Malgudi Days: The Doctor’s Word

“At about eight in the evening, the patient opened his eyes and stirred slightly in bed… He sent away the assistant and sat beside the patient. At about eleven, the patient opened his eyes and smiled at his friend”

(Narayan, Malgudi Days: The Doctor’s Word, pg. 20)

The repetition of the narrator using the words “the patient” to describe Gopal creates a sense of distance between the doctor and his friend. The introductory paragraph of the short story establishes the fact that this doctor is known, and well liked for his blunt honesty in regards to the situation of his patients. That’s all they are to him. Patients. He can distance himself from them which allows him to do his job. This dear friend is now also being identified as a patient so that the doctor can focus on treating him like he would any other patient. “The patient opened his eyes and smiled at his friend”. Gopal is coming back to him, reminding the doctor that this man is more than just another patient.

Nightwood

“She had a continual rapacity for other people’s facts; absorbing time, she held herself responsible for historic characters. She was avid and disorderly in her heart… She was one of the most unimportantly wicked women of her time – because she could not let her time alone, and yet could never be a part of it. She wanted to be the reason for everything and so was the cause of nothing” (74)

Barnes, Djuna, and T. S. Eliot. Nightwood. New York: New Directions, 1961. Print.

The chapter titled, “The Squatter” introduces the character of Jenny Petherbridge. First as “a widow, a middle-aged woman who had been married four times”, but continuously goes into depth about her character. Her “continual rapacity for other people’s facts” makes it sound like she’s extremely impressionable, without her own personality, simply an accumulation of both the personalities of other people she encounters and the events that unfold around her. As she “absorbs time”, she absorbs experience. I really liked the last line of this excerpt: “She wanted to be the reason for everything” really defines her identity as one that heavily relies on the approval or even just the acknowledgement of others, “and so was the cause of nothing”, because she never proactively did anything of her own. The narrator is setting her up as a character that would heavily depend on others, the basis of her personality.

A lot of James Joyce’s writing has to do identity and while Barnes’ characterization is through a narrative point of view, we learn much of Stephen through Joyce’s free indirect discourse style of writing. In Nightwood, the narrator keys us into a description of Petherbridge and this description is full of objective insight, facts about Jenny that she might not know about herself. Stephen’s characterization is mostly through his own thoughts, that the reader can infer characteristics about him and form his/her own conclusions. Mrs. Dalloway by Woolfe works similarly to how The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man does, narratively, because of Woolfe’s stream of consciousness style of writing. Clarissa’s thoughts give the reader direct insight to how she sees the world around her, so the readers need to keep in mind that the narration is not always reliable. Although maybe not a completely reliable narrator in Nightwood, the narration is not penetrated by the thoughts of various characters, giving the reader a hopefully more accurate representation of the events unfolding. I would compare the style of narration in Nightwood to be similar to that of in Untouchable in terms of character descriptions because it’s also that of a narrator who seems to have an “outside-looking-in” perspective. We follow Bakha through his daily struggles, and are given insight to his thoughts, and the descriptions about more tragic events are narrated to invoke sympathy, which is also something Barnes does in Nightwood, especially towards characters that suffer the destructive route of Robin.

Untouchable

“Bakha felt the keen edge of his sense of anticipation draw before his eyes the horrible prospect of all the future days of service in the town and the insults that would come from them. He could see himself being shouted at by a crowd; he could see a little priest fling his arms in the air and cry, ‘defiled, defiled.’ He could see the lady who had thrown the bread down at him reprimanding him for not cleaning the gutter. “No, no,’ his mind seemed to say…”

Mulk Raj Anand. Untouchable. (New York: Penguin Books, 1940). 77-78.

