All posts by vm308

“Out of Business” and Language

“He felt disturbed for a moment; but he had only to turn his attention to speculate whether HOPE or DOPE or ROPE made most sense (for ‘Some people prefer this to despair’) and his mind was at once at rest” (94).

“If one had the misfortune to be born in the world, the best remedy was to end matters on a railway line or with a rope (‘Dope? Hope?’ his mind asked involuntarily)” (95).

“Wife, children… nothing seemed to matter.  The only important thing now was total extinction” (95).


Narayan, R. K. Malgudi Days. New York: Penguin, 1984. Print.

“Out of Business” chronicles the struggles of a man who loses his business and struggles to support his family financially after the loss.  Yet the short story also appears to be conscious of its own power as a text, demonstrating the influence that words often have in our lives.  This occurs both literally and metaphorically, as Rama Rao literally searches for words within the crossword puzzles, but they in turn affect his own thoughts and consciousness.  As he gets more and more desperate, he contemplates ending his life, reflecting on a puzzle clue that may have initially put the idea in his mind.  However, the delayed train is the ultimate “clue” or sign in the story of his life, urging him to keep living for his family.


In Our Time, Mrs. Dalloway, and World War I

Both published in 1925, In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway and Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf chronicle the effects of World War I on society.  While these texts may seem different in the nature that they are narrated, they collectively contribute to the narrative of the post-war experience.  Hemingway’s short stories detail some of the societal reasons as to why young men were pushed to fight for their countries, whereas Woolf’s novel demonstrates the aftereffects of the violence and death.

As evident through one of Hemingway’s main characters, Nick, pride and masculinity often played a large role in society’s general push toward violence in the first place.  Nick strives to gain his father’s approval throughout the course of the short stories, while also aiming to be a brave man through his efforts in war.  Woolf contradicts some of these societal influences through her descriptions of Septimus’s struggles; although he fought for his nation and lived, he still suffers from fear and anxiety after the war’s end.  These narratives piece together important information about the human condition in the wake of violence and destruction, largely responding to the incidents that occurred during World War I.

Characterization of Janie

“Janie saw her life like a great tree in leaf with the things, suffered, things enjoyed, things done and undone.  Dawn and doom was in the branches” (Hurston 9).


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

Janie is characterized as a person who is thoughtful and attentive to life and those around her.  Unlike some of the other characters, she looks at her life as a combination of positive, moments as well as negative ones, refusing to allow gossip to change her own perspectives.  It is this characteristic that differentiates her from many of the other characters in the novel’s plot.


Copying As a Form of Admiration

“So he tried to copy them in everything, to copy them as well as hecould in the exigencies of his peculiarly Indian circumstances” (11).


Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. New York: Penguin Group, 2014. Print.

This refers to Bakha’s desire to be more than solely a member of the untouchable caste.  By copying the wardrobes of those of higher rank than him, both within Indian and British society, Bakha is showing a sense of admiration and urge to be a part of a different group than his own. From the beginning of the work, his family does not understand his reasoning behind this because although he wears the same attire, he is not reaping any rewards from the act regardless.

Vardaman’s Understanding of Death

“My mother is a fish” (84).


Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text. New York: Modern Library, 2000. Print.

This quotation refers to a poignant moment within Faulkner’s work.  Vardaman, the youngest of the children, compares his notion of his mother to a fish that died that day.  It demonstrates his confusion toward the concept of death in general and “death’s” constant  presence within the novel itself.

Stream of Consciousness and Memories in Mrs. Dalloway

“There was Regent’s Park.  Yes.  As a child he had walked in Regent’s Park–odd, he thought, how the thought of childhood keeps coming back to me–the result of seeing Clarissa, perhaps; for women live much more in the past than we do, he thought.  They attach themselves to places; and their fathers–a woman’s always proud of her father” (55).


Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1925. Print.

Virginia Woolf utilizes the stream of consciousness method throughout her work, Mrs. Dalloway, as a means of providing insight into her characters’ thought processes.  As seen through this excerpt, much of the novel focuses on events that occurred to the characters in the past and shaped the way they view their lives and circumstances in the present.

