Category Archives: Commonplace entry

Trust me, I follow you.

“This was the first time he was going to do a piece of acting before a patient, simulate a feeling and conceal his judgement.” (25)

Narayan, R.K. “The Doctor’s Word.” Malgudi Days. New York: Penguin Classics, 2006. Print.

While I really enjoyed this great story that brings attention to the difficulties inherent in intermingling professional and personal relationships, I’ve found that overall, I think Narayan relies too heavily on exposition and telling, at times when subtlety might be more poignant. I was already gathering from the previous paragraphs that the doctor was hiding his true feelings, and the previous paragraphs do a good job of showing you why, without actually coming out and saying it. Unfortunately, this quote made me feel like Narayan doesn’t trust my ability to read and interpret.

Narayan and Language

“What a pity, Rama Rao! I am awfully sorry, there is nothing at present. If there is an opportunity I will certainly remember you” (92).

Narayan, R.K. “Out of Business.” Malgudi Days. New York: Penguin Classics, 2006. Print.

Much like Anand, Narayan uses expressions that would be said in native Indian language but is then translated into English. Unlike Anand, Narayan does not use non-English terms in the novel, allowing the novel to be more easily accessed by the world.

The Truth Of The Doctor

“Next morning he was back at Lawley Extension at ten. From his car he made a dash for the sick bed. The patient was awake and looked very well. The assistant reported satisfactory pulse. The doctor put his tube to his heart, listened for a while and told the sick man’s wife, ‘Don’t look so unhappy, lady. Your husband will live to be ninety.’ When they were going back to the hospital, the assistant sitting beside him in the car asked, ‘Is he going to live, sir?'”

“‘I will bet on it. He will live to be ninety. He has turned the corner. How he has survived this attack will be a puzzle to me all my life,’ replied the doctor.”

N. K Narayan. The Doctor’s Word in Malgudi Days. Penguins Classic, 2006. 25

This passage was interesting because in the start of the story it was mentioned that the Doctor only spoke the “truth;” therefore, it made me wonder if the word of the Doctor is the truth. Whatever comes out of his mouth ends up being true even though he does not believe it himself. This makes me wonder if the Doctor has the power in allowing one to live or die. It felt weird that the Doctor was surprised himself that his friend ended up surviving when the Doctor was unsure of his own words. However, once the words that his friend would survive came out of his mouth, his friend spontaneously became better.

K.R Narayan mocks human’s resignation

“Venkat Roa watched the child for a moment. “I don’t know if it’s going to be possible for me to take her out at all-you see, they are giving me an increment-” he wailed.”

N. K Narayan. Forty-Five a Month in Malgudi Days. Penguins Classic, 2006. 90

I had a hard time choosing a passage because there are a lot of moments that are funny in this book where Narayan brilliantly mocks his characters’s resignation in a simple but very efficient way. Here, the father who was ready to quit his job, gives out for a pay rise and giving this justification to his wife, he starts wailing. I think Narayan shows in a very simple but cynic way, that human’s will can be wiped out easily and it’s very comic to me.

Man and Wife

“This violent alternating between hope and despair soon wrecked his nerves and balance. At home he hardly spoke to anyone. His head was always bowed in thought. He quarrelled with his wife if she refused to give him his rupee a week for the puzzles. She was of a mild disposition and was incapable of a sustained quarrel, with the result that he always got what he wanted, though it meant a slight sacrifice in household expenses” (93-93)

Narayan, R.T. Malgudi Days. New York: Penguin Group. 2006. Print. pp.93-94.

This passage was interesting because it shows the difference between man and wife. It depicted how the wife always had to give up something of her own so that Rama Rao could be satisfied. It shows how the wife has to go out of her way to provide him with rupees so he can do the puzzle to win a prize. It depicts how addiction and selfishness brings discomfort to the family other than himself.

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.

Overhead to in Their Head

Heart of Darkness (1899) focused on imperialism and how it affects life in Africa through the perspective of Charles Marlow. In the story, most of the conflict was reflected externally and viewed through a narrator who had strong emotions towards the events but no lacked in focus on how it affected him, psychologically. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) marks a turn as even though everything is in third-person, the narration focuses on Stephen and both his internal and external conflicts as he grows up. This conflict even spills into the third-person narratives on many occasions. The progression that I have noticed is that the focus of the narrative started with a wider picture, where the narrator is not mentally attached to the story. Joyce’s novel marks a turn where character’s thoughts affect the delivery of the narration. This turn leads to novels like As I Lay Dying (1930) and Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937.) Both stories matter entirely because of the narrator. Faulkner’s novel is delivered with the focus on individual characters and how their thoughts directly affect their narrative. Hurston, on the other hand, still had a third-person perspective, for the most part, but the story was still Janie’s. Every emotion that she felt, whether conflicting or not, is there to be heard. As time progresses, the stories go from character driven to being the characters.

The Differences in Communities

  • Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf (1925)
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston (1937)
  • Whose Body, Dorothy Sayers (1923)
  • As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner (1930)

All these works represent community and social gatherings shown through different cultures and social levels.

The novel Mrs. Dalloway and Their Eyes Were Watching God explicitly portray social gatherings through the meetings of crowds of people whether it is out on the street or outside on the porch of one’s house. During those gatherings the crowd is left to ponder about a situation they are encountering or about a person. In Mrs. Dalloway, the crowds all gather to find out what the loud crash sound was. In Their Eyes Were Watching God the women all gather around the porch to gossip about Janie and the return of her presence sans partner.

Along, with those two novels, the novel As I Lay Dying features a small community of a family and the novel Whose Body features a community of people trying to solve the mystery. Through these four novels, they represent a different version of community.

How authors use their own socio-geogaphical similarities or differences to write: “Melanctha” (1909), A Portrait (1916), In Our Time (1925), As I Lay Dying (1930)

Stein: American (self-)exile writing in Paris
Joyce: Irish (self-)exile writing in Paris
Hemingway: American (self-)exile writing in Paris
Faulkner: American writer from the South

Gertrude Stein writes “Melanctha” in a geographical and social context that is certainly alien to her by trying to convey the experience of blacks living in a town called Bridgepoint, a predominantly black community based off of an American city. As a result, the glimpses into the setting are mainly provided by an unusual dialogue that acts as community gossip, with Melanctha’s own experience being constantly filtered through other people’s relationships with her. Stein’s style of using dialogue to show community, paired with the strangeness of the dialogue reflects her conscious difficulty in understanding the African American experience, due to both her racial and geographical differences. James Joyce writes an autobiographical novel, so the socio-historical context of his life became A Portrait’s context as well. Stephen shares Joyce’s previous experiences with Irish nationalism, authority of the Catholic church, political unrest, religious divides, and even his ultimate exile. By using a context that he lived through, Joyce maintains more authority, guidance, and criticism toward his character than Stein. Hemingway’s choice to write about experiences during and after World War I is also slightly autobiographical because of his own service in the war. However, the fact that he too goes into exile yet writes a novel that addresses his home country directly is different from both Stein’s and Joyce’s experiences of exile. In Our Time, written while he lived in Paris, addresses the American community about the emotional damage of war, but his inter-chapters focus on warring itself, as well as Spanish bullfighting, somewhat internationalizing the message. Moreover, Hemingway’s work is didactic, showing his confidence over the experience about which he writes and reflecting that his exile was a strength for his writing, for it appealed to his American audiences but addressed international violence. Faulkner, who was from Mississippi, writes through the lens of magical realism to portray the absurdity of life in the rural South. Knowledge of Faulkner’s own experiences growing up in the South creates a sort of incompatibility, since the novel is at times hard to believe, such as when Jewel is away in town yet he narrates his mother’s death. Such moments of unlikelihood provide the reader with a paradox of Faulkner’s own understanding of this setting, in which he lived through the American South yet still cannot comprehend the unbelievability of it.

In total, Stein is unable to understand the community she writes about, Joyce has an absolute grasp over the context of his character, Hemingway is able to deliver a message about his home and his lived experiences overseas, and Faulker shows a difficulty in explaining the context in which he grew up. As time passes, the use of socio-geographical experiences in modern literature (in these four stories) begin experimentally, with complete and deliberate distance by Stein, then the authors begin to bring the contexts of the stories closer to their own experiences. However, the later novels, which are all purposefully autobiographical to some extent, continue to create distance between one’s own lived experience and the possible lived experiences of their characters.

World War I and the rise of Modernism

After World War I, many novels used characters that related their wartime experiences in a post-war time frame.
This reflects the change of the thoughts and feelings from pre-war sentiments towards modernity. In Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and As I Lay Dying (1930), we have two characters, Septimus and Darl, that have both returned from the war and have gone towards madness in silence. This is also reflected in In Our Time (1925) through the terse style of Hemingway, which is indicative of the reporting of the events of war. This shows that many of the generation that went through this war period became hardened and lost individuals due to it.

Whose Body? (1923) and Mrs. Dalloway both embody the post-war rise of highly concentrated and urban centers that is found in London. This is done in Mrs. Dalloway through the shared experiences found in the fast-paced change in focalization in this work and the shift from scientific deductive methods in traditional detective novels towards an intuitive detective method in Whose Body?.