All posts by Brian Higgins

Framing Through Parents

“That was not a nice expression.  His mother had told him not to speak with the rough boys in the college.  Nice mother!  The first day in the hall of the castle when she had said goodbye she had put up her veil double to her nose to kiss him: and her nose and eyes were red.  But he pretended not to see that she was going to cry.  She was a nice mother and but she was not so nice when she cried.  And his father had given him two fiveschilling pieces for pocket money.  And his father had told him if he wanted anything to write home to him and, whatever he did, not to peach on a fellow.” (pg. 7)

Joyce begins by framing all of Stephen’s actions through his relationship to his parents.  This paragraph does not even mention his name but only refers to him by his relation to the parents.

Process Over Result

“She spoke with an earnestness that, as if almost excessive, put him at ease about her possible derision.  Somehow the whole question was a new luxury to him  – that is, from the moment she was in possession.  If she didn’t take the ironic view she clearly took the sympathetic, and that was what he had had, in all the long time, from no one whomsoever.  What he felt was that he couldn’t at present have begun to tell her and yet could profit perhaps exquisitely by the accident of having done so of old.  “Please don’t then.  We’re just right as it is.””

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle”, in Major Stories & Essays, Library of America College Editions, 1999), p451

Notes: this passage is a great example of modernity in writing in that it is not so much interested in informing the reader what it is that happened as it is interested in revealing the process by which people or characters arrive at things.