Language and Style – Prose Analysis
The extract suggests that the main protagonist is situated in a powerless position. For example the pronouns used ‘I’ sit straight in the chair’, ‘I’ feel like my feet in my flat red shoes aren’t quite touching the floor’ imply the obedience of a child. The language used shows the position of subordination combined with minimal direct speech thus indicating lack of power. On the other hand the internal thought expressed offers great insight into the main protagonist’s thoughts and imparts this on the audience. Towards the end of the extract it could be argued that freedom is regained to some extent through the power of language.
The adjective ‘red’ on line 1 foregrounds the situation of dominance and subordination. In addition to this it contains negative connotations of danger and this is imparted onto the audience.
Negative and positive adjectives on line 5‘cotton candy’ ‘small, ‘sickly’ ‘damp’ ‘weeping’ and common nouns ‘sugar and air’ indicate high emotion and have childlike references which identify with the subordinate role of the protagonist.
The extract is inclusive to many abstract nouns which contain negative connotations. For example on line 3 ‘strange’ is used to highlight the abnormality of the situation imparting feelings of disconcertion upon the audience. Similarly, on lines 25 the abstract nouns achieve the same effect. ‘Forbidden’ and ‘Dangerous’ are indicate that the main protagonist feels threatened thus creating tension and the speaker imparts feelings of uncertainty onto the reader. On lines 26 ‘indecent’ and ‘desirable’ suggests illicitness and is suggestive as it represents the unnamed protagonist as lecherous and immoral. The abstract nouns combined also have a secondary purpose. They are particularly effective at indicating the distance within the relationship.
Line 27 is subject to hyperbole ‘it’s as if he has offered me drugs suggesting irrationality used to impart feelings of disbelief. Lines 28 indicate suppression ‘I can hardly speak’ which imparts a lack of power within the nature of the dominant/subversive relationship. Line 35 includes a dynamic verb ‘I nod’ which contributes by highlighting suppression. This identifies with the situation of the main protagonist. In normal every day encounters it would be appropriate to use direct speech.
Towards the end of the extract further abstract nouns on lines 37 ‘Voluptuous’ and freedom carry positive connotations as they imply that the protagonist has gained significant power through language.
The unnamed protagonist breaks the schematic assumption when he reveals his intentions ‘I want you to play a game of scrabble with me’. Up until this point the main narrator implied that his intentions would be more sinister ‘what does he want’. The fact that the unnamed narrator fails to reveal his intentions reiterates his authority and control. This is imparted onto the audience creating anticipation. When his intentions are revealed the main narrator shows great relief. That’s what’s in the forbidden room, Scrabble! This also highlights the suppression of the main narrator. In normal circumstances she may have felt obliged to ask about certain intentions that may affect one self.
The repetition of the pronoun ‘I’ and ‘my’ suggests the obedience of a child ‘I sit straight in the chair, my hands folded in my lap’. The connotations of a child impart a sense of vulnerability onto the audience. The linguistic device alliteration used to ‘link the important words together’ (Short, 1996, page 6) ‘I feel as if my feet in their flat red shoes aren’t quite touching the floor’ contribute significantly. Further alliteration reiterates vulnerability ‘ squeeze me and I’d turn into a small sicky damp wad of weeping – pinky- red. This indicates that the protagonist feels like the encounter is reducing her to nothing and imparts a sense of vulnerability onto the audience. Again the adjective red is used to impart a feeling of uncertainty.
Line 2 is evident to a minor sentence which lacks the two necessary elements a main verb and a subject. ‘But of course they are’. This reiterates the situation of the main protagonist by reminding the audience that the main narrator is not a child which was previously suggested. i.e ‘I feel as if my feet in their flat red shoes aren’t touching the floor’.
The extract is foregrounded by lexical repetition on line 10. ‘Yes? Yes? Yes?’ and furthermore on line 4 ‘uses’, ‘used’ Therefore ‘the audience is likely to conclude that the speaker has strong feelings about it’ (Short, 1996, p14) In the case of the main protagonist it implies a strong desire to know what is expected. This builds suspense and creates curiosity as the audience is intrigued with regards to the situation. In the second example of lexical repetition it could be argued that it foregrounds the main protagonist’s feelings of being ‘used’ within the dominant situation imposed.
