Commonplace-Book Entry: “The Postmaster” by Sir Rabindranath Tagore, How Close the Narrator Relates to Ratan

“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! Ratan had borne many a scolding from her master without complaint, but these kind words she could not bear.”

Tagore, Rabindranath. “The Postmaster.” Mashi and Other Stories, Macmillan and Co. Limited, 1918, page 167.

I think that this quote shows how the narrator relates to Ratan, since it seems to both relate to her distantly and closely in these sentences. The narrator expresses Ratan’s feelings to the audience first in a way that is distant from her and tells these emotions in a more general way, as the narrator speaks of women’s hearts instead of just Ratan’s heart. Especially  using the word “woman” makes this feel as if the narrator is not just referring to Ratan, and this also makes the narration feel even more distant from her, as she is being buried beneath the generalization of all women in the world, since Ratan is usually referred to as “girl” throughout this story as opposed to “woman”. However, the narrator then relates more closely to Ratan’s individual feelings, referring to her personal experience with the postmaster and how she had taken his words in the past in comparison to how the change in his words when telling her that she should not worry since he will tell his successor to look after Ratan after he leaves, makes her feel in this moment. Therefore, I think that the narrator’s relation to Ratan does not get too close to her personal thoughts and feelings, since sometimes the narrator decides to make judgments on Ratan’s emotions based on what the narrator knows or thinks they know of other people generally, and brings about these judgments first to the audience’s mind before even beginning to focus on Ratan as an individual. 

Commonplace-Book Entry: “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston, Janie’s Social Context in a New Town

“Janie soon began to feel the impact of awe and envy against her sensibilities. The wife of the Mayor was not just another woman as she had supposed. She slept with authority and so she was part of it in the town mind. She couldn’t get but so close to most of them in spirit.”

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006, page 46.

In this text, it shows how much Janie does not understand about the social contexts of being a woman seen as part of authority and is starting to realize what the effects of that are among other people in the town. By stating that she thought of a Mayor’s wife as any other woman, this means that Janie must not have been close to any higher up people or have been around people who would know or talk about any higher up or upper class people, or even those of authority. Or perhaps, because she was raised around white families and children, she was able to be around only other higher class people, without being exposed to the other classes of people very often, so she would only be exposed to the relationships, talks, and judgement of those that she was raised around, and most likely, she was never seen as above any of those people because of her race, but rather she would be seen as an equal in her case, especially because she said that she did not feel any different than the white children. However, now that she is living among those of her own race and is the wife of Joe, who has proclaimed himself as this new town’s mayor, Janie is seeing for the first time the effects of being treated as higher than those around her. So, perhaps within Janie’s social context where she grew up in a tight circle of people and feeling like she was equal with everybody, either because she was never exposed to those of higher authority or because she was only around and apart of higher class people, is why she never expected the wife of a mayor to be treated differently than any other woman. She is now living with different people in a different place than she was always used to, so I feel that it would be understandable that Janie would not feel as close to them in spirit already, but with her being introduced into the town as the wife of a man who tries to take authority over the town right away, who also doesn’t allow her to make big speeches, I feel that this is also what is making it harder for Janie to socially connect with any of the other women in town. 

Commonplace-Book Entry: “The Maltese Falcon” by Dashiell Hammett, Spade’s Moral Code

“‘He came up here with his mouth watering, though you’d have sense enough to know I’d been stringing Gutman.’”

Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1930, page 216.

Here, Spade reveals that he was just pretending to go along with Gutman’s plans in exchange for a cut of the money he would get from the falcon, however, as he says here, Spade was actually going to hand them all in to the police, and this likely would have happened exactly as planned if they hadn’t gotten a fake bird and tried to escape. However, this was revealed at the very end of the book, and due to Spade’s shown greediness with money, as well as his insistence on the others of his plan to leave out details to the police, which he would often tell his employees to do, I feel that the audience would expect him to let the criminals get away as long as he would get the money he was promised. He does eventually end up calling the police and tells them about all the details of the criminals and their plan to get the real falcon, despite their offer to still let him help for the money, which could be proof of Spade following his moral code as a detective. Also, in this quote, Spade is saying that Tom Polhaus would know that he would only be pretending to go along with Gutman’s plans, which implies that perhaps in the past, he had kept facts about cases from him or went along with the plans of other criminals, but only to turn them into the police and reveal all of the details of the crime, showing that he stays true to the job he has to do, as a true detective would do. This shows that even though he may lie, joke, keep secrets from the police, and help criminals in some situations, that Spade does always follow his moral code as a detective to turn in all criminals to the police, despite their proposals or promises or emotions that he could be tempted by.

Commonplace-Book Entry: “As I Lay Dying” by William Faulkner, The Language of Dewey Dell’s Nightmare

 

When I used to sleep with Vardaman I had a nightmare once I thought I was awake but I couldn’t see and couldn’t feel I couldn’t feel the bed under me and I couldn’t think what I was I couldn’t think of my name I couldn’t even think I am a girl I couldn’t even think I nor even think I want to wake up nor remember what was opposite to awake so I could do that I knew that something was passing but I couldn’t even think of time then all of a sudden I knew that something was it was wind blowing over me it was like the wind came and blew me back from where it was I was not blowing the room and Vardaman asleep and all of them back under me again and going on like a piece of cool silk dragging across my naked legs

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. Vintage International, 1990, page 121-122.

I thought that this passage in the text was interesting, due to both its language and structure in which it is written. Here Dewey Dell starts to suddenly think of a nightmare she had while sleeping beside Vardaman after thinking of when Vardaman took a knife and chopped up a fish and then thinking of taking the knife and killing Darl with it. It feels as though this is a random thought or memory at first, but I feel that perhaps she is reminded of this because she is experiencing similar existential thoughts and feelings after the death of her mother. Another thing about this passage is that it is written in italics, as though it is a different kind of thought or a different part of her is interrupting her previous thoughts with this memory, or perhaps, this thought strikes her more deeply or is more important than her other thoughts. It is also written as one long sentence with no punctuation or periods, so while I read it, it felt like an intense rush of thoughts or a memory, which I thought was more like a stream of consciousness than is written for other characters in this text, such as Darl, but it still is written as though Dewey Dell is talking to somebody else. 

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.