Category Archives: Commonplace entry

upper social/lower class

“Whose Body?” Sayers (1923), “Mrs Dalloway” Woolf (1925), “As I Lay Dying” Faulkner (1930) and Ananad’s “Untouchable” (1935) focus on social class as one of the many themes. Sayers focuses on a character Peter Wimsey has money and is willing to help solve cases. Mrs. Dalloway is a part of an upper class society as well and they are able to have parties/social gatherings. We mainly see the upper classes not worry about many things for instance when mentioning the war Mr. Dalloway comments that only thousands of men died in the war which is incorrect since it was actually a whole generation of men who died. The upperclass is perceived to be people who have money, hold parties and are willing to do things at their own pleasure because they are allowed to along with the fact they have money. “As I Lay Dying” gives us two doctors one who is part of the upper class Peabody based on how well educated he is and then wee McGowan who is not well educated in certain senses when it comes to practicing medicine. It also shows what the poor side is like especially not educated for instance Darl, Anse, Cash, Dewey Dell, Vardman and Jewel speak differently which makes the audience think that they are not educated compared to the other two novels that spoke proper and they did not have any grammatical errors. “Untouchable” on the other hand mainly focuses on the lower caste and shows the readers what it is like to live in this part of the caste system and how horrible it truly is.

Style and Race

Melanctha (1909), Mrs. Dalloway (1925), In Our Time (1925), As I Lay Dying (1930),

Even with the extensive amount of time between Melanctha, Mrs. Dalloway, and As I Lay Dying is separated by at most by 21 years the style of writing in a stream of the characters consciousness can be seen throughout. In Melanctha and Mrs. Dalloway nothing really breaks up the conversations and actions from one character to another, everything flows right into another, unlike in As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner and In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway. In their books each chapter is broken up into separate pieces. For Faulkner each chapter we saw in the perspective of that one single character which helped form an individual idea about each character, whereas the stream of consciousness in Melanctha and Mrs. Dalloway was a continuous stream. In Our Time by Hemingway was also broken up into individual pieces like Faulkner’s. If you read the chapters that coincide with one another a different picture and story is seen. One of the biggest differences I saw within these books is between Melanctha and As I Lay Dying is when it came to race. These two books are published 21 years from one another. The differences in style can be seen from the way it was written, Faulkner’s style of different characters point of views as a chapter and Steins way of a continuous stream of contentiousness, to the style of speech and the identification of character differentiation. In Melanctha we could clearly see which characters were considered black and who weren’t. There was an out word expression and even in the actual style of dialog was different, but in As I Lay Dying it’s not as clear of a picture. In Faulkner’s book the black character is harder to pick out and seems to not even be present despite taking place in the Deep South.

Disparity only changes it’s face.

One of the greatest topics that I have noticed being covered by nearly every work we have read is that of class.  Anand’s Untouchable (1935), Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) , Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying (1925)  and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899), illustrate to us that through the years, no matter the location or specific group of characters, class continues to be a factor of major importance and intrigue.

There is a clear continuity in class distinction and disparity throughout each of these novels, with no clear resolution through time. For instance, while in 1899, Imperialism is shown in spades throughout Heart of Darkness, it is still an issue (although in a different location), in Untouchable. Not only do these two show class disparity, but also inequality in both race and cultures.

As I Lay Dying and Their Eyes Were Watching God reveal a slightly different form of class disparity, in that they don’t revolve around themes of one group of people AGAINST another, but are more revealing in their disparity through the largely missing discussions of these disparities. The reveal is through ignorance rather than understanding.

Over the difference of 38 years, we can see that the face of disparity changes, but it’s power and overall grip on societies, does not. No matter the location, or the cultures and classes involved, this continues to be a problem throughout the world. It’s so interesting to see it from so many points of view, and each authors different style helps to bring us closer to these people that we may never have considered otherwise. Historically, the significance is quite clear, even when the issues never quite get resolved. We cannot make changes if they aren’t consistent

Historical Line- Stream of Consciousness

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, which was published in 1916, Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf published in 1925, William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying published in 1930, and Untouchable by Anand, which was published in 1935 all explores the stream of consciousness. The stream of consciousness, which was a new concept in the 20th century, proved to be very popular.Throughout 21 years, the device influenced writers to get creative in exploring and expressing the character’s consciousness. In  A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce uses the stream of consciousness to depict the mind of a young man exploring his sexuality. When Stephen is awakened to his sexual needs, “He wanted to meet in the real world the unsubstantial image which his soul so constantly beheld… They would be alone, surrounded by darkness and silence: and in that moment of supreme tenderness he would be transfigured”, which depicts a typical young man’s coming of age(12). Also in 1925, Woolf uses stream of consciousness to explore the present and the past. We see Peter Walsh’s  thoughts towards Clarissa, “Of course I did, thought Peter; it almost broke my heart too…”, which depicts Peter answering Clarissa in his stream of consciousness and recalling memories through it (42). In 1930, Faulkner used the narration of different characters to explore stream of consciousness. He depicts Jewel’s thoughts of being alone with his mother, he repeatedly thinks “one lick less. One lick less…”, which depicts him holding back his frustration in his mind. By this point in history, the authors use stream of consciousness to express the emotions of different characters. Lastly, in 1935, Anand uses stream of consciousness to show the truth behind each characters’ lives. In the beginning, Bakha sees the uniform “And he had hungered for the touch of them. But he had never mustered up courage enough to go up to the keeper of the shop and to ask him the price of anything, lest it should be a price he could not pay and lest the man should find out from his talk that he was a sweeper-boy” (11). Stream of consciousness was used to follow each characters personally, but also to dive into the characters’ process of thinking. Over the years, writers changed the usage to depict their writings vividly, but they all continued to express the thoughts and feelings of the characters.

