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 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/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: Historical Line

“She prayed, and her prayer was monstrous because in it there was no margin left for damnation or forgiveness, for praise or for blame-for those who cannot conceive a bargain cannot be saved or damned. She could not offer herself up; she only told of herself in a preoccupation that was its own predicament.” (51)

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

Throughout some of the novels we have read as a class, the theme of religion is a prominent feature. Questioning, invoking, pleading, or simply   referencing God or a “higher power” plays an important role in these novels and the development of their respective characters. The early twentieth century in the United States was marked by social reform, The Great Depression, which not only rocked the world reawakened the Social Gospel as well. These were desperate times and many were either turning toward religion, or away from it. While Joyce and Barnes can be seen as the marker for a pre-and-post Great Depression novel looks like they have the unique characteristic of knowing each other. Despite the two decades separating the publication of The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce and Djuna Barnes Nightwood, Stephen Dedalus (post-renunciation of the Church) and Robin Vote have striking similarities. Stephen writes in his journal, “Amen. So be it. Welcome, O life!” (213). Stephen is not begging God for a successful journey, or even saying a prayer at all, amen is stated at the end of a prayer and literally means “so be it” indicating that his life is no longer in the hands of God but rather to be “forged in the smithy of my soul”. Robin Vote (as stated above) prays but does not “offer herself up” like a lamb to slaughter. She is simply trying to make sense of a “preoccupation that was also its own predicament” (51).

Zora Neale Hurston in Their Eyes Were Watching God and Jean Toomer’s Cane also grapple and contemplate the role of God and religion from the experience of Black America in the South. In Toomer’s “Cotton Song” the verse goes as follows, “God’s body’s got a soul, Bodies likes to roll the soul, Cant blame God if we don’t roll, Come, brother, roll. roll!” (13) This concept of a “rolling soul” is directly evoked in Hurston’s novel as well, “Like all the other tumbling mud-balls, Janie had tried to show her shine” (86). In Cane, the poems often seen as prayer-like. In “Conversation”, the “African Guardian of the Souls” yields to “a white-faced sardonic god-“, (17). Again this feeling can be seen in Hurston’s novel where she writes, “The time was past for asking the white folks what to look for through that door. Six eyes were questioning God” (151). The questioning of God, not only in who but why, and how binds these four novels together. The ability of God to shape the lives of these characters (or not) brings up questions never asked before. Depending on the character’s acceptance or rejection of a Higher Power (and perhaps the authors’ own experience and beliefs) allowed for a religious critique in the early 20th century that turned the idea of God as absolute truth into God as something to be questioned, and perhaps, that’s not such a bad thing after all.

Nightwood

“Hearing his ‘come in’ she opened the door and for one second hesitated, so incredible was the disorder that met her eyes. The room was so small it was just possible to walk sideways up to the bed; it was as if being condemned to the grave the doctor had decided to occupy it with the utmost abandon.” (84)

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

Thinking of the historical change throughout the novels we have read this year, they all seem to have common themes but are presented through different ideas/mediums in the different novels. Starting with Heart of Darkness, we are opened to the inner monologues of our character, but it is all by direct reported speech through his story telling frame. And the theme itself of imperialism and colonization is something else that we see repeated in the course. In A Portrait of the Artist as  Young Man, we again are taken into the inner monologue of a character, but this time in the third person and mainly through free indirect discourse. And in this novel we are introduced to the bildungsroman type of story with the coming of age of Stephen Dedalus. Then in Mrs. Dalloway we again see free indirect discourse to give us thoughts and ideas of different characters, while also coming back to the idea of imperialism and war with the backdrop of World War I a constant theme. And in Their Eyes Were Watching God we still have a type of frame narrative like in Heart of Darkness, but the narrative voice is shifted from first to third, giving us more instances of free indirect discourse. This novel also brings in the ideas of nation building, race, and is a kind of anti-bildungsroman, set in the early 1900s south. And we finally end up with Nightwood, another third person narrative that uses instances of free indirect discourse while also showing this through different characters. The chosen quote I found to shed some light to the doctor, who up until this point we don’t really know too much about his history or past, but he has also been in almost every scene of the novel and given us lots of information through his dialogue and through instances of free indirect discourse.

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.

Nightwood

“The book was the memoirs of the Marquis de Sade, a line was underscored: Et lui rendit pendant sa captivité les milles services qu’un amour dévoué est seul capable de rendre, and suddenly into his mind came the question: “What is wrong?” (51)

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

The English translation (according to Google) is as follows: “And rendered him during his captivity the thousand services which devoted love alone can render”, it should be noted that (according to Wikipedia) the Marquis de Sade was known for his “libertine sexuality” which could point out that perhaps Felix didn’t marry the woman he thought he did.

Nightwood

“‘One of two things: to find someone who is so stupid that he can lie to her, or to love someone so much that she can lie to him.'”

Barnes, Djuna. Nightwood. New York: Norton, 2006. p 23

The doctor says this to the Baron and Felix, implying that there must be some sort of lying involved in love. It insists that a woman has to either be stupid or manipulative.