Tag Archives: social constructs

Ideas of Acceptance

One theme that runs through some of the books we’ve read is acceptance by normalcy; who is publicly accepted and not judged for what they are.   This them is present within “Heart of Darkness”, “Melanctha”, “Mrs. Dalloway”, and “Their Eyes were Watching God”.

“The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much.”  (Conrad 5)

“Rose Johnson was careless and was lazy, but she had been brought up by white folks and she needed decent comfort. Her white training had only made for habits, not for nature” (Stein 1)

” ‘Let us go on, Septimus,’ … People must notice; people must see.” (Woolf 15).

“‘What she doin’ coming back here in dem overhalls? Can’t she find no dress to put on?—Where’s dat blue satin dress she left here in?—Where all dat money her husband took and died and left her?—What dat ole forty year ole ’oman doin’ wid her hair swingin’ down her back lak some young gal?t'” (Hurston)

In Heart of Darkness and Melanctha, which were published in 1899 and 1909, people that don’t measure up to the ideas of public acceptance are people of color; Rose’s “white training” elevates her, and in Heart of Darkness, it’s made clear that conquest once required taking from those with a different complexion.  Later in 1925, Septimus Warren Smith of Mrs. Dalloway, is having shell shock while his wife worries that people are watching him, because even as a veteran, having any kind of problem in public is considered unacceptable.  By the time we reach Hurston’s work in 1937, he main character Janie is judged by the public simply because they do not know things about her.

The Hyperawareness of Caste

“Bakha picked up the packet and moved away. Then he opened it and took out a cigarette. He recalled that he had forgotten to buy a box of matches. He was too modest to go back, as though some deep instinct told him that as a sweeper-lad, he should show himself in people’s presences as little as possible. For a sweeper, a menial to be seen smoking constituted an offense before the Lord” (42).

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. London, England: Penguin Books, 1940. Print.

This moment, among many others, features Anand’s use of excessive clarifications of caste distinctions, representing Bakha’s hyperawareness of his own class and his subordinate relation to other characters in the novel, something he perceives through aesthetics and standards created by his society and forces him to understand himself solely in terms of his relationship to others.