Friday, February 29, 2008

Casting Shadows

“His shadow lay over the rocks as he bent, ending. Why not endless till the farthest star? Darkly they are there behind this light, darkness shining in the brightness…Me sits there with augur's his rod of ash, in borrowed sandals, by day beside a livid sea, unbeheld, in violet night walking beneath a reign of uncouth stars. I throw this ended shadow from me, manshape ineluctable, call it back.” (48)

Literally, Stephen’s shadow extends down the rocky cliffs out to the turbid water’s edge. Meanwhile celestial bodies shine far above the shadow that they cast. Metaphorically, however, Stephen’s shadow is a foreboding projection of himself. Like the auspices of ancient Rome who would augur the future based on the flight patterns of birds, Stephen foresees his future as tied up with his shadow, inevitable and ineluctable.

Another important point in this passage is the idea of darkness and light, good and evil. Whereas Joyce had previously drawn a parallel between Stephen and “Averroes and Moses Maimonides” who flash “in their mocking mirrors the obscure soul of the world, a darkness shining in brightness which brightness could not comprehend,” here he solidifies the connection (28). Stephen’s shadow is the “darkness shinning against the light” (48). The imagery here reveals something interesting about the relationship between darkness and light. Light casts shadows. Stephen and his philosophical understanding is a product of his unique environment.

feb 22 and feb 29 post thoughts

Journal Entries Weeks of feb 22 and feb 29

Random Thoughts
· In Ulysses I have observed some things that I did not know without reading this book. For instance, James Joyce presents the Irish people as very Religious. They seem to be dedicated to their religion of Catholicsm. I also was reminded of the war between the two religions of Protestantism and Catholicsm, it was not until Ms. Sells, reminded us of the history that it really clicked.
· Joyce seems upset that the Irish people have begun to adopt the English language and suggesting that Irish are not staying true to themselves by not speaking Irish.

· Lawd today (thoughts of the end)
· When I finished Lawd Today, I wondered why Jake;s death was sort of mysterious. I wanted to know more! I agree with the journal entry below in which Jake was a prime example of how things do not work out and the life is not fair.

Monday, February 25, 2008

History Paves the Future

One’s past paves the way for one’s future; therefore, Stephen’s individual history influences the course of his life. His past decisions and choices determine the scenarios and situations he finds himself in the present. Hence, he cannot turn off the road he has begun to follow. Although he has dreams of being an artist, he is trapped in a reality where he cannot pursue his career.
His decision to leave Paris and return to Dublin in order to see his dying mother is an essential part of his past that manipulates his present. Because he is in Dublin and without money, Stephen is forced to put his life as an artist on hold to become a school-teacher. Thus, he is ushered into an existence that he did not initially plan to follow. Establishing a life for himself that is far from his personal ideal, Stephen is motherless and surrounded by individuals who he does not care for intensely. The single choice of returning to Dublin temporarily tears his plans for the future into pieces. He is trapped in a place where his dreams remain out of reach.
As an Irishman, Stephen is stereotyped based on the history of his people and expected to behave in a certain manner. Because many Irish people are viewed as lowly and uneducated, individuals may perceive Stephen based on these inaccurate and biased assumptions, limiting his ability to step up in the world. Bombarded with the history of the colonial struggle between Ireland and England, Stephen views his place in history as an Irishman as mostly insignificant. As a result, he does not acknowledge the richness of his Irish culture because he is programmed to think that his people’s history is not one to get excited over. However, the history books are almost always written by the winners so until Ireland attains a chance to tell her side of the story, Stephen and his fellow Irishman will remain trapped in a nightmare that the English history books have created for them.

Episode I - Lack of the Irish

When Buck Mulligan, Stephen and Haines sit down together for breakfast, an old woman comes in to give them milk for their tea. Joyce refers to this milkwoman in such a way that she becomes representative of Ireland itself. Upon her first entrance, Joyce tells us that “[a]n old woman came forward and stood by Stephen’s elbow,” an “old woman” being a common anthropomorphic representation of Ireland (13). Farther down, while Stephen imagines her collecting the milk she now gives to them, he calls her “Silk of the kine” (best of the cattle), another representation of Ireland, as well as once again calling her a “poor old woman” (14). From examining the woman’s interactions with the three men and the thoughts Stephen has about her, much is revealed about the Ireland Joyce presents in Ulysses.

The milkwoman’s first words upon entering the room are “Glory be to God,” indicating the intense religiosity of the Irish people as followers of Catholicism (13). Buck Mulligan, of course mocks this religious sentiment in the milkwoman and the rest of Ireland by telling Haines that “[t]he islanders… speak frequently of the collector of prepuces [foreskins]” (i.e. God, who demands circumcision as part of his covenant with Abraham) (13). As the woman pours milk for the three men, Stephen describes the contents of the jug as “rich white milk, not hers” and thinks of her “[o]ld shrunken paps” (13). In this description, Ireland is presented as a woman, a mother, or possibly the “Silk of the kine” that must rely on milk from another source, for surely none will flow from her “shrunken paps.” This is just one of many images of an old, decaying Ireland that Joyce depicts throughout the narrative. Stephen also calls her “a witch on he toadstool,” a possible reference to the folkloric tradition of Ireland that Buck has just finished lambasting (13).

After she has finished serving the three, Haines begins to speak in Irish and she asks him, “Is it French you are talking, sir?” (14) Not only does she not know Irish, but she cannot even recognize it when it is spoken and mistakes it for French. “I’m ashamed I don’t speak the language myself. I’m told it’s a grand language by them that knows,” she says to the men (14). In this short interaction, Joyce points out the absurd fact that Ireland no longer speaks Irish, the language having been largely usurped by English. Several times throughout the first episode, Joyce asserts the lack of, or gradual disintegration of a true, shared Irish culture. This distinct lack of “Irishness” in the Irish and decay of the culture is apparent in the figure of the milkwoman and the search for these things and a solution to these problems will most likely become a major topic for the rest of the day.

Seeing the World Properly

In the ugly countenance of Cyril Sargent, with “his tangled hair and scraggy neck… his misty glasses weak eyes look[ing] up pleading,” Stephen sees himself (27). He identifies with the boy, in part because the boy reminds him of “amor matris” and his own estranged relationship with his mother, but also because of their shared worldview. Cyril “peered askance (with mistrust) through his slanted glasses” out at the “hollow knock of a ball and calls from the field” (28). Both characters see the world though a quizzical lens.

