Tag Archives: delayed specification

Delayed Specification in Malgudi Days

“And one day, it was a bolt from the blue, the crash came.  A series of circumstances in the world of trade, commerce, banking and politics was responsible for it . . . The financier was driving downhill when his car flew off sideways and came to rest three hundred feet below the road.  It was thought that he had committed suicide because the previous night his wife eloped with his cashier.

Rama Rao suddenly found himself in the streets.”

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

 

We see delayed specification in the first sentence of this passage, and in the passage as a whole.  The narrative leaves Rama Rao long enough that the start of the next paragraph is confusing, and the reader has to go back to make sense of the sentence.

Describing the body

“The body which lay in the bath was that of a tall, stout man of about fifty. The hair, which was thick and black and naturally curly, had been cut and parted by a master hand, and exuded a faint violet perfume, perfectly recognisable in the close air of the bathroom. The features were thick, fleshy and strongly marked, with prominent dark eyes, and a long nose curving down to a heavy chin. The clean-shaven lips were full and sensual, and the dropped jaw showed teeth stained with tobacco. On the dead face the handsome pair of pince-nez mocked death with grotesque elegance; the fine gold chain curved over the naked breast. The legs lay stiffly stretched out side by side; the arms reposed close to the body; the fingers were flexed naturally.” (Sayers 8)

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

In her novel, Whose Body?, Sayers consistently gives the reader specific and detailed information on the characters as well as the events taking place. This passage directly tells the reader what the body in the bath looks like. This description distinctively states what Lord Peter sees, and therefore the reader gets a clear picture of the appearance of the body and can imagine himself at the scene. Contrastingly, in The Jolly Corner, Henry James is not as upfront with the reader. James’ character Brydon does not always relay to the reader the information needed to piece the story or scene together. There is not always an obvious picture of what he is experiencing, which leaves the reader frequently wondering about what is actually happening. This technique of delayed specification is not used by Sayers in this passage, which shows a clear difference between the two stories. One is very explicit in giving descriptions, while the other is continuously delaying in giving the reader information.

Delay and Confusion in “Melanctha”

“Jeff sat there this evening in his chair and was silent a long time, warming himself with the pleasant fire.  He did not look at Melanctha who was watching.  He sat there and just looked into the fire.  At first his dark, open face was smiling, and he was rubbing the back of his black-brown hand over his mouth to help him in his smiling.  Then he was thinking, and he frowned and rubbed his head hard, to help him in his thinking.  Then he smiled again, but now his smiling was not pleasant.  His smile was now wavering on the edge of scorning.  His smile changed more and more, and then he had a look as if he was bitter in his smiling, and he began, without looking from the fire, to talk to Melanctha, who was now very tense with her watching” (80).

This passage demonstrates Stein’s ability to manipulate the way in which readers perceive her narrative.  Rather than just outwardly stating that Jeff transitioned into a bitter mood as he spent that evening with Melanctha, Stein provides details of his changing facial expressions and body language so that readers are learning of his changing mood at the same time that Melanctha is within the story.  This delay adds a sense of confusion to the text and ultimately seems to work with Stein’s writing style.

Source:

Stein, Gertrude. “Melanctha.” Three Lives. New York: Dover Publications, 1994. Print.

Delayed Specification on Kurtz

“I’ve seen the devil of violence, and the devil of greed, and the devil of hot desire; but, by all the stars! these were strong, lusty, red-eyed devils, that swayed and drove men – men, I tell you. But as I stood on the hillside, I foresaw that in the blinding sunshine of that land I would become acquainted with a flabby, pretending, weak-eyed devil of a rapacious and pitiless folly.”

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. “Heart of Darkness” (Oxford: Oxford NY, 2002), 117.

All of the descriptions in this passage remind me of language that just goes and goes with seemingly no destination, at least not one that’s obvious from the start – in other words, it is similar to language we’ve already been looking at in class. You don’t quite understand what the point is, where exactly it’s going, or what the purpose of it will be, until you read on and discover that it applies to Kurtz. It is a perfect example of delayed specification.

Disembodied heads

You remember I told you I had been struck at the distance by certain attempts at ornamentation, rather remarkable int he ruinous aspect of the place. Now I had suddenly a nearer view, and its first result was to make me throw my head back as if before a blow. Then I went carefully from post to post with my glass, and I saw my mistake. These round knobs were not ornamental but symbolic, they were expressive and puzzling, striking and disturbing – food for thought and also for the vultures if there had been any looking down from the sky; but at all events for such ants were industrious enough to ascent the pole.

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. “Heart of Darkness”, 164. Oxford: Oxford NY, 2002.

You have no idea what Conrad is talking about in this paragraph until you get to the end where you find out that the “ornaments” are heads on poles. This is an example of delayed specification.