Nightwood/Historical Timeline

“He remarked, and why he did not know, that by weeping she appeared like a single personality who, by multiplying her tears, brought herself into the position of one who seen twenty times in twenty mirrors–still only one, but many times distressed.”

Barnes, Djuna. Nightwood. New Directions, 1937. Print. 81.

In this passage, a strange comparison is being made in regard to the emotion that is being felt.  It sounds as though he feels that her crying is pointless, in a way, but also adds to the emotion she is feeling.

 

Historical timeline…

Focusing on four of my previous posts, I observed that in the texts we have read, they are full of descriptions and FID.  In The Beast in the Jungle and the Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the descriptions in both text are so rich that they give a deeper level of emotion to the text than what is seen on the surface.  Then, in texts like Mrs. Dalloway and Untouchable, free indirect discourse guides the texts deeper understanding by allowing more room for the texts to be pushed upon and infer deeper meanings.

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.

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.

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.