All posts by KAP

The power of the written word

So this is an apt topic for my last blog ~ the power of the written word. In several of Narayan’s short stories the character put in writing the things they can’t say. The nature of the things they put into letters, powerful things they can’t say, suicide, quitting a job, false accusations against a teacher. There is a letter with good news of a pay raise that Sigh cannot open in “Gateman’s Gift” and it drives him mad. What is thee significance of all these letters never delivered, unopened, taken back.

In “Gateman’s Gift” Singh’s wife tells him of the registered letter “Why not open it and see, ask someone to read it?” Singh cannot read ~ is that why the written word frightens him so? It represents the unknown and for Singh can only bring bad news.

Consider the note that Venkat Rao writes in “Forty`-Five a Month”. He cannot speak to his boss but writes a strong and angry letter equating his job to slavery. For a raise of only 5 rupees a month he snatches the letter back. There is social commentary here in who has a voice and whose voice is repressed.

Even thinking of the written word in “Out of Business” Rama Rao becomees obsessed with words and their meaning, writing them into a weekly contest in a newspaper with the hopes of winning a large sum of money but only losing small sumss of money he cannot afford. it is an escape and yet a trouble for him ~ these weekly word puzzles.

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.

Tree metaphor

Blossoming pear tree ~ “It had called her to come and gaze on a mystery. From barren brown stems to glistening leaf-buds; from the leaf-buds to snowy virginity of bloom. It stirred her tremendously…She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sign and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her. She saw the dust-baring bee sink into the sanctum of the bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love and embrace in the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was a marriage!” Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: First Perennial Classics, 1998. Print. (pg.10-11).
“It was a lonesome place like a stump in the middle of the woods where nobody had ever been. The house was absent of flavor, too. But anyhow Janie went on inside wait for love to begin” (pg. 21-22).
The contrast between the glorious bloom of adolescence and the lonely tree stump of marriage ~ a metaphor of lust and love. Janie is ruled by these feelings.

Untouchable

“As he sauntered along a spark of some intuition suddenly set him ablaze. He was fired with a desire to burst out from the shadow of silence and obscurity in which he lay enshrouded.” pg. 95. Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. London: Penguin Group, 1940. Print.

“But there was a smouldering rage in his soul.” pg. 51.

“Quickly it flared up, suddenly illuminating the furnace with its leaping red,’ gold and black flames, an angry consuming power, something apart, something detached from the heaps of straw it fed on.” pg 21.

Fire. The last quote describes the furnace that Bakha puts the latrine refuse in to get rid of it. The first two quotes describe a fire inside of Bakha, one that rages and dies down throughout his day as he deals with endless discrimination. I think it is a perfect metaphor. Bakha has reached an age where the caste system and his fate are being illuminated for him.

motherhood

“”But my mother is a fish.” ‘”Jewel’s mother is a horse,’ Darl said.” “Because if I had one, it is was. And if it is was, it can’t be is.” “Are is too many for one woman to foal.” Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. New York: Vintage International, 1990. Print. (101)
‘”Jewel,” ma said, looking at him. “I’ll give- I’ll give-give-” Then she began to cry. (135)

I’m still trying to figure this out. Vardaman is trying to understand his mother’s death and equates it to the fish he had caught and cleaned, death, blood. He cannot eat the cooked fish. Jewel’s mother covers for him when he works nights to earn money to buy himself a horse ~ his possession, his freedom, distance from his father. Darl ponders is, are, was. What IS your ma? She no longer is ~ she was.
So far their have not been many glimpses of the mother alive so the story about how she covers for Jewel is remarkable. I found her words “I give” to be especially sad and an excellent description of her role as mother to this poor family.

Happiness is this, he thought.

“Indeed his own life was a miracle; let him make no mistake about it; here he was in the prime of his life, walking to his house in Westminster to tell Clarissa that he loved her. Happiness is this, he thought.” Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. San Francisco: Harcourt Inc., 1981. Print. (117)

“For he would say it in so many words, when he came into the room. Because it is a thousand pities never to say what one feels” (116).

“But he could not bring himself to say he loved her; not in so many words” (118).

I found this passage (pp 115-119) to be moving and yet frustrating. Richard Dalloway has been struck with the realization that he loves his wife, that his life and love are a miracle. “Happiness is this, he thought” is repeated several times in the passage. Yet time has passed and time keeps passing (Big Ben) and this epihany gets lost in time, lost in life, and he never expresses it. It seems to be meaning and purpose, yet so elusive and taken for granted.