This point is further accentuated by the subsequent appraisal of “Averroes and Moses Maimonides, dark men in mien and movement, flashing in their mocking mirrors the obscure soul of the world, a darkness shining in brightness which brightness could not comprehend” (28). Averroes, a Muslim, and Maimonides, a Jew, both reject the “light” of Christ to which Deasy and the rest of society so strongly adhere. They see the world through the reflection of a mirror, much like the “cracked lookingglass of a servant…a symbol of Irish art” through which Stephen sees himself and understands his history (16). Moreover, these non-Christian religious leaders are portrayed as “darkness shining in brightness”. Joyce has already established a kind of reversal of the traditional dark vs. light imagery with Stephen dressed in all black and Buck, the “usurper”, dressed in bright colors. Here, Joyce draws a parallel between Stephen and two of the most prominent thinkers of their respective religions, and thus identifies Stephen not as an atheist or an apathetic loner, but rather as a founder of a whole new belief system.


Jake Jackson may not always make the most beneficial decisions, he may be quick to anger and irresponsible with money, but his actions are very much a product of the environment in which his character is set. The Depression age Chicago that Jake inhabits is a miasma of traps and swindles for an unwitting fool such as Jake, and a world where even a man’s dreams are no escape from brutal reality, even becoming prey for money hungry crooks.
The novel opens with a clear indication that dreams are no escape for a man like Jake. In his nightmare, Jake runs continually up a flight of stairs and never gets any further ahead. As the novel progresses, we see this dream as a symbol for Jakes constant condition in life. Through his own laziness or the oppression of the powers that be, Jake can never seem to make any solid, positive progress forward. Out on his morning walk before work, this dream comes into play a second time at the game of “policy.” This lewd lottery preys on the dreams of those willing to gambol and serves to highlight Wright’s theme that, in a world such as this, dreams can be just as dangerous as reality. By playing the numbers that correspond to various elements in his dream, Jake looses the only money he has in his pocket and is plunged deeper into the black pit by his own dreams
As Jake and his friends slip into lascivious revelry at Rose’s club, the lights in the club are “lowered just enough to give the room a dreamlike air” (198). By describing this scene in this way, Wright colors the debauchery of the night along with the misfortunes that befall Jake inside the club as a dream, or really rather a nightmare from which Jake is just as unable to escape as one is from a dream while asleep. Although Jake came to the club by his own poor judgment, the events that happen inside are no more in his own control than the numbers that come up at policy. Once again, Jake becomes a victim of the wicked world where not even dreams can be counted on to provide comfort and escape.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Moral Fiber 2.0

I can see that Wright wanted to provide an entirely different perspective than the pure 'Uncle Toms,' but was it really necessary to portray Jake as such a one-dimensional character? It was interesting that Jake's character was questionable at best, and that he was indeed the opposite of what is considered pure and good, but was it the simplicity of his actions that was so groundbreaking? Was it the fact that the portrayal of Jack as an extreme and polar character that was so pivotal? Would not a multi-dimensional character, expressing not only essentialist and discriminatory ideals, but an amalgam of both pure and bad aspects cast him in a better light?

Upon finishing, 'Lawd Today!' these were some of the questions I continued ponder. Although Jake's death was left up in the air upon the conclusion of the novel, I still felt anxious and unsatisfied. I wanted some finality, a fulfillment of the archetype of the man that conquers the world. As I struggled with this, I thought that the reason for Wright ending the book in such a way was categorical of the realist theme. The account of Jake was realistic--things don't always work out, and the world is cruel. I felt that as a result of being completely unsympathetic towards Jake, I was not only able despise  him, but also the series of events and circumstances that ultimately culminated in his demise.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Colour (As Spelled by an Irishman)

While reading Ulysses I noticed the explicit use of color, specifically green and white.

“The bard’s noserag. A new art colour for our Irish poets: snotgreen” (5)
“The snotgreen sea” (5)
“The rig of bay and skyline held a dull green mass of liquid” (5)
“Anenbite of inwit. God, we’ll simply have to dress the character. I want puce gloves and green boots” (17)
“Haines stopped to take out a smooth silver case in which twinkled a green stone. He sprang it open with his thumb and offered it. –Thank you, Stephen said, taking a cigarette” (20)
“A young man clinging to a spur of rock near him moved slowly frogwise his green legs in the deep jelly of water” (21)

“He peered sideways up and gave a long low whistle of a call, then paused awhile in rapt attention, his even white teeth glistening here and there with gold points” (3)
“Inshore and farther out the mirror of water whitened, spurned by lightshod hurrying feet. White breast of the dim sea…Wavewhite wedded words shimmering on the dim tide” (9)
“He watched her pour into the measure and thence into the jug rich white milk, not hers…She praised the goodness of the milk” (13)
“The man that drowned. A sail veering about the blank bay waiting for a swollen bundle to bob up, roll over to the sun a puffy face, salt white” (21)

Green and white:
“A bowl of white china stood beside her deathbed holding the green sluggish bile which she had torn up from her rotting liver by fits of loud groaning vomiting” (5)

There is no way of inferring the meaning of a symbol this early in Ulysses. But thus far, there are enough examples to hint at a possible interpretation. White seems to represent undeserved pride, masking something within. The white teeth are broken and incomplete; the old woman praises the white milk that is not hers; and the drowned bodywhich is expected to peacefully float to the surface will presumably be bloated and white. Green is a little more complicated. I don’t haven’t the slightest idea what it is, but I think I have an idea of what it does. In the case of the bay and Stephen’s mother’s bile green distorts. It distorts the color of the man’s legs and it distorts the woman’s innards.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

wright post

I enjoyed Oh Lawd! There are several touchy subjects that this story touches. First of all the setting is in a sort of black civil rights movement, the author is not very optimistic about the war or his views on Communism. Richard Wright has a lot to say about politics. The fact that he speaks of communism versus a capitalism idea is good to me. I am not sure if communism had good intentions or the need for people to have control over the advancements of an entire population. I am clearly leading towards the idea that communism had more disadvantages than advantages. Capitalism is a much better idea, the fact that whatever you have in life, you work for it and earn it. I agree with Jake’s notion but ‘I am shocked to learn that he has such tremendous debt. I thought that he would have his life together for someone that has such a strong opinion.
To me this story addresses things that are still in the forefront today.For instance, the idea of capitalism or the idea of someone representing the nation on behalf of people who cannot work or canot earn a lot or the middle class and lower class. This is the dividing factor between people and who they choose in the presidential election. So it is interesting that this story was set in the late 20’s early 30’s, and it is addressing issues that we have in 2008.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sympathy or Pity?

