Tag Archives: relationships

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.

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.