Monthly Archives: November 2013

Inequalities in Social Class

In our Twentieth Fiction course, we have read many interesting novels so far.  My blog will discuss a similar theme between the four novels, Mrs. Dalloway, As I Lay Dying, Untouchable, and Their Eyes Were Watching God – inequalities between social classes.  In the 1925 novel, Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf depicts the importance of social class post World War 1, through the eyes of the main protagonist, Clarissa Dalloway.  Clarissa is from a high social class and appreciates her high status whereas Mrs. Kilman and Ellie Henderson are inferior to Clarissa due to their low social class.  Due to her high social class, Clarissa only interacts with the people whom have the same social class as her.  However, Faulkner’s 1930 novel, As I Lay Dying, doesn’t portray any kind of inequality in social class.  Instead, Faulkner shows the poverty and difficulties of a poor family in the Mississippi.  As we read the novels of Anand and Hurston during the late 1930’s, we notice a gradual evolution in the inequalities between the social classes since the inequalities lead to domination or racism.  In Anand’s1930 novel, Untouchable, Anand depicts the inequality between social class in terms of domination between the Pundit and Sohini; the Pundit is a Brahmin and most importantly, a man, whereas Sohini is an untouchable and even more important, a woman.  Therefore, the Pundit uses two intertwined methods of domination, gender and social class, to control Sohini.  Similarly, in the 1937 novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hurston depicts the inequality in social class in terms of racism through the marriage of Logan Killock and Janie.  Logan Killock is a white, comes from a high social class, and is wealthy as he has sixty acres of land whereas Janie is an African American and she comes from a low social class.  In order to achieve a high social status and wealth, Janie marries Logan, only to not receive any love from him.

Based on the literary – historical trajectory in all the four novels, I notice how all of these novels were written post World War 1.  In these novels, there is an inequality between the upper class and low class, however, the inequality between the social classes starts to elevate during the 1930’s.  In the 1930’s, not only is there an inequality in social class, but new inequalities arise in terms of race and gender.  These new inequalities cause the upper class to discriminate and dominate the lower class based on their inferiority in race, social class, and gender.

Perspective and stratification

The four novels I am comparing/contrasting are Mrs. Dalloway, As I Lay Dying, Untouchable, and Their Eyes Were Watching God. I am interested in the social hierarchy and and perspective of the novels.Mrs. Dalloway was published in 1925 and is told from the perspective of Mrs. Dalloway an upper class English woman. The novel focuses mainly on the upper class and the only glimpse of poverty is through Miss Kilman, and it is not a very sympathetic glimpse, and it is a very minor representation. As I Lay Dying was published 5 years later in 1930 and it completely flips perspective to that of a poor family and the setting is now the United States ~ Mississippi. You can see the gradual move to the proletariat novel of Untouchable in 1935. Where Woolf and Faulkner dealt with opposing ends of a socially stratified class, Anand now brings race and religion into the novel, but stays in the perspective of the lower class. Finally with Their Eyes Were Watching God, gender is brought into the novel, race and class remain part of the theme as well.
Mrs. Dalloway begins the transition of the novel away from its tradition of stories of upper class England. Novels begin to include the perspective of the lower classes and knowingly or unnkowingly make a social commentary on class, race, and gender. As the novel gains a broader reading audience, that audience receives representation.

Blog assignment: make a historical line

In lieu of commonplacing this week:

Write a blog entry with short notations (a few words) about four works we have read in relation to a single specific theme, device, problem, or pattern. Note the dates of the works as well. Then write at least two sentences about the literary-historical trajectory you see: continuity? sudden change? gradual evolution? opposing tendencies?

Due Sunday, December 1, at 5 p.m.

Nature imagery

“Janie walked to the door with the pan in her hand still stirring the cornmeal dough and looked towards the barn. The sun from ambush was threatening the world with red daggers, but the shadows were gray and solid-looking around the barn. Logan with his shovel looked like a black bear doing some clumsy dance on his hind legs” (31).

“The morning road air was like a new dress. That made her feel the apron tied around her waist. She untied it and flung it on a low bush beside the road and walked on, picking flowers and making a bouquet. After that she came to where Joe Starks was waiting for her with a hired rig. He was very solemn and helped her to the seat beside him. With him on it, it sat like some high, ruling chair. From now on until death she was going to have flower dust and springtime sprinkled over everything. A bee for her bloom. Her old thoughts were going to come in handy now, but new words would have to be made and said to fit them” (32).