The line ? is syntactically deviant ‘I keep my face unmoving’. The verb is at the end of the sentence. This emphasises the action of the verb imparting anxiousness onto the audience.
The lines 25 – 26 are foregrounded by grammatical paralism. They consist of a set of parallels beginning with the linking word ‘now’ (Short, 1996, page 22.) ‘Now of course it’s something different’. In addition to this they are syntactically deviant as the adjective is placed at the end of the sentence. These adverbial phrases produce negative connotations and are inclusive to juxtaposition. A game of scrabble from the main narrator point of view was once considered infantile but now in adulthood it is considered dangerous. This imparts onto the audience a feeling that the main protagonist is not in control of the situation thus indicating a lack of power.
The lines of the Handmaid’s tail are not equal in length. This is a result of the long and short sentences that are quite sporadic throughout and change significantly depending on direct speech and internal thought. The punctuation inclusive to commas indicates pauses within the text which allow the audience to consider certain aspects.
The pronouns ‘I’ and ‘my’ indicate 1st person narrative and that the scene is being presented to us from the main narrator’s point of view. The addressee does not see any other viewpoint other than what the unnamed protagonist says to the main narrator. This means that the audience is likely to sympathise with the main narrator. (Short, 1996, p371.) This is because there is no indication of the man’s point of view with the exception of his direct speech.
The verb on line 3 ‘says’’ indicates movement away from the main narrator as deictic centre as he initiates conversation (Short, 1996, page 371.) this is only brief and the focus shifts back to the main narrator with action indicated with the adjective ‘simply and the verb ‘look’.. This is followed by a shift in tense from the present to the past on line 4. ‘My Mother ‘uses’ then ‘used’ shifting the audience back and forth within the viewpoint which is successfully in juxtaposing innocence and highlighting the inappropriateness of the situation.
On line 3 the unnamed protagonist indicates his dominance by directly addressing the main protagonist on several occasions. Line 3, “You must find this strange”. This is an example of a reported clause as he conveys his message to the main protagonist. It could be argued that this is an example of indirect speech implied by the main narrator ‘he says’. The audience is fully aware of what he has said. It could be argued that indirect speech is used to not defer attention and focus away from the main protagonist. Direct speech allows emotion and this could be imparted onto the audience and this is not the speaker’s intention. on Line 34 the unnamed protagonist asks a question ‘you know how to play’ which suggests that he is asking a child further asserting his authority which reiterates the situation the main narrator is opposed to. By leaving out the noun ‘scrabble’ indicates that this is quite an ambiguous question as more than one interpretation could be produced from the audience.
The main protagonist speaks once throughout the encounter on line 28 “all right” which demonstrates her subordinate position. This is also an example of a reported clause as she conveys her message to him.
It could be argued that the speech acts represented in the extract mean that the unnamed protagonist is the dominant party. This is because he speaks on more occasions.
The longer sentences represent the main protagonist’s internal thought and is inclusive of strong adjectives that identify with the situation. The narrator’s internal thoughts mean that to some extent we see inside her mind. (Short, 1996, page 371.) This commences on line one. ‘I sit straight in the chair’ suggesting obedience. Direct though continues on line 8 ‘I think I should have a hat on with a bow tied under my chin’. This is Followed by indirect thought ‘Yes.Yes. Yes. What does he want which indicates the suppression of the main protagonist.
To conclude my stylistic analysis supports my initial macro interpretation. The use of the personal pronoun ‘I’ and ‘my’ suggest a woman in a powerless situation. The voice of authority presented by the unnamed protagonist ‘I want’ ‘I would like’ further support my claims as even though he is not interrogative implies an instruction to obey and please. In addition to this the adjectives ‘cotton candy’ ‘sugar and ‘air suggests subversion and have childlike connotations attached to them which also reiterates control and lack of power.
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