« iepriekšējāTurpināt »
(c) Definiteness In closing the consideration of the various characteristics that contribute to interest, a word should be added with reference to the third element mentioned on page 225: definiteness, or clearness. Clearness in this connection, however, does not signify mere lucidity of phraseology as seen in the careful ordering of clauses, phrases, and single words. In plot structure, clearness has reference rather to the ordering of the plot elements, - whether they appear in connection with setting, characterization, or action, - in such manner that they shall leave no doubt as to the trend of the various plot threads, the precise nature of the complication, the definite course of events leading to the culmination. Clearness in setting or in characterization per se is, of course, a fundamental essential. Abundance of detail, concreteness of detail, must be clearly observed; but, more than this, the contribution that the clearly defined scene or the accurately portrayed personality makes to the main business of the narrative must be equally evident. For example, it is not enough that the picture of Upper Crowstairs on the boisterous March night of the Fennel christening be so photographic that we can see even the little birds themselves “their tails blown inside out like umbrellas” as they seek security from the storm. The bearing of this tempestuous scene upon the course of the events chronicled must also be evident. Green's characterization of Queen Elizabeth may be as definite and objective as is her ghastly effigy in Westminster Abbey, yet clearness in historic plot structure is lacking unless we are made to see just how that personality was an essential influence in the events that constitute the Elizabethan Age of English History. And so is it with details of action: the deeds and words of the man in cinder gray and of the pale-faced third traveler must clearly promote the culmination of the mystery of the three strangers and its resolution. The historical details of war and peace, of intrigue and duplicity, of political, social, and industrial development, - all these must combine to form a distinct trend in the direction of the England that followed Elizabeth's day, if there is to be clearness of plot structure.
FORMS OF NARRATIVE LITERATURE
THE discussion of narration has thus far been structural in its application. We have taken up in detail the various elements that contribute to the narrative effect and the rhetorical qualities that are essential to each in turn. The purpose of the present chapter is to review briefly the principal literary forms into which narration may be divided. These we may group as follows:
I. The narrative of fact:
a. History and memoirs.
a. The Novel.
I. THE NARRATIVE OF FACT
It has been said that history is the highest form of literature; that it belongs to a more advanced order of intellectual effort than does the essay, the epic, the lyric, the drama, or the novel. But to attempt any definite ranking of the various forms of literary expression on the basis of comparative excellence is vain. The premises essential to relative judgment are lacking. The effort to demonstrate that Thucydides is superior to Homer, for instance, suggests the type of forensic propositions at one time very popular, such as, Resolved that
Napoleon was a greater man than Shakespeare; that the profession of the law has been of greater benefit to man than has that of medicine; and the like. To prove the superiority of one thing over another we must have some common denominator. But so numerous and so diverse in their essential characteristics are the various types of literature that we cannot thus range them side by side for comparative valuation. The appeal of the drama and the appeal of history, for example, are utterly unlike; to say, then, that Macbeth is, as a piece of literature, superior or inferior to the Germania or the Peloponnesian War is a critical impossibility. And so also of the various phases that constitute narrative writing, - history and the novel, let us say. We may
indeed compare them as to the effectiveness of those qualities that they possess in common, - characterization, coherence in organization of plot, and so on,
but we cannot compare them as integral wholes. They are fundamentally unlike. History, in one important sense, is intellectual in essence; fiction is emotional. But every student of literature knows that he cannot decry either of these fundamentals at the expense of the other. Far more reasonable, then, would it be to say no more than this, that among the forms of narrative writing, history, in the hands of the masters, holds high rank in the scale of literary expression.
From time to time in discussing the various constituent elements of narration we have had occasion to mention their specific application to history as well as to other narrative forms. At this point we may well look for the characteristics that in general distinguish this type of literature and set it apart from the other forms. Various critics of historical literature have laid emphasis on widely differing fundamental qualities as essential to the historian. We shall perhaps make no serious mistake if we follow the judgment of one who, in spite of glaring faults, yet ranks among the greatest of English historiographers, - Macaulay. Macaulay, in his essay on Hallam’s Constitutional History of England, has said:
Mr. Hallam is, on the whole, far better qualified than any other writer of our time for the office which he has undertaken. He has great industry and great acuteness. His knowledge is extensive, various, and profound. His mind is equally distinguished by the amplitude of its grasp, and by the delicacy of its tact. His speculations have none of that vagueness
which is the common fault of political philosophy. On the contrary, they are strikingly practical, and teach us not only the general rule, but the mode of applying it to solve particular cases.
The language, even where most faulty, is weighty and massive, and indicates strong sense in every line. It often rises to an eloquence, not florid or impassioned, but high, grave, and sober; such as would become a state paper, or a judgment delivered by a great magistrate, a Somers or a D'Aguesseau.
In this respect the character of Mr. Hallam's mind corresponds strikingly with that of his style. His work is eminently judicial. Its whole spirit is that of the bench, not that of the bar. He sums up with a calm, steady impartiality, turning neither to the right nor to the left, glossing over nothing, exaggerating nothing, while the advocates on both sides are alternately biting their lips to hear their conflicting mis-statements and sophisms exposed. On a general survey, we do not scruple to pronounce the Constitutional History the most impartial book that we ever read.
What, then, are the essential characteristics that Macaulay here sets down as distinctive of the ideal historian? They would seem to arrange themselves under the following heads: