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.
In all of the four novels we have read in this section, each character had to face something they rather not worry about. In Mrs. Dalloway, Mrs. Dalloway is struggling to put a party together and is questioning her relationship with her husband, in As I lay Dying, Addie Bundren’s family is trying to figure out why the murder happened, in Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie tells her story of being Aferican-American during the slavery period, and lastly in Untouchable, Bakha is torn between following Christianity or following the teachings of Ghandi.
In each of these novels, the reader can learn about other people’s lives, and think outside of their own world. Each novel tells a great meaningful story that can be relatable to everyday life.
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.
“Janie walked to the door with the pan in her hand still stirring the cornmeal dough and looked towards the barn. The sun from ambush was threatening the world with red daggers, but the shadows were gray and solid-looking around the barn. Logan with his shovel looked like a black bear doing some clumsy dance on his hind legs” (31).
“The morning road air was like a new dress. That made her feel the apron tied around her waist. She untied it and flung it on a low bush beside the road and walked on, picking flowers and making a bouquet. After that she came to where Joe Starks was waiting for her with a hired rig. He was very solemn and helped her to the seat beside him. With him on it, it sat like some high, ruling chair. From now on until death she was going to have flower dust and springtime sprinkled over everything. A bee for her bloom. Her old thoughts were going to come in handy now, but new words would have to be made and said to fit them” (32).
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York, New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Web.
Notes: vivid imagery, figurative language, the presence of nature
“What she coin coming back here in dem overhauls? Can’t she find no dress to put on? – Where’s dat blue satin dress she left here in? – Where all dat money her husband took and died and left her? – What dat ole forty year ole ‘oman doin’ wid her hair swingin’ down her back lak some young gal? – Where she left dat you lad of a boy she went off here aid? – Thought she was going to marry? Where he left her? – What he done wid all her money? – Betcha he off wid some gal so young she ain’t even got no hairs – why she don’t stay in her class? -” (2)
Notes: dialect, gender expectations, age expectations – she isn’t expected to still “dress young”
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York, New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print.
Seeing the woman as she was made them remember the envy they had stored up from other times . So they chewed up the back parts of their minds and swallowed with relish. They made burning statements with questions, and killing tools out of laughs. It was mass cruelty. A mood come alive. Words walking without masters; walking altogether like harmony in a song.
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God, (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1990), 2.
Notes: Even though what Janie’s neighbors were saying about Janie was cruel, the freedom with which they were able to speak their cruel remarks was beautiful. The line, “words walking without masters” implies also that the words themselves were walking on their own. The words were uninhibited; the neighbors, or “masters” of the cruel words being spoken, did not have control and were therefore not to be held accountable for the words.
They made burning statements with questions, and killing tools out of laughs. It was mass cruelty. A mood come alive. Words walking without masters; walking altogether like harmony in a song. “What she doin coming back here in dem overalls? Can’t she find no dress to put on? — Where’s dat blue satin dress she left here in?” (2).
Hurston, Z. N. (1937). Their eyes were watching god. (p. 2). New York: Harper Perennial.
Notes: The author provides a sharp contrast to the way the narrator describes the women and how they are talking about others (“burning statements”) and the way that the women actually speak (“dem overalls”). They speak in a dialect that at times can be difficult to understand and interpret, so the reader travels through the novel from being able to perfectly understand the narrator to having to switch to dialogue and work a bit harder to perfectly understand what is being said.
“Seeing the women as she was made them remember the envy they had stored up from other times. So they chewed up the back parts of their minds and swallowed with relish. They made burning statements with questions and killing tools out of laughs. It was mass cruelty. A mood come alive. Words walking without masters; walking altogether like harmony in a song.”
Notes: What I especially liked about this passage was the way Hurston uses words and actions as sorts of weapons to cause mental harm. The women are expressing their envy by being indirect with things such as laughter and questions.
“Seeing the woman as she made them remember the envy they had stored up from other times. So they chewed up the back parts of their minds and swallowed with relish. They made burning statements with questions, and killing tools out of laughs. It was mass cruelty. A mood come alive. Words walking without masters, walking altogether like harmony in a song (2).
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel. New York: Perennial Library, 20006
Notes: There’s something to be said about watching in this book, about noticing one another, and the social cues that occur. And the overall amount of judging that’s going on.
“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time.That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly” (Hurston 1).
Notes: The first lines of the novel illustrate gender distinctions. It states that men’s wishes sometimes come to them through “tide” while others may not get it till the “Watcher” turns his eyes. “Time” is a problem because it mocks men’s dreams. Then the passage states that it is different for women since they “forget things they don’t want to remember.” They are not haunted by thoughts like the men. Their dreams are also the “truth” so in a way they don’t have wishes that are hard to attain like the men do.
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel. New York: Perennial Library, 1990