All posts by jph

Social Class in Mrs. Dalloway, Untouchables, Their Eyes Were Watching God, As I Lay Dying

“Worshipping proportion, Sir William not only prospered himself but made England prosper, secluded her lunatics, forbade childbirth, penalized despair, made it impossible for the unfit to propagate their views until they, too, shared his sense of proportion–his, if they were men….” (Woolf 99)

Notes: separation of classes, order, upper class’ view on society

“‘Keep to the side of the road, you low-caste vermin!’ he suddenly heard someone shouting at him.  ‘Why don’t you call, you swine, and announce your approach!  Do you know you have touched me and defiled me, you cock-eyed son of a bow-legged scorpion!  Now I will have to go and bath to purify myself.  And it was a new dhoti and shirt I put on this morning!'” (Anand 46)

Notes: order, ostracized, lower class, dregs of society

“Joe Starks was the name, yeah Joe Starks from in and through Georgy.  Been working’ for white folks all his life.  Saved up some money–round three hundred dollars, yes indeed, right here in his pocket.  Kept hearin’ ’bout them building’ a new state down heah in Floridy and sort of wanted to come.  But he was makin’ money where he was.  But when he heard all about ’em makin’ a town all outa colored folks, he knower dat was de place he wanted to be.  He had always wanted to be a big voice, but de white folks had all de says where he come from and everywhere else, exceptin’ dis place dat colored folks was buildin’ theirselves.  Dat was right too.  De man dat built things ought boss it.  Let colored folks build things too if dry wants to crow over something’.  He was glad he had his money save up.  He meant to git deer whilst de town wuz yet a baby.  He meant to buy in big.  It had always been his wish and desire to be a big voice and he had to live nearly thirty years to find a chance.  Where was Janie’s papa and mama?” (Hurston 28)

Notes: segregation, blacks no power, not in control of their lives, poverty

“‘All right,’ he says, going away.  ‘She looks pretty good for a country girl,’ he says.”

“‘Wait,’ I says.  He waited and I went and peeped through the crack.  But I couldn’t tell nothing except she had a good leg against the light.  ‘Is she young, you say?’ I says.”

“‘She looks like a pretty hot mamma, for a country girl,’ he says” (Faulkner 242).

Notes: poverty, prejudice, class distinctions

Historical Line: Mrs Dalloway was published in 1925; As I Lay Dying in 1930; Untouchables in 1935; Their Eyes Were Watching God in 1937.

Comments:  For all these novels I see the stark contrast between the rich and the poor.  Not much has changed in the twelve year period between Woolfs novel and Hurston’s novel.  It suggests that there will always be huge gaps between poverty and wealth no matter the time period and the upper classes will always impose their power on the poor.


A New Beginning

“And when she gained the privacy of her own little shack she stayed on her knees so long she forgot she was there herself.  There is a basin in the mind where words float around on thought and thought on sound and sight.  Then there is a depth of thought untouched by words, and deeper still a gulf of formless feelings untouched by thought.  Nanny entered this infinity of conscious pain again on her old knees.  Towards morning she muttered, ‘Lawd, you know mah heart.  Ah done de best Ah could do.  De rest is left to you.’  She scuffled up from her knees and fell heavily across the bed.  A month later she was dead” (24).

Hurston, Zora Neale.  Their Eyes Were Watching God.  New York: Harper Collins, 1998.

Notes: Janie not constrained anymore by her mother’s wishes.  free to leave her husband.  Nanny did what she did because she does not want Janie to have a life like she had.  Mind thoughts–making excuses.  Security for Janie

confinement in As I Lay Dying

It was nigh toward daybreak when we drove the last nail and toted it into the house, where she was laying on the bed with the window open and the rain blowing on her again.  Twice he did it, and him so dead for sleep that Cora says his face looked like one of these here Christmas masts that had done been buried a while and then dug up, until at last they put her into it and nailed it down so he couldn’t open the window on her no more.  And the next  morning they found him in his shirt tail, laying asleep on the floor like a felled steer, and the top of the box bored clean full of holes and Cash’s new auger broke off in the last one.  When they taken the lid off they found that two of them had bored on into her face. (73)

Faulkner, William.  As I Lay Dying.  New York: Vintage, 1990.

Notes: liberation, confinement, ignorance, fish as a metaphor, coffin aquarium? view from outside, a neighbor, different perspective.









confinement and past regrets in Mrs Dalloway

It was fascinating to watch her, moving about, that old lady, crossing the room, coming to the window.  Could she see her?  It was fascinating, with people still laughing and shouting in the drawing-room, to watch that old woman, quite quietly, going to bed.  She pulled the blind now.  The clock began striking.  The young man had killed himself; but she did not pity him; with the clock striking the hour, one , two, three, she did not pity him, with all this going on, she repeated, and the words came to her, Fear no more the heat of the sun.  She must go back to them.  But what an extraordinary night!  She felt somehow very like him–the young man who had killed himself.  She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away.  The clock was striking.  The leaden circles dissolved in the air.  He made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun.  But she must go back.  She must assemble.  She must find Sally and Peter.  And she came in from the little room.  (186)

Woolf, Virginia.  Mrs. Dalloway.  New York: Harcourt, 1981.

