The novels, “Untouchable,” by Mulk Raj, “Mrs. Dalloway,” by Virginia Woolf, and “Melanctha,” written by Gertrude Stein, all deal and touch upon social issues; the books themselves are a window into the fictional lives of characters that reside in these social but extraordinarily different classes. In Virginia Woolf’s fiction, Mrs. Dalloway is apart of the aristocracy and is a female patrician, whose soul desire is to host elaborate, and elegant parties for the community in order to find and attain a sense of identity and belonging. A sophisticated women dealing with issues that pertain to lost lost and self-identity. Septimus, an educated veteran who has returned from the First World War, suffers from shell-shock and post-traumatic stress disorder. Where as, Bahka, the protagonist in the “Untouchable,” faces challenges that severely limit him as a human being. He belongs to a civil class that puts him lower than the rest of his community: he is seen as a pariah, a sweeper, an “untouchable,” due to his position as a cleaner of latrines. In Stein’s, “Melanctha,” the author gives us a window into the life of a young, attractive, African American girl, who is on her journey to find lasting happiness, sensibility, and ultimately, stability in her life as she becomes a woman. Unfortunately, due to Melanctha’s personal behavior, she is outcast by the community and left alone by even her closest friends. All three 20th century novels deal with social classes and issues that may have been unaware or overlooked by society until they were written.
“What dat le forty year ole ‘oman doin’ wid her hair swingin’ down her back lak some young gal?–Where she left dat young lad of a boy she went off here wid?–Thought she was going to marry?–Where he left her?–What he done wid all her money? Betcha he off wid some gal so young she ain’t even got no hairs–why she don’t stay in her class?–”
Neale Hurston, Zora. Their eyes were watching God. Harper Perennial Modern Classics Edition, 2006. 2.
Immediately, the reader realizes the different thresholds of language the narrator utilizes to depict her story. There is an interesting contrast between the language used by the protagonist and Hurston. The narrator’s voice is sophisticated, elegant, and articulates her thoughts with precision. On the other hand, Janie and Nanny’s voice can be seen as an entirely different prehistoric dialect.
“All of them abused, abused, abused why are we always abused? The sanitary inspector that day abused my father. They always abuse us. Because we are sweepers. Because we touch dung. They hate dung. I am a sweeper, sweeper-untouchable I am an untouchable!”
Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. London: Penguin 1935
A prominent moment of confession from Bakha. One can feel while he is reading the stir and fluctuation of feelings and emotions within the protagonist. Simultaneously, becoming more and more aware of social subjugation and despotism in other parts of the world.
“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 the suffer the bereavement.”
Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text. First Vintage International Edition. New York: Vintage Books, 1990. Print.
Although the previous statement was made by a Doctor attending and treating a dying mother, does his words hold truth, thus, value? Claiming that death is simply a function of the mind may not be necessarily truth, due to the fact that causes of death such as respiratory failure, or failure of a essential organ has nothing to do with the mind itself, but a culmination of several physical issues that lead to the ultimate consequence. However, I do agree with the second claim of the doctor’s statement; loved ones of the deceased are the ones that may suffer the most mentally after the passing. And it is them that suffer the grievance of the process of letting the loved one go and attainment of peace and closure.
“Love and religion! thought Clarissa, going back into the drawing room, tingling all over. How detestable, how detestable they are!”
Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, 1925.
Clarissa, or Mrs. Dalloway, is a proud and well-mannered woman that in conflicted with a flux of wide array of various emotions, and she is constantly reflecting on herself and re-visiting old memories, despite the fact that many of them brings her pain and an overbearance of grief. She has lost faith in love and has her own ideology that pertains to God. A female patron that is not living in regret, but a woman that questions her decisions and personal identity. Possible, the central reason why Mrs. Dalloway feels so morbidly against the concept of love is because she was not able to be with the man she truly loved. The one that got away. Mrs. Dalloway finds self-expression through her hosting of elegant parties as well as self-identification and not through religion.
“Is dying hard, Daddy?” “No, I think it’s pretty easy, Nick. It all depends.”
Hemingway, Ernest. In Our Time. New York: Scribner Paperback Fiction, 1958. Print.
The conversation between the boy and his father was a compelling and moving moment in the short story, “Indian Camp.” After witnessing the death and suicide of an Indian Man, the son asks his father if death is hard, and his response was vague, but profound. Death is easy but life is difficult. I believe that was what the Doctor was trying to explain to his son. It is more challenging and arduous to face your problems and fears and overcoming them than it is to simply just quit or run away. The brief conversation between the pair I believe was what made the short narrative something special.