One of the questions in the back of my mind through the entire Richard Wright book was if I should be sympathetic towards Jake or simply have pity? Richard Wright goes through Jake's day showing the troubles of a black man during the depression. But even though there were troubles back then that I couldn't even imagine now, my final feelings toward Jake Jackson was indeed a feeling of pity. It is sad everything that he had to go through but his ignorance and lack of compassion for what should be important to him does not help his cause. As a third party looking on, it seems as if Jake brings everything wrong in his life down upon himself without making any conscious effort to make himself and his wife better. He continually gets deeper and deeper into debt, with the loans that he does take being wasted on alcohol and the attempt at prostitutes. The continual mentioning of Jake beating his wife throughout the novel is frustrating, but at the end when he goes home drunk to his wife and attempts to beat her again gives the reader anything but the intention at sympathy for this poor black man.

The novel runs through many hardships for Jake, from problems at home that he instigates to problems at work, which he also instigates. Jake, although is on thin ice at work, still does not take it seriously enough. He continually talks and gets in trouble at work after being threatened to be fired three times now. After work he takes yet another loan and after losing it all at the bar because he was not be careful enough with the money, the reader pities Jake for not being smart enough with his money and what he is going to have to do to repay the debt that he is in.

One of the reasons why Jake seems to be asking for trouble may be the fact that he is a very proud man. He has this thought which is always conscious in his mind that he is right and everyone else is wrong. His unwillingness to take responsibility for his life is also another reason why he is pitied. At the end of the night when Jake walks home, I was hoping that he would realize after his night at the bar that he needs to start taking responsibility, but no, he talks about how much his wife is going to pay when he gets home. The novel ends on a sad note, Jake walks in and attempts to beat her, she knocks him unconscious and talks about how she no longer wants to live. Not only has Jake not taken care of his own life, he has also ruined somebody else's life, which is terrible and all the reader can ultimately do is pity this man.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Lawd Today!

Lawd Today! is a novel constructed with a high level of sophistication, but the dialogue is so casual and gramatically incorrect. In this technique, Richard Wright is making a sharp social commentary, one that does not reveal itself to the reader at the outset. Wright develops his main character, Jake, to be a hopelessly incompetent, pitiful figure. Through the course of the novel the reader becomes increasingly frustrated with Jake's level of stupidity, the simple fact that he cannot recognize why bad things happen to him. After meeting with his bosses at the post office because of his wife's complaints of domestic abuse, Jake views his lax punishment as a phenomenon of his own doing. His first reaction is to go home and give his wife a good beating for her actions... precisely the act that put his job in jeopardy in the first place.
Wright makes Jake such a despicable character because he is making a portrayal of the stereotypical black man, at least in the eyes of the white community. In doing so, he proves that he recognizes this image and refutes it. He, as a black writer, disproves the theory that all black men are like Jake. His inclusion of perfectly crafted English language among all the slang reinforces his disgust at the american impression of african american community.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lawd Today!: Would it have promoted racism?

Most everyone of our generation has seen, been entertained by, and almost certainly laughed at David Chapelle's Chapelle's Show. Fueled by controversy, Dave Chapelle pushed the boundaries of propriety over and over again, constantly mocking the social habits of every race, but always concentrating his comedic efforts on African-American stereotypes. Over Christmas break, I had the eerie experience of watching Spike Lee's Bamboozled, a 2000 film about a black man who re-popularizes the minstrel show with a modern television series. Eventually, he is so devastated by the realization that his success is dependent on a capitalization of his own race's stereotypes, that he goes insane and through a convoluted series of events ends up shot. The movie was pretty mediocre, but the way it mirrored Dave Chapelle's own efforts, a full three years later, was rather disturbing.

Richard Wright's Lawd Today!, minus the incredibly depressing nature of Jake's condition, has some incredibly funny moments that make me think it could have succeeded as a mainstream publication. The way Wright captures the dialect of his characters (the title itself is worth a laugh a day) is consistently amusing, and scenes like the one where Jake "does battle" with his hair are hilarious. But with every laugh, there's always that twinge of guilt. Lawd Today! is not a satire, like the other two works I mentioned here, but it does have moments that are so ridiculous, so overly stereotypical in its portrayal of its characters' ignorance, that I, as a reader, couldn't help but be amused.

The problem, of course, is that a great majority of the American mainstream, especially at the time of its publication, wouldn't have seen this comedic aspect of Lawd Today! as an exaggeration serving to enhance the meaning of Wright's work. I grew up in the South, and I recall that a great many of my peers in my small-town Southern private school took the depictions of blacks in Chapelle's Show rather seriously, which is pretty frightening considering that it was so recently popular. In a great number of cases, especially in the South, I think Dave Chapelle's efforts served to perpetuate the stereotypes he was attempting to mock. In reading Lawd Today!, I feel like Richard Wright would have spawned a similar reaction with a wide publication of his novel.

The Power of Suicide in Mrs. Dalloway

Suicide, though long considered a cultural taboo (and in many cases, mortal sin) by Western culture, has a literary tradition espousing it as the ultimate expression of power. In moments of desperation, characters may commit suicide in order to retain what tiny measure of control they retain over their own lives. It is a theme that seems particularly prevalent in feminist literature, and Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway provides an excellent example.

My own first encounter with this theme was Kate Chopin's The Awakening. Published in 1899, it is a narrative detailing the metaphysical awakening of a repressed New Orleans socialite. As Chopin details Edna Pontellier’s journey of self-discovery, it quickly becomes evident that the male-dominated social sphere she inhabits has no tolerance for a woman who is aware of and exercises her own ability and sexuality. Rather than resign herself to the life that has been built for her, with a husband that provides for her and children that depend on her, she walks naked into the ocean, taking her own life.

Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf treads a similar ground with the character of Septimus. Rather than have his most private thoughts violated and his every action limited by the incessant attentions of psychiatrists, the mad poet Septimus leaps through a window to his death. Woolf’s main protagonist, the noble yet equally repressed Clarissa Dalloway, takes comfort at this character’s suicide later in the novel, wondering if he had "plunged holding his treasure." (Woolf, 184) This connection Clarissa makes with Septimus, a man she had never met, gives her strength and saves her from her own dark thoughts of suicide, as the gravity of his own decision allows her to reach an epiphany of control.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"When the bottle was empty..."

