the male gaze

“She was a blonde woman of a few more years than thirty. Her facial prettiness was perhaps five years past its best moment. Her body for all its sturdiness was finely modeled and exquisite. She wore black clothes from hat to shoes.”

Hammet’s The Maltese Falcon, page 25

The style focuses a lot on character descriptions, making sure the reader knows exactly what everyone in the narrative looks like. Taking it’s a detective story, this could be a way to show the way a detective may observe people, or this is just a way to show how the character Spade views women in particular as they are describe in different ways than the men in the novel.

Framing of Setting

“Then his companions, going a little further, waited for him to come up, poking their parasols into the beach, looking around them at the sea and sky and clearly sensible of the beauty of the day.”

James, “The Middle Years,” p. 336

The description of the two ladies as “poking their parasols into the beach” reminds me of the description of Mrs. Dalloway plunging “at Bourton into the open air” from the passage from “Mrs. Dalloway” that we read in class. The writing for both of these segments seems to frame the characters as ‘breaking into’ their settings rather than just framing the settings as backdrops for the character to exist in. And rather than expositing the natural features of the setting, James describes how the two characters are experiencing their time and place, and how they appreciate the natural beauty surrounding them.

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (London: Hogarth, 1925), 3.

Failed Recollection

“The cover of “The Middle Years” was duly meretricious, the smell of the fresh pages the very odour of sanctity; but for the moment he went no further- he had become conscious of a strange alienation. He had forgotten what his book was about.” (James 337)

Last sentence can allude to how we can forget pieces of our own life, especially if we are suffering in the present. First sentence relates to how we can look back on fond memories but forget the painful parts.


James, H. (1893). The Middle Years. 335-355.

Terrible Views

“It was indeed general views that were terrible; short ones, contrary to an opinion sometimes expressed, were the refuge, were the remedy.”

James, “The Middle Years,” p.341

How are general and short views different? Is it expressing the idea that focusing on smaller, more fanciful ideas takes one’s mind off of troubling things, like watching the three people on the beach? This shows how observation can be used as a tool to help someone stay refreshed and not overwhelmed by the future of their life.

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.