Historical Line

“The perfume that her body exhaled was of the quality of that earth-flesh, fungi, which smells of captured dampness and yet is so dry, overcast with the odour of oil of amber, which is an inner malady of the sea, making her seem as if she had invaded a sleep incautious and entire. Her flesh was the texture of plant life, and beneath it one sensed a frame, broad, porous and sleep-worn, as if sleep were a decay fishing her beneath the visible surface. About her head there was an effulgence as of phosphorous glowing about the circumference of a body of water – as if her life lay through her in ungainly luminous deteriorations – the troubling structure of the born somnambulate.”

Barnes, Djuna, and T. S. Eliot. Nightwood. New York: New Directions, 1961. Print. 
In this quote is a description of Robin after she faints in her hotel room. The incredibly poetic language describes her beautifully. It shows what Barnes was capable of as a writer while giving the character Robin a great physical description.
In Henry James’ The Beast in the Jungle, there is the quote, “May Bertram, whose face, a reminder, yet not quite a remembrance.” He was one of the first authors for us to read this semester as well as one of the earlier voices in American literature. This short segment illustrates a basic example of James’ use of embedding information into sentences through breaks created by commas and hyphens. He was one of the great maximalist writers who believed in using a lot of words to accomplish a little. Following James we have Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The quote, “The world for all its solid substance and complexity no longer existed for his soul save as a theorem of divine power and love and universality.” In this quote we see a different style of writing altogether. Joyce prefers the 3rd person narrator as a way to jump between different character’s thoughts. Here we see Joyce recounting Stephen’s take on the soul, obviously way different that how Henry James would have done the same thing. Later, in her novel Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Wolfe writes, “It was their idea of tragedy, not his or Rezia’s (for she was with him),” from the mind of Septimus before his suicide. Here we see Wolfe use the 3rd person narrator to get within a character’s mind like Joyce but also include extra information in her sentence like James, the difference being that she uses parenthesis instead of commas or hyphens. Last we have the quote, “It was a discord between person and circumstance by which a lion like him lay enmeshed in a net while many a common criminal wore a rajah’s crown,” from Anand’s Untouchable. In this quote all we see similar is use of a 3rd person narrator with a little bit of mind reading but nowhere near the extent present in Joyce’s or Wolfe’s novels. This serves to illustrate the great change in writing styles throughout the course of the early 20th century.

Nightwood/ Historical timeline

“…the people… they are church-broken, nation-broken — they drink and pray and piss in the one place. Every man has a house-broken heart except the great man. The people love their church and know it, as a dog knows where he was made to conform, and there he returns by his instinct.”

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

This passage focuses on conformity and returning to such conformity when one ventures to find themselves. In Nightwood Nora knows who she must be and who she is expected to be. Her sense of conformity and feeling judged is heightened. Similarly, in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Stephen was so young and lonely. He knew he could not be what other expected but still wanted to please others. He wants attention, to be himself and if he cannot get that he almost seems as if he would rather die. Most similar to Nightwood is Untouchable. The sense of conformity and knowing your place is evident throughout this entire novel. The caste system greatly affected not only people’s lives but how they viewed themselves. How could they feel as if they had worth and value if no one else did. Their Eyes Were Watching God also focuses on a system of class and how others a viewed. Particularly African Americans in Hurston’s novel feel they must stay out of the light and feel that they are beneath others. In each novel there is at least a single character who feels as if they are stuck by the views of their family or even society. This sense of conformity is still seen as a major theme in many more current novels today.

Nightwood// Historical Timeline

“Nora robbed herself for everyone; incapable of giving herself warning, she was continually turning about to find herself diminished. Wandering people the world over found her profitable in that she could be sold for a price forever, for she carried her betrayal money in her own pocket”

Barnes, Djuna, and T. S. Eliot. Nightwood. New York: New Directions, 1961. Print. 56.

Nora was a victim of her own passions and could be easily be used by those she loved. Her own self “diminished” through her tendency to give all of herself to others. The concept of offering oneself to others or being utilized by others to the extent of losing part of oneself is a common theme in the books we have read. In Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, when Janie is married to Jody, he controls her actions and at times denies her a voice by speaking for her. Through her love for him, she remains in the restrictive relationship, which diminishes part of Janie before she eventually speaks up for herself. In Anand’s Untouchable, Bakha experiences the same kind of diminishing of himself, though not through love or passion. He is however diminished by others’ utilization of him, since he the lowest of the lower-caste Indians and his actions are dictated by others. Clarissa, in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, spends the length of the novel planning a party to please other people and is a character whose actions cater to what she thinks others expect of her. In Henry James’s The Beast in the Jungle, Marcher is a victim of his own passion for the unknown. His entire life is dedicated to his fear of the unknown, and consequently, part of himself is diminished.

Nightwood/Historical Line

“‘My war brought me many things; lets yours bring you as much. Life is not to be told, call it as loud as you like, it will not tell itself. No one will be much or little except in someone else’s mind, so be careful of the minds you get into, and remember Lady Macbeth, who had her mind in her had. We can’t all be as safe as that.'”

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

As we read on from Joyce to Hurston, there was a growth of social order and gender positions. If we focus solely on the passages I have chosen rather than the context they are presented in, we see a chronological similarity in the way higher class and lower class differ and where men and women fall on that spectrum. There was a superiority in being a priest or religious figure in Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man and this superiority caused those like Stephen to fall under them. For instance, his mistakes were punishable whereas the mistakes of those religious figures were not. When the priest did wrong, no one was held accountable because of the way they fall on the spectrum of society. Similarly, greatness hidden in the vehicle that Mrs. Dalloway sees holds a physical entity of someone who will be remembered for as long as the Earth lives on, however she will not be remembered by all. Although, the person in the car was never revealed, the Earth will age, and those looking on will decompose into the ground, and still whoever remains in the car will remain alive beyond death because of the social order they all lie on. Then we see social order in the form of man versus woman. Anand shows the way expectations of women can change the way they act towards others, that their pride to be seen as a man shapes their behavior when they can no longer be that definition. The definition being that men were made to work and be seen as strong and women be made to cook, clean, raise a family and look pretty. A vivid description of physicality and the weapon it is against the strength women have in Hurston shows that hard work is actually what women fear the most to put them down as we see in that scene. There is an assumption that women are there to look pretty and not work and the men are made to work: a social order of gender just as there is a social order of class. We see how, although all these stories were written during different time periods, there is a consistency of superiority versus inferiority and a social order of class and gender that divides characters in all these novels.

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.

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.