Notes:  The old woman in the room that Clarissa sees through her window symbolizes the confinement that she experiences in her life due to her past decision.  She chooses to marry  Richard because of societal pressures instead of following her heart.  She would have been happier marrying peter, or, more importantly, she would have been the happiest if she would have been with Sally, as she found her to be truly exciting and exuberant.  However, she does not consummate her relationships with neither of these people; hence, she has lost her identity and she is “not even Clarissa anymore; this being Mrs. Richard Dalloway” (11).  The fact that Clarissa and Septimus does not meet in the story signifies their parallel lives.  Like Clarissa, Septimus is tormented by the past–as evidenced by him suffering from post-traumatic stress from the war.  Nonetheless, Septimus is able to free himself from his past and any potential confinements.  When the doctor is about to institutionalize him, Septimus jumps out the window and commits suicide.  This signifies that even though he is dead, his essence, his soul is free because he is not willing to abide by societal expectations and restrictions.  On the other hand, Clarissa is confined by societal pressures.  Septimus is able to free himself from his past, while Clarissa supresses her past by engaging in trivial pursuits.

difficulties of war

They whack–whacked the white horse on the legs and he kneed himself up.  The picador twisted the stirrups straight and pulled and hauled up into the saddle.  The horse’s entrails hung down in a blue bunch and swung backward and forward as he began to canter, the monos whacking him on the back of his legs with the rods.  He cantered jerkily along the barrera.  He stopped stiff and one of the monos held his bridle and walked him forward.  The picador kicked in his spurs, leaned forward and shook his lance at the bull.  Blood pumped regularly from between the horse’s front legs.  He was nervously wobbly.  The bull could not make up his mind to charge.  (89)

Hemingway, Ernest.  In Our Time.  New York: Scribner, 2003.

Notes: fight of horse and bull as metaphor for war.  two different sides.  physical and emotional anguish one experiences in war.  spanish references.

defying organized religion

“He passed along the narrow dark corridor, passing little doors that were the doors of the rooms of the community.  He peered in front of him and right and left through the gloom and thought that those must be portraits.  It was dark and silent and his eyes were weak and tired with tears so that he could not see.  But he thought they were the portraits of the saints and great men of the order who were looking down on him silently as he passed: saint Ignatius Loyola holding an open book and pointing to the words Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam in it, saint Francis Xavier pointing to his chest, Lorenzo Ricci with his berretta on his head like one of the prefect of the lines, the three patrons of holy youth, saint Stanislaus  Kostka, saint Aloysius Gonzaga and blessed John Berchmans, all with young faces because they died when they were young, and Father Peter Kenny sitting in a chair wrapped in a big cloak” (57).

“They made a cradle of their locked hands and hoisted him up among them and carried him along till he struggled to get free.  And when he had escaped from them they broke away in all directions, flinging their caps again into the air and whistling as they went spinning up and crying:” (60)

Joyce, James.  A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.  New York: Penguin Books, 2003.

Notes:   When Stephen is unable to study because his glasses are broken, Father Dolan reprimands him.  The broken glass represents religions distorted view of the world–that people should not live their lives based on religion’s dogmatic teachings.  When Stephen’s friends encourages him to report the incident to the rector, he passes by a hallway which was dark and silent to convey the kind of lives that people lead that suppress their views in favor of religion.  As he passes the hallway, it is filled with pictures of saints as if to imply to Stephen that what you are doing is wrong and that you should not report Father Dolan to the rector.  Ironically, Joyce does not capitalize the word “saint” to refer to the religious figures.  As if Joyce is conveying that religious figures are no different from you and I and that their orders and teachings should not be followed blindly.  After reporting Father Dolan to the rector, Stephen is hoisted up in the air as if to signify his triumph over religion.

unaware of the Beast

“Ah, your not being aware of it,” and she seemed to hesitate an instant to deal with this–“your not being aware of it is the strangeness in the strangeness.  It’s the wonder of the wonder.”  She spoke as with the softness almost of a sick child, yet now at last, at the end of all, with the perfect straightness of a sibyl.  She visibly knew that she knew, and the effect on him was of something co-ordinate, in its high character, with the law that had ruled him.         It was the true voice of the law; so on her lips would the law itself have sounded.

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle”, in Major Stories & Essays (New York: Library of America, 1999), 478.

Notes: opportunity lost, life of regret, meaning of simile, how did she know