I was really interested with how Wright describes Jake’s foray into Rose’s establishment, specifically his depiction of music and dancing in the dark, sweaty environment of the club. Jake and his friends seek out Rose’s place for an evening of amusement, indulgence, and particularly, escape. Spending the money he had to beg for earlier in the day, the reader understands that Jake will go to great lengths to distract himself from the misery and burdens that await him outside of the haze of the nightclub. In an attempt to forget about the reality of debts, the constant threat of unemployment, and Lil’s illness, Jake tries to lose himself in alcohol, women, and music. Dancing with Blanche, Jake begins to listen to the music and notices, “ The music caroled its promise of an unattainable satisfaction…Each time it reached a higher pitch of intensity he verged on the limits of physical feeling, as though beyond this was nothing but sleep, death; ” (203). Jake describes music as a diversion which offers a physical release and an initial rush of pleasure, but ultimately only reminds him that this form of escape remains fleeting and temporary. This “unattainable satisfaction” that hints at “nothing but sleep, death” after it eventually comes to an end suggests to Jake that these pleasurable diversions can not stave off the encroaching threat of his real life and perhaps, only serve to exacerbate his rage when he eventually has to leave behind these entertainments and return to his desperate circumstances.

Even though the music offers a momentary form of escape, Wright indicates that the dancers despairing state seeps through into their movements and behavior. He depicts the dance of a “stout, black woman” who passionately sways to the music. He writes, “She seemed absorbed in an intense feeling burning in her stomach and she clawed her fingers hungrily in the air […] The music changed […] a thin black woman grabbed her boyfriend and bit his ear till blood came” (205). Wright shows that the violence and aggression exhibited by Jake and his friends extends to encompass the masses who remain locked in the same hopeless condition and reveals itself in all aspects of life, even in moments geared towards diversionary pleasures.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Living Three Lives

Even though Lawd Today! takes place over only one day, the reader is clearly clued into the three different lives Jake leads. Separated into distinct sections by Wright, we see that Jake is essentially three different people throughout his day. Starting at home with Lil, we see a Jake that is power-hungry and constantly angry. He sees Lil as his great tormenter and the cause of almost all his pain. By physically controlling her, he asserts his dominance while still realizing her power over him. After his home life, we see a new Jake; one that comes alive when interacting within his work life. This time, Jake is no longer the dominating force. Working as an African-American man in the 1930s, Jake is truly at the discretion of his white superiors. He yearns for more power and respect, but given the time period, will not be afforded it. Consequently, he frequently gets into conflict with his superiors, leading to his job status being in jeopardy. After work, we see yet another Jake come forward. Once again, he has a dominating power, only this time it is the result of his money rather than strength. While at the whore house, Jake is essentially the “big man on campus” and loves the role. He relishes his time there for many reasons (until it abruptly ends when his cash is gone). Jake truly is three different persons depending on the circumstance.

Lawd Today! A sad story

More than anything, Lawd Today! struck me as an overwhelmingly negative view of the African-American condition in the pre-civil rights era. Yet the book's depressing message goes beyond the immediate time-frame of the novel. Richard Wright's story imparts a sense of endless repression from outside forces as well as those within. Perhaps a call to action, Richard Wright highlights the most limiting obstacles to Jake's life and, presumably, explores his troubles as the universal struggle of black men in a society designed to marginalize them. Those obstacles facing black men, as offered by Wright's novel, are both self and externally imposed.
In Jake's case, his troubles seem as much his own doing as his society's. He abuses his devoted wife, spends his money unwisely, and just seems totally aloof to his responsibilities. On the other hand, the root of his problem, Wright seems to imply, is that the unequal treatment of blacks perpetuates Jake's unwitting self-limitation by denying him the means to gain a sense of self-worth. All his shortcomings are rooted in a constant feeling of needing to prove his worth and assure himself of his being important and powerful. With money he has unlimited means to control his situation (before it's stolen) and when he beats his wife, it gives him a distorted sense of empowerment.
Wright's cesspool of characters are caught in a struggle thatbreeds depravity and it pervades throughout the book. Ultimately, I found the book to be a pessimistic view of the African American experiene, both in the unreformed pre-civil rights era and through present day.

Abrupt Reminders

Underneath Jake’s violent and prideful exterior is a poor man stuck in his situation like a squirrel turning in a cage. Although the reality of his life smacks him upside the head constantly, he tries to pretend there is hope. Upon hearing about the abduction of a millionaire’s son he says, “When you boil it all low you’ll see that everybody gets a equal break in the end” (34). Then his voice trails off uncertainly. At work he relaxes for a bit to chat with his buddies, but he is harshly interrupted with the announcement of an inspection, which results in his humiliation and a recommendation for a hundred demerits.

The establishment Jake goes to has the curious impression of a home, a place of security where people go to be comforted and reassured that everything will turn out okay. Rose is given a maternal depiction. Big-bosomed and full of loving words, she meets Jake and his friends at the top of the landing like a mother greeting her boys after they had spent the day playing. She says, “Be a good boy for mama!... I’m mighty proud you brought your pals along, Jake… take off your coats and hats and hang ‘em in the closet and make yourselves at home… Just throw your troubles away” (194). Like a doting mother she offers them good Southern food, and they eat until they are groggy with contentment. In this establishment, where Jake comes to delude himself, “the lights were lowered just enough to give the room a dreamlike air” (198). This false atmosphere quickly dissolves, however, when Jake attempts to find his wallet. In the span of a couple minutes, he is attacked by the establishment’s patrons, socked behind the head, beaten with brass knuckles, and dragged out of the building, broke. As always, he is abruptly shaken from his delusional dreaming.

Confound it all...

As I came to the end of Wright’s novel, I felt like I had just reached the end of one long question that I still don’t understand. In the last scene of the book, Wright finally aroused in me the hopelessness that he wanted me to feel the entire time. Lil’s beating passed before my eyes in a total haze, and I stood powerless to stop it. Her fear fueled my pity for her. I couldn’t help but wish she had simply picked up and left Jake after reporting him to the Post Office. What did she think would happen when he found out?

Conversely, I also felt the rage that Jake wholly embraced. How angering it would be to witness the terrible fruition of my bad decisions in one night. Everything Jake had done wrong culminated in losing that 100 dollars. Still, Jake seemed unable to attribute the depravity of his situation to himself. He shirked his own responsibility and instead directed his rage towards others.

During the last pages of the book, anger and pity clashed together in my mind, and after their eruption, I stood confounded. I strained for the right questions to ask, to probe the depths of what Wright was implying. When I fell short, a phrase popped into my head: “What to hell?” As I thought about it, the phrase adequately sums up my initial reaction as I finished up the book. What the hell, Jake? What the hell?