A prayer

“Dear jesus please get me out. Christ please please please christ. If you’ll only keep me from getting killed I’ll do anything you say. I believe in you and I’ll tell everyone in the world that you are the only one that matters. Please please dear jesus” Hemingway, Ernest. In Our Time. New York; Simon and Schuster, 2003. pg 67.

When I started reading the Hemingway assignment, I thought his style was almost too simple, rather childlike. His sentences are short. There is little description. He uses what I feel are very basic and general words ~ such as “good,” and repeats himself. Yet he is able to evoke strong feelings and sensation from the reader with his style even though it seems so minimalist. In the above passage from chapter 7 the lack of commas and capitalization lend an urgency to the prayer and make the reader feel this desperate moment in a near death experience in war. The promise of devotion made to God when one is all alone and terrified is relateable. This prayer gives the soldier’s experience in the trench a realism, and the reader the sensation, that a description may not as strongly convey. Yet it seems so simple!

If this were a detective story…

“Of course, if this was a detective story, there’d have been a convenient shower exactly an hour before the crime and a beautiful set of marks which could only have come there between two and three in the morning, but this being real life in a London November, you might well as expect footprints in Niagra” Sayers, Dorothy. Whose Body? New York: Dover Publications Inc., 2009. Page 29.
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“It’s only in Sherlock Holmes and stories like that,that people think things out logically” (82).

In several instances Sayers makes a point of commenting on the formula of detectives stories and how simply cases are solved, how clues fall in the detective’s lap, making it very easy to solve a case. Yet Sayers uses several of those detective story formulas herself. There is the rich and emotionally troubled man who solves crimes for fun. He has a foil and an aid in his butler. There is a bumbling inspector who dislikes the interference of an amateur in his cases.

I have to say that I enjoy Lord Peter’s sarcastic and droll wit. I especially like his comment to Mrs. Appledore: “Otherwise you might be findin’ your Christian feelin’s gettin’ the better of you some fine day, and there’s nothin’ like Christian feelin’s for upsettin’ a man’s domestic comfort”(25). This dig at Mrs. Appledore points out her hypocrisy and perhaps the hypocrisy of Christianity which is interesting considering there are prejudicial comments from characters about the Jewish faith.

Sifting through a life in analepsis and prolepsis with James Joyce

“He hid under the table” Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.” New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. Print. Pg. 5.
“He kept on the fringe of his line, out of the sight of the prefect” (Joyce 6)
“After supper in the studyhall he would change the number pasted up inside his desk from seventyseven to seventysix” (Joyce 7).
“He felt small and weak” (Joyce 13.)
“You could die just the same on a sunny day. He might die before his mother came (Joyce 19).
“His soul was still disquieted and cast down by the dull phenomenon of Dublin” (Joyce 65).
“He chronicled with patience what he saw detaching himself from it and testing its mortifying flavor in secret” (Joyce 56).

As a child Stephen tries to make himself physically invisible. His anguish at school is palpable and his perception of time as an immovable object is represented in paper numbers hidden in his desk or as one more hour of the day between him, sleep, and a new number. As Stephen becomes older he finds himself mentally detached from the people and places around him with a chronic longing and restlessness that can’t be quenched.

“He could scarcely recognize his own thoughts, and repeated slowly to himself: I am Stephen Dedalus. I am walking beside my father who is Simon Dedalus. We are in Cork, in Ireland…” (Joyce 77-78)

This is similar to the poem that Stephen made out of his name and information that he printed in his geography book at school ~ pg 12. As if he needs to ground himself with names and places but do they really ground him? As if he knows the power and weakness of words.

Another Beast of a Love Story

“Oh I know all about the ways of doing Dr. Campbell, but that certainly ain’t the kind of love I mean when I am talking. I mean real strong, hot love Dr. Campbell, that makes you do anything for somebody that loves you.” Stein, Gertrude. Three Lives. “Melanctha.” Dover Publications, New York, 1994. pg.70.

“One kind of loving seems to me is like one has a good quiet feeling in a family when one does his work, and is always living good and being regular, and the other way of loving is just like having it like any animal that’s low in the streets together, and that doesn’t seem to me very good.” pg 71.

Having read to page 76 ~ Stein juxtaposes two opposing definitions of love through Melanctha and Dr. Campbell. Melanctha only knows physical love from her past and feels it is what makes a real connection between two people, passion and physical intimacy. It gives her power. Campbell sees love as a mental connection, a friendship. He is disgusted by the idea of physical lust. Their budding relationship makes me thing of Marcher and May’s relationship and the different expectations and beliefs one has about what love should be, what kind of love they are capable of. Stein’s characters all have their own definitions of love and act on them in different ways. If love is the meaning of life, it is hard to find someone who shares the same definition or to classify one as right or one as wrong. Stein explores all degrees of love.