- Henry James, The Jolly Corner (1909)
- James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1918)
- Dorothy Sayers, Whose Body? (1923)
- Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)
These works, to a greater or lesser degree, represent urban life, whether in New York City, Dublin, or London. Two trends, specifically, seem to stand out:
First, the idea of communal social interaction. Only explicitly seen in Mrs. Dalloway, there is a sense of shared consciousness among the denizens of the modern city, who experience the same locations and events, as well as the same sorts of social interactions.
Second, and more applicably to all four texts, is a sort of “urban mystery.” The Jolly Corner and Whose Body? are mysteries, peripherally in the case of the first and primarily in the case of the second – but Portrait and Dalloway also explore the mystery of the human consciousness, particularly Portrait’s first half, where the reader is meant to feel “lost” within the sea of human history and culture.
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.
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.
“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.
Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo…
Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Edited by Jeri Johnson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
I chose the passage that begins the whole novel because it being a fictional story puts emphasis on how important Joyce thinks stories are. It points out the significance a story can have on anyone, even a little boy like Stephen and how he relates to baby tuckoo.