unconventionally attractive

Hair- silver gray, like streams of stars, Brows- recurved canoes quivered by the ripples blown by pain, Her eyes- mist of tears condensing on the flesh below And her channeled muscles are cluster grapes of sorrow purple in the evening sun nearly ripe for worms

Cane, Jean Toomer, p. 14

The passage implies a distortion or lack of beauty that is still romanticized, giving the narrative a melancholic feel and possibly foreshadowing the novel’s unconventional perspectives on its other themes.

Female Fragility

“Her face was wan, taut, and fearful over tight-clasped hands. “I haven’t lived a good life,” she cried. “I’ve been bad – worse than you could know – but I’m not all bad. Look at me, Mr. Spade. You know I’m not all bad, don’t you? You can see that, can’t you? Then can’t you trust me a little? Oh, I’m so alone and afraid, and I’ve got nobody to help me if you won’t help me. I know I’ve no right to ask you to trust me if I won’t trust you. I do trust you, but I can’t tell you. I can’t tell you now. Later I will, when I can. I’m afraid, Mr. Spade. I’m afraid of trusting you. I don’t mean that. I do trust you, but – I trusted Floyd and – I’ve nobody else, nobody else, Mr. Spade. You can help me. You’ve said you can help me”

Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon. p.27 Orion, 2005

Hammet’s persistent use of repetition combined with the general  depiction of women in this novel so far emphasizes their appearance as fragile and meek creatures in need of men to function. 

a lump

“Maybe it will reveal her blindness to her, laying there are the mercy and the ministration of four men and a tom-boy girl. ‘There’s not a woman in this section could ever bake with Addie Bundren,’ I say. ‘First thing we know she’ll be up and baking again, and then we won’t have any sale for ours at all.’ Under the quilt she makes no more of a hump than a rail would, and the only way you can tell she is breathing is by the sound of the mattress shucks. Even the hair at her cheek does not move, even with that fanning her with the fan… ‘She’s just watching Cash yonder,’ the girl says. we can hear the saw in the board. It sounds like snoring.”

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. Vintage Books, 1900. p. 12

Cora’s observation of present Addie juxtaposed with her musings about past Addie contribute to the dehumanization and objectification of Addie as a whole. This, combined with Addie being constantly subjected to watching her own son create her coffin as if it were a chore, emphasizes Addie’s loss of humanity in the eyes of those around her, and with this the dignity of being seen as a human being. 

memories, not movie scenes

“Though she had borne about with her for years like an arrow sticking in her heart the grief, the anguish; and then the horror of the moment when some one told her at a concert that he had married a woman met on the boat going to India! Never should she forget all that! Cold, heartless, a prude, he called her. Never could she understand how he cared”

p. 10, Woolf, Virginia. Mrs Dalloway. Penguin Classics, 2020.

I love the fact that Woolf uses feelings, emotions and paraphrased fractions of speech to describe memories instead of the typical use of sensory descriptors. It really gives better insight into the characters themselves and humanizing them, while keeping the narrative more personal.

saddening behaviors

“She too wants me to catch hold of her, he thought. that’s why she came with me to the tram. I could easily catch hold of her when  she comes up to my step: nobody is looking. I could hold her and kiss her”

James Joyce, “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”, Oxford World’s Classics, New York  2000, pp.58

Are these thoughts truly the thoughts of Stephen, or are they something he was was lead to assume do to the societal influences surrounding him?



people watching

“What, moreover, was the use of being an approved novelist if one couldn’t establish a relation between such figures; the clever, theory, for instance, that the young man was the son of the opulent matron, and that the humble dependent, the daughter of a clergyman or an officer, nourished a secret passion for him? Was that not visible from the way she stole behind her protectress to look back at him?- back to where he had let himself come to a full stop when his mother sat down to rest. HIs book was a novel; it had the catchpenny cover, and while the romance of life stood neglected at his side he lost himself in that of the circulating library”

Henry James, The Middle Years, The Library of America, New York City 1996, pp.336

I really enjoy this passage due to both Dencombe’s motivation of his observations, and the relatability of the act. I often find myself letting my mind wander into creating narratives for those around me, and seeing a character do this really endears me to them.