“Well, never matter. You matter. I’d like to know you whom I look at. Know, not love.” (106)
Toomer, Jean. Cane. 1923. New York: Liveright, 2011.
This message from Paul in “Bona and Paul”, reveals how the experience of loving someone and knowing someone are mutually exclusive. In many of the other stories, such as “Karintha” and and “Fern”, men idolize and claim to “love” the women, though the women remain enigmatic and their characters feel vacant in the story. None of the men truly desire to know these women, and once the women do express themselves, the men turn hateful and scorn them. Paul’s outlook is a breach in this theme as he wants to know Bona, which in turn is seemingly the most true way to connect. The sense that he will not know Bona overwhelms Paul and since he is unable to truly know her, she disappears. The inability to know one another and want to do so organically is why the women in the stories suffer such cruel fates.
“My aloneness had been violated and then made whole again by the violation: time, Anse, love, what you will, outside the circle.”
William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying. Vintage International. New York. (1990)(172)
Addie has given up her agency once she began a family with Anse, and unlike Anse, she suffers internally from the isolation she feels and the role that society tells her to fill as a mother. Addie could not be left to herself on her own terms, but through her marriage and motherhood had found a forced sense of isolation; for she married because at the time that was a women’s home to live well.
“He had not cared when Evans was killed; that was worst; but all the other crimes raised their heads and shook their fingers and jeered and sneered over the rail of the bed in the early hours of the morning at the prostrate body which lay realizing its degradation…the verdict of human nature on such a wretch was death.” (Woolfe 89)
Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Harcourt, 2002.
Septimus is deeply haunted by his past, though he punishes himself for being “unfeeling”. In turn, these very things that haunt him are themselves feelings, despite his past telling him that he is something inhuman. No one condemns Septumis more harshly than himself. It is easier for Septimus to believe he is devoid of emotion rather than succumb to the emotions that lie dormant inside him.
“She had consented to go away, to leave her home. Was that wise? She tried to weigh each side of the question. In her home anyway she had shelter and food; she had those whom she had known all her life.”
James Joyce. Dubliners. Grant Richards 1914, 30
Once Eveline begins to realize that her life is greatly changing, her perspective on the abuse she faces takes a turn for the worse. Rather than finding joy in the idea of escaping abuse, Eveline is fearful and begins to question if the choices she has made leading up to her departure are even logical. She thus finds solace in routine, though the routine causes her great anguish. Eveline admits to herself that she only needs to survive to live, rather than be happy. As she rationalizes how the bare minimum is enough to endure the abuse from her father, the reader realizes just how much Eveline dissociated from the despair of her reality.
“Only to-day, at last, had he begun to see, so that what he had hitherto done was a movement without direction. He had ripened too late and was so clumsily constituted that he had to teach himself by mistakes.”
Henry James, “The Middle Years.” Henry James: Complete Stories 1892-1898, ed John Hollander and David Bromwich (New York: The Library of America, 1996) 347
Mr. Dencombe figuratively and literally sees the youthfulness in Doctor Hugh, which only furthers Dencombe’s anxieties and regrets about being ill. Dencombe feels unaccomplished, despite Hugh’s assertion that “The Middle Years” is a fantastic work of art. Will Dencombe ever be satisfied? Or will the notion of aging and life moving to a standstill always remind one of how much more they wanted to accomplish? Is it because Dencombe is unable to observe himself from an external, non-biased point of view? Would any feelings of his change if he could view himself externally?