ hat.
“Just look at it,” he said.
Yes, it would always make her happy to see that hat. He had become himself then, he had laughed then. They had been alone together. Always she would like that hat.”

Virginia Woolf often uses free indirect discourse, (though there is direct dialogue here as well in the middle),  in her writing which makes it rather difficult trying to determine whose perspective (as it always seems to be changing), or mind you are really getting a piece of, or if it even might just be the unknown narrator.

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, Inc. 1925. Print. pp. 144

Deciphering the important

“”But her screams are not important. I don’t hear them because they are not important.”

Hemingway, Ernest.  In Our Time. “Indian Camp.”New York: Scribner Paperback Fiction, 2003. Print. pp 16.

Hemingway seems to almost be suggesting through the dialogue of the father that certain things are more important than others  which might very well even apply with his writing. The very fact that he (Hemingway/unknown narrator) switches back and forth from calling the character father and doctor suggests importance since they could have stayed consistent throughout the story.

 

Characters brought to life in dialogue

“I give you full credit for the discovery, I crawl, I grovel, my name is Watson, and you need not say what you were just going to say, because I admit it all.”

Sayers, Dorothy. Whose Body? 1923. Reprint, New York: Dover, 2009.  pp 30.

Here we get some insight on the character of Lord Peter Whimsey. The novel does an extraordinary job creating a personality for a character through dialogue that really makes them come to life. In moments such as this one we can see Lord Peter Whimsey admitting his slight oversight of some evidence, but instead of humbly admitting his failure to have noticed it himself, he repeatedly mentions it. What’s more is he creates such a volume to his report of missing the evidence that it begins to come across as insincere as well as humorous for the reader. This ultimately gives shape to Lord Whimsey’s character and allows us to see how someone of his status in society truly feels about these cases, almost as if it were a game or one of his beloved detective novels, as well as showing how prideful he is in thinking that he is normally always right.

Consistency of Character

“Melanctha Herbert was always seeking rest and quiet, and always she could only find new ways to be in trouble.”

“Melanctha was all ready now to find new ways to be in trouble. And yet Melanctha Herbert never wanted not to do right. Always Melanctha Herbert wanted peace and quiet, and always she could only find new ways to get excited. ”

Stein, Gertrude. “Melanctha.” Three lives. Dover Publications, New York. 1994. pp 50, 123. Print.

These two quotes come from opposite ends of the story perhaps to emphasize the direct point that Melanctha always wants peace and quiet but is always running into trouble and excitement. However, there seems to be greater meaning to certain passages that tend to get repeated, such as this one, when they appear later on within the story after the reader has learned more of the character of Melanctha. As the character grows and develops throughout the story; as more about her is revealed to the reader, more can be ascertained to be true within that repeated statement. Even with the narration that seems to have a staggering timeline suggests that when this statement is made in the beginning, not much is known beyond the face value of the statement itself despite it describing Melanctha after the fact of most of the events to be told later in the story. However, when the statement is reiterated again later, with some alterations, it is evident Stein is attempting to portray the same character, only under a different light from realizing more information from the telling of Melanctha’s life.

Kicked loose from the earth

“I tried to break the spell—the heavy, mute spell of the wilderness—that seemed to draw him to its pitiless breast by the awakening of forgotten and brutal instincts, by the memory of gratified and monstrous passions. This alone, I was convinced, had driven him out to the edge of the forest, to the bush, towards the gleam of fires, the throb of drums, the drone of weird incantations; this alone had beguiled his unlawful soul beyond the bounds of permitted aspirations. And don’t you see, the terror of the position was not in being knocked on the head—though I had a very lively sense of that danger too—but in this, that I had to deal with a being to whom I could not appeal in the name of anything high or low. I had, even like the niggers, to invoke him—himself—his own exalted and incredible degradation. There was nothing either above or below him, and I knew it. He had kicked himself loose of the earth. Confound the man! He had kicked the very earth to pieces. He was alone, and I before him did not know whether I stood on the ground or floated in the air.”

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. “Heart of Darkness” Oxford University Press, Oxford NY, 2002. pp. 173-174.

The point being made here is somewhat confusing yet interesting. Perhaps it can be seen as Marlow explains Kurtz’s state almost as though he has become free from worldly limitations; that somehow with his integration into the natives’ lives has made him become one who should be acknowledged and remembered for his “enlarged mind”.