All posts by mlomb

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.

Hopes and Expectations

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

“For Heaven only knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so, making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh; but the veriest frumps, the most dejected of all miseries sitting on doorsteps (drink their downfall) do the same; can’t be dealt with, she felt positive, by Acts of Parliament for that very reason; they love life.” (Woolf 4)

Notes: high hopes for England post-war, everyone appears to be in a state of optimism

Anand, Mulk Raj. New York, New York: Penguin Books, 1935. Print.

“And he had soon become possessed with an overwhelming desire to live their life. He had been told they were sahibs, superior people. He had felt that to put on their clothes made one a sahib too. So he tried to copy them in everything, to cope them as well as he could in the exigencies of his peculiarly Indian circumstances.” (Anand 11)

Notes: Bakha wants to be something he’s not. Thinks that if he dresses and behaves like them, he can be a part of their impressive lifestyle.

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel. New York: Perennial Library, 1990

“…she made a sort of comfort for herself. Yes, she would love Logan after they were married. She could see no way for it to come about, but Nanny and the old folks had said it, so it must be so. Husbands and wives always loved each other, and that was what marriage meant. It was just so. Janie felt glad of the thought, for then it wouldn’t seem so destructive and mouldy. She wouldn’t be lonely anymore.” (Hurston 21)

Notes: Janie’s naivety fools her into thinking that everything will work itself out. She expects that as soon as they are married she will love Logan.

William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying, The Modern Library Editions, 2000

“It would just be me and her on a high hill and me rolling the rocks down the hill at their faces, picking them up and throwing them down the hill faces and teeth and all by God until she was quiet and not that goddamn adze going One lick less. One lick less and we could be quiet.” (Faulkner 15)

Notes: Jewel wants it to just be him and Addie. He desires a maternal presence where he is alone with his mother because he feels he is the only one that really cares about her.

Literary-History Trajectory: In the four novels, I found instances of character’s expectations that do not necessarily coincide with reality. A little over 30 years spanned between Mrs. Dalloway and As I Lay Dying, but nothing has changed in terms of people’s expectations. Time and time again people will always hope for something better than they have now. Each author expresses these expectations in different ways.

Perceptual Differences

“The men noticed her firm buttocks like she had grape fruits in her hip pockets; the great rope of black hair swinging to her waist and unraveling in the wind like a plume; then her pugnacious breasts trying to bore holes in her shirt. They, the men, were saving with the mind what they lost with the eye. The women took the faded shirt and muddy overalls and laid them away for remembrance. It was a weapon against her strength and if it turned out of no significance, still it was a hope that she might fall to their level some day.

But nobody moved, nobody spoke, nobody even thought to swallow spit until after her gate slammed behind her.”

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel. New York: Perennial Library, 1990

Notes: Her beauty captivates them all (rope of black hair). Everyone observes her appearance, but males and females see different things (different perceptions of the same thing). She is already elevated as some exotic human “she might fall to their level someday.” This is the first big character description we read and it is told through the perspectives of other characters in the book. We are unable to subjectively see who she really is.

Societal Roles

“At least so thought Bakha, a young man of eighteen, strong and able-bodied, the son of Lakha, the Jamadar of all the sweepers in the town and the cantonment, and officially in charge of the three rows of public latrines which lined the extremest end of the colony, by the brookside.”

Anand, Mulk Raj. New York, New York: Penguin Books, 1935. Print.

Notes: sentence structure = lots of info separated with commas (states the entire background). Describes in detail what Bakha’s role is in society. Everyone has their own job and tasks they are designated to perform in society. Location seems also very important

The Forgotten Jewel

“I said if you’d just let her alone. Sawing and knocking, and keeping the air always moving so fast on her face that when you’re tired you cant breathe it, and that goddamn adze going One lick less. One lick less. One lick less until everybody that passes in the road will have to stop and see it and say what a fine carpenter he is. If it had just been me when Cash fell off that church and if it had just been me when pa laid sick with that load of wood fell on him, it would not be happening with every bastard in the country coming in to stare at her because if there is a God what the hell is He for. It would just be me and her on a high hill and me rolling the rocks down the hill at their faces picking them up and throwing them down the hill faces and teeth and all by God until she was quiet and not that goddamn adze going One lick less. One lick less and we could be quiet.”

