Thursday, September 27, 2012

First Person Narrator

As we were reading the excerpt from Green’s Pack My Bag in class today, I found myself curious as to how the novel would be different if it were written in the first person. The reason this thought crossed my mind is because, according to his memoir, Green spent a great deal of his time observing the dynamics between his mother and Poole. He has firsthand experience with many of the novel's topics. 

Because the novel is written in third person, we get significantly less of the characters’ interiorities. Surely, this is a device that reflects voyeuristic themes, but I can’t help but ponder as to what a first person perspective would afford – especially a na├»ve, misunderstanding voice from Green’s childhood – possibly one that is unknowing to or confused by societal norms about class distinction and gender. A voice tainted by privilege, but still touched with childhood innocence. With this in mind, I hope that some our younger characters (i.e. Albert and Albert) provide some similar insight (though our chances with the more affluent Albert seem less promising). 

It would also be interesting to get multiple firsthand experiences (a la The Waves), to further contrast what each class's biased perceptions of the other are. 

Ocean Imagery

On page 23, there is a striking description of Mrs. Tennant in that she seems to have many nautical qualities. For example, her hair gets permed once a month, but the narrator chooses to describe this process in a peculiar way- "her white hair was washed in blue and waved and curled" (23). The ocean imagery is pretty heavy there, but in case someone missed it, she has "oyster" nails and there's reference to a dolphin later in the paragraph. The phrase " black slab of polished marble" also seemed sea-like to me, although I'm not sure why.

People are referred to as sea creatures as the novel goes on as well. On page 24, Raunce is compared to an eel. Then on 28, Mrs. Tennant's daughter in law is likened to a shrimp.

What are these sea references for? For Mrs. Tennant, I venture to say it's a representation of her transient nature. Raunce has a distinctly slippery character. And as for Violet... I haven't quite figured that one out yet.

Who was Eldon?

As Professor Stuber briefly touched upon in class, I had sent an email to him about the similarity between the opening of Loving and the opening of Citizen Kane. Here I will clarify with the entire email

This may sound strange, but my first impression when the story began was when Eldon, on his death bead, muttered nothing but the name "Ellen". It's probably because this is the very first thing we are confronted with at the beginning of the story, but whenever I read that first passage, all I can think to myself is "If he had dropped a snow-globe when he died, it would be perfect". His constant muttering of "Ellen, Ellen" instantly brings Orson Wells 'Citizen Kane'. Going off of that, and the whole theme of Citizen Kane about trying to piece together someone’s life based on what they said on their death bed, I can't help but wonder the same about Eldon. Who was Ellen? Why was that name all he could say as he lay dying? 

The question becomes even more irritating in that we never even come close to learning the answer, at least not by page 66 anyway. In fact we never learn anything about Eldon, except that that he used to be the butler, he kept a fairly detailed account of any expenses that went on in the house,as well as a few dirty secrets of the people who frequented the place, and that Miss Burch (at least I believe it was Miss Burch), said that "things would never be the same" now that he was dead. WHY? We know very little about how things used to be when he was in charge, and from how little we know about him, the man almost seems like a plot device, a means of putting Raunce in charge and establishing conflict between him and Burch. But then why have him their in the first place? That conflict could have been just as easily established without him, and the story could have simply started with Raunce already in charge, and go without mentioning Eldon, all while loosing very little, in my opinion anyway. So why put Eldon in at all?

 I feel like their must be some greater reason for the brief part of his existence that we witness, otherwise Green wouldn't have had reason to put him in. 

But what is it?

I bring this up because it presents a very important question that bothers me whenever Eldon's name or his notebooks are brought up.

Besides just being the butler, who was Eldon?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Feeling Our Way Through

I’m intrigued by the instances of the “almost” and how words like “seems”, “feels”, and “apparently” are working with, or against, the pace of Green’s novel thus far. An interesting moment of almost happens on pg. 25: “what she saw made her giggle and her mouth almost soundless.”  The negation of commas increases the rapidity of how we read the sentence and overwhelms our initial capacity to visualize what the description conveys.  At once, the accelerated speed could potentially trap us in our re-reading and, in turn, momentarily slow the pace of the text. Conversely, this haste suggests that perhaps the content of the sentence should not be the focus but we should rather observe the feeling of the sentence. In this sense, the feeling is urgent and our eyes are, as a result, are conveniently guided to the abrupt slap of the hand, a point of contact. This notion of action or point of contact relates back to the lack of punctuation in our initial sentenced observed. The seeming ease contradicts the disjointed meanings of the words; “what she saw made her giggle mouth open and almost giggle” doesn’t exactly make any sense. The context of the second sentence aids in our construction of meaning but words like almost, in cases like these, suggest that the sentence questions its own meaning. This underlying notion of question haunts the sentence structure and thwarts a consistent reading of the pace. Is there an understandably flow or are these “almost” obscuring the realities or actions of the sentences with what it means to “feel” about a sentence, different from a sentence’s tone. 