Bakha’s father just told him that he should make an effort to get to know the townspeople because he has to work for them for “the rest of your life”. This moment of realization, that he would have to spend the rest of his life on the receiving end of this kind of abuse, strikes him kind of numb. His mind floods with the events that just happened, and they all collectively remind him that that is his life. He is doomed to this life of “untouchable-ness”. “He could see himself”, putting himself at an outside perspective of what’s happening. He’s shocked. He’s scared. He’s almost in denial

as i lay dying

“A feather dropped near the front door will rise and brush along the ceiling, slanting backward, until it reaches the down-turning current at the back door: so with voices. As you enter the hall, they sound as though they were speaking out of the air about your head”

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

From Darl’s point of view, he’s thinking about how voices and whispers carry through the hallways of his house. provides a very graceful depiction of voices, whispers, that are carried through the halls of the house. starkly contrasts that of jewel’s point of view in the previous section. he’s full of anger. his words do not match darl’s descriptions. it is metaphorically compared to a feather that will “rise and brush along the ceiling”. almost no sound, not affecting the movement of anything around it. affected by the slightest of “tilts”. Darl’s description of this scene makes him seem a little more sensitive than his siblings. maybe little more easily affected by the things happening around him?

Mrs. Dalloway

“But suppose Peter said to her, “Yes, yes, but your parties – what’s the sense of your parties?” all she could say was (and nobody could be expected to understand): They’re an offering; which sounded horribly vague.” (118)

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1925. Print.

In this scene, Clarissa is contemplating the reasons she planned and hosted parties. The narration before this quote says, “what she liked was simply life” and she goes on to say out loud, even though she is alone, “That’s what I do it for”. No one is around to hear her talk through this justification, even though she sounds like she is trying to prove her point to someone. It almost seems like, by saying it out loud, she is trying to prove it to herself. She goes on to think, through free indirect discourse narration, “but suppose Peter said to her”. Attempting to convince herself that having these parties is just something she liked to do, Clarissa shifts to thinking about what Peter would say to her, knowing him well enough that he would question her. This sentence hints at Clarissa possibly being a little insecure, especially regarding Peter’s opinion of her. She not only thinks about his opinion, but also thinks of what everyone else would think in response to his doubt. She thinks, “nobody could be expected to understand” acknowledging the fact that she is aware no one else would back her up when she defended herself. But this is an entirely hypothetical situation, as Peter hasn’t even said anything yet. She even acknowledges that her answer would sound “horribly vague”. This style of thinking is common throughout the novel, as characters tend to get lost in their thoughts.

Mrs. Dalloway

“Septimus Warren Smith, aged about thirty, pale-faced, beak-nosed, wearing brown shoes and a shabby overcaot, with hazel eyes which had that look of apprehension in them which makes complete strangers apprehensive too. The world has raised its whip; where will it descend?” (14)

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1925. Print.

The next paragraph continues, “Everything had come to a complete standstill.” This description of Septimus happens directly in the middle of the loud explosion of the car backfiring. Yet everyone at the scene is still in the midst of figuring out what caused the loud explosion sound. The way Woolfe narrates this particular scene, like she does many others throughout Mrs. Dalloway, slows the scene down to a complete stop. Septimus, although only thirty years of age, is described as though he were much older. He had a look in his eyes, a “look of apprehension” that not only consumed himself, but also outwardly struck others. Septimus’ thoughts spill into the narration, him thinking that “the world has raised its whip”. At this point, the reader has no idea who this man is, why his look of apprehension affects others, and why his view on the world seems to be so guarded and so negative. It’s a looming, grave thought. He doesn’t say “when will it descend”, but rather “where will it descend”, never questioning that this event may or may not happen. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

Cane

“Kabnis is about to shake his fists heavenward. He looks up, and the night’s beauty strikes him dumb. He falls to his knees. Sharp stones cut through his thin pajamas. The shock sends a shiver over him. He quivers. Tears mist his eyes. He writhes.”

Toomer, Jean. “Kabnis.” Cane. New York: Liverright, 2011. 83. Print.

