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.
“They were very happy all that day in their wandering. They had taken things along to eat together. They sat in the bright fields and they were happy; they wandered in the woods and they were happy. Jeff always in this way loved to wander. Jeff always loved to watch everything as it was growing, and he loved all the colors in the trees and on the ground, and the little, new, bright colored bugs he found in the moist ground and in the grass he loved to lie on and in which he was always so busy searching.”
Stein, Gertrude. “Melanctha.” In Three Lives. New York: Grafton, 1909. Internet Archive. 149.
Could Stein’s roundabout way of writing scenes be also a way of composing images like paintings?
” ‘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.
“Consider the matter from a scientific or a metaphysical point of view, and you will find that I am right. For what is Nature? Nature is no great mother who has borne us. She is our creation. It is in our brain that she quickens to life. Things are because we see them, and what we see, and how we see it, depends on the Arts that have influenced us. To look at a thing is very different from seeing a thing. One does not see anything until one sees its beauty. Then, and then only, does it come into existence.”
Wilde, Oscar. “The Decay of Lying.” In Intentions. New York: Brentano’s, 1905. page 40-41. Internet
This idea that nature is our creation, and not the other way around, really blew my mind. It makes complete sense on so many levels. I find it particularly relevant to my studies at the moment as I’m taking a class on Sensation and Perception, and have been spending a great deal of time contemplating how we perceive the world around us. How much of it is a construct of our mind, and how much, if any, is a universal reality? While I’d been thinking that one of the most important factors that push us to certain perceptions are our life experiences , I can see how Art appears to be a large, if not the largest, subset of those experiences. This was a fantastic reading!
“If Nature had been comfortable, mankind would never have invented architecture, and I prefer houses to the open air. In a house we all feel of the proper proportions. Everything is subordinated to us, fashioned for our use and our pleasure.”
Oscar Wilde The Decay of Lying in Intentions. , London, Methuen & Co. (1913) page 2
The argument that art would not occur if humans were one with nature is pretty insightful. Art is an occurrence due to our dissatisfaction with nature and our ability to act upon that.