William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying, The Modern Library Editions, 2000

Notes: Jewel cares about Addie as she is now, not only concerned with her death. Everyone seems to be preoccupied with their own duties (Cash making the coffin) that they are neglecting Addie. Jewel seems a bit isolated from everyone else,  he wants to be alone with his mother. Sign of desire for maternal love?

Faltered Reality

“How it rejoiced her that! Not for weeks had they laughed like this together, poking fun privately like married people. What she meant was that if Mrs. Filmer had come in, or Mrs. Peters or anybody they would not have understood what she and Septimus were laughing at”

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

Notes: perception of reality faltered,  desire for consistency/normalcy, failed marriage,

Nick the Invincible

“They were seated in the boat, Nick in the stern, his father rowing. The sun was coming up over the hills. A bass jumped, making a circle in the water. Nick trailed his hand in the water. It felt warm in the sharp chill of the morning… In the early morning on the lake sitting in the stern of the boat with his father rowing, he felt quite sure that he would never die.”

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

Notes: diction is very factual, movement (rowing, sunrise, ripples in water), feels unstoppable, constantly moving never motionless,  death=weakness


“The Duchess was always of the greatest assistance to his hobby of criminal investigation, though she never alluded to it, and maintained a polite fiction of its non-existence.”

Sayers, Dorothy L. Mineola: Dover Publications, 1923. Print

Note: Refers to his own mother as “the duchess” distanced relationship, doesn’t really care about it/him? What is she really thinking? Is she just a busy-body or does she have ulterior motives?



Who’s actually speaking?

“He felt small and weak. When would he be like the fellows in poetry and rhetoric? They had big voices and big boots and they studied trigonometry. That was very far away.”

Notes: Transition from childhood into adulthood. Stephen is desperately trying to escape the world he lives in, but is afraid. He hasn’t found his place in the world yet.  On a more general note, there are lots of religious references and imagery. Another thing I noticed about this novel is that there is very little to no dialogue present. They are mostly inner monologues or observations. The narrator appears to be subjective and simply state things from a third-person perspective (Stephen’s perspective as a child); however, there are instances where the narrator conveys his ideas/inklings of what’s to happen. There is a sense of omniscience present.

James Joyce, in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Oxford World’s Classics, 2000

Multi-faceted Melanctha Herbert

“Melanctha Herbert had not made her life all simple like Rose Johnson. Melanctha had not found it easy with herself to make her wants and what she had, agree.”

“Melanctha now really was beginning as a woman. She was ready, and she began to search in the streets and in dark corners to discover men and to learn in their natures and their various ways of working.”

Stein’s use of repetition with Melanctha’s name signifies the importance of her as a pivotal character. Through the way she describes her fearless and venturous behavior, it is evident that Melanctha is complex and multi-faceted. Her independence is apparent from the very beginning. She doesn’t answer to anyone which is reflected in her relationship with her parents.  Her indifference towards them, especially her father, indicates a sense of self-searching and internal conflict. The difficulties she faces are matching up her wants along with her needs. Melanctha is not satisfied with society’s customs she is expected to uphold. The “simple life” of those around her is unappealing to her. For example, her best friend Rose Johnson has gotten married and has followed the conventional path all women followed at that time. Melanctha desires to be her own person and is in a constant search to attain this thirst for more than what is laid out for her. She craves to “search in the streets and  dark corners.” Instead of being served everything on a silver platter, Melanctha wishes to see and experience the world for herself.

Stein, Gertrude, Three Lives. Dover Publications, New York, 1994.