All posts by SW

Appearances in Malgudi Days

“His forehead was resplendent with sacred ash and vermilion, and his eyes sparkled with a sharp abnormal gleam which was really an outcome of a continual searching look for customers, but which his simple clients took to be a prophetic light and felt comforted. The power of his eyes was considerably enhanced by their position–placed as they were between the painted forehead and the dark whiskers which streamed down his cheeks; even a half-wit’s eyes would sparkle in such a setting. To crown the effect he wound a saffron-coloured turban around his head. This colour scheme never failed. People were attracted to him as bees are attracted to cosmos or dahlia stalks”  — An Astrologer’s Day, 1

Notes: abnormality as comforting?, misconceptions, appearances, attraction to the unknown, mysticism, artificiality.

Narayan, R.K. Malgudi Days. New York: Penguin, 2006.

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”.

 

Cleanliness in “Untouchable”

“And though his job was dirty he remained comparatively clean. He didn’t even soil his sleeves, handling the commodes, sweeping and scrubbing them. ‘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.”

Notes: Repitition of “cleanly” features throughout the novel, caste distinctions, dignity

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. London: Penguin, 1935, 16.

Everyday Life In Mrs. Dalloway

“And so there began a soundless and exquisite passing to and fro through swing doors of aproned white-capped maids, handmaidens not of necessity, but adepts in a mystery or grand deception practised by hostesses in Mayfair from one-thirty to two, when, with a wave of the hand, the traffic ceases, and there rises instead this profound illusion in the first place about the food — how it is not paid for; and then that the table spreads itself voluntarily with glass and silver, little mats, saucers of red fruit; films of brown cream mask turbot; in caseroles severed chickens swim; coloured, undomestic, the fire burns; and with the wine and the coffee (not paid for) rise jocund visions before musing eyes; gently speculative eyes; eyes to whom life appears musical, mysterious; eyes now kindled to observe genially the beauty of the red carnations which Lady Bruton (whose movements were always angular) had laid beside her plate, so that Hugh Whitbread, feeling at peace with the entire universe and at the same time completely sure of his standing, said….”

p. 104

Notes: the remarkable qualities of the everyday, imagery, this is all one sentence…

In Our Time

“The strange thing was, he said, how they screamed every night at midnight. I do not know why they screamed at that time.” (1)

Notes — vague, delayed specification of referents (who is he? who are they?), beginning the story en media res

“They shot the six cabinet ministers at half-past six in the morning against the wall of a hospital. There were pools of water in the courtyard.” (51)

Notes — detachment, simplicity of diction and syntax, no insight into the mind of the narrator, stating distressing events as simple facts, lack of emotion

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

Unusual Characterization in “Whose Body?”

“His long, amiable face looked as if it had generated spontaneously from his top hat, as white maggots breed from Gorgonzola” — Sayers, 1

“Mr. Alfred Thipps was a small, nervous man, whose flaxen hair was beginning to abandon the unequal struggle with destiny.” — Sayers, 4

Notes: unusual description of characters, comical details, metaphor, characterization, bold imagery used in peculiar ways. What is the reader supposed to make of these “first impressions” of these characters?

Obsession with Relativity — Family ties and Relation to the World

“The Vances lived in number seven. They had a different father and mother. They were Eileen’s father and mother.”  — Joyce, James, and Peter Harness. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. London: Collector’s Library, 2005. Print. (8)

“All the boys seemed to him very strange. They had all fathers and mothers and different clothes and voices. He longed to be at home and lay his head on his mother’s lap.” (13)

“He tried to think of Well’s mother but he did not dare to raise his eyes to Well’s face. He did not like Well’s face.” (15)

“Stephen Dedalus/Class of Elements/ Clongrowes Wood College/ Sallins/ County Kildare/ Ireland/ Europe/ The World/ The Universe” (17)

“It was very big to think about everything and everywhere. Only God could do that.” (17)

Notes: family, relativity, isolation, Stephen determining his place in the world, unknown = foreign = scary, family = familiarity = comfort, proximity, fear of the unknown, relationship to others

Descriptions and repetition

 

“Rose Johnson was a real black, tall, well built, sullen, stupid, childlike, good looking negress. She laughed when she was happy and grumbled and was sullen with everything that troubled.” (p. 84)

“James Herbert was a powerful, loose built, hard handed, black, angry negro. Herbert never was a joyous negro. (p. 91)

———-

These passages are very similar due to the fact that they are so simple. They describe the characters of Rose and James that are almost insultingly straight-forward.Stein’s style reflects this in her simple syntax and diction. She also uses a lot of repetition, and lines like this can be found on many pages throughout the work. This redundancy makes Stein’s work a little frustrating to read.It makes the reader question why Stein is choosing to repeat these facts over and over, yet leave out others, which perhaps may be more important. Also, both of these passages bring up the idea of happiness in relation to “blackness”. Rose is referred to as “childlike” because of her happiness and presence of emotion, yet Herbert is simply described as “angry”.

Take things as they come

“If it had no importance he scarcely knew why his actual impression of her should so seem to have so much; the answer to which, however, was that in such a life as they all appeared to be leading for the moment one could but take things as they come.” 

James, Henry. “The Beast in the Jungle.” In The Better Sort. New York: Scribner, 1903. Internet Archive. http://archive.org/details/bettersort00jamegoog. (191).

Notes: impressions, life, taking things as they come, reality

Art versus reality

“Art is our spirited protest, our gallant attempt to teach Nature her proper place. As for the infinite variety of Nature, that is a pure myth. It is not to be found in Nature herself. It resides in the imagination, or fancy, or cultivated blindness of the man who looks at her.” (p. 4)

– Wilde, Oscar. The Decay of Lying. New York: Brentano’s, 1905.

Notes: imagination over reality, fiction as art, why “cultivated blindness”?

_______________

“Art, breaking from the prison-house of realism, will run to greet him, and will kiss his false, beautiful lips, knowing that he alone is in possession of the great secret of all her manifestations, the secret that Truth is entirely and absolutely a matter of style; while Life — poor, probably, uninteresting human life — tired of repeating herself for the benefit of Mr. Herbert Spenser, scientific historians, and compilers of statistics in general, will follow meekly after him, and try to reproduce, in her own simple and untutored way, some of the marvels of which he talks.” (p. 29)

– On the “cultured liar”, Wilde, The Decay of Lying

Notes:  life imitating art, union of art and lying, reality as a prison

_______________

“The only reason for the existence of a novel is that it does compete with life. When it ceases to compete as the canvas of the painter competes, it will have arrived at a very strange pass.” (p. 64)

– James, Henry. The Art of Fiction. Upham, Crupples. 1885.

Notes: competition, novel versus life, representation versus competition

Does the novel strive to be life-like, or does it strive to be better than reality?