Seeing the woman as she was made them remember the envy they had stored up from other times . So they chewed up the back parts of their minds and swallowed with relish. They made burning statements with questions, and killing tools out of laughs. It was mass cruelty. A mood come alive. Words walking without masters; walking altogether like harmony in a song.
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God, (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1990), 2.
Notes: Even though what Janie’s neighbors were saying about Janie was cruel, the freedom with which they were able to speak their cruel remarks was beautiful. The line, “words walking without masters” implies also that the words themselves were walking on their own. The words were uninhibited; the neighbors, or “masters” of the cruel words being spoken, did not have control and were therefore not to be held accountable for the words.
And though [Bakha’s] job was dirty he remained comparatively clean…’A bit superior to his job,’ they always said, ‘not the kind of man who ought to be doing this.’ For he looked intelligent, even sensitive, with a sort of dignity that does not belong to the ordinary scavenger, who is as a rule uncouth and unclean.
Mulk Raj Anand, Untouchable, (New York: Penguin Books, 1940), 16.
Notes: Irony. Apparently, you can have dignity while holding the job of sweeping latrines. It is unfortunate that people will make judgments based on the jobs people have and what caste they are in. Also unfortunate that some people are referred to as “scavengers.” It is unfortunate that he is seen as an exception to a rule simply because he does not seem Indian. It is unfortunate that he feels he should separate himself from his Indianness.
She resented it, had a scruple picked up Heaven knows where, or, as she felt, sent by Nature (who is invariably wise); yet she could not resist sometimes yielding to the charm of a woman, not a girl, of a woman confessing, as to her they often did, some scrape, come folly. And whether it was pity, or their beauty, or that she was older, or some accident — like a faint scent, or a violin next door (so strange is the power of sounds at certain moments), she did undoubtedly then feel what men felt. Only for a moment; but it was enough.
Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.:, 1990), 31-2.
Notes: sexual liberty; Woolf is very liberal in her writing of the (believed by many to be, but we cannot ascribe a sexual orientation to a character) bisexuality of Clarissa Dalloway — this is surprising considering the time the novel was written in, but not too surprising given Woolf’s beliefs and experiences. This also depicts the feelings of confusion and certainty that Clarissa experiences in regards to her sexual orientation.
Drevitts got frightened when he found they were both dead. Hell Jimmy, he said, you oughtn’t to have done it. There’s liable to be a hell of a lot of trouble.
–They’re crooks, ain’t they? said Boyle. They’re wops, ain’t they? Who the hell is going to make any trouble?
–That’s all right maybe this time, said Drevitts, but how did you know they were wops when you bumped them?
Wops, said Boyle, I can tell wops a mile off.
Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time, (New York: Simon & Schuster Inc., 1996), 79.
Notes: Killing can be justified. Killing without proof can be justified. Killing is justifiable. Nobody cares about crooks. Nobody cares to check.
I’m sure some Jews are very good people, and personally I’d much rather they believed something, though of course it must be very inconvenient, what with not working on Saturdays and circumcising the poor little babies and everything depending on the new moon and the funny kind of meat they have with such a slang-sounding name, and never being able to have bacon for breakfast.
Dorothy L. Sayers, Whose Body?, (New York: Boni and Liveright, 2009), 28.
Notes: While Dowager Duchess is being blatantly anti-Semitic, the way she speaks (her dialect and her run-on-sentence-sounding nature) makes her seem very silly and foolish. This hopefully makes readers today realize how ignorant the Duchess’ beliefs are. I have no idea what Sayers’ intentions with this passage were, though. Maybe she just wanted to rely on stereotypes for humor, maybe she was purposefully being anti-Semitic, or maybe she was trying to point out the irony of having an idiotic sounding person passing judgments on an entire group of people. Then again, maybe this was just how people sounded when they spoke.
The child though it was healthy after it was born, did not live long. Rose Johnson was careless and negligent and selfish, and when Melanctha had to leave for a few days, the baby died. Rose Johnson had liked the baby well enough and perhaps she just forgot it for awhile, anyway the child was dead and Rose and Sam her husband were very sorry but then these things came so often in the negro world in Bridgepoint, that they neither of them thought about it very long.
Gertrude Stein, “Melanctha” in Three Lives, (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1994), 47.
“No, what I don’t like, Miss Melanctha, is this what I see so much in the colored people, their always wanting new things just to get excited.”
Gertrude Stein, “Melanctha” in Three Lives, 68.
Analysis: There is a lot of judgment surrounding Bridgepoint’s black culture, all stemming from racist beliefs. The third-person narrator makes a large claim about the “negro world in Bridgepoint” as though the belief that all black people neglected their children were true. The narrator also continues to insinuate that black people are unfeeling when it comes to the deaths of their children and that they do not “[think] about it very long.” This makes the blacks in Bridgepoint, and the entire world, seem uncaring, lazy, and selfish. Not only does the narrator say racist things, but Gertrude Stein uses Dr. Campbell, a black character, to judge black culture in Bridgepoint as well. This tactic is used to make it seem as though even some black people look down upon the black culture in Bridgepoint, which may legitimize, to some readers, the racist beliefs that black people are lazy and selfish.
The great rooms caused so much poetry and history to press upon him that he needed to wander apart to feel in a proper relation with them, though his doing so was not, as happened, like the gloating of some of his companions, to be compared to the movements of a dog sniffing a cupboard. It had an issue promptly enough in a direction that was not to have been calculated.
Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle” in The Better Sort, (New York: The Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1903), 190.
Notes: Insignificance in poetry, in feeling, in history, in the past.
[The] movement of which in our own day we are witnessing the mature development is not merely a degeneration or an elaboration of Romanticism, but rather a counterpart to it, a second flood to the same tide. And even the metaphor of a tide is misleading: what we have to-day is an entirely distinct movement, which has arisen from different conditions and must be dealt with in different terms.
Edmund Wilson, Axel’s Castle, (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1931), 3-4.
Notes: Contemporary works are not so different, yet very distinct from Romanticism. The differences must be interpreted distinctly.
The avant-garde not only negates the theory of individual production but also that of individual reception...Given the avant-gardiste intention to do away with art as a sphere that is separate from the praxis of life, it is logical to eliminate the antithesis between producer and recipient.
Peter Bürger, “Theory of the Avant-Garde” in Theory and History of Literature, Volume 4, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1984), 53.
Notes: Art is life. Art is ordinary. There is no separation between art and life. But there should be. Art should save people from their own lives.
We do not come to write better; all that we can be said to do is to keep moving, now a little in this direction, now a little in that, but with a circular tendency should the whole course of the track be viewed from a sufficiently lofty pinnacle.
Virginia Woolf, “Modern Fiction” in The Common Reader: First Series, (New York: Harcourt, Inc., 1925), 146.
Notes: Circular motions in writing produce new modernity. Keep it going, the modern can never die out. Modern keeps coming and going.