Jake, A Tragic Hero without the heroism

The difficulty with Jake Jackson is that he deserves the reader's sympathy, and yet is so helpless and stubborn that the reader cannot understand why he does some of the things that he does. Jake is both a victim and a culprit. Jake is victim to himself mostly—he lacks self control and his methods for dealing with debts are to accumulate even more debts. Jake is also incredibly gullible. When with his friends, he comes across a “religious” man who turns water back and forth between black and clear by using “acid”. Jake marvels at this scam, “That guy's smart!” and “Yeah, he knows what he's talking about!”(98). The fact that Jake eagerly believes anything he is told makes him a tragic hero. He throws his money away on lottery tickets, food he does not need (he is overweight), and ultimately, on debts to pay off other debts. When Jake is lent one hundred dollars, he spends fifteen on food at Rose's club. He is also prepared to spend another forty so that he and his friends can have sex with prostitutes. That means that Jake was willing to throw away more than half of the money he borrowed with the hopes of paying off another debt. When Jake's money is stolen, the reader concludes that it would have been thrown away on careless spendings anyhow.

Jake also makes a habit making scenes. It seems that the world is often against him, but he attributes this to his being black. He despises society for keeping him, a black man, so low on the social ladder, and yet he hates Howard, a black man who is his superior at the post office. Jake is a hypocrite for wanting success for the black race, as long as that success comes to him exclusively.

Blame Games

Despite his circumstances, Jake was almost impossible to sympathize with. Even though his life is rather static and limited by racism, he is not an unlucky man. Many people were suffering during the Depression, and yet he earns the not-so-meager salary of $2,100 per year. In a time when African-American southerners were suffering much more extremely, it is striking that Jake doesn’t appreciate his position as much as many others would.

Most of his problems were problems of perception or problems of his own creation. His job was unstable and he was in debt because he beat his wife. I guess I can understand his tendency to deflect self-criticism to some degree, but he completely exculpates himself from guilt through his self-delusion. This is demonstrated most clearly as Jake explodes with rage when his wife assigns the blame for her tumor to him. While Jake might have been correct that he was not to blame, his response is to blame his wife for her own problems. Jake is entirely caught up in his own head and refuses to sympathize with others. Despite his unfortunate background, it is difficult to rationalize such disregard for his own family. Wright makes it about as difficult as possible to sympathize with Jake. Jake doesn’t sympathize with anyone except himself, so it’s hard to return the favor.

I suppose that one central question posed by the novel is whether or not Jake is responsible for his actions or whether society formed his negative, selfish and indulgent personality. It seems clear that both factors contribute to his condition. While I already passed judgment on Jake, it would be pretty arrogant to assume that we know to what degree Jake is a product of his circumstances. It seems almost impossible to make such a judgment. My immediate reactions were intensely negative, as I’m sure every readers’ are. This dilemma raises the idea that all blame is ridiculous and entirely subjective. Blame seems to be a major stumbling block in the novel. Everyone is suspicious of one another, which allows them to get by without judging themselves. Possibly, Wright simply wanted to drive that point to the fore, hoping that a less accusatory society might be able to work through its difficulties.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Nice guys finish last

Jake is employed and married; however, his life is slowly falling apart. After viciously beating his wife, he almost loses his job. Following his close encounter with unemployment, he decides not to alter his self-destructive ways and instead sinks deeper into a pit of irrational and stupid behavior. Stuck in his ways, Jake is incapable of acknowledging that he needs to change his behavior in order to improve his life. However, he refuses to change because he sees no point in changing when he has no bright future awaiting him. As a black man during the depression, he has nowhere to go but down.

Unable to move up in the world, Jake is dissatisfied with his life because his potential has been predetermined. He is a black man; thus, society will allow him to only go so far in life, and instead of challenging the standard, he allows himself to be pigeon holed by what the white population deems him to be. He states how “white folks don’t want us to have nothing” and “if white folks could make us buy the air we breathe they would” (132). Hence, Jake feels powerless and believes his job at the post office is “the best job a black man can get and they don’t even want us here” (132).

Due to his social and economic circumstances, Jake has been molded into a man whose frustrations are expressed by harming others in addition to himself. He engages in gluttonous behavior such as gambling and hitting on prostitutes in hopes that these momentary pleasures will allow him to temporarily forget his unfortunate life. Thus, he becomes addicted to a life of sin because he sees no benefit in pursuing one of righteousness. Why be good when the nice guys always seem to finish last?


When Jake is called before the board at his Postal Service job, one of the men on the board is a black man Howard. Instead of seeing an ally in a position of power Jake sees Howard's presence as negative. " 'There's that Gawd damn nigger Howard' Jake thought bitterly."(121). This is somewhat surprising as he and Howard would seem to share common ground
Jake's reason for disdaining Howards presence is made clear when he muses over how he should handle the situation, "How can I talk to these white folks with that nigger setting watching me? If I try to beg 'em to go easy on me, he'll think I'm an Uncle Tom,"(122). However there is a far more overarching reason why Jake dislikes Howard in general, "He's the one who's an Uncle Tom,"(122). An Uncle Tom is a derogatory term for an African American who acts in a subservient manner toward white people. Howards seeming success in raising above the typical African-American jobs irks Jake and other African Americans because he is seen as having "sold out". Rationally this it seems that they should be happy that African Americans are starting to be able to pull off this type of ladder climbing, however people, especially ignorant uneducated people like Jake, are rarely rational and since the people pulling this off are not directly making their life easier then they are "sellouts".

Saturday, February 9, 2008

ignorant, stubborn, helpless

Throughout the novel, we constantly see Jake making bad decisions. He hits Lil though he knows she's likely to report him, he wastes his money though he is already in debt, he mouths off to the inspector at work and smokes on his break though he is already at risk for losing his job, and the list goes on and on. Over the course of one day, Jake continually makes these bad decisions; and no sooner does he escape the mess of one bad decision before he goes ahead to make another one. At work, when Jake is called before the Board, he just barely manages to keep his job after having been reported by Lil for the third time for domestic abuse; however, as soon as he leaves the Board room he stares "all the way to the South Side of the city where Lil was. I'm going to break that bitch's neck if it's the last thing I ever do! I'm going to stomp her guts out as sure as my name's Jake Jackson..." Beating Lil is what led Jake to face the Board in the first place, yet as soon as he gets off the hook, he immediately thinks of beating her again.

Every once in awhile, we see Jake realize the error of his ways. After gambling away his money playing policy, Jake thinks, "I'll never be fool enough to play them things again!" It seems for a brief moment that Jake has realized the stupidity of gambling when he is already so far in debt, but only a moment later he says to himself, "Maybe if I'd played all the numbers I could get on my dream, I would've won something. He would break that policy wheel yet. Just wait." Later, when Jake is called before the board, he thinks about having beaten Lil and wants "to tell those clerks about this terrible thing Lil had done, he wanted them to know what a pickle of a fix she had gotten him into. It's all my own fault, he thought regretfully. I should've tricked her before she tricked me..." Though we see Jake realizing the consequences of his actions, he somehow turns the situation around to make himself the poor victim. Unfortunately, though Jake occasionally shows a hint of good thinking, he never fully realizes the blame for his bad decisions, and thus never seems to learn from his mistakes. Instead, he just feels joyous at having managed to escape the consequences.

