Commonplace-Book Entry: “Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf, The Effects of Decisions in the Past

“Now of course, thought Clarissa, he’s enchanting! perfectly enchanting! Now I remember how impossible it was ever to make up my mind–and why did I make up my mind–not to marry him? she wondered, that awful summer?”

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Harcourt, Inc, 1925, page 40.

Looking at Peter Walsh now, Clarissa starts to think of decisions that she has made in the past and tries to remember how she came upon those decisions. She does this because as she is reflecting on her life now, she realizes that she has become unhappy with it and by looking on these decisions in the past and thinking of different paths that she could have chosen, such as wondering why she hadn’t chosen to marry Peter Walsh instead of Richard Dalloway, she thinks that by taking those different paths, her life could have been different than how it is now and perhaps she would have been more happy during this point in her life.

Commonplace-Book Entry: “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” by James Joyce, Childhood Innocence

“He felt the touch of the prefect’s fingers as they had steadied his hand and at first he had thought he was going to shake hands with him because the fingers were soft and firm: but then in an instant he had heard the swish of the soutane sleeve and the crash.”

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Oxford University Press Inc., 2000, page 43.

I thought that it was interesting that Stephen thought that Father Dolan was going to do something nice and polite in his gesture even though he had just seen what he had done to Fleming previously and knew that he was going to get hit as well. This makes me think that Stephen seems to always perceive adults in his life as kind, and I feel that this is perhaps because, at least up to this age, that every adult seems to have treated him kindly, such as those in his family, or maybe his soft, firm hands reminds him of someone that was kind to him, such as his father. Maybe this is also because of his childhood innocence, as he is a very timid child who seems to think more fondly of adults like his mother over his peers, who he tends to judge.

Commonplace-Book Entry: “The Middle Years” by Henry James, Unfinished Dream

“‘Yes, it’s what passes.’ Poor Dencombe was barely audible, but he had marked with the words the virtual end of his first and only chance.”

James, Henry. “The Middle Years.” Henry James: Complete Stories 1892-1898, The Library of America, 1996, page 355.

This story ends on a more sad and thoughtful note, as neither Doctor Hugh nor Dencombe, himself, were able to give Dencombe his dream of another chance at life, and without explanation as to what the other characters, such as Doctor Hugh, did after Dencombe passed. I feel that this deviates from the traditional endings of stories where they are happy and every loose end is tied together nicely. I suppose that this ending is meant to reflect complex, realistic endings in life where people die and some of their hopes and dreams are left unfinished while those they know and love still have to continue living without them, surrounded by their unfinished projects.