Increasing Interiority and the Portrayal of Violence

I believe that according to our readings in this course, the enacting and effect of violence becomes increasingly individualized in the progression twentieth century fiction due to a deepening prominence of a character’s psychological perspective. The same magnitude of consequence for violence may exist for a character from the beginning of the century to its end, what expands is an outlet for interiority, which arguably provides the audience a more vivid idea of the ramifications of violence. Violent behavior certainly varies with location, as cultural norms vary according to not only time but space. However, as the period of time in which these books were published saw strengthened globalization, location may play a subtler role in setting variance in violence, as norms may have been more collectively determined by increasingly interacting societies.

Hemingway’s In Our Time, first published in France in 1924, is decisively unattached from providing a sense of interiority or psychological position even in the face of extremely gruesome and assumably damaging images of trauma and death in the heat of war. Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, published in 1925, shows an increased attention to the individual psyche, as Septimus struggles with the psychological after effects of war and Clarissa Dalloway contemplates her own interior standing concerning his suicide. Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, published in 1930, presents both a more stylistically individualized and substantively darker perspective of violence. The novel is partitioned with headings naming characters noting a narrative trade-off, showing an increased concern for stylistic voice regarding the individual. This narrative segmentation is also accompanied with the use of dialect, providing the reader a supplementary stylistic concept of the individual’s voice. The events of violence, such as Vardaman drilling holes through his mother’s coffin and consequently into her face, are all related to the family unit and are treated with a dark humour, therefore contributing to an increased sense of disturbance and an overall heightened attention to psychological treatment of violence. Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, published in 1937, is primarily framed by Janie’s interior growth in response to violence. The novel is largely concerned with and told through her interiority, and violent acts, such as her shooting Tea Cake, are discussed through a chiefly psychological perspective.

I would argue that the aforementioned novels show an increased concern for interiority and attention to a character’s psychological perspective in fiction. While there are many variables concerning the portrayal of violence, I believe that the strengthened level of interiority I observed in these four novels portrays a progression in the presentation of the individual, as psychological concerns may have become more somehow more crucial to portray.

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