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K.R Narayan mocks human’s resignation

“Venkat Roa watched the child for a moment. “I don’t know if it’s going to be possible for me to take her out at all-you see, they are giving me an increment-” he wailed.”

N. K Narayan. Forty-Five a Month in Malgudi Days. Penguins Classic, 2006. 90

I had a hard time choosing a passage because there are a lot of moments that are funny in this book where Narayan brilliantly mocks his characters’s resignation in a simple but very efficient way. Here, the father who was ready to quit his job, gives out for a pay rise and giving this justification to his wife, he starts wailing. I think Narayan shows in a very simple but cynic way, that human’s will can be wiped out easily and it’s very comic to me.

Historical Timeline

Melanchta by Gertrude Stein was published in 1909 and Faulkner’s As I lay dying was published in 1925. Both those works use stream of consciousness device, whom proves to be confusing for the reader.  Zora Neale Hurston’s Their eyes were watching God, published in 1937,  focuses on rendering a thruthful African-American community, especially by a precise rendering of specific language. Annand’s Untouchable  was published in 1935  and is one of the few non western writers that is recognized.

We can see that modernist literature is diverse and show a wide range of works. I think it’s interesting to notice that some of those novels -Melanchta, Their Eyes were watching God, Joyce’s Portrait- belong to the “coming of age” genre which I think the confusing stream of consciousness is really appropriated for. We see a real desire to represent, with a difficult language and obviously new, the difficulty of making sense and understanding what is happening  in those moment of transition and learning.  Annand and Hurston doesn’t quite fit in the “usual” modernist writers circle as Annand is an Indian writer who writes on a non western subject and Hurston as an African-American woman is quite an exception. Nonetheless, I think those two relates with Faulkner’s As I lay dying with their subject, to show a different social class, the lesser one and to describe them in an authentic manner -like Hurston- but not with a condescending look but true interest, as Annand’s novel fit in the social novel genre.


Zora Neale Hurston’s use of language

“You know if you pass some people and don’t speak tuh suit ’em dey got to go way back in yo’ life and see whut you ever done. They know mo’ ’bout yuh than you do’ yo’ self. An envious heart makes a treacherous ear. They done “hear” ’bout you just what they hope done happened.”

Neale Hurston, Zora. Their eyes were watching God. Harper Perennial Modern Classics Edition, 2006. p5.

I think it’s interesting to see how the saying is written with no grammatical/spelling errors and included in a dialogue that reproduces a slangy language. I think it somehow reflects the constant shift between slangy dialogues and well written prose.

Bakha mind’s shut down

“But he worked unconsciously. This forgetfulness or emptiness persisted in him over long periods. It was a sort of insensitivity created in him by the kind of work he had to do, a tough skin which must be a shield against all the most awful sensations.”

Anand, Mulk Raj. Intouchable

It’s interesting to see how Bakha immunizes himself when he works, as if a part of his mind shut down to accomplish his tasks. As if he was detaching his mind from his body to forget his condition.

Cora’s voice

“She lived, a lonely woman, lonely with her pride, trying to make folks believe different, hiding the fact that they just suffered her, because she was not cold in the coffin before they were carting her forty miles away to bury her, flouting the will of God to fo it.”

Faulkner, William. As I lay  dying. Modern Library Edition, 2012. p20

The narration of Cora is interesting as she sometimes  sounds so descriptive, like an omniscient narrator, giving us information on characters; this being due to the fact that she has one of the most intelligible discourse in the novel. Nonetheless we know her speech is not impartial as it bears the traces of her deep religiousness.


“But this question of love (she thought, putting her coat away), this falling in love with women. Take Sally Seton; her relation in the old days with Sally Seton. Had not that, after all, been love?”

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt Inc., 1925

Here again, as we can see it several times in the novel, it’s interesting and still surprising  to see how casually an important question -if she loved a woman- followed by memories, comes to Clarissa’s mind just as she comes home and gets off her coat.


Soldier’s Home

“He had felt sorry for his mother and she had made him lie. He would go to Kansas City and get a job and she would feel all right about it. There would be one more scene maybe before he got away. He would not go down his father’s office. He would miss that one.He wanted his life to go smoothly. It had just gotten going that way. Well, that was all over now, anyway.”

Hemingway, Ernest. In Our Time. New York: Scribner Paperback Fiction, 1958. p77.

Harold makes the decision to leave quite quickly and just wants to escape; he doesn’t want to pretend anymore.

Whose Body?

“After she’ad put Mrs.Thipps to bed, she’ad slipped out to go to the Plumber’s and Glaziers’ Ball at the “Black Faced Ram” Mr.Williams ‘ad met ‘er and brought ‘er back. E’could testify to where she’s been and that there wasn’t no ‘arm in it.”

Sayers, Dorothy. Whose Body? 1923. Reprint, New York, Dover, 2009, p66.

The use of a more slangy language, or at least not proper English, differs here from the one in Melanchta. It is too used to give speech to a person of a lower class, a domestic, as in Melanchta it is used for people considered, at the time, as lesser. But it is used mostly for humor, and do not aim at disturb our comprehension of the plot as it confusing in Melanchta. It is rather use to accentuate and caricature in a humorous way the features of ther personality as it quickly gives us an impression of Grace Horrocks ‘s character, a rather excitable, simple domestic.  The way her deposition -no proper dialogue features and it is one continuous speech- is transposed just shows that she is not that important.


“Jeff Campbell never knew very well these days what it was that was going on inside him. All he knew was, he was uneasy now always to be with Melanchta. All he knew was, that he was alway uneasy when he was with Melanchta, not the way he used to be from just not being very understanding, but now, because he never could be honest with her, because he was now always feeling her strong suffering, in her, but he knew now he was having a straight, good feeling with her, but she was so fast, and he was so slow to her; Jeff knew his right feeling never got a chance to show itself strong, to her.”

Stein, Gertrude, “Melanchta” in Three Lives, Dover Publication, 1994, p96.

After several paragraphs on the confused thoughts of Jeff Campbell, the repetition of the verb know is used to show how the character tries to assure his feelings to himself even though we can see that he’s still very confused and doesn’t know how to deal with it.

Heart of Darkness

“But the wilderness had found him out early, and had taken on him a terrible vengeance for the fantastic invasion. I think it had whispered to him things about himself which he did not know, things he had no conception of till he took counsel with this great solitude – and the whisper had proved irresistibly fascinating. It echoed loudly within him because he was hollow at the core.”

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, p164.

It’s interesting to see that Marlow’s thought is that wilderness could only have a negative effect on Kurtz’s mind. He also hints to the fact that Kurtz might not have possessed a great soul, even before encountering the wilderness and therefore that’s why it was possible for him to go mad.