This scene seems very slowed down, taking the reader through the experience exactly how Kabnis most likely experienced it. By using broken up sentence fragments, like “tears mist his eyes”, Toomer brings the reader closer to the experience. We can feel the “night beauty strike us dumb”. Toomer’s suggested purpose of putting the reader’s through this African American teacher’s life, attempting to get as close to Kabnis’ true feelings as possible, is achieved through this short, fragmented style of writing.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

“Why was he gazing upwards from the steps of the porch, hearing their shrill twofold cry, watching their flight? For an augury of good or evil? A phrase of Cornelius Agrippa flew through his mind and then there flew hither and thither shapeless thoughts from Swedenborg on the correspondence of birds to things of the intellect and of how the creatures of the air have their knowledge and know their times and seasons because they, unlike man, are in the order of their life and have not perverted that order by reason.
And for ages men had gazed upward as he was gazing at birds in flight.” (279)

Joyce, James. “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.” Bookbyte Digital. iBooks.

A significant aspect of the novella is Stephen’s thoughts, weaved throughout the narration. This final thought, however, seems to be from the narrator, reflecting on Stephen’s actions, questioning “why?”. “The creatures of the air have their knowledge and know their times and seasons”. The symbolism of these birds, taking flight so gracefully, “like fine and falling threads of silken light unwound from whirring spools” may be something that Stephen wishes to pursue. He feels trapped in his mind, and the narrator acknowledges how he must certainly be thinking of how he too could take flight and be free. It’s unusual to refer to birds as “things of intellect”, but are possibly described as such because they are what Stephen wishes he could be: free.

Heart of Darkness

“She came forward, all in black, with a pale head, floating towards me in the dusk. She was in mourning… She had a mature capacity for fidelity, for belief, for suffering. The room seemed to have grown darker, as if all the sad light of the cloudy evening had taken refudge on her forehead. This fair hair, this pale visage, this pure brow, seemed surrounded by an ashy halo from which the dark eyes looked out at me. Their glance was guileless, profound, confident, and trustful.” (pg. 152-153)

Conrad’s description of Kurtz’s fiancée is interesting. I think that including the sentence, “she was in mourning” was not necessary only because the rest of the passage clearly dictates that she is, indeed in mourning. Her “mature capacity for fidelity, belief, suffering” all seem to fall under the impression of a passive woman. The first and only real description that the reader gets of this woman is that she has the capacity to mourn. Not that I believe Conrad, or Marlow necessarily, thinks of women in that way, but the narrative description leaves that impression on me. The words describing her also remind me of a ghost. She “floated” towards Marlow, with her “fair hair”, “pale visage”, “ashy halo”. She seems to have died with him?

The Beast in the Jungle

“She waited once again, always with her cold sweet eyes on him. “It’s never too late.” She had, with her gliding step, diminished the distance between them, and she stood nearer to him, close to him, a minute, as if still charged with the unspoken. Her movement might have been for some finer emphasis of what she was at once hesitating and deciding to say… She only kept him waiting, however; that is he only waited. It had become suddenly, from her movement and attitude, beautiful and vivid to him that she had something more to give o him; her wasted face delicately shone with it – it glittered almost as with the white lustre of silver in her expression. ”

James, Henry. “The Beast in the Jungle.” In The Better Sort. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1903. Internet Archive. http://archive.org/details/bettersort00jamegoog. 226

May Bartram is running out of time to get through to Marcher. It seems that she is attempting to bridge the emotional gap between them by lessening the physical one in this scene. The line that stood out to me the most was May saying, “it’s never too late”. Is she be simply answering his question literally, about what is to come in his life? or is she attempting to penetrate his emotions, almost silently begging him to see that it is never too late to see what he has now: her love. Words used to describe her like “glittered”, “white lustre of silver”, her “gliding step”, how her “wasted face delicately shone”, all make her sound like a ghost. Her physical appearance is already seeming to reflect her impending death. Is it too late for Marcher to realize what he has before it’s gone?