Jake is stubborn and controlling. Though he sometimes appears to begin to take the blame for his actions, he is too stubborn to fully admit fault. This seems to be due to a buried feeling of helplessness in Jake's life. He is unable to control so many aspects of his life revolving around race and the depression, so he feels the need to exert control over every other aspect of his life including Lil and going out with his friends.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Power of Men

When Jake goes to the mailbox he finds a “bundle of multicolored circulars and advertisements” (38). Among the flyers about money problems, alcoholism, and a lack of piety is an advertisement for a panacea drug for “weak manhood” and general laziness (39). These advertisements seem personally intended for Jake, or at least remarkably relevant to his life.

As much as this is a book about race and class, it also tackles gender roles, specifically the idea of manhood. While the reader can appreciate Jake’s agency – his ability to control his own situation – he fells oppressed. In his view, white society has emasculated Jake and his buddies so it is their right to asset their manhood by overpowering the women in their lives. The story begins and ends with Jake abusing Lil and Jake and his buddies spend the time in between rehashing sexual conquests (with cousins, older women, etc), looking at porn Al bought off a yellow man, and trying to score with prostitutes at Rose’s brothel.

But when Jake returns home to beat his wife, Lil fights back. Jake's hold over Lil is no tighter than white society’s hold over him; neither is truly powerless. The difference is that Lil has the strength of will and common sense to effectively rebel, whereas Jake perpetuates his own subjugation.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Moral Fiber

Wright’s depicts Jack as an overbearing, contentious, and boorish individual that is struggling to survive in the midst of depression and poverty. His inflexible belief that he always is right is reflected in his sudden outbursts of rage resulting from anything that makes him uncomfortable. This is evident when he continues to “egg” Lily so that he would be “impelled to slap her” (15). Jack’s patriarchal complex and need to show his supremacy is further expressed when he berates Lily for his lost razor, and even upon the realization that he misplaced it in the first place, repeatedly calls her a “deaf, dumb bitch” and accuses her of cheating on him (22).

Jack’s ignorance towards life, society, and religion is revealed through his vacillating stance on these issues. This is specifically evident in his views concerning God.

Jack: “Gawd’s hooey! It’s a gyp game, that’s all!”
Lily: “You blaspheming Gawd!”
Jack: “So what?” (31)

It was interesting to follow and compare what Jack said to Lily in the kitchen with the fearsome four’s discussion and apparent veneration of God in the squirrel cage:

“...His wonders to perform…”
“…and Gawd rewarded ‘em”
“You’ll get your reward if you do right.”
“Gawd sees to that. He’s done figgered out all kind of ways to reward folks”
“And He can punish you, too”
…”Yeah, he evens up everything.”(165-167)

Jack’s inconsistent character is conveyed through his sycophantic actions when he appears before the board and barely escapes with his job, and his open disregard for authority as he openly disdains the floor manager who as a result demerits Jack.

Through the first two sections, it is hard to sympathize with Jack. Although Jack is overwhelmed with debt and is struggling to make a living, his arrogance and self-righteous disposition makes him appear antagonistic, and just unlikable. It is interesting that Wright would choose to depict his main character in such a negative light, despite his adherence to realism.

Self Control

While ideas float in and out of Mrs. Dalloway's conciousness through the course of Viginia Woolf's novel, the fear of her own mortality comes up more than once and plays an important role in how Mrs. Dalloway chooses to conduct herself and her thoughts during her day. As she stands in her room, letting her thoughts wander over memories of Sally and Peter and Burton, she experiences a "sudden spasm, as if, while she mused, the icy claws had had the chanve to fix in her" (36). These icy claws are the hands of death attempting to catch her in a moment where she is not fully on guard. Clarissa thinks to herself that she is too young for death to have a hold on her, and, in order to stave him off, she decides to "plunge... into the very hart of the moment, transfix... it, there - the moment of this June morning on which was the presseure of all the other mornings...." (36). She thinks that by the act of being constantly present in the single moments of her day, by living her life only in the present, she will, through this vigilance, be able to keep death from claiming her.
Clarissa realizes the many facets of her own personailty, the multiple persons that lie within herself and present themselves as the dominant self at different times in life or in a day (this is a theme Woolf explores more fully in Orlando), and realizes that she must control these multiple selves, bringing them all together and presenting to the world only the one that she sees fit. This proccess is described in the narrative as Clarissa's attempt to "assemble that diamond shape, that single person..." (37). Clarissa pauses on the staircase to attempt to call her selves together and prepare a face to meet the faces that she meets.
While she may be able to control the person that she presents to the outside world, Clarissa is completely unable to control her thoughts, to keep herself constantly living in the present moment, as is evident thought the course of the narrative, for her thoughts constantly revert back to her life at Burton, only to be called back sharply by some event in her present day. These sharp awakenings remind Clarissa and the reader that she is falling far short of her declaration that she shall plunge into the present.
This inability to control the path of one's thoughts, to remain unflinchingly in the present situation is mirrored and intensified in Septimus Smith. Doctor Holmes tells Rezia that there is nothing wrong with her husband and that it is only a matter of control. Rezia later wonders why Semptimus is so unable to control himself, to subdue is ravings. Even Septimus himslef tries to control his madness and stay in the present moment long enough to converse with Rezia and help her with her hat-making. "He began, very cautiosly, to open his eyes, to see whether a gramaphone was really there... He must be cautious. He would not go mad" (138). Septimus tries to experience the real world slowly, controling his intake, taking care to to become too excited. Septimus has a thought similar to Mrs. Dalloway's thought that death is waiting around the corner for the soul not constatnly on guard: "Once you stumble, Septimus wrote on the back of a postcard, human nature is on you" (90). For Septimus, the human nature waiting for the soul that lacks vigilance is not only death, but the conversion forces of Dr. Holmes, the complete death of will and spirit as well.
Both characters realize that the way to avoid thier demise is constance vigilance and placing oneself entirely in the present moment, yet, as we see, both are unable to control thier minds. Clarissa constantly floats back into the past, and, try as he might, Septimus is never able to escape his delusions for long. This failure of self control, along with the fear of the control of others, leads to Septimus's decision to kill himself, while Mrs. Dalloway will presumably continue on as she has, always striving for self control, always failing.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Epitome of the Term Flip-Flopper

Jake Jackson is a confident man. He speaks his mind with conviction, leaving no room for doubt in any of his statements. However, it becomes clear that a problem exists when a man of such conviction can be so adamant about both sides of an issue. The clearest example of Jake's role as a flip-flopper would be his opinion of white people. At times all he can do is complain about how unfair their treatment is of him or how they're out to get him since he's black. But if you read on for a couple more pages, Jake starts to praise white people for the accomplishments they've achieved and the vastness of their intellect.

