Tag Archives: hurston

The Divide of Money

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.

Dialect of Modern Writing

Heart of Darkness (1899): Conrad distinguishes race and critiques imperialism with dialect.

“Melanctha” (1909): Stein experiments with dialect to emphasize how things are said and what is left unsaid.

As I Lay Dying (1930): Faulkner’s use of dialect to emphasize regionalism in the United States.

Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937): As part of the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston uses black dialect to represent black life.

These four works use dialect for different purposes. Over the course of time that these works were written, dialect moves from emphasizing a point to representing different lifestyles. Dialect in Heart of Darkness is a point of shame, whereas dialect in Their Eyes Were Watching God is a source of pride.

Class and Society

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.

Post-War World Critiques

World War I made a huge impact in society. The novels that were published after it reflect the problems of the pre-war world that people began to observe and then look to change. Dorothy Sayers’ Whose Body?, published in 1923, is a detective novel with a completely different take on the method of investigation. The protagonist, Lord Peter Wimsey breaks away from the traditional method of deduction and instead relies on intuition. This novel slowly reveals people realizing that the world they were living in before the war was not ideal and that they wanted to change it. Moving away from what was once the main method signals that in the post-war era, people looked to new ways in life. The realization of the faults of pre-war way of life continue with the publication of Mrs. Dalloway in 1925. In this Virginia Woolf novel, readers are exposed to an upper class way of life that is ending. The old values of the pre-war world are crumbling. There is also a sense of how the old English way of thinking failed as exemplified by Septimus’ death since he was a soldier who fought for England. Then the critique evolves to one that pushes for change. In Mulk Raj Anand’s Untouchable, published in 1935, the problems of colonization and the enforcement of the caste system is exposed. The novel shows how the faults of society can lead an individual to look for change. Through the protagonist Bakha, Anand was able to point out the faults that exist within the treatment of the lower class.  The criticism on the way of life continues with Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, which was published in 1937.This novel exposes the problems within the unfair treatment of an individual based on his or her race. Hurston is able to illustrate the problems an individual must face in life due to the prejudice set against him or her due to their race. Through an analysis of these four post-war novels, we begin to see a pattern of critique on the social order and way of life. There is a continuation of the theme of finding faults within the way things are and wanting to correct them.

FID

“…What a lark! What a plunge! For so it had always seemed to her, when, with a little squeak of the hinges, which she could hear now, she had burst open the French windows and plunged at Bourton into the open air. How fresh, how calm, stiller than this of course, the air was in the early morning; like the flap of a wave; the kiss of a wave…” (Woolf 3). 1925.

“Before us the thick dark current runs. It talk up to us in a murmur become ceaseless and myriad, the yellow surface dimpled and monstrously into fading swirls travelling along the surface for an instant, silent, impermanent and profoundly significant, as though just beneath the surface something huge and alive waked for a moment of lazy alertness out of and into light slumber again” (Faulkner 141). 1930.

“He felt dejected, utterly miserable. Was the pleasure of Charat Singh’s generosity only to be enjoyed half an hour? What had he done to deserve such treatment? He loved the child…Of course, I polluted the child. I couldn’t help in doing so…It started on account of the goal I scored. Cursed me!” (Anand 116). 1935.

“But oh God, don’t let Tea Cake be off somewhere hurt and Ah not know nothing about it. And God, please suh, don’t let him love nobody else but me. Maybe Ah’m is uh fool, Lawd, lak dey say, but Lawd, Ah been so lonesome, and Ah been waitin’, Jesus. Ah done waited uh long time” (Hurston 120). 1937.

Free indirect discourse can be found throughout many of the works we’ve read, especially these four. This device works on many levels and for many different reasons. In Mrs. Dalloway Woolf utilizes it to explore the inner workings of the mind that cannot necessarily be accessed on a tangible level. For Faulker, FID works to break up the short sentences, offering us a glimpse into the deeper minds of his characters, especially when the timing lapses, and we see how some of the inner, indirect discourse works to express these overarching themes. Anand uses it to explore the theme of class and caste, which is the most prominent theme in the text (and also prevalent in many others we’ve focused on). And Hurston uses FID as a device to interact with and question the way language works in her novel, in terms of the dialogue, dialect, and indirect discourse, and how they all work together.

Desire in Their Eyes, Mrs. Dalloway, Melanctha, Heart of Darkness

Sometimes it’s harder to know what you want, than it is to know what you don’t want.

Example: “I don’t know if I want ice cream, but I definitely know I don’t want olives.”

Desire stems from discontentment (knowing what you don’t want). Perhaps the desire is ambiguous and confusing, but the discontentment is clear and definitive. I’ve noticed this complicated theme in stories like Their Eyes, Mrs. Dalloway, Melanctha, and even in Heart of Darkness.

Despite the difference in story and narration, each protagonist portrayed within the novels mentioned carry a need and desire for something more… from their lives. This discontentment leads to a searching, in hopes to find what is fulfilling, adventurous, and satisfying. In the 1909 short story, Melanctha, for instance, she wanders. “  From the time that Melanctha was twelve until she was sixteen she wandered, always seeking but never more than very dimly seeing wisdom” (Stein 80) http://www.bartleby.com/74/21.html

It is unclear how wandering is defined; it is left up to the reader to decipher that. Perhaps it is wandering for a freedom from her dysfunctional family, perhaps it is wandering for a knowledge outside of her limited education, or perhaps it is wandering to fall in love. Nonetheless, Melanctha wanders to seek something more than what her life is offering.

