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Date Posted: 9/2/2010 10:38 PM ET
Member Since: 4/11/2008
Posts: 7
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Hey writers!

I'm taking my first senior class this semester: English 431--The American Novel. One of my assignments is to do a close reading on one of the novels I have to read throughout the course of the semester. Frank Norris' _McTeague_ is the novel I've chosen and I've picked out a passage that I loved and wanted to examine. If you do not know what a close reading is, here is an example from my final from EH 331.

  1. Certainly she was very charming; but how deucedly sociable! Was she simply a pretty girl from New Your State?were they all like that, the pretty girls who had a good deal of gentlemen?s society? Or was she also a designing, an audacious, an unscrupulous young person? Winterbourne had lost his instinct in this matter, and his reason could not help him. ?Henry James, Daisy Miller, page 397

Syntax and two word choices

Using "audacious" as describing the female, James places her as a more powerful being of womanly dynamism, whereas when using "instinct," James describes the male as being pushed to the side as a small, plain fellow-figure.  James structures these sentences in a way that when they speak of the female, they tend to flow in a more complicated manner with words that need more persistent tongue and lip movement. Furthermore, interrogative sentences are used for the female to convey mystery, while the male's structure is merely known. When they speak of the male, the sentences are simple and easily verbalized.  Also, what also contributes to the sentence structure is when the sentences of the female contain positive terms such as "good deal" of that which she has an abundance of a thing, while sentences containing the male contain negative terms such as "lost" of that which he "lost his instinct."

               Diction and color imagery

  1. He was almost fifty, and he looked it. His hair was long and tangled and greasy, and hung down, and you could see his eyes shining through like he was behind vines. He was all black; no gray; so was his long, mixed-up whiskers. There warn?t no color in his face, where his face showed; it was white; not like another man?s white, but a white to make a body sick, a white to make a body's flash crawl, a tree-toad white, a fish-belly white.  -- Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, page 119


With the use of "eyes shining...behind vines," Twain utilizes the long "i" sound to produce a rhythmic pattern as the words enter the mind to be comprehended. This same effect for the "i" also happens when Twain writes "white" in the sentences that follow. Images of light and dark, or black and white, to describe the concrete force of which this character has; there is "no grey" on this man, or rather, no shaded area, no middle-ground, or no instability of personality. 

Rhetorical strategy and syntax

  1. The life, character and death of Robert Charles challenge the thoughtful consideration of all fair-minded people. In a frenzy of the moment, when nearly a dozen men lay dead, the victims of his unerring and death-dealing aim, it was natural for a prejudiced press and for citizens in a private life to denounce him as a desperado and a murderer. But sea depths are not measured when the ocean rages, nor can absolute justice to be determined while public opinion is lashed into fury. There must be calmness to insure correctness of judgment. The fury of the hour must abate before we can deal with any man or any cause. -- Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Mob Rule in New Orleans, page 875

Wells-Barnett uses commas at the beginning of this passage as an emotional movement up the crest of a wave, hitting the peak with "rages," and slowly moving past "lashed and fury" into the "calmness" of the subsiding comma usage. The passage actually mentions "sea-depths" and the "ocean raging" to have the audience visualize the waving emotional structure of the passage while also speaking of the analogical waves of the sea.



I would love to begin a thread using passages that stuck out for you from a novel that you've recently read. We could all come together and become better readers, thinkers, and writers! Here's my passage:

"The brute that in McTeague lay so close to the surface leaped instantly to life, monstrous, not to be resisted. He sprang to his feet with a shrill and meaningless clamor, totally unlike the ordinary bass of his speaking tones. It was the hideous yelling of a hurt beast, the squealing of a wounded elephant. He framed no words; in the rush of high-pitched sound that issued from his wide-opened mouth there was nothing articulate. It was something no longer human; it was rather an echo from the jungle." -Frank Norris, _McTeague_, 1899. p 182.

Last Edited on: 9/2/10 10:54 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 9/2/2010 10:45 PM ET
Member Since: 4/11/2008
Posts: 7
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Last Edited on: 9/2/10 10:54 PM ET - Total times edited: 1