Their Eyes Were Watching God

“It was a spring afternoon in West Florida. Janie had spent most of the day under a blossoming pear tree in the back yard. She had been spending ever minute that she could steal from her chores under that three for the last three days. That was to say, ever since the first tiny bloom had opened. It had called her to come and gaze on a mystery. From barren brown stems to glistening leaf-buds; from leaf-buds to snowy virginity of bloom.” (10)

Especially since the beginning of this chapter starts with Janie comparing her life to a tree, this passage marks the beginning of her sexual awakening and the experience of essentially getting a new body during puberty.


“Meanwhile he began to feel hungry as if rats were running about in his belly searching for food. He began to spit a white flocculent spittle on the dust as he hurried out of the town, homewards. His limbs sagged. He felt the sweat trickling down his face from under his turban as soon as he got into the open.” (74)

The passage just struck me as very modern and also builds upon this pattern of narrative distance between the character and the words used to describe a situation, like ‘flocculent.’

Jewel’s Wooden Eyes

“Still staring straight ahead, his pale eyes like wood set into his wooden face, he crosses the floor in four strides…” (4)

“Jewel’s eyes look pale wood in his high-blooded face.” (17)

I thought this was an interesting image that gets repeated several times throughout the text. The significance of wood is probably going to become a prominent theme as we continue reading. Why are his eyes described as wooden though? It is a strange and striking concept.

A (Dorm) Room of One’s Own

“Among your grandmothers and great-grandmothers there were many that wept their eyes out. Florence Nightingale shrieked aloud in her agony. Moreover, it is all very well for you, who have got yourselves to college and enjoy sitting-rooms– or is it only bed-sitting rooms?– of your own to say that genius should disregard such opinions; that genius should be above caring what is said about it. Unfortunately, it is precisely the men and women of genius who mind most what is said of them.” (Woolf 72-73)

This quote really just resonates with me because I feel as if Woolf is directly addressing me. She highlights how far women have come, how they are in college and learning. But these same women should not belittle those that did not express their genius. Those circumstances were wildly different, and have even changed so much from were I sit, reading this essay now.

Peter Walsh’s Mind Read in Mrs. Dalloway

“Mrs. Burgess, a good sort and no chatterbox, in whom he had confided, thought this absence of his in England, ostensibly to see lawyers might serve to make Daisy reconsider, think what it meant.” (157, Harcourt)

This sentence is quite confusing, as it is Peter Walsh’s thought about a time when he had talked to Mrs. Burgess about what she had thought about Daisy. I think that this sentence really draws on the issue of validity in the novel because it is a literal he-said, she-said, and then she-said moment. There is a lot of inference about something that Peter remembers, not even something that is happening during this day. As a reader, the context of the passage is confusing and if one isn’t paying attention, it might be assumed that the thought and narration has switched over to Mrs. Burgess but in actuality it is still Peter. This draws on how the mind works as a train of thought moves from one memory, to one person, to another with very little transition or signposting.

I’ve Had My Fun

“Well, I’ve had my fun; I’ve had it, he thought, looking up at the swinging baskets of pale geraniums. And it was smashed to atoms- his fun, for it was half made up, as he knew very well; invented, this escapade with the girl; made up, as one makes up the better part of life, he thought- making oneself up; making her up; creating an exquisite amusement, and something more. But odd it was, and quite true; all this one could never share- it smashed to atoms.” (54)

This quote relates to a lot of running motifs and themes throughout the book, like the repeated use of flowers as imagery. It also touches on madness, ‘made up,’ ‘invented’ fun, of following a girl. There are different levels of madness and psychosis that are brought up in the book. Instances like this that are for fun and play and quite harmless, Peter even recognizes it himself, and then others that are more serious and caused by the war, Steptimus.

Songs and Sounds

The engines of this valley have a whistle, the echoes of which sound like iterated gasps and sobs. I always think of them as crude music from the soul of Avey. We sat there holding hands. Our palms were soft and warm against each other. (60)

I just thought this passage was interesting because it describes something so modern, an engine, that has a particular crude, and possibly unsophisticated, sound of something like the “Cotton Song” (13).

Engendering of His Soul

“Where was his boyhood now? Where was the soul that had hung back from her destiny, to brood alone upon the shame of her wounds and in her house of squalor and subterfuge to queen it in faded cerements and wreaths that withered at the touch? Or where was he?” (144)

I think that it is very interesting that Stephen attributes female characteristics to his soul, calling it at various times a ‘she.’ In this passage, there is an allusion to her power, a ‘queen,’ but that power has gone away and become ‘faded.’ This may refer to him growing out of childhood and the permanent condition of his soul in an impure state as an adult.

The Apparel of Boyhood

“The noise of children at play annoyed him and their silly voices made him feel, even more keenly than he had felt at Clongowes, that he was different from others. He did not want to play. He wanted to meet in the real world the unsubstantial image which his soul so constantly beheld.

They would be alone, surrounded by darkness and silence: and in that moment of supreme tenderness he would be transfigured. He would fade into something impalpable under her eyes and in a moment, he would be transfigured. Weakness and timidity and inexperience would fall from him in that magic moment.” Page 54

“Another nature seemed to have been lent to him: the infection of the excitement and youth about him entered into and transformed his moody mistrustfulness. For one rare moment he seemed to be clothed in the real apparel of boyhood:…” Page 71

Stephen seems keen to grow up, yet one of the ‘transformations’ he goes through makes him boyish. I feel that he is different and somehow sees pasts the trivial things that occupy the minds of those around him. He is ‘clothed’ in boyhood like costume, and then later quickly rids “himself of his mummery” (71).

Marlow’s Storytelling

“Between us there was, as I have already said somewhere, the bond of the sea.” (Kindle version, 2%)

“It was only months and months afterwards, when I made the attempt to recover what was left of the body, that I heard the original quarrel arose from a misunderstanding about some hens.” (Kindle version, 8%)

Marlow is not only ‘inconclusive’ but also tells his stories out of order, presenting details out of context and then passing over them even when more context and detail is needed, and wanted by the reader.

The Beast in the Jungle

Quote 1-

“Why, I thought it the point you were just making- that we had looked most things in the face.”

“Including each other?” She still smiled. Page 472

Quote 2- This one sent shivers up my spine! It’s so heartbreakingly beautiful.

He kneeled on the stones, however, in vain; they kept what they concealed; and if the face of the tomb did become a face for him it was because her two names were like a pair of eyes that didn’t know him. He gave them a last long look, but no palest light broke. Page 484