Seclusion in Loving

The seclusion that occurs in this novel reminds me of The Waves. In Woolf's novel, we got nothing except the inner monologue of six characters. In Green's novel, there are more characters, and the writing style is not confined to speech, but they both have a sense of seclusion (in Woolf's it's simply the lack of characters that makes the six seem secluded, but in Green's, the characters are literally alone in a castle).

In Green's novel, the seclusion (in my opinion) makes the characters seem childish and immature. There is a lot of gossiping that occurs (pages 46-47), and the characters seem unsure about the goings-on with the war. Even the "masters" of the house (I put masters in quotes because I think it's clear that the Tennant's (nice name) play a minor role in the actual activity that occurs in the castle) are rarely seen. The characters are like children released, running loose and doing whatever they want without restraint.

Notebooks and Secrets

As we have yet to discuss Loving in class I feel I won't have much to contribute in this post. However, I am very interested in Eldon's note books. There appears to be a great deal of information in them about the running of the estate and various important people. I was both entertained and curious during the scenes where Raunce is reading and trying to employ the information he finds in them. I found the scene where Raunce misapplies the information in the books on pages 38 and 39 in an attempt to receive a tip very amusing. That scene also reveals some aspects of Raunce's character. Beyond being an ambitious man (with the confines of his station) he has no problem scraping for the upper classes to glean favor and tips. I'm trying to decide if Raunce is a proud man or not.
            On pages 48 and 49 I appears, and I may be misreading this, that Eldon may have been cooking the books by cutting corners and pocketing the savings. Sentences like "Eldon never credited her with the empties" (49) and references to being ready for questions are, as Raunce puts it, "suggestive."

Serenity & Violence Passage in Loving

Henry Green's Loving contains a passage reminiscent of the passage in Voyage in the Dark (pg. 90) that our presenters discussed on Tuesday. We listed contradictions in the section, and one member of our class noted the presence of both serenity and violence. Similarly, in Loving, Green writes, "He punted the daffodil ahead like a rugger ball" (23). Daffodils are delicate, and yet Charley kicks them. Also, when Charley actually cuts the flower, Green refers to it as a "head." Disturbing, yes?

Next, Charley says to Miss Burch, "the stink of flowers always makes my eyes run" (24). This reminds me of Hester not being able to bear the scent of the pop-flowers in Voyage in the Dark. Miss Burch, however, claims the daffodils had no smell, and she believes that Charley is simply smelling musk. The delicacy of flowers is being disturbed here; there seems to be a contradiction, similar to the passage in VD. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"flamboyant trees are lovely when they're flowering"

We touched upon this briefly in class, but I would like to explore further what appears to be a running topos, that of unconscious space, throughout our text--and perhaps the course as well (Women in Love springs to mind, anyway)...
On pg. 8 (actually the second page of the novel proper), Anna anna-lyzes (forgive me) her position, narrating, “Sometimes it was as if I were back there and England were a dream. At other times England was the real thing and out there was the dream, but I could never fit them together.” Already, we have two spaces, that of Morgans Rest, and that of England (colonized vs. colonizing space), but Anna gravitates dreamily from one space to the other. Pg. 23 dangles a key for how to interpret her dreamstates: “I felt as if I had gone outside myself, as if I were in a dream.” So dreaming for Anna is not unlike watching herself in a mirror; it represents an intangibility, a detachment from herself. She doesn't completely occupy Morgans Rest or England at any point, but rather, finds herself stuck in the abstract mental space between them, unable to “fit them together,” to integrate the self of her supposed origin with the self of her supposed destination--unable, as it were, to position herself with some spatially derived identity. As we discussed in class, Anna flounders in the waters (connected by Jung with the collective unconscious), perpetually in transit, in limbo, or what have you. However, on pgs. 77-78, an interesting development occurs: “But when I began to talk about the flowers out there I got that feeling of a dream, of two things that I couldn't fit together, and it was if I were making up the names [my italics]...” Positioning herself within a liminal dreamspace either affords Anna the capacity for meaning-making (making up names, and by extension, identities--"flamboyant," "lovely")...or robs her of that capacity (the names she lists are actual names—hibiscus, jasmine, etc--but lose their meanings). So, what I'm wondering is whether the dream-distancing constitutes another symptom of Anna's powerlessness, or the agency-loophole we've been fumbling for? Or, conversely, does this represent just another ambivalence, some tremendous failure in analysis (the one thing which seems to identify Anna), and/or her personal horizon of meaning (in this sense, the limit of meaning)?

