All posts by YT

Film as escapism

“Some lights went out and the show started–a Tamil film with all known gods in it. He soon lost himself in the politics and struggles of gods and goddesses; he sat rapt in the vision of a heavenly world which some film director had chosen to present. This felicity of forgetfulness lasted but half an hour. Soon the heroine of the story sat on a low branch of a tree in paradise and wouldn’t move out of the place. This portion tired Iswaran and now there returned all the old pains and gloom. ‘Oh, lady,’ Iswaran appealed, ‘don’t add to my troubles, please move on.'”

Narayan, R.K. Malgudi Days. New York: Penguin, 2006. 55.

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.

Hurston and Janey’s sense of humor

“When it was all done she stood in front of Joe and said, ‘Jody, dat wuz uh mighty thing fuh you tuh do. ‘Tain’t everybody would have thought of it, ’cause it ain’t no everyday thought. Freein’ dat mule muakes uh mighty big man outa you. Something like George Washington and Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln, he had de whole United States tuh rule so he freed deh Negroes. You got uh town so you freed uh mule. You have tuh power tuh free things and dat makes you lak uh king uh something.’

Hambo said, ‘You’ wife is uh born orator, Starks. Us never knowed dat befo’. She puts jus’ de right words tuh our thoughts.'”

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 2000. Print. 58.

Buying sweets

“The confectioner smiled faintly at the crudeness of the sweeper’s taste, for jalebis are rather coarse stuff and no one save a greedy low-caste man would ever buy four annas’ worth of jalebis. But he was a shopkeeper. He affected a casual manner and picking up his scales abruptly, began to put the sweets in one pan against bits of stone and some black, round iron weights which he threw into the other. The alacrity with which he lifted the little string attached to the middle of the rod, balanced the scales for the shortest possible space of time and threw the sweets into a piece torn off an old Daily Mail, was as amazing as it was baffling to poor Bakha, who knew he had been cheated, but dared not complain. He caught the jalebis which the cconfectioner threw at him like a cricket ball, placed four nickel coins on the shoe-board for the confectioner’s assistant who stood ready to splash some water on them, and he walked away embarassed, yet happy.”

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. 36-37. London, England: Penguin, 1986. Print.

Faulkner and “saying without words”

“And so it was because I could not help it. 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: The Corrected Text. First Vintage International Edition. New York: Vintage Books, 1990. Print. 27.

How much of this paragraph was actually spoken out loud?

 

 

Consciousness in Mrs. Dalloway

“Here he was walking across London to say to Clarissa in so many words that the loved her. Which one never does say, he thought. Partly one’s lazy; partly one’s shy. And Clarissa–it was difficult to think of her; except in starts, as at luncheon, when he saw her quite distinctly; their whole life. He stopped at the crossing; and repeated–being simple by nature, and undebauched, because he had tramped, and shot; being pertinacious and dogged, having championed the downtrodden and followed his instincts in the House of Commons; being preserved in his simplicity yet at the same time grown rather speechless, rather stiff–he repeated that it was a miracle he should have married Clarissa; a miracle–his life had been a miracle, he thought; hesitating to cross. But it did make his blood boil to see little creatures of five or six crossing Piccadilly alone.”

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, 1925. Print. 115-116.

In Mrs. Dalloway, the narrator seems to flow freely in and out into each character’s deepest levels of thought. On a deliberate plane, Richard is thinking about his love for Clarissa and his job, but the voice is distinctly not Richard’s (perhaps it sounds like Woolf or Clarissa?). The narrator seems to express Richard’s most innermost thoughts–thoughts even Richard may not be aware of–in describing him as “pertinacious and dogged” and having “championed the downtrodden.” Woolf then immediately switches to a more straightforward example of free indirect discourse when Richard “repeats” that “it was a miracle he should have married Clarissa.” It seems to me Woolf is interested in just recording the influx of sensory details into the mind but she wishes to delve into the subconscious and bring to awareness thoughts that the characters themselves can’t know.

Krebs’ post-war loneliness

“A distaste for everything that had happened to him in the war set in because of the lies he had told. All of the times that had been able to make him feel cool and clear inside himself when he thought of them; the times so long back when he had done the one thing, the only thing for a man to do, easily and naturally, when he might have done something else, now lost their cool, valuable quality and then were lost themselves.”

Hemingway, Ernest. “Soldier’s Home.” In Our Time. New York: Scribner Paperback Fiction, 2003. 69-70. Print.

I can’t relate to Krebs’ war experiences, but I feel a lot of sadness for Krebs because he can’t find anyone who understands his experience.

Similar narrative technique as Joyce?

“Oh quite,” said Lord Peter, grinning at the telephone. The Duchess was always of the greatest assistance to his hobby of criminal investigation, though she never alluded to it, and maintained a polite fiction of its non-existence.

Sayers, Dorothy. Whose Body? 1923. Reprint, New York: Dover, 2009. 29.

Most of the novel is driven by characters’ dialogue and readers discover details of the case at the same time as Peter. When an omniscient narrator does step in, the tone seems ironic and humorous. This resembles the narrator in Joyce’s Portrait because we also don’t know if the narrator agrees with Stephen or is gently mocking him. This passage resembles Lord Peter’s style of speech in that Peter would also resort to the most drastic descriptions, such as describing his mother’s unknowing aid as the “greatest assistance.” He might also sugarcoat negative aspects of people and refer to his mother’s coldness towards his career as maintaining a “polite fiction of its non-existence.” However, the narrator maintains some distance by referring to Peter’s mother as The Duchess. We know it is not free indirect discourse as Peter refers to his mother as “Mummy.” In this way, the narration technique resembles Joyce’s because the narrators adopt the voice of their characters but maintain a humorous and critical distance.

Child-like wanderings of Jeff and Melanctha

“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. Jeff always in this way loved to wander. Jeff always loved to watch everything as it was growing, and he loved all the colors in the trees and on the ground, and the little, new, bright colored bugs he found in the moist ground and in the grass he loved to lie on and in which he was always so busy searching.”

Stein, Gertrude. “Melanctha.” In Three Lives. New York: Grafton, 1909. Internet Archive. 149.

Could Stein’s roundabout way of writing scenes be also a way of composing images like paintings?

On Marlow’s mistress

“She walked with measured steps, draped in striped and fringed cloths, treading the earth proudly, with a slight jingle and flash of barbarous ornaments. She carried her head high; her hair was done in the shape of a helmet; she had brass leggings to the knee, brass wire gauntlets to the elbow, a crimson spot on her tawny cheek, innumerable necklaces of glass beads on her necklace bizarre things, charms, gifts of witch-men that hung about her, glittered and trembled at every step. She must have had the value of several elephant tusks upon her. She was savage and superb, wild-eyed and magnificent; there was something ominous and stately in her deliberate progress.”

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. “Heart of Darkness”, 168. Oxford: Oxford NY, 2002.

Even though Kurtz clearly drapes her in fine jewels and wealth, his mistress still embodies the wildness and savagery of nature.