Published in 1925, Mrs. Dalloway shares a similar desire, but for raw connection with people as opposed to her empty and dull relationship with Mr. Dalloway. It isn’t until the end of the novel when Septimus commits suicide, does Mrs. Dalloway interestingly feels enlightened and even at peace, recognizing how she could relate to Septimus’s depression.
She felt somehow very like him—the young man who had killed himself. She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away.”

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Orlando: Harcourt Inc, 1925. Print.

In Joseph Conrad’s, Heart of Darkness, (1899): ” I wouldn’t have believed it of myself; but then-you see- I felt somehow I must get there by hook or by crook” (Conrad 109), Marlowe expresses his desire for adventure and exploration, to discover the unknown.

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2008. Print.

In Hurston’s Their Eyes, Janie Starks contemplates her resentment towards Nanny, feeling as if she has limited her from her desire to live outside of the traditionally “successful” norm for a black woman. “She hated her grandmother and had hidden it from herself all these years under a cloak of pity. She had been getting ready for her great journey to the horizons in search of people…But nanny had taken the biggest thing God ever made, the horizon—for no matter how far a person can go the horizon is still way beyond you—and pinched it in to such a little bit of a thing that she could tie it about her granddaughter’s neck tight enough to choke her. (89)”

Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York, New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Web.

The historical trajectory of these novels can be applied to the fact that this was during a time when people were embracing identity and defining what makes up culture. Naturally, one would want to discover and learn to see what life can offer outside of the traditional norm.

Footnotes: A Common Device in 20th Century Fiction

Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand (1935), Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston (1937), Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers (1923), and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (1916) all utilize the device of footnotes  to bring forth a message to the readers.

Jeri Johnson, who wrote the introduction of Portrait: ” ‘Epiphany’: a word which Joyce appropriates from the lexicon of the sacred to that of the profane” (XXXVI).

Joyce, J. (1916). A portrait of the artist as a young man. (p. XXXVI). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sayers: “Lord Peter’s wits were wool-gathering. The book is in the possession of Earl Spencer” (4).

Sayers, D. (1923). Whose body?. (p. 4). Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, INC.

Anand: “The Hindus do not allow a person to die in bed, but bring the dying to rest as near the earth as  possible; the idea being that from the earth we come, to earth we return.” (81).

Anand, M. R. (1935). Untouchable. (p. 81). London: Penguin Books.

Hurston: “A beating with the fist” (98).

Hurston, Z. N. (1937). Their eyes were watching god. (p. 98). New York: Harper Perennial.

The literary-historical trajectory that can be noted from these novels is that they each serve a purpose that fits the time and/or tone of the stories.  For example, Sayers’ novel is not meant to be taken seriously because it is a satirical detective story, so the footnote is consistent with the story and also meant to entertain the reader.  Joyce’s novel, although the footnote was not an original part of the story, still helps the reader understand a theme that will be seen throughout the novel.  Anand and Hurston’s stories are written later in the 20th century, and they both serve to make clarifications for the reader in terms of customs and the meanings of phrases.  The footnotes are for the most part continuous in that they are granting the reader clarifications.  However, Hurston’s novel in particular is the most controversial (a joke about violence?) and also is the novel that is published the latest.

A strong, emancipated woman

“Dis sittin’ in de rulin’ chair is been hard on Jody,” she muttered out loud. She was full of pity for the first time in years. Jody had been hard on her and others, but life had mishandled him too. Poor Joe! Maybe she had known some other way to try, she might have made his face different. But what that other way could be, she had no idea. She thought back and forth about what had happened in the making of a voice out of a man. Then thought about herself. Years ago, she had told her girl self to wait for her in the looking glass. It had been a long time since she had remembered. Perhaps she’s better look. She went over to the dresser and looked hard at her skin and features. The young girl was gone, but a handsome woman had taker her place. She tore off the kerchief from her head and let down her plentiful hair. The weight, the length, the glory was there. She took careful stock of herself, then combed her hair and tied it back up again. Then she starched and ironed her face, forming it into just what people wanted to see, and opened up the window and cried, “Come heah people! Jody is dead. Mah husband is gone from me.” (87)

Janie starched and ironed her face and came set in the funeral behind her veil. It was like a wall of stone and steel. The funeral was going on outside. All things concerning death and burial were said and done. Finish. End. Nevermore. Darkness. Deep hole. Dissolution. Eternity. Weeping and wailing outside. Inside the expensive black folds were resurrection and life. She did not reach outside for anything, nor did the things of death reach inside to disturb her calm. (88)

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Harper Perennial Editions, 2013

The sun and the temporality of the natural world

“The people all saw her because it was sundown. The sun was gone, but he had left his footprints in the sky. It was the time for sitting on porches beside the road. It was the time to hear things and talk. These sitters had been tongueless, earless, eyeless conveniences all day long. …But now, the sun and the bossman were gone, so the skins felt powerful and human.” (Hurston 1)

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer. Janie had no chance to know things, so she had to ask. Did marriage end the cosmic loneliness of the unmated? Did marriage compel love like the sun the day?” (Hurston 21)

“They sat on the boarding house porch and saw the sun plunge into the same crack in the earth from which the night emerged.” (Hurston 33)

Notes: The appearance and disappearance of the sun informs the activities of daily life – this attention to the sun’s movement conveys an importance of adhering to nature’s given temporal order. Daily life is regimented by nature through the visual signal of the sun. Janie’s contemplation of marriage also includes attention to the sun, conveying that the sun is not only a visual marking for timekeeping in daily life but a symbol for its abstract occurrences.