Anna and water

After talking so much about water imagery in class today, I turned back in the novel to examine some passages more closely.  The passage where Anna first thinks that she may be pregnant (p. 162) has her crawling into her bed, her boat of safety if you will, with everything "still heaving up and down."  Granted, the heaving is referring to vomit, but I can't help but see the wave imagery found in heaving.  The dream that she has on pages 162-163 is told in a stream of consciousness style punctuated on by dashes - many dashes.  When reading this dream, one feels the rhythm of the waves rocking, heaving, back and forth.  The dream comes from Anna's childhood, and it is clear that she is trying to escape her current English life through both sleep and dreaming.  Alas, Anna wakes up and everything is still heaving.
In a way, Anna is like water.  She is fluid, always moving from one place to another.  She is frequently described to be  ice cold, and her eyes are described as dull and drugged much like  a puddle of stagnant water appears.  Like the sea, Anna is trapped in one area, can be rough or calm, but largely remains unchangeable in her state.  The sea does not choose to be choppy or smooth (which is slightly different from Anna because I do not believe she is without agency), but rather is influenced by outside events much as Anna is influenced by Maudie, Laurie, Ethel, etc.
And you all thought we finished discussing waves when our time with Virginia ended....

Anna in Love

Today in class we discussed Anna's general lucidity with respect to social codes, conventions, expectation, and inequalities. We discussed her general unwillingness to consider these things legitimate, although this does not necessarily take the form of what we would call resistance or any kind of revolutionary attitude, but rather nearly no interest in providing for herself or finding some kind of lasting power over her situation on others' terms.

Something that stands out for me, in this pattern, is the way Anna treats her love for Walter. That is, although she seems to be aware that he is using her, this facet of exploitation seems repressed in the narrative, only indirectly or unconsciously surfacing in the narrative. For example, on p. 40, while Anna thinks about her affair with Walter, she says "And [I would think] about getting up and saying 'I must go now," and dressing...and the front door that clicked so silently, that clicked always as if it were the last time." Though not consciously articulated, even early in their relationship Anna feels anxieties of being abandoned, but seems to not want to know it. Long after Walter breaks it off with her, she maintains that she loves him, and that this makes her suffer. What I want to suggest is that love with Walter, though sordid and exploitative as much of the rest that happens to Anna in the book, seems different to her, cherished and special in a way that transcends her awareness of exploitation. It's something she cares about. What's going on here? Is this love valuable, despite Walter being an asshole?

"I'm awfully giddy": language repetition and the rupture of time

Narrative structure ruptures—even more so than in previous parts of the novel—in the final pages of Voyage in the Dark.  Anna’s hallucinations of the Carnival celebration during her childhood contain repeated words and phrases from her reality in the bedroom—the two realities conflated such that each reality seems to have equal causal effect on the other.  Anna says, “I’m giddy . . . I’m awfully giddy” (185) and then in the italicized section her language repeats “I’m awfully giddy” (186).  Perhaps the conflation of these two realities points to the performative reality of the masquerade—namely that by wearing white masks, the slaves perform the roles of their masters in this public space, confusing social roles in an acceptable and contained arena.  Unlike the slaves (who publicly perform a different role) and the masters (who function as the audience), Anna rather occupies a liminal space—“between the slats of the jalousies,” where she can safely watch the masquerade. 

