Their Eyes Were Watching God

“‘Dat’s de God’s truth,’ Jim Stone agreed, ‘Dat’s de very reason.’
Janie did what she had never done before, that is, thrust herself into the conversation.
‘Sometimes God gits familiar wid us womenfolks too and talks His inside business. He told me how surprised He was ’bout y’all turning out so smart after Him makin’ yuh different; and how surprised y’all is goin’ tuh be if you ever find out you don’t know half as much ’bout us as you think you do. It’s so easy to make yo’self out God Almighty when you ain’t got nothin’ tuh strain against but women and chickens.'” (Hurston 235)

Hurston, Zora Neale. “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Novels & Stories, edited by Cheryl A. Wall, Library of America, 1995. Print.

Janie is silenced in many ways in her time with Jodie, and in this significant moment, she “thrust herself into the conversation” and made her voice heard. Her appeal to God also ties in with the title and the idea of being watched.

As I Lay Dying

“My mother is a fish.” (84)

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. Vintage International, 1990. Print.

This is my second time reading this book, and this chapter still stands out to me more than any other. It’s curt, absurd, and funny. It’s strange and fitting for Vardaman to make this connection between the fish and his mother, but the “is” makes it seem almost delusional.

 

Mrs. Dalloway – Mind Reading

“She held her hands to her head, waiting for him to say did he like the hat or not, and as she sat there, waiting, looking down, he could feel her mind, like a bird, falling from branch to branch, and always alighting, quite rightly; he could follow her mind, as she sat there in one of those loose lax poses that came to her naturally, and, if he should say anything, at once she smiled, like a bird alighting with all its claws firm upon the bough.” (Woolf 161)

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Penguin Group, 1992.

In this sentence, Septimus Warren Smith “follows” his wife’s mind as she sits across from him, sewing a hat. Woolf uses the figure of a bird on a tree to represent how Septimus represents Rezia’s mental processes. It’s reflective of Septimus that he does not understand Rezia’s mind in literal terms but through the image of a bird, because of his struggles to interpret the world simply. By attempting to comprehend the mind of another character, Septimus is in effect trying to comprehend human minds in general, including his own. The world through Septimus’ eyes is greatly intensified and somewhat surreal, so the representation of the mind through a figurative image shows another aspect of his unique perspective. It’s also noteworthy that the image of Rezia’s mind is a “bird,” which carries with it a connotation of lightness (consider how the bird “alights” from branch to branch), as opposed to seriousness, as well being a slang term for a young woman originating as early as 1915. (1)

 

Mrs. Dalloway

“She had the oddest sense of being herself invisible; unseen; unknown; there being no more marrying, no more having of children now, but only this astonishing and rather solemn progress with the rest of them, up Bond Street, this being Mrs. Dalloway; not even Clarissa any more; this being Mrs. Richard Dalloway.” (Woolf 11)

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Penguin Group, 1992.

This selection is indicative of the feminist undertones to the character of Mrs. Dalloway and helps explain her function in the novel. The sentence also employs Woolf’s technique of run-on sentences, bridged by semicolons, which seems to create a stream of consciousness effect.

Cane

“Dorris dances. She forgets her tricks. She dances
Glorious songs are the muscles of her limbs.
And her singing is of canebrake loves and mangrove feastings.
The walls press in, singing. Flesh of a throbbing body, they press close to John and Dorris. They close them in. John’s heart beats tensely against her dancing body. Walls press his mind within his heart. And then, the shaft of light goes out the window high above him. John’s mind sweeps up to follow it. Mind pulls him upward into dream.                     Dorris dances…”

Toomer, Jean. “Theater.” Cane. New York: Liveright, 2011. 71. Print.

This moment between Dorris and John is connected to other moments in the text through its motif of the “canebrake” and the “mangrove.” In particular, the “canebrake” connects Dorris to the character of Louisa in “Blood-Burning Moon” and highlights their common relationships to white men in positions of power.

