Hurston, Their Eyes – Janie and Pheoby

“‘Pheoby, we been kissin’-friends for twenty years, so Ah depend on you for a good thought. And Ah’m talking to you from dat standpoint.’

Time makes everything old so the kissing, young darkness became a monstropolous thing while Janie talked” (7).

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006.

Janie trusts Pheoby because they are old friends. The “time” between them has fostered trust in their relationship, and Janie relies on Pheoby to tell her the truth about the townspeople’s gossip after her return. Similar to As I Lay Dying, Hurston uses the vernacular and dialect of this region and community (“Ah,” “Ah’m”) with little, if anything, lost in translation to Standard American English.


Hammett, The Maltese Falcon – Morals and Others

“Spade laughed. ‘I don’t know. You’ll have to figure that out for yourself. My way of learning is to have a wild and unpredictable monkey-wrench into the machinery. It’s all right with me, if you’re sure none of the flying pieces will hurt you'” (86).

Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon. 1930. Vintage Books. 1992.

Spade takes some consideration into Brigid’s feelings — though “monkey-wrench into the machinery” implies that he makes his clients uncomfortable in order to get information out of them with reckless abandon. However, he likes Brigid, or maybe is attracted to her, so he treats her differently than he does any of the other characters. His shows empathy toward her because of this (versus how he treats Cairo). Even if he’s sarcastic, not getting information out of Brigid would make his job more difficult, so it’s a sacrifice on his part for her safety or emotional distress.

Faulkner, As I Lay Dying – Reflections

“It would be black, the shelf black, the still surface of the water a round orifice in nothingness, where before I stirred it awake with the dipper I could see maybe a star or two before I drank” (11).

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying, 1930. New York: Vintage, 1990.

It’s interesting how Darl pauses to elaborate on this seemingly trivial detail about the reflection on the water barrel. This phrase demonstrates that he is as a highly observant character, one who searches for beauty or meaning in everyday life.

Woolf, “Mrs Dalloway” – Feeling Invisible

“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” (10).

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. 1925. Harcourt Inc, 2005.

Clarissa is deindividuated and powerless as “Mrs. Richard Dalloway.” The only fulfilling or interesting parts of her life, finding a husband and having children, are now gone. She has lost any sense of personal identity that comes with her first name, undertaking her husband’s full name instead.

Joyce’s Portrait of Childhood

“It pained him that he did not know well what politics meant and that he did not he did not know where the universe ended. He felt small and weak. When would he be like the fellows in poetry and rhetoric? They had big voices and big boots and they studied trigonometry. That was very far away” (13).

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Oxford University Press, 2000.

Stephen doesn’t know the answers to his questions about the world, which makes him feel naive and immature. He not only looks forward to Christmas because he gets to see his mother, he looks forward to the future because he desperately wants to grow up. This is ironic because he misses his parents while away at school, like any normal child, but also yearns to be a man.

James, “The Middle Years”

“Dencombe was a passionate corrector, a fingerer of style; the last thing he ever arrived at was a form final enough for himself” (344).

James, Henry. “The Middle Years.” Henry James: Complete Stories 1892-1898, The Library of America, 1996, Page 335-55.

Dencombe’s continuous dissatisfaction with his published works translates into his existential despair about his ending life. Just as he edits the first edition of The Middle Years, he craves more time to rewrite his life, which, for much of the story, he believes he can change if given a second chance.