A Gullible Mind

“We were real innocents: this was the first time we had been away from home. He held us spellbound: on the slightest of pretexts, he would switch from lecturing us on science to expounding the Vedas or reciting Persian poetry–and since we knew nothing about science or the Vedas or Persian poetry, our awe of him increased with every word he uttered.”

Tagore, Rabindranath, et al. “Hungry Stone.” The Essential Tagore: Rabindranath Tagore, Belknap, Cambridge, MA, 2011, 540

This passage shows the narrator and his cousin as being susceptible to the words of the strange man they meet on the train. This unknown man tells them many things, which the narrator takes as fact, since he and his cousin do not know any better. As stated by the narrator, they are innocents who do not know much of the world outside of their home. This passage is very telling in how the story will play out further and how the stories the strange man tells them will be important.

A Lesson in (A)Morality, By Sam Spade

“I know what I’m talking about. I’ve been through it all before and expect to go through it again. At one time or another I’ve had to tell everybody from the Supreme Court down to go to hell, and I’ve got away with it. I got away with it because I never let myself forget that a day of reckoning was coming. I never forget that when the day of reckoning comes I want to be all set to march into headquarters pushing a victim in front of me, saying ‘Here, you chumps, is your criminal!'”

Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon (New York: Vintage Books, 1992), 176.

Throughout the novel, Hammett clues us in to Spade’s moral standing and lets us know that he is driven largely by self-interest, doing whatever he needs to do, like manipulating others, to get what he wants. In this passage, he is talking to Gutman and telling him that his corrupted moral code is not confined to this one job of obtaining the Maltese Falcon, but is something that he has stood by for a long time, constantly toeing the line with law enforcement officials all the way from cops and detectives to the Supreme Court. In Spade’s own mind, it is completely logical for him to use whatever means necessary to save himself before anyone else, taking on an objective standpoint that is not influenced by anything other that what he himself deems worthy.

A Social Contradiction in a Murder Mystery

“He was very handsome, then, you know, dear, in a foreign-looking way, but he hadn’t any means, and the Fords didn’t like his religion. Of course we’re all Jews nowadays, and they wouldn’t have minded so much if he’d pretended to be something else…”

Sayers, Dorothy L. Whose Body? Dover Publications, 2009 (pg. 27)

This passage is being told by the Duchess, Lord Peter’s mother. At this point, the topic of Levy’s being Jewish and the dead man in the bathtub being Hebrew is brought up many times, and most often with some ethnic and religious prejudice attached to it. This is evident here, when the Duchess talks about the Ford family being unaccepting of Levy because of the conflict of his religion and ethnicity not matching theirs, and would have preferred it if he had just pretended to be something else entirely. This will likely also be a factor in who the dead man is and why he was killed. By doing this, Sayers talks about a larger social contradiction in the time period of the 1920s and crafts it into the story of a murder mystery.

The Only Thing She Sees

“It’s because he stays out there, right under the window, hammering and sawing on that goddamn box. Where she’s got to see him. Where every breath she draws is full of his knocking and sawing where she can see him saying See. See what a good one I am making for you.”

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text Vintage Books, 1990, pg 14.

This section is from Jewel’s point of view, and he expresses resentment for Cash as he watches him purposefully build their mother’s coffin right outside of her bedroom window, where she lays dying. Jewel thinks about how this is the only thing Addie sees, a cruel reminder of her last days. It obscures her senses–limits her vision–until the only thing she is capable of seeing is the coffin, a reminder of death, knowing that all things eventually come to an end.

Culture in the Form of Nationalism

“- And why do you go to France and Belgium, said Miss Ivors, instead of visiting your own land?
– Well, said Gabriel, it’s partly to keep in touch with the languages and partly for a change.
– And haven’t you your own language to keep in touch with–Irish? asked Miss Ivors.
– Well, said Gabriel, if it comes to that, you know, Irish is not my language.”

Joyce, James, and Jeri Johnson. “The Dead” Dubliners, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2000, pg 149.

In the conflict between these two characters, Joyce makes each of their stances very clear: Miss Ivors is a nationalist, loyal to her country, while Gabriel does not feel that connection to his fellow Irishmen and lacks the Irish loyalty that Miss Ivors so proudly displays. Miss Ivors is proud of her culture to a degree in which she berates Gabriel for not feeling the same way, and goes as far as to call him a West Briton, basically a cultural traitor. Culture is an important theme throughout this story, and this argument shows that the function of culture in the form of nationalism reveals the ideals and values of these characters, and is likely a way for Joyce to include some of his own criticisms about Ireland and Irish culture with his uniquely ironic way of writing.

“The Middle Years” Commonplace

“He thought of the fairy-tales of science and charmed himself into forgetting that he looked for a magic that was not of this world.”

Henry James, “The Middle Years.” Henry James: Complete Stories 1892-1898, ed. John Hollander and David Bromwich (New York: The Library of America, 1996), 348-349.

Dencombe expresses a strong desire for a cure of the illness that has affected him; for Doctor Hugh to find one with the new knowledge of the younger generation. Dencombe observes that such a cure would be a miracle. Is this him starting to come to terms with the fact that the life he has lived has been his one, and only, chance?