This hallucination changes, however, demonstrating the way in which the present imposes itself on this memory.  Anna repeats “I’m giddy” (186), and then in the following italics section, she imagines herself dancing:  “we went on dancing forwards and backwards backwards and forwards whirling round and round” (186).  Thus, the insertion of herself into the action of the Carnival (the dancing) seems to be caused by her present feeling of “giddiness” in the bedroom (possibly due to blood loss, fatigue, etc.).  Anna’s “fall” in her memory/hallucination is continued into the present moment where she claims, “I fell. . . . I fell for a hell of a long time then” ( 187).  Movements and sounds subsume language and narrative linearity, perhaps suggesting the text’s attempt to transgress social expectations of narrative form.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

Prostitution, Free Love, and all that Jizz

     The idea of everyone being a prostitute was brought up last class period, and I think that idea has some grounds. Love is kind of battered around and mixed with desperation. There seems to be a lot of helplessness and victimization and a void that sucks away all the good in life. Loneliness and cold and dirt. That's what's left when the void gets you. That's what's left when you give yourself away. I think Anna is cold all the time because her inner joy is dead, her love is dead. All the mangoes of her childhood are rotten. She kisses without loving and lets her body become just a thing. Her thoughts are almost the only living part of her left. She lives in her mind, not in her body. Her body is almost as cold and empty as the world. Her mind is her only safe place. It is the only place no one else can penetrate. The abortion seems to enhance that. Her body isn't hers anymore. It is a creature of this dark cold world full of pain and unfairness that has consumed her.
Several of the more recent posts involve concepts that I have been thinking about as I read this book, but I would just like to add a little bit more to each.

About the structure of the dialogue, it seems that more of Anna's thoughts are the sentences that blur together which remind me of "lost in thought" type of moment where she becomes so absorbed in her own thoughts that she isn't really paying attention to what is going on around her. Sometimes she is so lost in thought that she begins talking about what was in her head even if it is not relevant to the topic being discussed or even fully explained like in her conversation with Walter on p. 52.

Other characters in the book think Anna is strange and often tell her to be more sensible, this has already been stated in previous posts (and possibly class). Dr. Stuber commented on Alli's post asking why so many characters see something wrong with her. Anna grew up in the West Indies in a region, according to Hester, it was possible to go a week without seeing another white person. I see Hester as the stereotypical English woman who cares more about appearances and status than anything else. The way Anna described her father and uncle, they were not that way and in fact hated that sort of environment. When Anna describes how cold England is, I think she not only is referring to the temperature, but how people in England treat each other. So I agree with Melanie, not that she doesn't necessarily know the rules of English living, but she never followed anything like that before. And I am probably bias about some of Anna's more "radical" thoughts like wanting to be a black person due to the fact that as a child I thought people could become other races. I think that may have to do with the fact that at a young age I was exposed to many different racial groups just like Anna was around more black people than she was white, even having colored cousins who she gave presents to on Christmas (p.64). It is probably safe to say that none of the people she interacts with in England have had the same experience.


     The one passage that stood out to me more than any other in Voyage in the Dark occurs on p. 31, when Anna is lying on her bed, unable to move. She sees a cockroach “waving its feelers slowly backwards and forwards,” and because she cannot move, she has no choice but to watch it and think. This whole situation, of course, is nearly identical to the experience of Virginia Woolf’s narrator in “A Mark on the Wall,” the difference being that we do not get the same kind of glance into Anna’s head as we do into the head of Woolf’s narrator.
     This parallel leads to a number of other conclusions, most significantly the realization that we never really see into Anna’s head except in moments of extreme duress (such as the moment on p. 162 after she discovers her pregnancy). Unlike Woolf’s narrator, we are quite detached from Anna’s everyday thoughts – hence the physical descriptions of individual characters, rather than observations on their personalities or other, more significant characteristics. Only when Anna is experiencing sufficient stress or emotion are we allowed into her real thoughts. All of this culminates in a fairly evident question: Do we trust Anna as a narrator if she’s not letting us into her head?

On the stage

In light of the question that was asked at the end of class on Thursday (which I summarize as "Is a prostitute that is not a prostitute still a prostitute") the phrase "on the stage" caught my eye as I was reading. The line only appears three times over the course of the text (at least as far as I noticed).

The first time I noticed the phrase was on page 79 when Walter is assuring Anna that she will like Germaine and she asks if Germain is "on the stage too?" Considering that a stage implies that the person on it is acting, and that Walter keeps saying "you will like her" and "she is a nice sort" to the point that it becomes comical, Anna's question may have absolutely nothing to do with the stage. If one assumes that Anna probably views the practice of women latching onto a man who gives them money as relatively common, her addition of the "too" to the end of the question makes it very clear that she may see her own situation with Walter as acting.

