“An Astrologer’s Day”

“There was a pause as cars hooted on the road, jukta-drivers swore at their horses and the babble of the crowd agitated the semi-darkness of the park. The other sat down, sucking his cheroot, puffing out, sat there ruthlessly. The astrologer felt very uncomfortable.”

R.K. Narayan. Malgudi Days (New York: Penguin Books, 2006), 12.

The astrologer’s moment of realization is expressed through a zooming out and then in of perspective. The “pause” is what the astrologer alone feels, as his external environment carries on and “agitates” his feelings of discomfort. To the astrologer, the “other” sits “ruthlessly” because he alone feels “very uncomfortable.”

Nightwood/Historical Line

“—so I looked at Jenny’s possessions with scorn in my eye. It may have been all most ‘unusual,’ but who wants a toe-nail that is thicker than common? And that thought came to me out of the contemplation of the mad strip of the inappropriate that runs through creation, like my girl friend who married some sort of Adriatic bird who had such thick ones that he had to trim them with a horse-file—my mind is so rich that it is always wandering!”

Djuna Barnes. Nightwood (New York: New Directions, 2006), 111.

After taking a look at my old commonplaces, I noticed that pretty much all of the books we’ve read so far pay a lot of attention to inner life or thought, usually expressed through FID or stream of consciousness. And I think often, allowing the reader to access a character’s thoughts often allows for sympathy. For example, in Cane’s “Bona and Paul,” Toomer uses FID to mark Paul’s feelings of exclusion; the reader can then access his back and forth inner conflict with himself, even though he remains silent about it. In Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf pushes external events further into the background, and as I had noted in my commonplace, movement in and out of spaces gives way to free-flowing thoughts that negotiate past and present.  Alternating narrators in As I Lay Dying, Faulkner allows individual accounts to reveal information about the characters that do not make their way into speech, creating an even wider range of perspective. For example, the reader sees more clearly how strangely perceptive Darl’s character is through the way his narration seems able to access other character’s thoughts and know all the family’s secrets. While these texts certainly don’t treat inner life the same way, I think it’s notable that these thoughts remain just that, as they’re not placed into dialogue. What Barnes does differently in Nightwood is place the doctor’s line of thought into direct reported speech, even though his dialogue borders on stream of consciousness. Instead of privileging inner life and voice, Barnes makes the doctor’s inner monologue get in the way of his story and also carry on in spite of Nora’s crying. When the doctors unfiltered thoughts turn into speech, his words are silly and unnecessary ramblings.  A “wandering” mind for Barnes then is not “so rich,” and she seems to construct a narrative that is often indifferent to inner life or expression of thought.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

“He had always wanted to be a big voice, but de white folks had all de sayso where he come from and everywhere else, exceptin’ dis place dat colored folk was buildin’ theirselves.”

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (New York: Harper Perennial, 2006), 28.

Hurston gives Janie a “big voice” of sorts by letting her tenor of speech take over the narrative and describe her meeting Joe Starks. (Edit: I’m actually not sure if this specific sentence is Janie or Joe Starks; The beginning of the paragraph “sounds” like Janie, but at least to me, both of their voices seem present.) This is similar to Toomer, I think, because standard English isn’t the only language that runs the text.

Untouchable

“Like a ray of light shooting through the darkness, the recognition of his position, the significance of his lot dawned upon him. It illuminated the inner chambers of his mind. Everything that had happened to him traced its course up to this light and got the answer.”

Mulk Raj Anand, Untouchable (New York: Penguin Books, 1940), 52.

I think prior to this scene, Bakha identified his sweeper status as something that dictated his everyday duties, not something that “touched” his inner self or defined his character. But in writing that the light, or Bakha’s “recognition of his position,” had “illuminated the inner chambers of his mind,” Anand illustrates that Bakha has internalized others’ views of himself as “untouchable.” His sweeper status and the way the upper castes and non-sweeper outcastes treat him aren’t just external forces to him anymore, as they have now corrupted his own sense of self.

As I Lay Dying: Darl

She will go out where Peabody is…If you just knew. I am I and you are you and I know it and you dont know it and you could do so much for me if you just would and if you just would then I could tell you and then nobody would have to know except you and me and Darl.

William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (New York: Vintage International, 1985), 51.

In this chapter, Faulker demonstrates more clearly how strangely perceptive Darl is. As narrator, Darl appears to be in multiple places at once. He is somehow back home watching his mother die, going into town with Jewel, and inside Dewey Dell’s consciousness. Here, Darl narrates Dewey Dell’s anguish of wanting to ask Dr. Peabody for an abortion, but lacking the courage to ask him. He begins with “she,” and then his voice seems to become Dewey Dell’s, or at least speak in the same tenor as she does, when he switches to a first-person “I.”

Peter Walsh’s mind-read of Clarissa Dalloway

“She would be frightfully sorry for him; she would think what in the world she could do to give him pleasure (short always of the one thing) and he could see her with the tears running down her cheeks going to her writing-table and dashing off that one line which he was to find greeting him…. ‘Heavenly to see you!’”

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2005), 152.

