Untouchable

“A bit superior to his job,’ they always said, ‘not the kind of man who ought to be doing this.”

The quote is referring to Bakha, who is taking up a position as a sweeper. People wonder why he’d take a job that’s below him, given how he functions in society. The job of a sweeper is perceived to be for low-life members of society, the job seems frowned upon. Given that his father is a jamadar of all sweepers, a position of power, people of society view it as strange and baffling that the son would be a sweeper and not in a position of power.

The Maltese Falcon

“I don’t think he even knew he had settled back naturally into the same groove he had jumped out of in Tacoma. But that’s the part of it I always liked. He adjusted himself to beams falling, and then no more of them fell, and he adjusted himself to them not falling.”

This is a very open-ended way to present the morality of the lead character. There is no definite answer to what this means. With that idea put aside, my own takeaway from this is that people don’t ever really change, but their surroundings do, and people merely adapt to that. Putting that into a real-world context, a racist will most likely always be a racist, they’ll just learn to adapt to the ever-changing society and learn to kindly shut up. Spade is hard to work with and carries a frightening aura around him wherever he goes, but he always tries to do his best with his work, even if his actions and behavior can be questionable. He’s a tough character who adapts to each case he’s given as he needs to.

Sayers, “Whose Body?”

“There’s nothing you can’t prove if your outlook is only sufficiently limited.”

My reaction to this quote more so has to do with the mystery genre as a whole as opposed to the novel itself, I apologize. But the quote stuck out to me because I feel like it can apply to so many mystery writers and filmmakers. Every so often, I’ll watch a mystery film or read a mystery story, only to find that the lead mystery solver (usually a detective or authority figure) brings faith into their work. I always felt that when working with science and evidence, faith should be removed from the equation because it could blind judgment. Perhaps a piece of information or evidence is ignored, perhaps a conclusion is made too soon, or perhaps a suspect is overlooked because of a false sense of belief. Now, not all mystery stories have leads who act this way. In fact, most of them don’t. But I have been seeing them from time to time over the years, which only makes me want to scream at my television, shake them out of it and widen their outlook.

Dalloway

“‘I’ll give it to you!’…and flung himself vigorously, violently down on to Mrs. Filmer’s area railings” (Woolf 78).

I read this book back in 2018 for another class, so this second read has been quite a refresher, especially this quote. This moment comes at a turning point in the novel, in which we see the heartbreaking culmination of Septimus’ struggles throughout the story, as we see how the war and his friend’s passing had an effect on him. He was meant to be taken away to a psychiatric home by Sir William, but Septimus clearly had different plans. He was afraid of what his fate would be at the psychiatric home, as he felt that society was out to get him due to his emotional absence. At the same time, though, he didn’t want to die, so it’s more of a “what other choice do I have?”, as in dying is better than whatever he was to face if taken away.

Joyce, “Artist”

“He was alone. He was unheeded, happy and near to the wild heart of life. He was alone and young and wilful and wildhearted, alone amid a waste of wild air and brackish waters and the seaharvest of shells and tangle and veiled grey sunlight and gayclad lightclad figures of children and girls and voices childish and girlish in the air.”

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

Here, art is used to fill the imagination with the sorrows of loneliness. As a reader, I can breathe the waste of wild air and feel the brackish waters as if I’m the young, wilful lonely man. I can even hear the voices of children filling the air. It’s details like this that allow the reader to not only immerse themselves into the world but to actually fill the shoes of the character(s).

“a response so absolute”

“A response so absolute, such a glimpse of a definite result and such a sense of credit, worked together in his mind and, producing a strange connotation, slowly altered and transfigured his despair. The sense of cold submersion left him—he seemed to float without an effort.”

I chose this quote because of its symbolism, as it aids the story’s value for artistry. The imagery being highly detailed here and elsewhere throughout the short story helps to flesh out the ordeals and struggles of artistry. This was a difficult text to comprehend but a welcome challenge, I appreciated all of the imagery, it helped to bring the short to life in my head.

[posted for Neil P. by AG]