Granted, this interpretation requires that Anna be way better at introspection than the text seems to want us to believe. That said, she never seems to really like Walter. She professes to love him, but that seems more out of a desire to not admit the role that she has adopted. A role which she may detest and deny yet still be fully aware of.

She is later asked if she's "on the stage" by Germaine, to which Vincent says she "is or was" which can be interpreted as foreshadowing of her and Walter's impending break up, and indicate that Germaine is using the term much as Anna was several pages back and trying to confirm if they are in the same situation. Considering the joke Germaine makes about British girls and men, it seems she is fully aware of the situation she is in and role she is playing. In both cases, however, Walter and Vincent are not in on the double meaning of the question.

The last person to use the phrase is Ethel, shortly after meeting Anna. However, Ethel's use of the phrase seems to be using the literal meaning rather than the one imposed upon it. Meaning that for all intents and purposes, Ethel is in the same boat as Walter and Vincent in terms of understanding Anna. It also sets Ethel apart from the "sort" of women that Anna and Germaine seem to represent.

Incoherent babbling tangent: the female characters in the book seem to only be represented by three "sorts." While we have the virgin/whore dichotomy playing out in Anna, Maudie, Laurie. there is also the "crone," who is represented by all the land-ladies and eventually by Ethel. And Ethel doesn't seem to start out as a crone, but really becomes it after her breakdown after the botched massage. These three archetypes seem present primarily because of societal pressure and the book is harshly critical.

Presentation of Dialogue

Something I noticed throughout the novel “Voyage in the Dark” was the strange way Rhys structured dialogue throughout the novel. It was fairly inconsistent; while I can’t recall any exact examples, there were numerous times where the dialogue of multiple characters was all in the same paragraph. At other times, the dialogue was more spread out. Not only would the lines of other characters be separated, but a character’s sentences may be divided into several different new lines.
                Personally, I thought that the strange presentation gave the reader a look into Anna’s current frame of mind. When the dialogue, regardless of character, was jumbled into the same paragraph, it gave a frantic sense to everything. At these points, it gave the impression that Anna wasn’t paying complete attention and was a bit apathetic to everything that was going on around her. When the dialogue was more separated, it gave the impression once again that Anna wasn’t paying attention, but in a different way. While the jumbled dialogue was Anna in more of a “daydream” state, the separated dialogue gives the sense that time is passing, that the character who is speaking has said more which Anna has missed or wasn’t conscious to hear. It seems to point more toward a health problem than Anna’s mental state of mind.

                The strange use of dialogue made reading “Voyage in the Dark” more interesting and intriguing. It wouldn’t have quite been the same if the dialogue was set up in a more uniform manner.

I think Anna's lack of agency and assumed inconsistency may be assigned to her being in a foreign environment and not knowing the "rules". She was pulled out of the country and the environment she was used to, knew and felt comfortable in, to be placed in another country whose language she speaks, but whose conventions she does not know. This makes her self-conscious, insecure and almost paralyzed in her actions. She does not seem to feel, and consequently appear to others, like a “whole” person, as Ethel states: “You’re not all there;” (p.145) Anna does not seem able to make herself "whole", in the sense of bringing her old life along into her new one. Whenever she wants to tell people (e.g. Walter) about her home in the West-Indies they ignore her. And in some situations she even has to disguise that she is a foreigner, because it would cause her disadvantages (Ethel's xenophobia). 
Although I know that these passages can be read differently, I also tend to read her recurring phrase: "I've read books about it" (e.g. p 104) in the way, that due to her foreignness she cannot understand by herself how English people would feel and react and thus has to rely on what others have written about it (which, of course, is hardly ever helpful to her).

Friday, September 21, 2012

Bugs Everywhere

Something that really interested me in the reading for yesterday was the recurring appearance of insects. First, on page 26, Anna talks about woodlice in reference to impoverished people. She describes how they swarm, but more interestingly she says their faces are the color of woodlice. From my experiences with lice in general, they are white. Thus, Anna seems to be saying that poor white people are similar to woodlice.
I'd like to next call your attention to a passage on 54, where Anna again talks of woodlice. This time, she's simply naming off colors and the white of people's faces is the same color as those of woodlice. Here, I think w can extend Anna's view of people and see that she means all whites are woodlice.
Anna talks about insects two other places that I've noticed. On 34, she tells readers that two people making out are like beetles, clinging to the railing. I get the impression that Anna feels all people are insects from this passage. My other theory is that people can be transformed into insects based off certain states: that is, poverty or being in love.

