Within the novels we read Untouchable (1935), Mrs. Dalloway (1925), Their Eyes were watching God (1937), and As I Lay Dying (1930) social class and structure are brought up to show the divide between the people of monetary ability. Within the novels Mrs. Dalloway and As I Lay Dying, the first two novels published, the monetary divide is more prominent and is creates a hierarchy within the socials classes of a single culture. The other two novels, Their Eyes and Untouchable, represent a monetary divide that existed in a culture in which the ones out down are pushed into that position due to their birth, this position of birth is then reflected by a low monetary worth. I feel this represents a gradual evolution that reflects the growing out of society. The gradual growth starts with looking at the richer class, than moving to a similar cultures lower class, the divide is moved to a more distinct divide between levels of a culture outside of England, and ending with a monetary divide between two different cultures.
In all of the four novels we have read in this section, each character had to face something they rather not worry about. In Mrs. Dalloway, Mrs. Dalloway is struggling to put a party together and is questioning her relationship with her husband, in As I lay Dying, Addie Bundren’s family is trying to figure out why the murder happened, in Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie tells her story of being Aferican-American during the slavery period, and lastly in Untouchable, Bakha is torn between following Christianity or following the teachings of Ghandi.
In each of these novels, the reader can learn about other people’s lives, and think outside of their own world. Each novel tells a great meaningful story that can be relatable to everyday life.
Mrs. Dalloway: The main characters are decidedly upper class. Most of them are well-to-do.
Their Eyes Were Watching God: The main characters range from middle to upper class.
As I Lay Dying: The main characters in the story are middle to lower class.
Untouchable: The main characters are the lowest of the low class.
These novels came out in different eras and reflect different societies. They all deal very heavily with issues of class and social stratification. The worst situations are reserved for the characters in Untouchable. This is interesting because these books represent a decent amount of the twentieth century world. Interestingly, the more modern books don’t deal with the higher classes. It would be assumed that social stratification becomes less of an issue as time goes on because people begin to understand compassion and the unfairness of inequality. According to these novels, however, this is not the case.
Heart of Darkness (1899): The novel takes place in the context of the “civilized” English expanding their presence in “uncivilized” Africa.
Mrs. Dalloway (1925): The novel takes place in the core of civilized city life; London. Complications arise when characters have difficulty adjusting to civilized life (Septimus)
As I Lay Dying (1925): “Uncivilized” country folk make a journey into the “civilized” town.
Untouchable (1935): The caste system in India forces social statuses among citizens; separation of classes. Untouchables practically considered uncivilized.
These four novels all take place in drastically different places with characters confronting different social/economical standings; yet they all share the common issue of division of civility. Heart of Darkness in 1899 was written about a time when the English led an imperialist mission to Africa and considered the native Africans wild. 26 years later this issue is presented in a different setting; Mrs. Dalloway showed a thriving metropolis, yet within that civilized life existed people like Septimus, who had trouble adjusting to that kind of life. That same year came As I Lay Dying which showed an opposite world in the deep south of America. The Bundrens were “uncivilized country folk” attempting to enter a “civilized” world (the town) unlike their own. In Untouchable in 10 years later, the same issue arises across the world in India where the caste system forces civility and incivility among its people. The theme of social class crosses all cultural and temporal borders.
The beginning chapters are the family members explaining their point of view of things. We learn from Cora that the family might work on a farm, and they are struggling to afford chickens. The reader does not now what time period or even state this is taking place in yet.. Even each chapter is short in sweet… Leaves the reader wondering.
notes: mysterious, family problems, whose dying yet ?
“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.
[Darl] “Jewel stops at the spring and takes the gourd from the willow branch and drinks. I pass him and mount the path, beginning to hear Cash’s saw” (Faulkner 4).
[Cora] “She is propped on the pillow, with her head raised so she can see out the window, and we can hear him every time he takes up the adze or the saw… ‘She’s just watching Cash yonder,’ the girl says. We can hear the saw in the board” (Faulkner 8-9).
[Darl] “Jewel strikes [the horse] across the face with his fist and slides on to the trough and mounts upon it. Clinging t the hay-rack he lowers his head and peers out across the stall tops and through the doorway. The path is empty; from here he cannot even hear Cash sawing” (Faulkner 13).
[Jewel] “It’s because [Cash] stays out there, right under the window, hammering and sawing on that goddamn box… Sawing and knocking, and keeping the air always moving so fast on her face that when you’re tired you can’t breathe it, and that goddamn adze going One lick less. One lick less. One lick less…” (Faulkner 15).
Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. New York, NY: Modern Library, 2000. Print.
Notes: Different points of view of the same event, multiple narrations, different characters, similar to Mrs. Dalloway where one major event is seen and interpreted by many different characters, stream of consciousness.
“”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.
“Addie Bundren could not want a better one, a better box to lie in. It will give her confidence and comfort. I go on to the house followed by the
Chuck. Chuck. Chuck.
of the adze.”
Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. New York: Vintage Books, 1990. Print.
Notes: I liked the placement and spacing of the “chucks”. I read it in my head slower and more pronounced, which I think is probably what Faulkner was going for.