“Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston Commonplace-Book Entry: Janie’s Social Context of Not Fitting In While Growing Up

“‘Us lived dere havin’ fun till de chillun at school got to teasin’ me ’bout livin’ in de white folks’ back-yard. Dere wuz uh knotty head gal name Mayrella dat useter git mad every time she look at me. Mis’ Washburn useter dress me up in all de clothes her gran’chillun didn’t need no mo’ which still wuz better’n whut de rest uh de colored chillun had. And then she useter put hair ribbon on mah head fuh me tuh wear. Dat useter rile Mayrella uh lot. So she would pick at me all de time and put some others up tuh do de same. They’d push me ’way from de ring plays and make out they couldn’t play wid nobody dat lived on premises. Den they’d tell me not to be takin’ on over mah looks ’cause they mama told ’em ’bout de hound dawgs huntin’ mah papa all night long. ’Bout Mr. Washburn and de sheriff puttin’ de bloodhounds on de trail tuh ketch mah papa for whut he done tuh mah mama. Dey didn’t tell about how he wuz seen tryin’ tuh git in touch wid mah mama later on so he could marry her. Naw, dey didn’t talk dat part of it atall. Dey made it sound real bad so as tuh crumple mah feathers. None of ’em didn’t even remember whut his name wuz, but dey all knowed de bloodhound part by heart. Nanny didn’t love tuh see me wid mah head hung down, so she figgered it would be mo’ better fuh me if us had uh house. She got de land and everything and then Mis’ Washburn helped out uh whole heap wid things.’”

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006, page 9-10.

This passage shows that Janie does not quite fit in with the white people around her, nor the black people either. She always thought that she was white when she was little, because she grew up in similar circumstances as them and used to play with them. However, in the passage above, it can be seen that some white children like Mayrella began to get jealous that a black girl wore nice clothes and accessories like white girls did, such as more expensive dresses and ribbons to wear in her hair that Janie received from Miss Washburn, and started to make fun of her a lot. Janie also does not seem to fit in with the rest of the black children, either, because she did not live in the same neighborhood or circumstances as they did, since she was able to wear nicer clothes than they could, and did not have to work hard like them to get what she had in life, because her grandma and Miss Washburn were able to help her live a more luxurious and relaxing life than most other black families were able to, by buying a nice house in a nice neighborhood for her to live in. So in the social context of being able to relate to others, Janie does not seem to fully belong in the white crowd or fully belong in the black crowd, since she does not have the same experience as either of them, which might have made her feel like an outcast while growing up. This could explain why Janie seems to connect more with nature than other people later on in the book.

“The Maltese Falcon” by Dashiell Hammett Commonplace-Book Entry: Doing the Right Thing

“‘Listen. When a man’s partner is killed he’s supposed to do something about it. It doesn’t make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you’re supposed to do something about it. Then it happens we were in the detective business. Well, when one of your organization gets killed it’s bad business to let the killer get away with it. It’s bad all around — bad for that one organization, bad for every detective everywhere.Third, I’m a detective and expecting me to run criminals down and then let them go free is like asking a dog to catch a rabbit and let it go. It can be done, all right, and sometimes it is done, but it’s not the natural thing. The only way I could have let you go was by letting Gutman and Cairo and the kid go. That’s–’” 

Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1929, 1930, page 213-214.

In this passage, Samuel Spade is talking to Brigid O’Shaughnessy after he revealed that he would turn her in to the police when he realized that she was the one who killed his former partner, Miles Archer. By saying that he should do something about his partner being killed, even if he did not like Miles very much while he was alive, Samuel Spade also reveals in this scene that he has rules that he likes to stick by, which I feel like he has not spoken about during the whole novel until this very moment. Throughout the whole book, it seems that Sam would be willing to lie, cheat, and steal for his own goals and to gain the upper hand, so it would not have surprised me if he let at least one of the criminals go, or even if he allowed them all to be free so that he would get some of the millions of money that the criminals could have shared with him if they successfully got away and sold the Maltese Falcon. However, by turning in all of the criminals for their wrongdoing, and saying that he was doing so for the sake of his murdered business partner, even if he was not so great of a person, my expectations for Samuel Spade’s actions were exceeded, and shows me that he does actually care about doing the thing that he feels is right to do, though it seems he only puts that under consideration during certain situations he finds himself in.

“As I Lay Dying” by William Faulkner Commonplace-Book Entry: How Vernon Tull Describes Addie Bundren’s Funeral

“They had laid her in it reversed. Cash made it clock-shape, like this ⚰ with every joint and seam bevelled and scrubbed with the plane, tight as a drum and neat as a sewing basket, and they had laid her in it head to foot so it wouldn’t crush her dress. It was her wedding dress and it had a flare-out bottom, and they had laid her head to foot in it so the dress could spread out, and they had made her a veil out of a mosquito bar so the auger holes in her face wouldn’t show.”

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. Vintage International, 1990, page 88.

I found that this passage has interesting language, because instead of describing the coffin with words, Vernon Tull uses a picture of the shape in the middle of his sentence, which is the only time this has happened in the book so far. I wonder if this is because he can’t find the words in his mind at this time, and so pictures how it looks in his mind, or is imagining himself drawing the shape that he means to describe with his hands. His similies also are unique to me, too, since I never heard someone comparing something tight to a drum, or something neat to a sewing basket, even in this book. Finally, Vernon Tull refers to different specific parts of what Addie Bundren is wearing, and what their purposes were for as she laid in her coffin, which I think could imply that he is very knowledgeable about and familiar with why people decide to dress their dead relatives a certain way for their funerals, which could mean that he is experienced in being involved with setting up funerals. Perhaps this is why the Bundrens trust Vernon Tull with helping out during Addie Bundren’s funeral so much.

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

“There were coloured lanterns in the hall of his father’s house and ropes of green branches. There were holly and ivy round the pierglass and holly and ivy, green and red, twined round the chandeliers. There were red holly and green ivy round the old portraits on the walls. Holly and ivy for him and for Christmas. Lovely…”

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Oxford University Press Inc., 2000, page 16.

I do not know if this passage in particular is from a dream or from a scenario that Stephen is wishfully thinking about in his head based on past experiences, but it seems so magical and exciting as a child to come home for the first day of winter break and seeing your house already decorated for the holidays. By Stephen focusing on the holly and ivy that are put up around certain areas of the house, it made me realize that part of what makes the holidays so special is seeing the house decorated in the same way that it always is, with the same decorations in the same spots that they are always put up, which gives everyone such a unique, but shared sense of familiarity, since each family’s way of decorating is different, but it is always one of the first signs that the holidays are approaching. Stephen’s way of describing the holly and ivy around his family’s house, with their specific placements, colors, and calling them lovely gives me the sense that he likes to observe and pay attention to little details, and also thinks that the little, simple things in life are beautiful, which I think are good traits for a child who is going to become an artist to have.

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.

Henry James, “The Middle Years”, Observation

“He couldn’t have chanted to himself a single sentence, couldn’t have turned with curiosity or confidence to any particular page.”

James, Henry. “The Middle Years.” H. James Complete Stories 1892-1898, The Library of America, 1996, page 337.

Dencombe is struggling with many losses, including but not limited to his life and his identity and his career as an author, which is incredibly important to him. This realization that he cannot remember a single detail of his revisions, for him especially, is something out of nightmares.