“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.”
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel. New York: Perennial Library, 1990. Print.
From the very beginning the novel sets off by introducing its main theme, that men and women are dependent on one another. It also introduces the idea that women can make their dreams reality while men cannot do this. The protagonist of the novel is a woman and the novel could be classified as a feminist book.
“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.
“Not to fall was too hard, too hard; and he felt the silent lapse of his soul, as it would be at some instant to come, falling, falling, but not yet fallen, still unfallen, but about to fall. He crossed the bridge over the stream of the Tolka and turned his eyes coldly for an instant towards the faded blue shrine of the Blessed Virgin which stood fowl-wise on a pole in the middle of a ham-shaped encampment of poor cottages.”
James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008)
Stephen turns his eye coldly at the sight of the Virgin Mary shrine. This moment signifies a vast change in his previous religious beliefs.
“She came forward, all in black, with a pale head, floating towards me in the dusk. She was in mourning… She had a mature capacity for fidelity, for belief, for suffering. The room seemed to have grown darker, as if all the sad light of the cloudy evening had taken refudge on her forehead. This fair hair, this pale visage, this pure brow, seemed surrounded by an ashy halo from which the dark eyes looked out at me. Their glance was guileless, profound, confident, and trustful.” (pg. 152-153)
Conrad’s description of Kurtz’s fiancée is interesting. I think that including the sentence, “she was in mourning” was not necessary only because the rest of the passage clearly dictates that she is, indeed in mourning. Her “mature capacity for fidelity, belief, suffering” all seem to fall under the impression of a passive woman. The first and only real description that the reader gets of this woman is that she has the capacity to mourn. Not that I believe Conrad, or Marlow necessarily, thinks of women in that way, but the narrative description leaves that impression on me. The words describing her also remind me of a ghost. She “floated” towards Marlow, with her “fair hair”, “pale visage”, “ashy halo”. She seems to have died with him?
“He circled about it at a distance that alternately narrowed and widened and that still wasn’t much affected by the consciousness in him that there was nothing she could “know,” after all, any better than he did. She had no source of knowledge he hadn’t equally—except of course that she might have finer nerves. That was what women had where they were interested; they made out things, where people were concerned, that the people often couldn’t have made out for themselves.”
I found that this excerpt says a lot about James’ opinion of gender differences and discrepancies. It is interesting to me that while he states that he does not believe women to “know” any more than a man does, he also states that they are often very intuitive and can know things about people that they often don’t know themselves.
Excerpt From: James, Henry. “The Beast in the Jungle.” Feedbooks, 1903. iBooks.
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“Why, the capacity to spend endless time with dull women- to spend it, I won’t say without being bored, but without minding that they are, without being driven off at a tangent by it; which comes to the same thing. I am your dull woman, a part of the daily bread for which you pray at church. That covers your tracks more than anything.”
“The Beast in the Jungle.” In The Better Sort. New York: Scribner, 1903. Internet Archive. http://archive.org/details/bettersort00jamegoog. 208-209
I found this passage funny, how women are part of men’s daily penance and yet “save” men or cover up their tracks.