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/Historical Line

“Robin was outside the ‘human type’—a wild thing caught in a woman’s skin, monstrously alone, monstrously vain”

Barnes, Djuna, and T. S. Eliot. Nightwood. New York: New Directions, 1961. Print. 155.

One of the biggest themes explored in not only Nightwood, but also The Beast in the Jungle, Cane, and Untouchable is being “outside” of the norm when it comes to identity. Marcher is not like anyone else when it comes to love. He does not show it, understand it, or really ever feel it. In the end, he is forced to question his life and identity. In Cane, the story of Bona and Paul focuses on the same idea of identity where Paul is extremely confused with who he is and ultimately loses Bona. This is where we see a fragmentation of identity. Untouchable creates a separation in society due to identity because they were seen as outsiders, as “outside the ‘human type'” as this quote from Nightwood states.

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

“But he kept up his new form, rigidly adhering to his clothes day and night and guarding them from all base taint of Indianness, not even risking the formlessness of an Indian quilt, though he shivered with the cold at night”

Mulk Raj Anand, Untouchable (New York: Penguin Books, 1940), 12

Mrs. Dalloway Mind Reading

“But how lovely, she said, taking his flowers. She understood; she understood without his speaking; his Clarissa. She put them in vases on the mantelpiece.”

Clarissa’s seeming understanding of Richard’s meaning with the gift would suggest that she knows him well enough to make assumptions of his thoughts. However, the following thought isn’t hers, but Richard’s, “his Clarissa”. That their differing understandings follow one after the other, gives the idea that they’re united, that they know each other enough to make these inferences. Yet, Mr. Dalloway’s true meaning behind the flowers is lost in his inability to stay “I love you” to Clarissa, and instead claims her as “his”. His dehumanizing her to a property to be owned, gives reason to suggest that he doesn’t actually love her, but rather the idea of having her, which would exiplain his silence. Mrs. Dalloway’s struggle for identity and agency as seen throughout the novel are a result of Mr. Dalloway’s unspoken possession of her person.

Mrs. Dalloway

“But often now this body she wore (she stopped to look at a Dutch picture), this body, with all its capacities, seemed nothing — nothing at all. 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.”

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2005), 10

Clarissa completely loses her identity through marriage. She feels utterly insignificant and  identifies herself solely as Richard’s wife. Clarissa has lost all ambition and sense of self.

Mrs. Dalloway

“That she held herself well was true; and had nice hands and feet; and dressed well, considering that she spent little. But often now this body she wore (she stopped to look at the Dutch picture), this body, with all its capacities, seemed nothing-nothing at all. 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.”

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2005), 10-11.

Mrs. Dalloway acknowledges that she lives for others and fantasizes about who she would be if she did not. She then looks at herself through a critical lens, describing her body as something she wore. She feels displaced and contemplates her own identity.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

“His throat ached with a desire to cry aloud, the cry of a hawk or eagle on high, to cry piercingly of his deliverance to the winds. This was the call of life to his soul not the dull gross voice of the world of duties and despair, not the inhuman voice that had called him to the pale service of the altar. An instant of wild flight had delivered him and the cry of triumph which his lips withheld cleft his brain.”

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. pg. 143

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

“He still tried to think what was the right answer. Was it right to kiss his mother or wrong to kiss his mother? What did that mean, to kiss? You put your face up like that to say goodnight and then his mother put her face down. That was to kiss. His mother put her lips on his cheek; her lips were soft and they wetted his cheek; and they made a tiny little noise: kiss. Why did people do that with their two faces?”

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), pg. 11.

Demonstrating affection towards a mother or any other person through a kiss is an act commonly done without much thought put into it. Stephen’s questioning of what it is, it’s meaning, whether it’s wrong or right, and why people do it caught my attention. The dissection of the gesture, the phrasing of the questions, viewing it objectively rather than subjectively, they have an adult-like quality to them, being given to us through a child.

 

Portrait

“There remained no trace of the tram itself nor of the trammen nor of the horses: nor did he and she appear vividly. The verses told only of the night and the balmy breeze and the maiden lustre of the moon. Some undefined sorrow was hidden in the hearts of the protagonists as they stood in silence beneath the leafless trees…having hidden his book, he went into his mother’s bedroom and gazed at his face for a long time in the mirror of her dressing table.”

Joyce, James, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. New York: Dover, 1994. 49.

Stephen tries to recreate the scene with Ellen, but cannot evoke an image of himself: he sees himself as a “protagonist,” –a character– which is fitting since he is writing a poem and technically the protagonist. But since he has struggled with the writing process and cannot picture himself, it suggests he may see himself as a protagonist in his own life, that is, an unidentifiable being. There is some sort of dissociative break with the self as he struggles through adolescence. Hence the long staring at himself in the mirror, perhaps to reassure himself of a rooted, singular identity. Begs the question, why?

A Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man

“No, said Heron, Dedalus is a model youth. He doesn’t smoke and he doesn’t go to bazaars and he doesn’t flirt and he doesn’t damn anything or damn all.”

Stephen is described as a “model youth” despite his actions and how he truly feels inside. In reality, Stephen is sensitive, dissatisfied, and a bit confused.

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

Heart of Darkness

“…perhaps all the wisdom, and all truth, and all sincerity, are just compressed into that inappreciable moment of time in which we step over the threshold.”

This moment stood out to me because it seems like Marlow is acknowledging a fundamental truth about about his own identity, and life in general. It represents an epiphany of sorts.

Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness”, in Heart of Darkness and Other Tales (2002).