All posts by JM

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

Untouchable, but organic

“…He seemed a true child of the outcaste colony, where there are no drains, no light, no water; of the marshland where people live among the latrines of the townsmen, and in the stink of their own dung scattered about here, there and everywhere; of the world where the day is dark as the night and the night pitch-dark. He had wallowed in its mire, bathed in its marshes, played among its rubbish-heaps; his listless, lazy, lousy manner was a result of his surroundings. He was the vehicle of a life-force, the culminating point in the destiny of which would never come, because malaria lingered in his bones, and that disease does not kill but merely dissipates the energy. He was a friend of the flies and the mosquitoes, their boon companion since his childhood” (84).

Anand, Mulk Raj. New York, New York: Penguin Books, 1935. Print.

notes: the role of environment, “nature”, of the complexity of this character

“In a strange room you must empty yourself for sleep. And before you are  emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are emptied for sleep, you are not. And when you are filled with sleep, you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not” (27).

 

notes: vagueness, ‘unsaid’, internal turmoil/conflict, different ways of dealing with death and loss, escapism in regards to sleep and dreams

 

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. New York: Vintage Books, 1990. Print.

the world inside us

“She would not say of any one in the world that they were this or were that. She felt very young; at the same time unspeakably aged. She sliced like a knife through everything; at the same time was outside, looking on. She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, far out to the sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day. Not that she thought herself clever, or much out of the ordinary. How she had got through life on the few twigs of knowledge Fraulein Daniels gave them she could not think. She knew nothing; no language, no history; she scarcely read a book now, except memoirs in bed; and yet to her it was absolutely absorbing; all this; the cabs passing; and she would not say of Peter, she would not say of herself, I am this, I am that” (5).

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York, NY: Harcourt, Inc., 1981. Web.

Notes: the idea of being both inside and outside at once; very aware and appreciative of life, yet introspective and internally isolated; struggling between her bustling surroundings and her quiet, overactive mind.

 

Are they important?

“‘Oh, Daddy, can’t you give her something to make her stop screaming?’ asked Nick.
‘No. I haven’t any anaesthetic,’ his father said. ‘But her screams are not important. I don’t hear them because they are not important.'” (Hemingway 97).

Hemingway, Ernest. In Our Time. New York: Scribner, 2003. Web.

Notes: characterization, concept of humanity and empathy, touches on a medical/surgical techniques to get a job done

getting older and reaching further

“But he felt better now than before. It would be nice getting better slowly. You could get a book then. There was a book in the library about Holland. There were lovely foreign names in it and pictures of strange looking cities and ships. It made you feel so happy” (20).

 

“He returned to Mercedes and, as he brooded upon her image, a strange unrest crept into his blood. Sometimes a fever gathered within him and led him to rove alone in the evening along the quiet avenue. The peace of the gardens and the kindly lights in the windows poured a tender influence into his restless heart. The noise of children at play annoyed him and their silly voices made him feel, even more keenly than he had felt at Clongowes, that he was different from others. He did not want to play. He wanted to meet in the real world the unsubstantial image which his soul so constantly beheld. He did not know where to seek it or how, but a premonition which led him on told him that this image would, without any overt act of his, encounter him” (53).

 

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. (1916). A Penn State Electronic Classic Series Publication. 2000. Web.

 

The presence of epiphanies is prominent in this piece of work. We, as readers, are in Stephen’s mind- we are exploring his thoughts with him. Both passages convey a deep nostalgia and wanderlust, a sort of longing within him for something he has yet to grasp. He feels ‘happy’ looking at pictures of foreign lands, sees himself as ‘different from others’, and wants to venture out into the ‘real world’. Stylistically, one should note the change in language from the first passage to the second one; as the novel progresses, so does the vocabulary and complexity of the sentences. This may be an indication of Stephen’s psychological maturation, the fact that he is beginning to understand the world in a more complex way as he grows older.

 

Layers and masks

“Melanctha Herbert was always losing what she had in all the things she saw. Melanctha was always being left when she was not leaving others.

Melanctha Herbert always loved too hard and much too often. She was always full with mystery and subtle movements and denials and vague distrusts and complicated disillusions. Then Melanctha would be sudden and impulsive and unbounded in some faith, and then she would suffer and be strong in her repression.

Melanctha Herbert was always seeking rest and quiet and always she could only find new ways to be in trouble” (89).

 

“It was never Melanctha’s way, even in the midst of her worst trouble to complain to any one of what happened to her, but nevertheless somehow every one who knew Melanctha always knew how much she suffered. It was only while one really loved Melanctha that one understood how to forgive her, that she never once complained nor looked unhappy, and was always handsome and in spirits, and yet one always knew how much she suffered” (92).

 

The development of Melanctha is intricate and complex, as demonstrated through these two passages. She is not a character that can be explained in a few sentences, a stark contrast to her friend Rose Johnson, who the author describes in blunt statements. Melanctha is painted in layers, making her an enigma that the reader is encouraged to understand. She seems to possess an inescapable sadness, which she refers to as being “blue”, that impacts her much more deeply than what is initially seen. One can assume it is depression, but what makes this intriguing is how her suffering is masked by the persona she chooses to put on.

 

Gertrude Stein, “Melanctha,” in Three Lives (New York: The Grafton Press, 1909). Web.

 

is ignorance bliss?

“It is the sense that there is no answer, that if honestly examined life presents question after question which must be left to sound on and on after the story is over in hopeless interrogation that fills us with a deep, and finally it may with a resentful, despair. They are right perhaps; unquestionably they see further than we do and without our gross impediments of vision. But perhaps we see something that escapes them…” (Woolf).

 

Virginia Woolf, “Modern Fiction,” in The Common Reader: First Series (San Diego: Harcourt, Inc., 1925), 153. Web.

Notes: uncertainty of life itself, the sadness that comes with awareness and deeper observation, ‘seeing’ beyond what is in front of us- is this why ‘ignorance is bliss’, because when we look further, we are prone to this ‘despair’? Who is ‘they’ and what are they right about?