Tag Archives: naïve

Never Clever Enough

“Swami went to his seat with a bleeding heart. He had never met a man so good as Samuel. The teacher was inspecting the home lessons, which usually produced (at least, according to Swami’s impression) scenes of great violence. Notebooks would be flung at faces, boys would be abused, caned, and made to stand up on benches. But today Samuel appeared to have developed more tolerance and gentleness. He pushed away the bad books, just touched people with the cane, never made anyone stand up for more than a few minutes. Swami’s turn came. He almost thanked God for the chance.”

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

Notes: Complete 360: polar opposite versions of the character [Samuel] leads the audience to fall for the trap like Swami does. “The chance” he should have taken was to behave well and not test Samuel’s limits. Swami’s naivety is apparent as he tries to be clever, which ultimately lands him in more trouble than at the start. It also makes me question whether he actually had a headache in the first place. He asked his mother rather than his father because he knew she would allow him to stay home. Swami is a character that attempts to have things his way, but is most times unsuccessful because he does not think rationally.

James Joyce: Portrait

“It pained him that he did not know well what politics meant and that he did not know where the universe ended. He felt small and weak. When would he be like the big fellows in poetry and rhetoric? That they had big voice and big boots and they studied trigonometry. That was very far away” (13).

“And the whitegrey face and the nocouloured eyes behind the steelrimmed spectacles were cruel looking because he had steadied the hand firs with his firm soft fingers and that was to hit it better and louder” (43).

Both passages mark this sense of innocence and smallness that as children we all feel. In the first quote Stephen reminds us what it’s like to want to grow up and how badly it’s wanted. That, a bit later on, he begins counting the semesters until he realizes that being grown-up is too distant a place to count to and then submits to that it will just come, eventually. In the second quote there is another sort of innocence. Stephen is positively naïve while his punishment is ongoing that this trusted figure will still be good, and how the shock occurs reverberates, long after the action has ended. His innocence is perhaps not shattered, but he has learned to distrust.