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

Notes: vivid imagery, figurative language, the presence of nature

A strong, emancipated woman

“Dis sittin’ in de rulin’ chair is been hard on Jody,” she muttered out loud. She was full of pity for the first time in years. Jody had been hard on her and others, but life had mishandled him too. Poor Joe! Maybe she had known some other way to try, she might have made his face different. But what that other way could be, she had no idea. She thought back and forth about what had happened in the making of a voice out of a man. Then thought about herself. Years ago, she had told her girl self to wait for her in the looking glass. It had been a long time since she had remembered. Perhaps she’s better look. She went over to the dresser and looked hard at her skin and features. The young girl was gone, but a handsome woman had taker her place. She tore off the kerchief from her head and let down her plentiful hair. The weight, the length, the glory was there. She took careful stock of herself, then combed her hair and tied it back up again. Then she starched and ironed her face, forming it into just what people wanted to see, and opened up the window and cried, “Come heah people! Jody is dead. Mah husband is gone from me.” (87)

Janie starched and ironed her face and came set in the funeral behind her veil. It was like a wall of stone and steel. The funeral was going on outside. All things concerning death and burial were said and done. Finish. End. Nevermore. Darkness. Deep hole. Dissolution. Eternity. Weeping and wailing outside. Inside the expensive black folds were resurrection and life. She did not reach outside for anything, nor did the things of death reach inside to disturb her calm. (88)

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Harper Perennial Editions, 2013

Dialect in “Their Eyes”

“What she coin coming back here in dem overhauls? Can’t she find no dress to put on? – Where’s dat blue satin dress she left here in? – Where all dat money her husband took and died and left her? – What dat ole forty year ole ‘oman doin’ wid her hair swingin’ down her back lak some young gal? – Where she left dat you lad of a boy she went off here aid? – Thought she was going to marry? Where he left her?  – What he done wid all her money? – Betcha he off wid some gal so young she ain’t even got no hairs –  why she don’t stay in her class? -” (2)

Notes: dialect, gender expectations, age expectations – she isn’t expected to still “dress young”

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

Identity in Their Eyes Were Watching God

“Ah was wid dem white chillun so much till Ah didn’t know Ah wuzn’t white till Ah was round six years old… Whe nwe looked at de picture and everybody got pointed out there wasn’t nobody left except a real dark little girl with long hair standing by Eleanor. Dat’s where Ah wuz s’posed to be, but Ah couldn’t recognize dat dark chile as me. So Ah ast, ‘where is me? Ah don’t see me.’

‘Dat’s you, Alphabet, don’t you know yo’ ownself?'” (Hurston 9).

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

Notes: Janie was confused as to what he identity was as a child. The white family that her family worked for had clear concepts of what defined someone’s identity. Racial divisions.

Gender differences

“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.

Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.” (1)

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York, NY: HarperCollins, n.d. Print.

Notes: gender differences, reality of men versus the reality of women, dreams, truth, time, action versus watching.

I find it extremely interesting that Hurston begins her novel by discussing the “wishes of men”, when this novel is about Janie, her hardships, and her resilience. However, I think it is extremely interesting to begin this novel with a contrast between the realities of men and women, especially in regard to truth — “The dream is the truth”.

 

The sun and the temporality of the natural world

“The people all saw her because it was sundown. The sun was gone, but he had left his footprints in the sky. It was the time for sitting on porches beside the road. It was the time to hear things and talk. These sitters had been tongueless, earless, eyeless conveniences all day long. …But now, the sun and the bossman were gone, so the skins felt powerful and human.” (Hurston 1)

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer. Janie had no chance to know things, so she had to ask. Did marriage end the cosmic loneliness of the unmated? Did marriage compel love like the sun the day?” (Hurston 21)

“They sat on the boarding house porch and saw the sun plunge into the same crack in the earth from which the night emerged.” (Hurston 33)

Notes: The appearance and disappearance of the sun informs the activities of daily life – this attention to the sun’s movement conveys an importance of adhering to nature’s given temporal order. Daily life is regimented by nature through the visual signal of the sun. Janie’s contemplation of marriage also includes attention to the sun, conveying that the sun is not only a visual marking for timekeeping in daily life but a symbol for its abstract occurrences.