“—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.
“I can remember how when I was young I believed death to be a phenomenon of the body; now I know it to be merely a function of the mind and that of the minds of the ones who suffer the bereavement” (Faulkner 14)
This is one of the first moments we can get inside of Peabody’s mind in this section and access a moment in his past rather than what he’s physically feeling and seeing. It’s just interesting that you have a doctor who isn’t healthy, and views death in a non-physical way. Life is mental. He’s very unsympathetic and thinks of it more as a phase for the people who lost someone.
“On the way home Cora is still singing. “I am bounding towards my God and my reward,” . . . ”
William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (New York: Vintage International, 1985),92
“My mother is a fish.” (84)
Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. Vintage International, 1990. Print.
This is my second time reading this book, and this chapter still stands out to me more than any other. It’s curt, absurd, and funny. It’s strange and fitting for Vardaman to make this connection between the fish and his mother, but the “is” makes it seem almost delusional.
“A good carpenter. Addie Bundren could not want a better one, a better box to lie in.”
William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (New York: Vintage International, 1985), 4-5.
It’s very peculiar to me how they address Addie’s coffin. It’s almost as if they take a serious aspect and downplay it.
“It turns off at right angles, the wheel-marks of last Sunday healed away now: a smooth red scoriation curving away into the pines; a white signboard with faded lettering…It wheels up like a motionless hand lifted lifted above the ocean; beyond it the red road lies like a spoke of which Addie Bundren is the rim” (108).
Still exploring why Darl, specifically, is the character Faulkner designated as the one with linguistic superiority: vocabulary, similes, and syntactical complexity via colons and semi-colons. I’m still not convinced (why is he so disproportionately articulate relative to everyone else? That is, he comes from the same impoverished environment/background; his descriptive language seems improbable.)
Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text. New York: Vintage, 1990. Print.
“And so it was because I could not help it. It was then, and then I saw Darl and he knew. He said he knew without the words like he told me that ma is going to die without words, and I knew he knew because if he had said he knew with the words I would not have believed that he had been there and saw us. But he said he did know and I said “Are you going to tell pa are you going to kill him?” without the words I said it and he said “Why?” without the words. And that’s why I can talk to him with knowing with hating because he knows.”
William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (New York: Vintage International, 1985), 27.
Dewy Dell assumes that Darl knows Lafe picked into her sack because he said it “without words.” Telepathy is used as they communicate “without words.” There’s a sense of confidentiality and understanding, however Dewey Dell talks to him with hating because he knows.
“I said to Dewey Dell: “You want her to die so you can get to town: is that it?” She wouldn’t say what we both knew. “The reason you will not say it is, when you say it, even to yourself, you will know it is true: is that it? But you know it is true now. I can almost tell you the day when you knew it is true. Why wont you say it, even to yourself?” She will not say it.”
William Faulkner. As I Lay Dying. (New York: Vintage International, 1985). 39-40.
When we are going out, Whitfield comes. He is wet and muddy to the waist, coming in. “The Lord comfort this house,” he says. “I was late because the bridge was gone. I went down to the old ford and swum my horse over, the Lord protected me His grace be upon this house.”
William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (New York: Vintage International, 1985), 88.
Throughout the novel characters show their reliance on God and their unique perspective regarding souls and spiritual phenomenon. Vardaman breaks down because he believes his mothers soul was transferred into a fish. God is a huge part of their lives and defines their lives, without the explanation that God can make it rain and can also make it stop they would have no explanation for why life is the way it is. The way they use spirituality to explain what is going on around them and happening in their lives is interesting to read.