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.
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.
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.
“…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.
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.
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad (1899): Conrad’s novella focuses more on the separation between civilized and uncivilized, the matter of colonization looming in the background.
Whose Body?, Dorothy Sayers (1923): Sayers novel focuses on the upper class through its protagonist, Lord Peter Wimsey.
Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Wolf (1925): Similar to Sayers, Wolf’s novel focuses on the upper class as told from the point of view of Clarissa Dalloway. Clarissa realizes the importance and thus only wants to associate herself with people of the same class. For example when she expresses her dislike toward Mrs. Kilman and Ellie Henderson.
Untouchable, Mulk Raj Anand (1935): Anand steps away from English social stratus and introduces readers to the caste system of India. Unlike the English class system, where one can change class through education and work, the Indian caste system is much more rigid in the fact that one is predestined to a certain caste.
Literary-Historical Trajectory: For the most part, the literary-historical line for these 4 novels remains the same except for the novels at the beginning and towards the end. Conrad’s novella doesn’t really focus on social class but more of the question of what it means to be civilized. While Anand brings a new perspective to social class by breaking away from the English class system to demonstrate the caste system of India.
“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 copy them as well as he could in the exigencies of his peculiarly Indian circumstances (11)”
Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. New York: Penguin Group, 1940. Print
Notes: Colonialism, out appearance is important to fit in. The importance of clothes. What people are willing to do to become superior, better.
“the parents of the other children would not allow their sons to be contaminated by the touch of the low-caste man’s son (39)”.
“Ever since he had worked in the British barracks Bakha had been ashamed of the Indian way of performing ablutions, all that gargling and spitting, because he knew the Tommies disliked it… But he himself had been ashamed at the sight of Tommies running naked to their tub baths. ‘Disgraceful,’ he had said to himself…” (Anand 18).
Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. New York, New York: Penguin Books, 1935. Print.
Notes: Bakha is technically lowest in the Caste system, yet is caught in a middle ground because he has spent time with and emulates the English. He cannot be clearly placed in a certain level of class because his language suggests that he thinks of himself separate and higher than his Indian brethren, but is painfully aware that he is not like the English, only “apeing” them.
“And though his job was dirty he remained comparatively clean. He didn’t even soil his sleeves, handling the commodes, sweeping and scrubbing them. ‘A bit superior to his job’, they always said, ‘not the kind of man who ought to be doing this.’ For he looked intelligent, even sensitive, with a sort of dignity that does not belong to the ordinary scavenger, who is as a rule uncouth and unclean.”
Notes: Repitition of “cleanly” features throughout the novel, caste distinctions, dignity
Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. London: Penguin, 1935, 16.