The Postmaster: The Narrator’s Relation to Ratan (Where Understanding and Pity Meet)

“She entered noiselessly, and looked silently into her master’s face for orders. The master said: ‘You need not be anxious about my going away, Ratan; I shall tell my successor to look after you.’ These words were kindly meant, no doubt: but inscrutable are the ways of a woman’s heart!”

Tagore, Rabindranath. The Postmaster. Macmillan, 1918, page 167.

Their Eyes Were Watching God: Janie & The “Terrible” Nature of Breaking Silence (Social Context)

“Then Joe Starks realized all the meanings and his vanity bled like a flood… Janie had robbed him of his illusion of irresistible maleness that all men cherish, which was terrible… There was nothing to do in life anymore. Ambition was useless. And the cruel deceit of Janie! Making all that show of humbleness and scorning him all the time! Laughing at him, and now putting the town up to do the same. Joe Starks didn’t know the words for all this, but he knew the feeling. So he struck Janie with all his might and drove her from the shore.”

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. Harper Perennial Modern Classics,  2006, page 79-80.

The Maltese Falcon: Moral Codes & Dodging Beams… Until You Don’t Have To

“[Flitcraft] wasn’t sorry for what he had done. It seemed reasonable enough to him. 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.

Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon. 1929. New York: Vintage, 1957, page 84.

As I Lay Dying: Language– Interesting & (Somewhat) Inarticulate

“I heard that my mother is dead. I wish I had time to let her die. I wish I had time to wish I had. It is because in the wild and outraged earth too soon too soon too soon. It’s not that I wouldn’t and will not it’s that it is too soon too soon too soon” (120).

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

Mrs. Dalloway: Past in Present (In People & Places, Too)

“There was Regent’s Park. Yes. As a child he had walked in Regent’s Park– odd, he thought, how the thought of childhood keeps coming back to me– the result of seeing Clarissa, perhaps; for women live much more in the past than we do, he thought. They attach themselves to places; and their fathers– a woman’s always proud of her father. Bourton was a nice place, a very nice place, but I could never get on with the old man, he thought. There was quite a scene one night– an argument about something or other, what, he could not remember. Politics presumably.”

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Harcourt, Inc, 2005, page 54.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: Childhood

“He still tried to think what was the right answer. Was it right to kiss his mother or wrong to kiss his mother? What did that mean, to kiss? You put your face up like that to say goodnight and then his mother put her face down. That was to kiss. His mother put her lips on his cheek; her lips were soft and they wetted his cheeks; and they made a tiny little noise: kiss. Why did people do that with their two faces?”

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Oxford University Press, 2008, page 11.

Henry James, “The Middle Years” Commonplace Book Entry: Losing and Holding On

“He was lost, he was lost– he was lost if he couldn’t be saved. He was not afraid of suffering, of death; he was not even in love with life; but he had had a deep demonstration of desire. It came over him in the long, quiet hours that only with ‘The Middle Years’ had he taken his flight; only on that day, visited by soundless processions, had he recognised his kingdom.”

James, Henry. “The Middle Years.” Henry James: Complete Stories 1892-1898, 335-55. New York: The Library of America, 1996. pp. 345-46.

Dencombe is drowning in his many, palpable losses. His health, his memory, his identity as a writer, and his time to fully realize his potential as a writer are all slipping through his fingers. But the futile fight to keep these things from slipping into loss is not only frustrating– it’s fear-inducing. Has he actually, finally, found his “kingdom,” or is he fearfully grasping for any purpose to hang onto the life he is already losing?