In response to receiving Clarissa’s brief note, Peter Walsh imagines what she must have been thinking as she wrote it. Woolf’s use of the conditional tense emphasizes that this is what Peter thinks what happened, and this may not necessarily be what Clarissa was actually thinking. Her use of semi-colons also trace the way in which Peter constructs this imagining. Typically, what follows the semi-colon is a logical follow-up or support of the previous statement. In this case, each sentence leads into the next to form one big, compound sentence, creating a sense of progression that mimics Peter’s step-by-step construction of Clarissa’s thoughts. Woolf breaks the pattern a little when she adds in parenthesis “short always of the one thing,” which may be interpreted as the possibility of a marriage or romantic relationship between Peter and Clarissa. By creating this break in Peter’s thought process, Woolf detracts from the “fantasy” in his head by sneaking in the present tense reality in which they’ll never be together romantically. As a result, Woolf relates to the reader that Peter’s imagining of Clarissa’s thoughts are what he wants to believe to have happened, but likely did not. When Peter quotes Clarissa’s one line at the end, Woolf uses a gruff and sarcastic tone that indicates Peter’s frustration of having been made to think about what Clarissa was thinking when she wrote the note.

 

Mrs. Dalloway

“…soft with the glow of rose petals for some, she knew, and felt it, as she paused by the open window which let in blinds flapping, dogs barking, let in, she thought, feeling herself suddenly shrivelled, aged, breastless, the grinding, blowing, flowering of the day, out of doors, out of the windows, out of her body and brain which now failed, since Lady Bruton, whose lunch parties were said to be extraordinarily amusing, had not asked her.”

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2005), 30.

Woolf pushes free-indirect discourse into stream of consciousness. In this passage, like many moments in the text so far, she aligns a character’s train of thought with literal movement. Here, Mrs. Dalloway passes by an open window that seems to bring out her inner thoughts.  The external “blinds flapping, dogs barking” seem to disturb her internally, so that she feels “shrivelled, aged, breastless.” Her thoughts flow out of her “failed” body and brain, and she’s back to thinking about not being invited to lunch.

Cane: “Bona and Paul”

“White lights, or as now, the pink lights of the Crimson Gardens gave a glow and immediacy to white faces. The pleasure of it, equal to that of love or dream, of seeing this. Art and Bona and Helen? He’d look. They were wonderfully flushed and beautiful. Not for himself; because they were. Distantly. Who were they, anyway? God, if he knew them. He’d come in with them. Of that he was sure. Come where? Into life? Yes. No. Into the Crimson Gardens. A part of life. A carbon bubble.”

Jean Toomer, Cane (New York: Liveright, 2011), 102.

Focusing on Paul’s observations of the lighting in the room and the “white faces” around him, Toomer illustrates Paul’s realization that he, aside from the man at the door, is the only black person in the room. Writing that Art, Helen, and Bona are beautiful not for just Paul, but “because they were,” Toomer points that Paul, aware of his racial difference, finds white standards of beauty and his exclusion from it to be fact. Paul is with them only “distantly” because their whiteness excludes him from actually being a part of their group. The series of questions and the contradiction of the “Yes” and “No” reflect Paul’s insecurities of fitting into the party setting. And if the Crimson Gardens is a “part of life” or a “carbon bubble,” then Paul’s lack of belonging and awareness of difference are characteristic of his everyday life and of rest of the text as well.

 

A Portrait of the Artist

“He shook the sound out of his ears by an angry toss of his head and hurried on, stumbling through the mouldering offal, his heart already bitten by an ache of loathing and bitterness. His father’s whistle, his mother’s mutterings, the screech of an unseen maniac were to him now so many voices offending and threatening to humble the pride of his youth. He drove their echoes even out of his heart with an execration: but, as he walked down the avenue and felt the grey morning light falling about him through the dripping trees and smelt the strange wild smell of the wet leaves and bark, his soul was loosed of her miseries.”

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 147.

Joyce turns voices or words into almost tangible things. Stephen has to physically “shake” the voices out to clear his head and to make room for his own voice, which seems to be marked by the almost poetic/writerly “grey morning light falling” and “strange wild smell.”

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

“How foolish his aim had been! He had tried to build a breakwater of order and elegance against the sordid tide of life without him and to dam up, by rules of conduct and active interests and new filial relations, the powerful recurrence of the tide within him. Useless.”

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 82.

Compared to the free indirect discourse in Chapter One, Stephen’s Chapter Two voice is more difficult to pick out of the third-person narration. Stephen’s voice is “growing up” with him, and as evident of the amount of figurative language Joyce uses here, Stephen’s identify as a writer is also developing.

Heart of Darkness

“These round knobs were not ornamental, but symbolic; they were expressive and puzzling, striking and disturbing–food for thought and also for the vultures if there had been any looking down from the sky; but at all events for such ants as were industrious enough to ascent the pole. They would have been even more impressive, those heads on the stakes, if their faces had not been turned to the house.”

James Conrad, “Heart of Darkness,” in Heart of Darkness and Other Tales (New York, Oxford University Press: 2008), 164.

Conrad uses excess fillers that undermine and delay the fact that Marlow is describing severed heads on stakes, not decorations. Through Marlow’s narration, Conrad describes something grotesque and inhumane as if he’s critiquing someone’s home decor.

“The Beast in the Jungle”

“What it presently came to in truth was that poor Marcher waded through his beaten grass, where no life stirred, where no breath sounded, where no evil eye seemed to gleam from a possible lair, very much as if vaguely looking for the Beast, and still more as if missing it.”

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle,” in The Better Sort. (New York: Scribner, 1903. Internet Archive. https://archive.org/details/bettersort00jamegoog), 235.

James presents the “ordinary” as more “extraordinary” by framing Marcher’s search for meaning or purpose as an unsuccessful “hunt” in a seemingly empty jungle.  The “Beast”‘s absence, rather than its presence, becomes the problem here–which is a bit misleading/interesting considering all the attention James gave to the mystery of what Marcher’s “Beast” would be.