Venkat Rao’s heart bled when he saw his child sleeping in her pink frock, hair combed, and face powdered, dressed and ready to be taken out .
R.K. Narayan, Malgudi Days (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1947), 147. SAKAI.
Notes: It is strange that the author says that his “heart bled” because hearts naturally bleed. Does this intentional word choice emphasize the pathos of the moment? But the sincerity of the moment is subverted by the character’s indecisiveness.
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.
“Show me somethin’ dat caution ever made! Look whut nature took and done. Nature got so high in uh black hen she got tuh lay uh white egg…”
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes were Watching God (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1937), 79.
Notes: nature vs. caution – what is the significance of this?; black giving birth to white = white people’s dependence on black people?
They were, however, sahibs. Whatever they did was ‘fashun.’ But his own countrymen – they were natus (natives)… And he recalled the familiar sight of all those naked Hindu men and women who could be seen squatting in the open, outside the city, every morning. ‘So shameless,’ he thought; ‘they don’t seem to care who looks at them, sitting there like that. It is on account of that that the goras white men call them kala log zamin par hagne wala (black man, you who relieve yourself on the ground). Why don’t they come here?’
Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. London: Penguin, 1935, 18.
Notes: Bahka is ashamed of his own countrymen’s nakedness when he sees them through the eyes of the Englishmen. His “enlightenment” is similar to that of Adam and Eve’s in the Bible. Once they ate the fruit of the Tree of Good and Evil, they became ashamed of their own nakedness. Likewise, Bahka indulges in English culture and, thus, begins to see his own culture differently.
It was then, and then I saw Darl and he knew. He said he knew without the words like he told me that ma is going to die without words, and I knew he knew because if he had said he knew with the words I would not have believed that he had been there and saw us. But he said he did know and I said “Are you going to tell pa are you going to kill him?” without the words I said it and he said “Why?” without the words.
William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (New York: Random House, 1964), 26.
Notes: ironic how Dewey Dell uses so many words to describe an exchange of no words; run-on sentence structure – emphasis of thoughts without spoken words?; saying one knows something vs. actually knowing something
Why live? they demanded. Sir William replied that life was good. Certainly Lady Bradshaw in ostrich feathers hung over the mantelpiece, and as for his income it was quite twelve thousand a year. But to us, they protested, life has given no such bounty. He acquiesced. They lacked a sense of proportion.
Notes: abruptness in sentence structure = sense of superiority; good life = material – postwar mentality?; profession as authority
Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990), 101.
The first German I saw climbed up over the garden wall. We waited till he got one leg over and then potted him. He had so much equipment on and looked awfully surprised and fell down into the garden. Then three more came over further down the wall. We shot them. They all came just like that (29).
Hemingway, Ernest. In Our Time. New York: Scribner, 1996.
Notes: “to pot” = “to hunt” – the German soldier is reduced to an animal; emotional distancing – no expression; garden and death do not seem to go well together
“In deference to your feelings,” replied Lord Peter, “I will take Bunter, though he could be far more usefully employed taking photographs or overhauling my wardrobe. When is there a good train to Salisbury, Bunter?”
Notes: aristocratic privilege; condescending but humorous; acknowledgment of one’s feelings but not the other’s; intentional jest? – poor Bunter
Sayers, Dorothy. Whose Body? 1923. Reprint, New York: Dover, 2009, 78.
“He closed his eyes and the train went on, roaring and then stopping; roaring again, stopping” (9).
“The guards went to and fro opening, closing, locking, unlocking the doors” (17).
James Joyce is an artist in the way that he paints with words. The way in which he constructed these sentences (and the rest of the novel, for that matter) is quite telling of his abilities to create a portrait without ever picking up a brush and pallet. He combines the past tense with the progressive tense, painting an image of something that has already occurred and yet is still occurring at the same time. A painting, for example, shows an image of something that occurred in the past, but to the onlooker in the present the image is still continuing. In Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night, the night he painted passed, but to the person viewing the image the night is still occurring. Similarly, Joyce is an artist who is painting a portrait of the events that took place in the main character’s life – events that took place and are still taking place simultaneously.
Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. New York: Huebsch, 1918. Internet Archive. http://archive.org/details/aportraitartist01joycgoog.
“Here the baby was born, and here it died, and then Rose went back to her house again with Sam” (Stein 89).
“During this year ‘Mis’ Herbert as her neighbors called her, Melanctha’s pale yellow mother was very sick, and in this year she died” (Stein 110).
This narrative is written from the point of view of a third person limited narrator in the character-bound focalization of Melanctha. The way in which the narrator writes the story, and these two peculiar statements in particular, is very telling of Melanctha’s character: She is able to write without emotion or any subjectivity about the deaths of two people, one being a newborn baby and the other being the main character’s mother. The narrator says very simply the facts of what happened, as if she is reporting about the weather. This lack of feeling is consistent with Melanctha’s lack of wisdom and experience. She wants to learn how to love and feel deeply, but her detachment from Rose’s baby and ‘Mis’ Herbert causes her to not express any kind of emotions when mentioning the events of their deaths. The main character does not yet understand the world and what it expects of her, but she is desperately trying to figure that out.
Gertrude Stein, “Melanctha,” in Three Lives (New York: The Grafton Press, 1909).