Hammett & Morality

“In the world of Hammett’s fiction, one can experience freedom only at the cost of someone else’s limitation, and autonomy itself becomes therefore a kind of compulsion: whatever feeling Spade may have for Brigid and it is part of the strength of Hammett’s novel to suggest that he experiences more than a fleeting attractionhe must arrest her and his own desire in order to remain free” (McCann 90).

McCann expresses that in Hammet’s works, freedom is experienced by treading over someone else’s. Though Spade is in love with Brigid, he still has to turn her in for the murder of Archer. He has to “arrest his own desire” to make the correct choice and apprehend her because it is the law. Morality is presented in this context because Spade has to choose between his sense and sensibility; the conflict is between his good judgment of putting a killer away and his emotions and attraction to Brigid.

A Contradiction to Society in “The Defendant”

“By dealing with the unsleeping sentinels who guard the outposts of society, it tends to remind us that we live in an armed camp, making war with a chaotic world, and that the criminals, the children of chaos, are nothing but the traitors within our gates” (Chesterton 122).

G.K. Chesterton refers to criminals as “outposts of society,” parallel to outliers, and police as “unsleeping sentinels;” they are soldiers who do not sleep but only guard. He says this serves as a reminder that we reside in a world of turmoil and violence. He refers to criminals as “children of chaos” and “traitors” since they choose violence and betray society by causing disruption. They are, within themselves, contradictions to society and oppositions to limitations and laws. I thought the phrase “traitors within our gates” was interesting because I thought of the gates as a utopia, in a sense.

Limited Perception: Cora

“Sometimes I lose faith in human nature for a time; I am assailed by doubt. But always the lord restores my faith and reveals to me his bounteous love for His creatures” (Faulkner 11). The passage, vocalized by Cora, reveals the limits of her individual vision by depicting her doubts about human nature but then contrarily mentioning a higher power, the Lord, who she believes can see past her doubts and reassure her by directing her to “his bounteous love for His creatures.” She expresses that her perception is limited and that she is unable to see past her mistrust and uncertainty.

Culture Irony; Gabriel & Miss Ivors’ Interaction

One interaction I found ironic and significant from “The Dead” regarding the culture was between Gabriel and Miss Ivors when Gabriel awkwardly claims “Well we usually go to France or Belgium or perhaps Germany” (Joyce 234) to which Miss Ivors asks “And why do you go to France and Belgium…instead of visiting your own land?” (Joyce 234). Gabriel then responds that he goes there to keep in touch with languages, which then prompts Miss Ivory to ask again “…haven’t you got your own language to keep touch with..?” (Joyce 234). I found this dialogue ironic because Dubliners was published in June of 1914 and two months later, in August of 1914, Germany invaded Luxembourg and Belgium. It is ironic because James Joyce wrote Miss Ivory to foreshadow something he couldn’t have known, but only merely had an opinion on; an opinion on culture appropriation or invasion perhaps. The country Gabriel likes to go for a cycling tour in, got invaded by another he also usually visits for the tour. 

“The Middle Years” Commonplace Entry- ES

“He uttered a low moan as he breathed the chill of this dark void, so desperately it seemed to represent the completion of a sinister process. The tears filled his mild eyes; something precious had passed away.”

James, Henry. “The Middle Years”.  Henry James: Complete Stories: 1829-1898, ed. John Hollander and David Bromwich, The Library of America, 1996, 337

I find the sense of tragic acceptance of this passage particularly interesting because of the way Dencombe’s grieving actions correlate with the closure he is so desperately seeking and the way that the process is described by the narrator as “sinister.” The syntax of the passage reveals his emotions by initially stating how he “uttered a low moan,” almost a sorrowful sigh, and that this represents the acceptance of this loss, more so how desperate he is to have closure. It then escalates to tears when further realization reaches him. Observing Dencombe, we too, experience this deep whirlpool and rush of emotions and in a sense, grieve with him. We are able to also observe this inner battle he is experiencing. This passage is multifaceted in a sense that emotions such as desperation and acceptance are co-existing but are almost at battle with one another.