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convincing by throwing it into the form of chronicle, so Dickens, in developing the thought that the scene about the grindstone was a mad orgy of savagery and passion, conceived of the picture as a transaction and arranged the successive details as in narration. In function, therefore, the passage is narrative description.
How different in effect is the plain, straightforward manner of conventional description will appear in passages like the following, in which there is no suggestion of the progress of successive details as in an event:
There lived in those days round the corner - in Bishopsgate Street Without- one Brogley, sworn broker and appraiser, who kept a shop where every description of secondhand furniture was exhibited in the most uncomfortable aspect, and under circumstances and in combinations the most completely foreign to its purpose. Dozens of chairs hooked on to washing-stands, which with difficulty poised themselves on the shoulders of sideboards, which in their turn stood on the wrong side of dining-tables, gymnastic with their legs upward on the tops of other dining-tables, were among its most reasonable arrangements. A banquet array of dish-covers, wineglasses, and decanters was generally to be seen spread forth upon the bosom of a four-post bedstead, for the entertainment of such genial company as half a dozen pokers and a hall lamp. A set of window curtains, with no windows belonging to them, would be seen gracefully draping a barricade of chests of drawers, loaded with little jars from.chemists' shops; while a homeless hearth-rug, severed from its natural companion the fireside, braved the shrewd east wind in its adversity, and trembled in melancholy accord with the shrill complainings of a cabinet piano, wasting away, a string a day, and faintly resounding to the noises of the street in its jangling and distracted brain. Of motionless clocks that never stirred a finger, and seemed as incapable of being successfully wound up as the pecuniary affairs of their former owners, there was always a great choice in Mr. Brogley's shop; and various looking
glasses, accidentally placed at compound interest of reflection and refraction, presented to the eye an eternal perspective of bankruptcy and ruin.1
IV. Summary In summing up these general remarks on narration in its relations to the other forms of prose discourse, it is, perhaps, well to observe that one can overrate the importance of the distinctions between exposition, argumentation, description, and narration. It is not for a moment to be assumed that the great masters of prose deliberate with poised pen whether they are utilizing exposition or argument, whether their word-pictures are simple description or are shaded by the narrative method. Their problem is rather, What is the most effective method of presenting thought? A writer with a vivid power of visualization, a sense of concreteness, will choose to expound a theory or a process by means of a picture or through the medium of a story. Another, whose gifts are of the logical, abstract order, will set forth the same theory or process by orderly, clear, but unimaginative exposition. Yet both will write effectively. An exposition that would be suitable for the Scientific American would be out of place in St. Nicholas. Means, methods, must yield to ends.
On the other hand, there is sometimes a tendency towards the other extreme; a tendency to argue that these rhetorical distinctions have no ultimate value, that they are mere academic subtleties. This is, in its way, as fallacious as to overestimate their importance. The distinctions between methods are useful largely to the student and to the critic, it is true, but to them they certainly possess practical value. If definite character
1 Dickens's Dombey and Son.
istic advantages do belong to one form of discourse as compared with another, the student of literature can more judicially estimate the work of a literary master when he appreciates wherein the master utilizes the rhetorical opportunities that lie open to him. His criticism becomes more truly scientific and not merely a welter of impressions. Distinctions of method are not the mere wire-drawn subtleties of theory.
ANALYSIS OF THE NARRATIVE FORM
It is evident from the definition of narration that the main details constituting the occurrence will vary in complexity as the discourse itself varies in length and completeness. The main details of an extended novel, for instance, will be not only more numerous but individually more complex than will those of a brief account like that cited on page 2. And, as the principles of rhetorical structure vary with the complexity of the discourse, we may at this point do well to analyze in some detail the matter of narrative form.
To begin with the simplest complete form of composition, the sentence, — let us take the following passage from the Book of Acts:
Now while Peter was much perplexed in himself what the vision which he had seen might mean, behold, the men that were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon's house, stood before the gate, and called and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodging there.
The entire occurrence here presented may be entitled "The Arrival of the Messengers at the House of Simon,” and the essential parts are: (i) Peter's perplexity; (ii) The arrival of the messengers; and (iii) Their inquiry. Of these (i) is temporally subordinate to (ii) and (iii), which are temporally coördinate with each other. A further analysis would show that in (i) there are two narrative subdivisions: (a) Peter's vision, and (b) his consequent wonder as to its portent; that in (ii) there are three further units: (a) the dispatch of the messengers by Cornelius, (b) their inquiries as to the location of Simon's house, and (c) their arrival at the gate. Or, to represent the respective coördinations and subordinations graphically:
I. Peter's perplexity.
(a) His vision.
(b) His wonder as to its portent.
(a) Their dispatch by Cornelius.
(c) Their arrival at his house.
In this case the stages indicated by the Roman numerals constitute the particulars that make up the occurrence signified by the title, - particulars represented in the original passage by individual clauses. But sometimes the exigencies of composition may suppress clauses into phrasal form, as illustrated in the following:
The apostles, when they were returned, declared unto him what things they had done. And he took them, and withdrew apart to a city called Bethsaida. But the multitudes perceiving it followed him: and he welcomed them, and spake to them of the kingdom of God, and them that had need of healing he healed.
Examination of this passage will show seven main details, or units, coördinated into principal clauses (indicated by the principal verbs, declared, took, withdrew, followed, welcomed, spake, and healed); three others in subordinated form (indicated in the dependent clauses “when . . . returned,” “what'. .. done,” and “that
“ healing”); and two suppressed into participial