In Their Eyes Were Watching God, men and women have very different roles. The role of women is defined by men. Women are left with stereotypical positions in society and marriage is important because women are defined by their relationship to men. Intelligence and authority are considered masculine qualities. If a woman were to display these characteristics, she would be considered too manly. Women are also treated as the lesser gender in As I Lay Dying. They are expected only to reproduce and care for the child. Cora believes that “A woman’s place is wither her husband and children…” Also important to note, female sexuality is not to be discussed. Again in Heart of Darkness, women are ignored. Marlow seems to believe that women exist separately from men. The men have a dark world and they must protect the women from it. Marlow works to protect The Intended’s idealism and her opinion of Kurtz. Finally, in Melanctha, we see a woman’s rebellion against the expected. She does not desire to be a mother or housewife. She wants to be an individual, which is not what is expected of women in these works. These authors address the problem of gender roles. In these works women are treated as the lesser gender and expected to perform defined roles. If they do not conform they are often shamed or considered too masculine.
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.
- 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.
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?.
I dont know what I am. I dont know if I am or not. Jewel knows he is, because he does not know that he does not know whether he is or not. He cannot empty himself for sleep because he is not what he is and he is what he is not. Beyond the unlamped wall I can hear the rain shaping the wagon that is ours, the load that is no longer theirs that felled and sawed it nor yet theirs that bought it and which is not ours either, lie on our wagon though it does, since only the wind and the rain shape it only to Jewel and me, that are not asleep.
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Because I said If you wouldn’t keep on sawing and nailing at it until a man cant sleep even and her hands laying on the quilt like two of them roots dug up and tried to wash and you couldn’t get them clean. I can see the fan and Dewey Dell’s arm. I said if you’d just let her alone. Sawing and knocking, and keeping the air always moving so fast on her face that when you’retired you cant breathe it, and that goddamn adze going One lick less. One lick less. One lick less until everybody that passes in the road will have to stop and see it and say what a fine carpenter he is. If it had just been me when Cash fell off of that church and if it had just been me when pa laid sick with that load of wood fell on him, it would not be happening with every bastard in the county coming in to stare at her because if there is a God what the hell is He for. It would just be me and her on a high hill and me rolling the rocks down the hill faces and teeth and all by God until she was quiet and not that goddamn adze going One lick less. One lick less and we could be quiet. (13-14)
The first glimpse of Jewel is as a kind of robot. The second time he seems to have only one focus, the taming of the horse. But here we see Jewel with something nearing human emotional feeling for his dying mother.
“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.
“The cow lows at the foot of the bluff. She nuzzles me, snuffing, blowing her breath in a sweet, hot blast, through my dress, against my hot nakedness, moaning.” (61)
Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text. New York: Vintage Books, 1985. Print.
This sexualization of an animal, which occurs also with Jewel and his horse, seems to follow the development of Dewey Dell’s own sexuality.
“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. New York: Modern Library, 2000. Print.
This passage is very unique because of the way Faulkner uses quotation to report speech but then follows this with “without the words”. This appears to be a theme throughout, that each narrator is aware of what another is thinking without having much reported speech.
“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 the suffer the bereavement.”
Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text. First Vintage International Edition. New York: Vintage Books, 1990. Print.
Although the previous statement was made by a Doctor attending and treating a dying mother, does his words hold truth, thus, value? Claiming that death is simply a function of the mind may not be necessarily truth, due to the fact that causes of death such as respiratory failure, or failure of a essential organ has nothing to do with the mind itself, but a culmination of several physical issues that lead to the ultimate consequence. However, I do agree with the second claim of the doctor’s statement; loved ones of the deceased are the ones that may suffer the most mentally after the passing. And it is them that suffer the grievance of the process of letting the loved one go and attainment of peace and closure.