All posts by katb23

Thoughts and Mockery

“In the few days to live before she went to Logan Killicks and his often-mentioned sixty acres, Janie asked inside of herself and out. She was back and forth to the pear tree continuously wondering and thinking. Finally out of Nanny’s talk and her own conjectures she made a sort of comfort for herself. Yes, she would love Logan after they were married. She could see no way for it to come about, but Nanny and the old folks had said it, so it must be so. Husbands and wives always loved each other, and that was what marriage meant. It was just so” (Hurston, 21).

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print.

Janie convinces herself with her own inner thoughts, the words of encouragement given to her by her grandmother, and words of advice she has heard the elderly townspeople say, that marrying Logan and following this path in her life will lead to doing the right thing. What I find interesting is that she persuades herself it is worth doing despite knowing she doesn’t quite want to, and that even before she marries him her days of ‘living’ are limited. She wants love and she thinks this could turn out to be the way to find it, but what she really wants is freedom, she just doesn’t know it yet.

I also can’t help but sense a little bit of mockery of Janie’s reasoning on behalf of the narrator. “She could see no way for it to come about, but Nanny and the old folks had said it, so it must be so” seems to mildly attack Janie’s naivete or potentially dangerous trust of what other people say, even though such people are considered older and wiser.

Delayed Specification on Kurtz

“I’ve seen the devil of violence, and the devil of greed, and the devil of hot desire; but, by all the stars! these were strong, lusty, red-eyed devils, that swayed and drove men – men, I tell you. But as I stood on the hillside, I foresaw that in the blinding sunshine of that land I would become acquainted with a flabby, pretending, weak-eyed devil of a rapacious and pitiless folly.”

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. “Heart of Darkness” (Oxford: Oxford NY, 2002), 117.

All of the descriptions in this passage remind me of language that just goes and goes with seemingly no destination, at least not one that’s obvious from the start – in other words, it is similar to language we’ve already been looking at in class. You don’t quite understand what the point is, where exactly it’s going, or what the purpose of it will be, until you read on and discover that it applies to Kurtz. It is a perfect example of delayed specification.

Woolf: Freedom in Modern Fiction

“if a writer were a free man and not a slave, if he could write what he chose, not what he must, if he could base his work upon his own feeling and not upon convention, there would be no plot, no comedy, no tragedy, no love interest or catastrophe in the accepted style, and perhaps not a single button sewed on as the Bond Street tailors would have it. Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.”

Woolf, Virginia. “Modern Fiction.” In The Common Reader, 150. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, 1925.

Life is an organic thing, as is fiction. How a writer or novelist creates their work of fiction should not be as constrained as it apparently is. There are expectations that writers feel obliged to abide by in order to entertain his or her readers – expectations of comedy, tragedy, love interests, catastrophes or precise characters. If a writer were to write as they see fit, it would be a direct portrayal of what the author intended, without the elements so finely executed in other works that came before. I find a connection here with poetry – there are guidelines, there are measures, patterns, rhythms to be followed, but there is also an opportunity to freely abandon such rules, a freedom Woolf believes should be available to fiction writers – let novelists write freely, modern fiction is just as crucial to literary culture as works that are more rigorously/strictly designed.

Impression and Interest

A novel is in its broadest definition a personal, a direct impression of life: that, to begin with, constitutes its value, which is greater or less according to the intensity of the impression. But there will be no intensity at all, and therefore no value, unless there is freedom to feel and say.

Henry James, “The Art of Fiction.” Major Stories & Essays. New York: Library of America, 1999. p 578.

The significant notion here is that worthy novels are those that capture some of the essence of life, not real life in particular, but life readers can relate to. There must be some imitation of something people already know and can recognize. James suggests that without that ability (or ‘freedom’) to experience and then tell/write about it, to therefore lay down this foundation for a novel, the end result will fall flat – it will lack intensity, and fail to spark interest.