A Portrait of the Artists as a Young Man

“Now, at the name of the fabulous artificer, he seemed to hear the noise of dim waves and to see a winged form flying above the waves and slowly climbing the air. What did it mean? Was it a quaint device opening a page of some medieval book of prophecies and symbols, a hawklike man flying sunward above the sea, a prophecy of the end he had been borne to serve and had been following through the mists of childhood and boyhood, a symbol of the artist forging anew in his workshop out of the sluggish matter of the earth a new soaring impalpable imperishable being?” (Joyce 163)

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Bantam Books, 1992. Print.

In this passage, Stephen Daedalus has a revelatory moment where his heritage and his future culminate and he crosses over from boyhood to manhood, albeit in his own, self-aware way. The word “artificer” implies a multitude of people who have “crafted” Stephen, so to speak. It most likely points to the mythological Daedalus, whose name causes Stephen’s revelation, but it also points to his own Father, Simon Dedalus, and even to God who supposedly created all things. This moment, and Stephen’s vision of Daedalus flying towards the sun, constitute a “quaint device” not just for Stephen but the novel itself, acting as a symbol for both the character and the work itself. This symbol of Daedalus’ invention (which kills his son Icarus) relates also to the work of an artist, described as a “being.” This compares art to Daedalus’ inventions, but the word “being” draws a comparison to his son as well, ultimately construing art as the sort of living, “imperishable” child of Stephen Dedalus.

 

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

“It was very big to think about everything and everywhere. Only God could do that. He could think only of God. God was God’s name just as his name was Stephen. Dieu was the French for God and that was God’s name too; and when anyone prayed to God and said Dieu then God knew at once that it was a French person that was praying. But though there were different names for God in all the different languages in the world and God understood what all the people who prayed said in their different languages still God remained always the same God and God’s real name was God” (Joyce 10).

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Bantam Books, 1992. Print.

What is the nature of this linguistic breakdown of the word “God”? Does it take away from God’s power? This is an early indication of Dedalus’ critical view of religion.

Heart of Darkness

“I asked myself sometimes what it all meant. They wandered here and there with their absurd long staves in their hands, like a lot of faithless pilgrims bewitched inside a rotten fence. The word ‘ivory’ rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were praying to it. A taint of imbecile rapacity blew through it all, like a whiff from some corpse. By Jove! I’ve never seen anything so unreal in my life. And outside, the silent wilderness surrounding this cleared speck on the earth struck me as something great and invincible, like evil or truth, waiting patiently for the passing away of this fantastic invasion.” (27)

Conrad, Joseph. “Heart of Darkness.” New York: Penguin Group, 2007. Print.

“Faithless pilgrims” bearing cross-like “staves” and the imperialist/industrialist lust for ivory in this passage juxtaposes religious belief with capitalist fervor. Meanwhile, the “silent wilderness” observes all of this from an objective and timeless point of view, putting such a terrible juxtaposition into a broader context.

The Beast in the Jungle

“She spoke it in a tone so special, in spite of her weakness, that he stared an instant—stared as if some light, hitherto hidden, had shimmered across his vision. Darkness again closed over it, but the gleam had already become for him an idea. ‘Because I haven’t the right——?’
‘Don’t know—when you needn’t,’ she mercifully urged. ‘You needn’t—for we shouldn’t.’
‘Shouldn’t?’ If he could but know what she meant!
‘No—it’s too much.’
‘Too much?’ he still asked—but with a mystification that was the next moment, of a sudden, to give way. Her words, if they meant something, affected him in this light—the light also of her wasted face—as meaning all, and the sense of what knowledge had been for herself came over him with a rush which broke through into a question. ‘Is it of that, then, you’re dying?’
She but watched him, gravely at first, as if to see, with this, where he was, and she might have seen something, or feared something, that moved her sympathy. ‘I would live for you still—if I could.’ Her eyes closed for a little, as if withdrawn into herself, she were, for a last time, trying. ‘But I can’t!’ she said as she raised them again to take leave of him.”

“The Beast in the Jungle.” In The Better Sort. New York: Scribner, 1903. Internet Archive. http://archive.org/details/bettersort00jamegoog. 232-233

What is the function of the choppy, ambiguous dialogue preceding/during this passage, considering Marcher’s tragic realization? What is May trying to say to him here?