"White folks always inventing something."
"They's smart."
"The white folks do everything so easy..."
"...working together like a army..."
"...marching to war!"
"Sometimes when I think about it I almost hate myself."
"Yeah, sometimes I wish I was anything but a ni**er" (166).

This theme is also present in Jake's idea of God. At the beginning of the novel, Jake goes on and on about how Lil reading her Unity books is a waste of time and money. He even mocks her by suggesting that she have God cure her of her tumor. But while he worked in the factory, Jake and his friends start praising God Almighty, saying, "Funny how some fools can stand up and say there ain't no Gawd" (165).

But the question is: Why does Jake always have two opposing opinions on an issue? Unless Jake and his friends are playing bridge or throwing around "your mama" jokes, the group of friends rarely have differing opinions. If anyone expresses their opinion, the other three members of the group quickly chime in their approval of the thought. The succession of their agreeing thoughts mimics the succession of orders barked out by the foremen to Jake and each of his friends. This idea of universal thought is pretty amusing once you think about how much Jake and his friends hate the communist Reds of "Roosia."

Monday, February 4, 2008

Mrs Dalloway: A Struggle with Society

During the course of the novel, the late Victorian depiction of English society in Mrs. Dalloway has a persistent ability to frustrate the characters -- and thereby the readers -- from realizing their personal state of happiness. From Clarissa and her apparently baseless marriage, to Peter Walsh and his ongoing search for love, each of the characters are denied fulfillment by their deference to old customs. Even the character who embodies free will against the grain of social acceptability, Sally Seton, succumbs to the enormous pressures of adult life in 1920's Great Britain.
Given Woolf's personal lifestyle and its counter-cultural nature, the rejection of culture must be one of the novel's central themes. Therefore, Septimus' death, along with Woolf's original intent to end Clarissa's life at the close of the book, assume a far more symbolic meaning than meets the eye. While Septimus -- albeit in his delusional state of mind -- escapes from the oppressive force of society only through his death, Clarissa is unable to be happy because of a decision dictated by the essential importance of class and stature in high society. An inhibitor in many ways, each character feels the uncomfortable and disorienting power of society. Even Doris Kilman, frustrated to the core by her rage -- her general indignation a product of the backlash resulting from her English heritage. Other characters, so blissfully consumed by their superficial pursuits important in name alone, are depicted by Woolf as clowns proliferating the absurd values of the aging Victorian culture in 1923. Hugh Whitbread is, in effect, the embodiment of these evils; a man of immeasurable self-contentment and profound depthlessness. In this way, Hugh represents the monstrous potential of a society to produce creatures of immense superficiality. Given Septimus’ eventual and mortal decision to take his life, along with Woolf’s intent to have Clarissa die at the end of the novel, their discontentment and near-attempts to break through the world forced upon them is depicted as a valiant, yet fruitless pursuit; the only escape, then, can be death.
The futility of escaping the fate set forth upon the characters is manifested in Sally Seton’s sudden docility in the face of superficial needs; namely, “ten thousand a year.” No person manages to remain committed to a society-free life, as though it is the only route to at least a superficial state of happiness. Therefore, Woolf’s outlook on society must be interpreted as a very negative one. For Woolf seems to view society not as a nurturing force, but rather, a mind-numbing extension of stagnation, which breeds unhappiness.


The relationship that Virginia Woolf offers between Clarissa and Peter is an interesting one to say the least. The reader learns so much about these two characters' tension through one day described in the novel. They each have flashbacks of more carefree times with one another, the most standout of those being their time in St. James Park.
What makes this relationship almost exciting to follow is the fact that there was (and even still is) an obvious love for one another in the past. They tell themselves that they know each other unconditionally and it is the fact that maybe they know each other so well that in a sense tore them apart. Peter had the small tendencies which annoyed Clarissa and Peter did not appreciate some of the qualities Clarissa had. This is obvious in their present reunion when Peter visits Clarissa at her home. He begins to play with his knife (out of nerve I think- I have the same kind of tendencies when I get nervous too) which immediately makes Clarissa think of the past.
The major thing which turned Clarissa off of Peter is the fact that she knew him well enough to believe that although he had a lot of potential, he never had the drive to move up in society. These two obviously have their likes and dislikes of each other, but it is this way with any relationship. Clarissa, even though it was never actually stated, to some extent regrets how her life turned out after not marrying Peter. She may be in a higher status now than she could have been with Peter, but to gain this she lost something else, love. She is not in love with Richard, whereas Clarissa's differences with Peter should not have been such a factor where she would give up on someone she loved.
In the final pages of the novel Peter attends Clarissa's party and gets alone time with her. He is excited and nervous at the same time, proving that he is in fact still in love with her. Virginia Woolf leaves it at this to let the reader wonder what happened between Clarissa and Peter in her home. No issue is resolved, and although Clarissa is with Richard now, Peter (and Sally) give Clarissa a memory of her past which she misses. It is obvious that the feeling is mutual and they love each other. If I were in the Dalloway household that night, I bet Clarissa would be thinking "what if" with Peter.

Mrs. Dalloway

I love the ending of Mrs. Dalloway. I like the type story that has an ending where someone life was improved or someone learned a very beneficial lesson. I feel that Peter has learned a very good lesson on the topic of love. Towards the end of the story Peter was at Mrs. Dalloway’s house (Clarissa) with a feeling of ecstasy or euphoria. I interpreted Peter’s feeling of happiness and excitement because he has experienced a love that has last over a lifetime. I am somewhat concerned of Daisy’s feelings, because I feel that Peter should have been open with his feelings about who he loves and has always loved. This is a common action throughout the story including in Clarissa’s own life.
Clarissa is clearly in the point of her life where she is overlooking the decisions made over time. Her curiosities in how her life would be with other lovers, such as Peter and Sally Seton, fit into a theme of secrecy. I believe that in relationships, especially spousal relationships, there needs to have honest communication, which is two parts, beings honest and the communication. I believe this is extremely difficult because being honest and communicating is not always something you would like to do or something you would like to hear because it is not always good things said or felt. However, at the end of the day it is giving your spouse or loved one the respect that they deserve to know the truth.
Lastly, Clarissa really shows that she has a mind when she follows her gut feelings about Dr. Bradshaw and feels happy that Septimus did not conform and is now free. I am sadden about Septimus’ death because in my mind it is not a peaceful to die, but I understand why Septimus felt like he had to do this.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

patterns of thought

At first, I had a difficult time getting into Mrs. Dalloway. I found Woolf's style of writing tough to follow, and thus could hardly sort out what was happening. She often chooses not to punctuate dialogue with quotation marks, making it hard to distinguish between a character's thought and speech. To further complicate matters, Woolf tends to jump around without warning from the mind of one character to another; this makes it confusing when trying to determine whose perspective is being shown. For example, one paragraph will be giving Elizabeth's thoughts about the city from the omnibus when suddenly the next paragraph is written from the perspective of Septimus Smith (136).