Masculinity and Pride in “The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife”

“Dick Boulton looked at the doctor. Dick was a big man. He knew how big a man he was. He liked to get into fights. He was happy. Eddy and Billy Tabeshaw leaned on their cant­hooks and looked at the doctor. The doctor chewed the beard on his lower lip and looked at Dick Boulton. Then he turned away and walked up the hill to the cottage. They could see from his back how angry he was. They all watched him walk up the hill and go inside the cottage” (Kindle edition – no page numbers given).

Throughout “The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife” Hemingway places an important role on masculinity and its effect on relationships.  Dick Boulton’s pride causes an altercation between him and the doctor, whereas the doctor’s pride causes an altercation between him and his wife.  This theme seems to be reoccurring throughout the plot and it is clear the the doctor’s son chooses his father’s side by the end of the narrative over his mother’s, demonstrating a continuation of this mindset.


Hemingway, Ernest. “The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife.” In Our Time. New York: Scribner Paperback Fiction, 2003. Print.

Detail and Characterization in Whose Body?

“He sat down in the beautiful room in which Sir Julian’s patients awaited his healing counsel.  It was full of people.  Two or three fashionably dressed women were discussing shops and servants together, and teasing a toy griffon.  A big, worried-looking man by himself in a corner looked at his watch twenty times a minute.  Lord Peter knew him by sight.  It was Wintrington, a millionaire, who had tried to kill himself a few months ago.  He controlled the finances of five countries, but he could not control his nerves” (Sayers 117).


Sayers, Dorothy L. Whose Body? Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2009. Print.

Centering around the mystery of a dead body discovered in a bath tub, Whose Body? unfolds into a thought-provoking detective novel.  However, while the content is purposely kept confusing and misleading–as Sayers does not want readers to solve the crime prior to the point in which her protagonist does–the writing style is very direct and detail-oriented.  Sayers introduces readers to many minute observations that many other writers, especially modern writers, omit in their plots.  In fact, her attention to such details deters readers from figuring out the solution to the big question in her work: whose body?  Not only does Sayers provide careful observations about locations, but also about characters–even ones that do not appear to be important in terms of the plot of the work.  In this excerpt, she describes the waiting room of Sir Julian’s office, pointing out details about the patients that are waiting for their appointments.  She manipulates the language to directly characterize them rather than hinting at their traits, as she does when she describes the differences between the mental/emotional state and professional/business state of the the millionaire in the waiting room.


Delay and Confusion in “Melanctha”

“Jeff sat there this evening in his chair and was silent a long time, warming himself with the pleasant fire.  He did not look at Melanctha who was watching.  He sat there and just looked into the fire.  At first his dark, open face was smiling, and he was rubbing the back of his black-brown hand over his mouth to help him in his smiling.  Then he was thinking, and he frowned and rubbed his head hard, to help him in his thinking.  Then he smiled again, but now his smiling was not pleasant.  His smile was now wavering on the edge of scorning.  His smile changed more and more, and then he had a look as if he was bitter in his smiling, and he began, without looking from the fire, to talk to Melanctha, who was now very tense with her watching” (80).

This passage demonstrates Stein’s ability to manipulate the way in which readers perceive her narrative.  Rather than just outwardly stating that Jeff transitioned into a bitter mood as he spent that evening with Melanctha, Stein provides details of his changing facial expressions and body language so that readers are learning of his changing mood at the same time that Melanctha is within the story.  This delay adds a sense of confusion to the text and ultimately seems to work with Stein’s writing style.


Stein, Gertrude. “Melanctha.” Three Lives. New York: Dover Publications, 1994. Print.

“Darkness” in Conrad’s Writing

“It had ceased to be a blank space of delightful mystery–a white patch for a boy to dream gloriously over.  It had become a place of darkness.  But there was in it one river especially, a mighty big river, that you could see on the map, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depths of the land” (Conrad 108).

Conrad often alludes to “darkness” throughout the novel, as evident in this passage at the beginning of the novel.  The darkness may be referring to an individual darkness within a person, or in this case, an unexplored primitive setting.  Conrad often appears to depict Africa in such a manner, making it clear as to why many critics question whether or not his writing is considered racist.


Conrad, Joseph, and Cedric Thomas. Watts. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. Oxford:    Oxford UP, 1990. Print.