Out, damn spot!..Gosh!


I looked up and saw the mark on the wall for the first time…a small round mark, black upon the white wall, about six or seven inches above the mantelpiece…I’m not sure about it…I might get up but if I got up and looked at it, ten to one I shouldn’t be able to say for certain (p. 77)…Ah, the mark on the wall! It was a snail. – p. 83 of "The Mark on the Wall" by Woolf
vs
There are some black specks on the wall. I stare at them, certain they are moving. Well, I ought to be able to ignore a few bugs by this time. ‘Il ne faut pas mettre tout sur le même plan…’
I get up and look closely. Only splashes of dirt. It’s not the time of year for bugs, anyway.
– p.349 of Good Morning, Midnight by Rhys

A few days ago, I found myself in the same plight. While checking my e-mail, commenting on my friends' posts on facebook, organizing some upcoming club events, and researching something on the internet, I was thinking about all the work that I had to do and readings that I had to undertake when I suddenly looked up and saw a spot on the wall. It blended in slightly which made me wonder if it was some kind of spider or dirt or…I don’t know. I knew it was some kind of projection by the way the part that blended into the wall had a dark underlining shadow forming a half moon. Yet, I didn’t know exactly what it was...Long story slightly shortened, it was a nail that had been painted over many times.


I found that Jean Rhys in the excerpt from Good Morning, Midnight that we read for class slightly parallels Virginia Woolf’s “The Mark on the Wall” but then diverges by the choices that the narrators make to ascertain what the mark is, or in the latter work was. Both narrators, and myself, use the “mark” or “speck on the wall” as a distraction. For Rhys, the “specks on the wall” intrude on her thoughts while she reflects on her friend Sidonie and her perception of Sasha, the narrator. Sidonie seems to orchestrate great influence over Sasha which may not always be what Sasha wants. Sasha says, “She imagines that it’s my atmosphere. God, it’s an insult when you come to think about it! More dark rooms, more red curtains…” (p.349). The thought that Sidonie perceives that this environment suits Sasha offends Sasha. Sasha seems to be trying to escape “the dark rooms” and “red curtains” but Sidonie, who thinks she knows what is best for Sasha, traps her in the very things she is trying to avoid. Sasha seems to indirectly challenge Sidonie when she says, “But one mustn’t put everything on the same plane. That’s her great phrase. And one mustn’t put everybody on the same plane, either” (p.349). Sasha twists Sidonie’s own philosophy against her. She lashes out, “And this is my plane.” Sasha’s words distance her from Sidonie’s control. Yet, Sasha’s distraction, “the specks on the wall,” seems to weaken her resolve. She broadens the distance from these rebellious thoughts by the taking some luminal and going to sleep at once.

On the other hand, the narrator in Woolf’s work approaches the “mark on the wall” differently. The “mark” saves her from an infantile fancy. The narrator says, “Rather to my relief the sight of the mark interrupted the fancy, for it is an old fancy, an automatic fancy, made as a child perhaps” (p. 77). The narrator chooses more mature and progressive thoughts. The “mark” provokes her thoughts to transcend imagination and histories to the meaning of life. Her cavalcade of thoughts is therapeutic and welcomed. The narrator, enlightened by her deep thoughts, says “I understand Nature’s game—her prompting to take action as a way of ending any thought that threatens to excite or to pain…Still, there’s no harm in putting a full stop to one’s disagreeable thoughts by looking at a mark on the wall.” – p. 82

The narrator of “The Mark on the Wall” seems to be more in control of and willing to face her thoughts than Sasha, whose distraction flashes her from a state of pondering discontent to sleep deprived indifference. Sasha is more willing to face her “specks.” She uses them as an escape plan from her discontent and as a bridge to her luminal. Woolf’s narrator uses the “mark” as a bridge to her thoughts and seeping discontent with oppressive masculine authority. Her thoughts slither in and out of scenes of oppressive males.


From the people who used to live in the house but moved because the man said “they wanted to change their style of furniture” (p. 77) to a ludicrous Shakespeare who had “a shower of ideas that fell perpetually from some very high Heaven down through his mind” (p. 79) to a world where “illegitimate freedom” could spring from the governing “masculine point of view” if “men perhaps, should …be a woman” (p.80) to antiquated, “learned men” whose honor sinks with “dwindling superstitions” (p. 81) and, finally, to a place where men and women sit together and smoke cigarettes after tea, it seems like at the end of the narrative masculine authority is replaced with a semblance of equality where men and women have equal footing and the world blooms in “beauty and [where]health of mind increases” (p.81). Woolf’s narrator utilizes the “mark” to obtain some peace of thought while Sasha’s distraction turns her away from deep thought to mere superficiality and shallow cares, to dirt and bugs.


And my spot? My spot lacked such depth but successfully diverted my attentions and energies to one focus, rather than many.