All posts by BR

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.

Vivid Descriptions of Beauty

“The blood in Bakha’s veins tingled with the heat as he stood before it.  His dark face, round and solid and exquisitely well defined, lit with a queer sort of beauty.”  (Anand 20).

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

This small passage stood out because this book often takes time to describe how poorly the untouchables are treated and how dirty their living conditions and work are, but here, we are provided with a scene that depicts the actual beauty of the character, in contrast to his lifestyle.

Change in Focalization

“It’s because he stays out there, right under the window, hammering and sawing on
that goddamn box. Where she’s got to see him. Where every breath she draws is
full of his knocking and sawing where she can see him saying See. See what a
good one I am making for you. ”

The first instance of a shift in focal points, from Darl to Jewel, gives the feeling that these characters are being interviewed.

Pseudo Monologue

“Through all ages — when the pavement was grass, when it was swamp, through the age of tusk and mammoth, through the age of silent sunrise, the battered woman — for she wore a skirt — with her right hand exposed, her left clutching at her side, stood singing of love — love which has lasted a million years, she sang, love which prevails, and millions of years ago, her lover, who had been dead these centuries, had walked, she crooned, with her in May; but in the course of ages, long as summer days, and flaming, she remembered, with nothing but red asters, he had gone; death’s enormous sickle had swept those tremendous hills, and when at last she laid her hoary and immensely aged head on the earth, now become a mere cinder of ice, she implored the Gods to lay by her side a bunch of purple-heather, there on her high burial place which the last rays of the last sun caressed; for then the pageant of the universe would be over.”

Peter Walsh seems to be projecting his own dissatisfaction with love onto a random battered woman in a park; in that case, this monologue might not be interior at all because it doesn’t completely belong to either character.

Immediate Action

” ‘He rang them up to say he couldn’t. He was so upset, poor little man. He’d found a dead body in his bath.’

‘Sorry, Mother, I can’t hear; found what, where?’

‘A dead body, dear, in his bath.’

‘What?—no, no, we haven’t finished. Please don’t cut us off. Hullo! Hullo! Is that you, Mother? Hullo!—Mother!—Oh, yes—sorry, the girl was trying to cut us off. What sort of body?’ ”

I appreciate this chunk of dialogue here for introducing the plot on the first page of the text.  The story open with Lord Peter Wimsey conversing with a cab driver, an already exciting start that puts the reader within the action, and then immediately the reader is thrust forward into the plot.  A dead body is found and in one motion, context is given to the title, and the word body is repeated three times in these four lines to make it impossible to forget.  This writing is exciting; it draws the reader in faster than any other text we’ve read.  Other texts, such as Melanctha and Heart of Darkness felt like they were being told from a distance.  Those texts can be as exciting as this, however, the worlds read about feel at a distance compared to Whose Body? which draws in the reader immediately.  The reader is not expected to simply read and comprehend, but go beyond that and experience the story, which is also made possible by the extensive amount of dialogue.


Language Enforces Segregation

” ‘No Melanctha, I ain’t no common nigger to do so, for I was raised by white folks.  You know very well Melanctha that I’se always been engaged to them.’ “(Stein 49)

I am fascinated with the labeling between black and white communities in this book.  Just in the first few pages, the text provides examples such as “negro world” and “negro sunshine”(47).  It seems to continues as far as I’ve read with other examples such as “negro fashion”(53).  For the sentence I quoted, it’s interesting to see that Rose Johnson validates her actions by claiming having been raised by “white folks”.  The language lends itself to the idea of segregation by providing these crudely blunt labels.

Stein, Gertrude. Three Lives. New York: The Grafton Press, 2011. Print.

Descriptions of the Forest

” ‘The earth seemed unearthly.  We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there–there you could look at a thing monstrous and free.  It was unearthly, and the men were—–No, they were not inhuman.  Well you know, that was the worst of it–this suspicion of their not being human”  (Conrad 139).

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: Oxford Universe Press Inc. 2008.  Print.

This particular scene within “Heart of Darkness” was interesting because it is a small description of the area and natives, which are essentially two of the biggest entities of the book.  The travelers, describe the natives the only way they can; they look like humans and act like beasts, from their perspective at least.  The jungle is described as unearthly, when it’s the most earthly thing that the humans have experienced.

Woolf’s Words on Modern Writers

“We do not come to write better; all that we can be said to do is keep moving, now a little in this direction, now in that, but with a circular tendency should the whole course of the track be viewed from a sufficiently lofty pinnacle.  It need scarcely be said that we make no claim to stand, even momentarily, upon the vantage ground.  On the flat, in the crowd, half blind with dust, we look back with envy to those happier warriors, whose battle is won and whose achievements wear so serene an air of accomplishment that we can scarcely refrain from whispering that the fight was not so fierce for them as for us. ” (Woolf 146) Woolf, Virginia. “Modern Fiction.”  Web.  9 Sept 2014. To my understanding, during this time period, much of what existed of the industry was not a fan of fiction.  It was not considered an art form, and was often thoughts of as no more than a common drug of the youth. Here, Virginia Woolf, vocalizes her opinions of  writing as a whole; she sees it from it’s roots and traces it to her time, in her present, and claims that her and her contemporaries are as innovative as anyone has ever been in writing and are pushing in a general direction to further the development of literature, even with many against them.