Historical Timeline

Three Lives (“Melanctha”) by Stein was published in 1909. In Our Time by Hemingway and Mrs. Dalloway by Woolf was published in 1925. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Hurston was published in 1937. As we discussed during the beginning of the semester, these texts would be labeled under the modernist movement. However, modernism is just the umbrella; each text has its own individual way of breaking away from the “norms.” Interestingly enough, “Melanctha” and Their Eyes Were Watching God have some similarities such as the black vernacular that is used. However, the reader must keep in mind that the ethnicity of the authors are different, which may impact the analytical aspect of the stories. In Our Time and Mrs. Dalloway share more similarities than differences: 1) both texts were published the same year and 2) while Hemingway’s text possesses elements of masculinity, Woolf’s text can arguably posses elements of feminism.

Social Dynamics

“The people all saw her come because it was sundown…It was the time to hear things and talk. These sitters had been tongueless. earless, eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and other brutes had occupied their skins. But now, the sun and the bossman were gone, so the skins felt powerful and human. They became lords of sounds and lesser things” (p. 1).

Hurston, Zora N. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Perennial Library, 1990. Print.

The reason this passage is so interesting is that it sets up a generalized, yet detailed account of this community. It expresses the social dynamics of the community.

Names and Autonomy

“‘And now we’ll listen tuh uh few words uh encouragement from Mrs. Mayor Starks.’

The burst of applause was cut short by Joe taking the floor himself.

‘Thank yuh fuh yo’ compliments, but mah wife don’t know nothin’ ’bout no speech-makin’. Ah never married her for nothin’ lak dat. She’s uh woman and her place is in de home'” (43).

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

This moment reflects the themes of both being silenced and being named in Hurston’s novel. When Joe does not allow Janie to speak it is a sharp denial of Janie’s human right to speech because of her gender. Its problematic effect is heightened because this is the first time in which Janie is called “Mrs. Mayor Starks,” with Joe’s following clarification of “mah wife.” This denotes ownership, but it is also follows a theme in other parts of the book, such as when she is called Alphabet, which is before she even realizes the color of her skin. This shows that when names are imposed upon Janie, it stifles the progress of Janie’s self-actualization and self-determination, in turn stifling the novel itself.

Power, Language, and Identity

There is no question that Their Eyes is spearheaded by dialogue. Hurston takes advantage of the familiar southern dialect and guides the novel accordingly.  Jody’s need for dominance over Janie is apparent through his actions, especially during the mayoral speech.

“The burst of applause was cut short by Joe taking the floor himself.

‘Thank yuh fuh yo’ compliments, but mah wife dont know nothin’ ’bout no speech-makin’. Ah never married her for nothin’ lak dat.  She’s uh woman and her place is in de home'” (43).

The contrasting identities of Janie and Jody regarding independence result in a power conflict observed by the town.

“‘Maybe he make her do it.  Maybe he skeered some de rest of us mens might touch it round dat store.  It sho is uh hidden mystery tuh me.’

‘She sho don’t talk much.  De way he rears and pitches in de store sometimes when she make uh mistake is sort of ungodly, but she don’t seem to mind at all.  Reckon dey understand one ‘nother'” (50).

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. 1937. New York: Harper Perennial, 2013.

Nature Begins the Story

She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her. She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was marriage! She had been summoned to behold a revelation. (Hurston 11)

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

This passage marks the beginning of Janie’s passage into womanhood. Before she kisses Johnny Taylor, Janie has a “revelation” that marriage is much like nature, in the way that everything fits together in a “love embrace.” There is a sense of happiness coming from the way that the sun and the breeze speak to her in a way that teaches her about a human system such as marriage. What makes this very important is that it establishes her naivety very immediately before throwing her into a forced marriage. Given we are already given a foreshadow that her relationships do not work out, it is possible that her original view of marriage is the best one in that it is natural, as compared to the relationships she ends up paired with.

“The Big House”

“The rest of the town looked like servants’ quarters surrounding the “big house”. And different from everybody else in the town he put off moving in until it had been painted, in and out. And look at the way he painted it- a gloat, sparkly white.”

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print. 47

The fact that this passage is focalized by the narrator gives the affect that the narrator is speaking the popular opinion of the townsfolk. This passage is centered around class distinction and separation, as shown by the act of painting the house. The narrator explicitly states, “different from everyone else in town” in order to single out Jody as being akin to grandeur, showing tendencies of a higher class. Plus the fact that the townspeople refer to Jody’s house as the “big house” and the emphasis on it being painted “gloaty, sparkly white” are both allusions to the days of slavery.