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Third and the most important, students do not have the terms or vocabulary to discuss style.The limited knowledge they have about grammar and punctuation is not enough to help them appreciate the author’s literary language and be able to discuss its effectiveness and creativity.The definition does not sound complex; however, it is not easy to do an analysis of style in a story.
Faulkner also uses several figures of speech in the passage.
For example, he personifies the fire as “neat, niggard, and shrewd,” a characteristic similar to that of his father who, before he commits his last burning, is “still in the hat and coat, at once formal and burlesque as though dressed carefully for some shabby and ceremonial violence” (249).
For example, the fire is described as “neat,” “niggard,” and “shrewd”; the fires are his father’s “habit and custom always”; in his father’s blood there is an “inherent voracious prodigality with material not his own”; the fire is the “living fruit of nights” to help his father to pass the four years of the Civil War; the fire speaks to “some deep mainspring of his father’s being…the one weapon for the preservation of integrity.” Such words, chosen with precision, aim to explain why fire is important to his father’s being and how he develops that character in his life. Syntactically, the sentences are long and complex with many clauses and phrases as modifiers, showing again Faulkner’s effort to use as accurate words and appropriate syntax as possible to reveal the father to readers.
The passage uses three subjunctive clauses in a row: “The boy might have remarked,” “he might have gone a step farther,” and “he might have divined the real reason” to show discrepancy between Sartoris’s current status of mind and his future mental capability.
The passage as a whole stands out as a testimony of not only Abner’s multidimensional and complex personality but also Faulkner’s masterful command of style to bring Abner vividly to readers.
The detailed analyses I outlined above should be practiced in the beginning weeks of the semester so that students know how to conduct a stylistic analysis.
PALS Note: We are kicking off the new year with a guest post from Larry S.
Su, who is a professor of English at the City Colleges of Chicago.
It seems that students are always invested more in discovering and debating what happens in the story, how the characters engage in conflicts, and what the story tells them, than in discussing how the author puts words and sentences into best use for thematic and stylistic effects.
Second, as native speakers, students often take language for granted.