Finally, the most interesting bug passage that I found is on page 31. I think I ties the whole idea of people being insects together. In this passage, Anna is reminiscing over a time she was sick and Francine was taking care of her. While laying in bed with a fever, Anna notices a cockroach. A lot of attention is given to this pest, and then Francine comes in, sees the roach, and kills it.

Knowing that Anna wants to be black and abhors her whiteness, I feel that these passages serve together to show readers that the blacks have the power and will rise up to kill the white people, who are as low as insects. I'll be interested to see if any black person kills any white person throughout the story.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Title

I can not help but think there are lots of links between this text and other texts.  The title, Voyage in the Dark, reminds me of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.  However, Voyage in the Dark is the exact opposite of the latter.  In Heart of Darkness, the Congo is the savage land, while Europe is pure, but in Voyage in the Dark, Anna regards London as the dirty, dark, impure, savage city and her home in Dominica as the pure bright land.  Anna essentially describes her journey through England as the voyage indicated by the title.

Inconsistency consistency

While I recognize Anna’s inconsistencies (her frequent mood swings/unsettled nature), I do not find them as annoyances at all. How is it unreliable for Anna to change her mind? To feel love and then hate is common, a cycle that I see as part of being human. It doesn’t mean anything negative, only that Anna catalogs these emotions and shows them to us. We are readers of Voyage in the Dark, meaning we are given the opportunity to feel what Anna, as the narrator, feels. Since we follow her so closely we become close to her (possible) depression as well. I don’t believe anything is “wrong” with Anna, she is only a young woman. And through this transitory stage in her life, how could she possibly feel anything concrete, or expect to make up her mind?

Controlling Anna

As I said in class today, from what I have read of the story so far, it seems to me as though Anna has no motivations or will of her own, and that she lets others take advantage of her and push her around. While that point can be argued, what can’t be argued is that it seems as though everyone we have seen in the story has, at some point or another, pushed her around or tried to force their own desires upon her.
            We have her godmother, Hester, who decided that the best thing for her was to take her away from home and have her move to England, possibly so that she could get the money from their families estate all to herself. Her “Uncle Bo” then sends a letter declaring that her actions were outrageous, and states that only him and his family know what is best for her. At first this sounded like he genuinely cared about Anna’s welfare and had her best interests at heart. Until he brought up his demand that Hester return the money she had received from the sale of the property, meaning that it is possible (although I may just be assuming the worst of him), that he only wants Anna to come home so that he can get at that money for himself. Both of her landladies assumed that she is a whore believe they have the right to shout at her and demean her, and she is eventually kicked out of her second apartment, if not her first as well, which she lived in with her fellow chorus girl Maudie. Maudie isn’t immune to this either, though it seems to be much more benign in Maudie’s case, Maudie believes that she knows what is going on with Anna and her affair with Walter, and tries to give her advice when she doesn’t ask for it.
      And finally, we get to Walter himself. As it was said in class, even if Walter isn’t a straight out jerk, he is very condescending to her. While it is true that she is still only 18-19 when they begin their affair, he treats her like a child. He gives her money, he arranges for her to have singing lessons; he comes to her when she is sick, etc. Just like dear old Uncle Bo, at face value, these can all be taken as good intentions. But it almost feels as though he doesn’t want to help her, so much as control her, to have power over her. So, rather than actually caring for her as a person, he is taking care of what he may see as an object, or something he can use for his own pleasure.

Anna is Black

One of the primary topics in class discussion today was Anna's lack of action in Voyage in the Dark. We related her lack of action to many different aspects of her character, but although we mentioned her desire to be black, we did not relate it to her lack of action. I personally think that Anna is torn between her reality as a white person and her desire to be black. This division has not only given her two distinct sides to her character, but has almost divided her reality. On page 8 where she says "sometimes it was as if I were back there and as if England were a dream. At other times England was the real thing and out there was the dream, but I could never fit them together." For Anna the West Indies represent her black side and England represents her white side. Anna grew up as essentially a black child on an island with a large black population. As a child she did not have to deal with being white, and so was essentially happy and whole as a person. England in the novel is a white man's land, and Anna is thrust into it almost, if not completely, unwillingly. Now forced to live the life of a white woman, she does not know how to do it. She had taken on a black self-image growing up and the awareness of her "whiteness" has left her in a purgatorial state of adjustment. This is why she does nothing. She does not know how to be what is expected of her. It is through Walter that she begins to discover life as a white woman in England instead of as a black girl from the West Indies, though furthering herself from her true nature will almost certainly end badly.

