Tag Archives: Faulkner

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.

In the mind of self and other

Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf (1925)
As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner (1930)
Untouchable, Mulk Raj Anand (1935)
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston (1937)

Each of these novels deal with the common connection between the expression of some sort of self, whether it be their individual self or the self of some group they identify with, and the other, which is a group that they are facing that is different from themselves; it could be a cultural, social, class, or another difference that varies from their own. In these modernism works, there is continuity of how the readers are given the story from different perspectives that in some way have or form a relationship or purpose between the characters. In Mrs. Dalloway there is constantly the jump from one perspective to another, sometimes without there every being a clear distinction who’s perspective you are getting, but forming a blurred connection between characters and events, such as between Mrs. Dalloway and Septimus. In As I Lay Dying, it is made clear whose perspective you are getting with each section titled with their name, but with this clarity comes a different way the characters connect with each other, and in this case almost suggests and defines the separation of experiences of each character as their own, yet all brought on by a specific event, Addie’s death. In Untouchable there is the distinct separation between the Indians and the Europeans they come into contact with; particularly with Bakha, who knows the Indian world, yet supports the ideas and concepts of the European world there is the constant cross of concepts and ideals between each group for him as he tries to make sense of who he is and what he should follow. Finally, in Their Eyes Were Watching God the reader is given the story from mainly Janie’s perspective, yet we see her struggles through life dealing with how she is learning to define herself amongst different ranks of blacks in society; we see her mind and thoughts as she navigates through one relationship to the next.

Disparity only changes it’s face.

One of the greatest topics that I have noticed being covered by nearly every work we have read is that of class.  Anand’s Untouchable (1935), Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) , Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying (1925)  and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899), illustrate to us that through the years, no matter the location or specific group of characters, class continues to be a factor of major importance and intrigue.

There is a clear continuity in class distinction and disparity throughout each of these novels, with no clear resolution through time. For instance, while in 1899, Imperialism is shown in spades throughout Heart of Darkness, it is still an issue (although in a different location), in Untouchable. Not only do these two show class disparity, but also inequality in both race and cultures.

As I Lay Dying and Their Eyes Were Watching God reveal a slightly different form of class disparity, in that they don’t revolve around themes of one group of people AGAINST another, but are more revealing in their disparity through the largely missing discussions of these disparities. The reveal is through ignorance rather than understanding.

Over the difference of 38 years, we can see that the face of disparity changes, but it’s power and overall grip on societies, does not. No matter the location, or the cultures and classes involved, this continues to be a problem throughout the world. It’s so interesting to see it from so many points of view, and each authors different style helps to bring us closer to these people that we may never have considered otherwise. Historically, the significance is quite clear, even when the issues never quite get resolved. We cannot make changes if they aren’t consistent

Social Class Disparities

Faulkner, Sayers, and Stein observe social class across their respective texts. A moment of social class disparity in Faulkner is the difference between the two doctors. Peabody is more educated than MCGowan, but Faulkner implies that social class trumps credentials when comparing the way the two characters interact with the Bundren family. In Sayers’ novel, Peter has money and can just do detective work almost for his own pleasure. Bunter is Peter’s servant, but he helps Peter in solving crimes along with taking care of his needs around the house. In Melanchtha, race seems to complicate social class by being an added level in that race is more distinctive than social class. For instance, a black person with a high prestige job such as a doctor would be lower than a working class white man in society.

Historical Line- Stream of Consciousness

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, which was published in 1916, Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf published in 1925, William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying published in 1930, and Untouchable by Anand, which was published in 1935 all explores the stream of consciousness. The stream of consciousness, which was a new concept in the 20th century, proved to be very popular.Throughout 21 years, the device influenced writers to get creative in exploring and expressing the character’s consciousness. In  A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce uses the stream of consciousness to depict the mind of a young man exploring his sexuality. When Stephen is awakened to his sexual needs, “He wanted to meet in the real world the unsubstantial image which his soul so constantly beheld… They would be alone, surrounded by darkness and silence: and in that moment of supreme tenderness he would be transfigured”, which depicts a typical young man’s coming of age(12). Also in 1925, Woolf uses stream of consciousness to explore the present and the past. We see Peter Walsh’s  thoughts towards Clarissa, “Of course I did, thought Peter; it almost broke my heart too…”, which depicts Peter answering Clarissa in his stream of consciousness and recalling memories through it (42). In 1930, Faulkner used the narration of different characters to explore stream of consciousness. He depicts Jewel’s thoughts of being alone with his mother, he repeatedly thinks “one lick less. One lick less…”, which depicts him holding back his frustration in his mind. By this point in history, the authors use stream of consciousness to express the emotions of different characters. Lastly, in 1935, Anand uses stream of consciousness to show the truth behind each characters’ lives. In the beginning, Bakha sees the uniform “And he had hungered for the touch of them. But he had never mustered up courage enough to go up to the keeper of the shop and to ask him the price of anything, lest it should be a price he could not pay and lest the man should find out from his talk that he was a sweeper-boy” (11). Stream of consciousness was used to follow each characters personally, but also to dive into the characters’ process of thinking. Over the years, writers changed the usage to depict their writings vividly, but they all continued to express the thoughts and feelings of the characters.

Historical Context—Perspectives

In Gertrude Stein’s Melanctha, published in 1909, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man written by James Joyce, published in 1916, Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, published in 1925, and William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying published in 1930, all contain some type of use of perspective change. While every text does provide the reader with certain characters’ perspectives, the authors each have their own way of depicting it. Stein, Joyce, and Woolf’s texts seem to consistently change perspectives and voice without warning. They are the most similar when quickly changing perspectives, though still unique to their own texts. One sentence could be the narrator’s perspective and the next is Jeff, Stephen, or Clarissa, respectively. An example from Stein’s use of perspective is the sudden shift from Jeff’s thoughts to the narrator’s perspective: “Slowly he felt that surely they must both have this feeling. It was so important that he knew that she must have it. They both sat there, very quiet, a long time” (69). Five years after Woolf’s novel, Faulker made the perspective changes in his novel clear by giving sections for each character to use their voice and tell the story from their point of view. By doing this, the reader follows the same story, but understanding it through many different characters’ views. Inserting different perspectives throughout these texts establishes new ways of thinking, writing, and reading.

Jewel Revealed

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.

 

Death: Neither End or Beginning

“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 suffer the bereavement. The nihilists say it is the end; the fundamentalists, the beginning; when in reality it is no more than a single tenant or family moving out of a tenement or a town.”

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. New York: The Modern Library, 2000. Print.

Peabody stated this before Addie’s death. Peabody being an experienced medical doctor has come to conceptualize death in a highly non sympathetic fashion, calling it a “tenant or family moving out of a tenement or a town.” Peabody views death as more of a transitional period for those close to the deceased, rather than placing it along with a feeling of finality or beginning. By doing this he is making death out to be a more social process than an emotionalized one.

As I Lay Moaning

“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.

Without the Words

“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.