Lapas attēli
PDF
ePub

cottages the half-naked peasantry fled under cover of the night to the recesses of their pathless glen. Even the sons of MacIan, who had been especially marked out for destruction, contrived to escape. They were roused from sleep by faithful servants. John, who, by the death of his father, had become the patriarch of the tribe, quitted his dwelling just as twenty soldiers with fixed bayonets marched up to it. It was broad day long before Hamilton arrived. He found the work not even half performed. About thirty corpses lay wallowing in blood on the dunghills before the doors. One or two women were seen among the number, and a yet more fearful and piteous sight, a little hand, which had been lopped in the tumult of the butchery from some infant. One aged Macdonald was found alive. He was probably too infirm to fly, and, as he was above seventy, was not included in the orders under which Glenlyon had acted. Hamilton murdered the old man in cold blood. The deserted hamlets were then set on fire; and the troops departed, driving away with them many sheep and goats, nine hundred kine, and two hundred of the small shaggy ponies of the Highlands.

a

Here every sentence-articulation is suppressed. The reader no longer moves on step by step; he leaps from detail to detail. Between each sentence and its successor there is a distinct gap, but no conjunctive or adverbial bridge spans the chasm. The result is far greater animation and force. If continued too far, this device, like that of a fully articulated style, loses through sheer monotony, but the monotony now results in weariness from sustained mental exertion, from too long a run. In the other case the monotony did not weary so much as it cloyed. The device of asyndeton in the item, as in longer narrative, is adapted to a theme of vigor, rapidity, dash. It secures force and nervous energy, but is easily carried too far.

[ocr errors]

а

[ocr errors]

а

[ocr errors]

The matter of coherence, however, is not limited to the considerations of initial and terminal connectives: coherence is affected also by internal articulation. The temporal relation that enters so essentially into the narrative item can be expressed in a variety of ways, each possessing its own particular shade of significance, and the general character of the whole is attributable in no small degree to the type of structure selected. A very simple illustration will show what is meant by the value of internal connectives. Consider the single sentence: So artfully did he prepare the road for his favorable

reception at the court of this prince that he was at once and universally welcomed as a benefactor.1 As it stands, this sentence conveys but a single principal idea, composed of two essential parts, standing to each other in the relation of cause and effect. Disturb the relation inherent in "so" and "that," and the highly coherent aspect of this complex idea is lost. The sentence at once falls apart into two independent units, the bond between them being no longer clearly expressed but left to the interpretation of the reader; for example,

He artfully prepared the road for his favorable reception at the court of this prince; and he was at once and universally welcomed as a benefactor. The relation that is indicated at the semicolon might be, - probably would be, — interpreted as that of cause and effect, and yet it might well be the mere sequence of chronological succession, - a very different idea. If,

, now, the sentence were to read:

Although he artfully prepared the road for his favorable reception at the court of this prince, yet he was at once and universally welcomed as a benefactor,

1 De Quincey: Revolt of the Tartars.

it at once becomes evident that the logical values have been radically changed, and the reader must adjust his mind to a wholly different context. The successive variations show that within the sentence coherence-words are of great importance in exactly expressing the idea existent in the mind of the writer.

Not to go too deeply into the mechanics of the sentence, — the clause, the phrase, and the various classes of modifiers, – it may be said that in general the effects of connective expression and suppression are the same within as between sentences. A narrative item constructed of sentences in which there is but a succession of coördinated clauses, similar in structure and cumulative in character, will be marked by simplicity, but often at the risk of monotony. Greater complexity, more careful regard to coherence of details, as shown by the subordination of one idea to another, not only presents the narrative theme with greater exactness, but, by throwing the stress where it logically belongs, approximates in a very rudimentary way the plexity of well grouped plot structure. In other words, due attention to coherence within the sentence contributes also to clearness and emphasis. For example, to cite a single sentence in illustration of a principle that in its extension characterizes the entire item, take the following:

That dread voice of his that shook the hills when he was angry, fell in ordinary talk very pleasantly upon the ear, with a kind of honied, friendly whine, not far off singing, that was eminently Scottish.1 Now if one were to recast this sentence into the form that frequently is found in the work of the thoughtless or

1 Stevenson's Memories and Portraits. By permission of Charles Scribner's Sons.

com

а

inexperienced writer, suppressing all the shades of interdependence, and giving to each constituent predication equal stress, the result would be something after this sort:

Sometimes he was angry and that dread voice of his shook the hills, but in ordinary talk it fell very pleasantly upon the ear, and its kind of honied, friendly whine was not far off singing and was eminently Scottish. It is apparent at a glance that the due proportion of parts has been grossly disturbed. The pleasant tone of the voice in ordinary conversation, which is the dominant theme of the original sentence, has now lost its relative value by its correlation with the idea of the first clause and of the last two, all of which are logically subordinate and contributory.

These and other matters of internal sentence structure, — the periodic, the loose, and the balanced sentence; the suppression of clauses into phrases; simple, complex, and compound sentences; the matter of phrasal modifications, — have been thrashed out in every text

book on rhetoric and composition. Nor are these somewhat technical considerations trivial and merely academic. The student of the mechanics of narrative writing may well study them, for the observation of these very details, conscious or unconscious, has contributed largely to the effectiveness that characterizes the expression of the great masters. Narrative literature abounds with examples that illustrate the difference between styles characterized by simplicity or complexity, clearness or vagueness, rapidity or deliberation, dignity or informality. And often it is evident that the ultimate effect is due largely to the writer's observation of coherence between the sentences or between the elements within the sentences.

(6) The Ordering of the Narrative Details Coherence in the narrative item, however, is not limited to the coördination and subordination of sentences or of sentence elements. The ordering of the narrative details that constitute the occurrence is of no less importance. This consideration is less purely technical and grammatical than the preceding; it appeals more to the artistic judgment of the writer, to his sense of effectiveness.

The writer of the simplest narrative form may order his details in any one of several ways. Three, however, are common, and each of the three has its own particular value.

One method of ordering the narrative elements is illustrated in the following item, the brief review of a novel:

a

a

Child of Destiny (William Briggs, Toronto) by William J. Fischer, is a love story dealing with two generations. A young man is scorned by the woman he loves, and, giving himself up to jealousy and hatred, follows her after her marriage to another man and kidnaps her little daughter. He carries the child back to his own home and brings her up in luxury. She grows into a lovely young woman and is about to marry, when a letter of confession left by her abductor at the time of his death reveals that she and her intended husband are brother and sister. Later it is discovered that they are not blood relatives, since he had been adopted by her parents."

In this case we have what we may perhaps call the normal narrative order. The details are set down in simple chronological succession. Coherence is secured by the natural bond that unites events proceeding one from another. The writer assumes sufficient interest on the part

1 New York Times.

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »