Tag Archives: dialogue

Dialogue in “Malgudi Days”

‘Oh, you poor worm!’ Swami thought. ‘You don’t know what my father has done to you.’ He was more puzzled than ever about Samuel’s character.

‘All right, go to your seat. Have you still a headache?’

‘Slightly, sir’

 

I think the dialogue in this short story is interesting because the way it is written is clearly not how fluently English-speaking people would speak. It seems like the dialogue was in Hindi and translated into English but not adjusted grammatically to be formatted the way an English-speaking person would speak. It may seem a bit awkward to anyone who does not know any Indian languages.

Dialogue in Hurston

“Don’t think Ah don’t feel wid you Janie, ’cause Ah do. Ah couldn’t love yuh no more if Ah had uh felt yo’ birth pains mahself. Fact uh de matter, Ah ives yuh a whole heap more’n Ah do yo’ moms, de one Ah did birth…” (15)

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print.

Something I found very interesting was the dialogue in the novel. It’s actually a bit difficult to read but I like the way Hurston writes it because it makes it very realistic and believable. It actually makes it a bit easier if the dialogue is read out loud but regardless of how difficult it may be, I think it’ pretty authentic and I like that.

Narrative Strategies

Throughout the first ten pages of the novel the narrator describes the setting and places two old friends, Janie and Pheoby, in a conversation on a front porch. Pheoby asks Janie about Tea Cake. Janie provides a vague response, but when she realizes that Pheoby is ready to listen and understand Janie begins her life story, starting with a description of her childhood. This narrative strategy is used effectively so readers can understand events of Janie’s life that make her think and behave in certain ways. Chapter two continues mostly in form of Janie’s dialogue. At this point, I was worried that the entire novel was written in Janie’s dialogue, which is not easy to read because of her improper speech patterns. The dialogue is broken into paragraphs based on Janie quoting other people  and the development of new thoughts. Then, on page 11, there are two shifts in narrative voice,  the first shift goes back to the original narrator that described the women sitting on the porch, “Pheoby’s hungry listening helped Janie to tell her story…the night time put on flesh and blackness.” This paragraph is used to once again  show the women sitting on the porch and that the story of Janie’s life continues. Then, the next paragraph shifts to a new narrator, “She thought awhile and declared that her conscious life commenced at Nanny’s gate. On a late afternoon Nanny had called her to come inside the house because she had spied Janie letting Johnny Taylor kiss her over the gatepost.” If this narrator were to be physically present in the novel he/she would be sitting on the porch, listening to the women’s conversation. This narrator does not actually know the events and details of Janie’s past, he/she only knows as much as Janie discloses. The narrator listens to Janie’s story and translates it into a more comprehensive and intelligable writing. It is evident that the narrator does not know what happened in Janie’s past before Janie says so because the narrator says “She thought a while and declared.” Janie is the person who declared that her concious life began  then, not the narrator. The narrator does not have the knowledge or the authority to say, “Janie’s concious life commenced at Nanny’s gate.” Upon reading this paragraph I was relieved that Janie’s story would not be entirely reveled in her dialogue!

 

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print.

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.

Wimsey the Obvious

“The deuce you have–what an energetic devil you are! I say, Parker, I think this co-operative scheme is is an uncommonly good one. It’s much easier to work on someone else’s job than one’s own–gives one that delightful feelin’ of interferin’ and bossin’ about, combined with the glorious sensation that another fellow is takin’ all one’s own work off one’s hands. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, what? Did you find anything?” (Sayers 29).

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

This passage contains many examples of Wimsey’s dialect, characterized by unfinished present progressive verbs and the act of spouting out all of his ideas as they come into his head. This type of dialogue is different from both Stein’s “Melanctha” and Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. For example, Wimsey’s dialect differs from that of Melanctha because it is rather common or believable, while Melanctha’s dialect is skewed to fit into Stein’s own writing style. Rather that structuring sentences in strange ways like Stein, Sayers merely uses dialects of voice or accents. Furthermore, Whose Body? clearly lacks the free-indirect discourse of a modern novel like Joyce’s and focuses more on direct reported discourse. Because of this, Wimsey’s thoughts come to the reader clearly and easily, unlike Joyce’s style of vague and “infected” narration in which the reader is unsure of whose thoughts he receives.

Jeff and The Reader trying to understand Melanctha

“‘Sometimes I certainly don’t rightly see Melanctha, how much more game that is than just the ordinary kind of holler.’ ‘No, Jeff Campbell, and made the way you is you certainly ain’t likely ever to be much more understanding.’ ‘No, Melanctha, nor you neither. You think always, you are the only one who ever can do any way to really suffer.'”

Stein, Gertrude. “Melanctha.” Three Lives. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1994. 106. Print.

The first thing that is worth noticing about this section of dialogue between Melanctha and Jeff is Stein’s emphasis on their inability to understand each other. Stein constantly portrays Melanctha as stubbornly insisting that she is right, yet we never know what she is truly feeling. On the other hand, the reader actually does hear Jeff’s thoughts, and we can understand his own doubts and assurances as they come and go. Therefore, the lack of understanding between Jeff and Melanctha is actually more focused on the reader’s inability to understand Melanctha and what Melanctha wants–we have the same struggle as Jeff.
This specific portion of dialogue, Jeff is expressing to Melanctha how he has very little reverence for her type of “bravery” or “suffering,” in which she constantly allows herself to be hurt and then “hollers” about it. He calls it the “ordinary kind of holler,” trying to show her that she is no more brave or understanding than people who provoke fights and trouble, only to later regret it. These sentiments seem to attack the core of what Melanctha wants: “excitement,” something Jeff believes blacks should stay away from. However, Melanctha refuses to accept these sentiments, insisting that Jeff is just of a different “way” and therefore he can’t be “understanding.” This idea that one must be a certain “way” to really understand and to really suffer is one of the tensions between Jeff and Melanctha: Jeff, while living his regular life, did not know how to suffer until he comes into contact with Melanctha, whose strong emotional ways teach him to suffer. While the reader can see the harsh effects of Melanctha’s ways on Jefferson, we are not sure if Melanctha is changed by Jeff.