Maudie and Gudrun

I just wanted to comment on the similarities between Maudie from "Voyage of the Dark" and Gudrun from "Women in Love." I came to this conclusion after reading the passage on page 16 in which Maudie states that "Those men have money; you can tell that in a minute, cant you? Anybody can. Men who have money and men who haven't are perfectly different." I think this sounds like something that Gudrun would say just because of the way Gudrun talks negatively of the lower class throughout "Women in Love."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Creation of Space: how claustrophobic are you?

Jean Rhys-so intriguing! I always feel like a giddy psychoanalyst when I confront her characters, perhaps even more so than other experimental/modernist novelist…but only perhaps! As prefaced by Dr. Stuber last class, I can’t help draw glaring (exciting, no doubt) and complex similarities between The Waves and Voyage in the Dark. I am, in this sense, immensely appreciative of the novel’s comparable agendas as I have been haunted upon the completion of The Waves. Rhy’s frazzled, frustrating, while also somewhat endearing characters/setting function as helpful extension of what it means to “be” in or out-with or without- a moment. Like Bernard, Anna relies on a sort of external aspect of processing and displaying her experiences, thoughts, and information. He thoughts are often relayed with quotations marks mixed in with her analysis. At once this aesthetic display acknowledges her obsession with appearance and what it mean to be seen; she wants to cover, hide, and layer herself with clothes and material items, ostensibly insecure in her external perception and overall place in the world. Anna’s consistent references to various glass surfaces evident in her declaration “I don’t like your looking-glass” (37) paired with her observations of “the shop-windows sneering and smiling in your face” reveals Anna’s insecure tendency to suppress her individual self and replace her external appearance and interiority with things of her external environment. While this notion of Anna’s oneness with the cityscape and board rooms could, in a sense, recall a universality of the characters in The Waves, Anna’s attempts result in a entirely more in peculiar, disjointed, angry, and pathetic manors. Anna’s isolation appears so catastrophic that I sometimes feel claustrophobic-a prisoner of her mind. In The Waves, there seemed to be an effortless flow of flux of each other.
Conversely, Anna’s tendency to imitate or forge characteristics of her environment into her own, whether it be the coldness of her room or her arms that “hung straight down” (22) seem inorganic, incomplete and artificial. At time, these intense moments of isolation, however, enable Anna to powerfully take ownership. This exertion of control is exemplified in instances of the ellipses. Though not always a positive moment of extension, though the manipulation, of language extends her once fleeting experience and consequential thoughts into an almost immortal thought or feeling. This display of perpetuity predicts that she ,like Woolf, will perhaps return to this moment later? This preservation a moment for another time when she exists as more seasoned with different perspectives, a result from future moments that are to come and pass? In Anna’s moment of exaltation as “he put his hand on [her] knee”, she merges the internal “thought” and the repetition of language ‘Yes…yes…yes…” with her masochistic relationship to appearance, represented by the quotation marks. This collision of the internal and external excites the intimidating potentiality of Anna being not only heard by us but also seen. What does it means when internal thoughts and feelings collide with the externality of touch and then lingers “…”? Can this be compared to Woolf’s notion of “non-being”? This is one of the few examples, so far at least, where Anna uses our existence as the audience to make an aesthetic and impulsive stride across the page as purely herself and not a monstrous combination of an object, temperature, color or size of her environment. She creates space with the ellipses and proudfuly dwells in her own moment. Perhaps it was the combination of the physical touch of another and the right balance of consciousness to facilitate such majesty-something I would have liked to explore more with Woolf. Conversely, do you think Anna is hiding in within these spaces of dashed and ellipses-the repetition and mimicry that seem to close in and suffocate any pure potentiality for selfhood, autonomy, or just a more broad desire for self-content? She is, a sense, creating her own space-one in the moment of London but dreamily referential to home. We are there to confirm, though perhaps less objectifying with than a stare? How will our relationship with Anna develop: we will become a product of her manipulated space?