Despite these derivations from the standard rules of grammar, it didn't take long to adapt to Woolf's writing style. I suppose it just takes some adjustment because soon I felt that it all flowed rather easily in spite of the sometimes "jerky" thoughts. The characters in Mrs. Dalloway often interrupt their own thinking to question details or draw the reader's attention to another line of thought entirely. For instance, as Clarissa thinks about her own town, she second guesses the details: "For having lived in Westminster -- how many years now? over twenty, -- one feels even in the midst of traffic, or waking at night, Clarissa was positive, a particular hush, or solemnity" (4). Though it is not necessarily important exactly how long Clarissa has lived in Westminster, Woolf goes out of the way to trace that thought.

However, these somewhat complicated thought patterns are part of what makes Woolf's novel so realistic; such thought patterns are true to experience. By contemplating our own everyday thought patterns, we realize that others, too, would probably be confused if given a script of our brain's thoughts throughout a day.

Dreams are always better than realities

Trapped in the past, Peter obsessively contemplates what could have been, allowing him to get lost in a world of implausible realities. Instead of stepping forward in his life, he consistently makes an effort to step backwards. Unlike the other characters in Mrs. Dalloway, who indulge themselves in thoughts of the past, Peter appears highly unsatisfied with the path his life has taken since Clarissa refused his proposal.

Although Peter attempts to move on, he is incapable of ignoring his feelings for Clarissa. He admits how it is “impossible that he should ever suffer again as Clarissa had made him suffer. For hours at a time (pray God one might say things without being overheard!), for hours and days he never thought of Daisy” (77). Consumed by his love for Clarissa, Peter rarely thinks about how he plans on helping Daisy divorce her husband or what their future together holds. Instead, he spends time imagining what possessed Clarissa to marry Richard all those years ago. At the conclusion of the novel, all of Peter’s thoughts for Daisy disappear and are replaced by thoughts for Clarissa.

Thus, the reader almost forgets that Daisy is the reason why Peter returns to England in the first place. One cannot help but accuse Peter of using Daisy as an excuse in order to return to England and see Clarissa. In the book’s final moments, Woolf confirms that Peter’s undying love belongs to Clarissa and not Daisy. When he declares, “what is this terror? What is this ecstasy? He thought to himself. What is it that fills me with extraordinary excitement,” the reader already knows that the “terror” and “ecstasy” he is experiencing is none other than Clarissa (190).

Even after all the arguments and years spent apart, he still experiences a knot in his stomach when he sees Clarissa; unfortunately, no real future exists for these past lovers besides the one in Peter’s head; nevertheless, one tends to make “up the better part of life,” according to Peter, a man whose dreams were squashed by reality (53).

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Living Trees and Human Dogs

I find it interesting that Septimus’s delusions seem to play out in other parts of the story. According to Septimus the first “supreme secret” is that “trees are alive” (66). While true in a scientific sense and completely irrational, if by alive he means like a person, one particular tree takes on a very human role. Sylvie Dalloway was “killed by a falling tree” (76). In another example of a plant’s human-like qualities (or Clarissa’s lack of them), “People were beginning to compare [Clarissa] to popular trees” (191).

Another hallucination that seems to come to life is the idea of dogs turning into people. Septimus says, “It was turning into a man! He could not watch it happen…a dog become a man!” (66). Elizabeth’s two greatest loves are food and dogs. And Septimus describes his war experience with Evans like “two dogs playing on a hearth rug” (84). Both Elizabeth and Septimus certainly think of dogs in human terms.

Among the social, gender, and age conventions so clearly challenged in this book, is the traditional idea of sanity.

Friday, February 1, 2008


Reading Saturday feels, in a way, like time is moving slower as in the course of reading the book than the pace at which the story progresses.  All of Perone's individual interactions include such detail that it seems as though the scene is under water, moving in slow, calculated motion.  The squash scene probably took around an hour to read, and the squash game itself probably took less than an hour.  Perone's flashbacks occupy time as well, freezing the moment as he reflects on some distant memory.  To Perone, the flashbacks take no more than mere seconds, but since we as readers have no idea what his memories include, the whole account is presented to us.  McEwan's technique, the act of representing time in the novel, makes the experience of reading Saturday feel like the reader is experiencing every aspect of the day in real time.
McEwan compresses every single detail of this 24 hour period into 289 pages.  This book is a work of compression because there is an unlimited amount of detail associated with any single day.  He could have written 289 pages on one specific minute, if he desired to include every detail about that particular minute.  This novel teaches the reader not to overlook any aspect of a scene, to focus and absorb and understand absolutely everything the author presents.

Saturday opinion

First journal entry
I have thought that Saturday was entirely too detailed, I lost interest several times trying to make it to chapter 2. I am not a fan of knowing the intimate details of everything; quick precise points with little detail going straight to the point would have done just fine and would have better depicted the story. My favorite aspect of the book is the fact that Henry Perowne is personable. There is a part in the book where Daisy wants her father, Henry Perowne to read a non medical book and he struggled to do so. This reminds me of a relative of mine, who too is a doctor, I would recommend reading a new Rebecca Walker book such as Baby Love or an autobiography and I don’t believe he would touch the book, but instead read the inside cover and get all the summaries of the book.
I think it is very important for an author to add a relatable character to the story and McEwan did that, but for me as said before it was in a too wordy way. Henry Perowne‘s family, sometimes remind me of my own and encourage imagination about what similarities, my family and his family will possess. For instance, Henry and Rosalind have a son and a daughter- Theo and Daisy and I have a boyfriend and we have two children which happen to be a son and a daughter as well. Rosalind and Henry have a loving relationship in which Henry is still in love with his wife and is not tempted to step outside their marriage.
When Henry stated that it is the familiarity of his wife that keeps him quite content, my eyebrows rose. Usually, at least in our Western culture, women (a lot of time) who are in long term relationships fear that their husbands will become bored of them or in other words used to or too familiar with them, so it is very interesting to see that that is not a turn off for this educated English man. I wonder if it is just Henry who feels like this about his wife or if this is true of the English culture as a whole?