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The process of reading a literary text is an act of communication between the reader and the author. The success of this act depends both on the author and the reader, his erudition, reading experience and impressionability.
The author's art of exerting his influence upon the reader, making him react to the fictitious events, conflicts depends wholly on his craftsmanship. The reader comes to appreciate or dislike the character. He is unaware of the fact, that he is guided by the author.
Most modern authors prefer an impersonal, seemingly indifferent way of presentation. This requires specific styles, methods, obviously revealed in forms, details, etc.
An image of reality presented by the author is represented through composition, plot, theme, genre, style and image. It is through the image that the author presents his vision of the world, his message (idea). The author may give an ample presentation of events, images, facts or they are incompletely presented. In the course of reading the reader comes to realize that events, images and facts are contra- and juxtaposed, learns the principle of analogy and contrast, comes to know that some facts, events, etc. are constantly reiterated, which aims at creating a certain effect. This is known as the principle of recurrence.
When analyzing a short story a student should bear in mind that there are two types of short stories: a plot (action) short story and a psychological (character) short story. A psychological (character) short story requires much care and precision on the part of the reader. Unlike a plot (action) short story, where the compositional part (the exposition, the story, the climax, the denouement) is almost always transparent, in a psychological short story there is no collision. The action in a character short story may be retarded or left in a state of suspense.
The effect of the impression on the reader's senses is achieved in many wауs: the use of the difference between the literal (denotative) and implied (connotative) meanings of the words; the use of neutral words alongside with those of other stylistic layers; the use of inversion, etc.
1 Principles to Be Observed in the Analysis
There are no hard and fast rules about making a critical review of a story but one is usually expected to dwell on the genre and composition of the story, the ideas expressed, the author's attitude towards his characters and the way in which the artistic effect is achieved. The imaginative writer has at his disposal a wealth of linguistic means to appeal to the reader, to express and convey his thoughts.
We can suggest a plan that a student can follow when analyzing a piece of writing:
1 Some information about the author.
2 The theme (subject) of the story.
3 The idea of the story.
4 Composition and plot (summary).
5 The choice of the point of view and form of speech.
6 Characterization, or character drawing.
7 Stylistic expressive means.
8 The author's likes and dislikes.
9 The analyzer's opinion.
Now, let's decipher what one should know and do to follow this plan.
1.1 It is always favourable to begin your analysis with giving information about the author: the time and place of the author' birth, steps of his literary career, the literary trend he belongs to, what his style is noted by. The student can borrow this information from the introduction to the book or the story.
1.2 The theme (subject) of the story is the basic problem or conflict, which the writer intends to present in his work. It is the general topic, of which the particular story is an illustration. In other words, the theme is usually the issue of life that people have to deal with. The student may simply begin: "The story is devoted to ...".
1.3 The idea of the story is the main conclusion the reader arrives at after reading it; it is sometimes called "the author's message". For example, the idea of R.Gordon's "Doctor in the house” may be formulated as "Students are students everywhere".
1.4 The plot of a literary work is its plan and the structure of the action comprising a series of incidents or system of events. A separate incident helping to unfold the action in a large piece of fiction is called an episode. The student must operate the terms "setting", "exposition", "climax", "denouement", or "unknotting", "ending", "suspense".
The setting is the description of the physical background - the place and time of the story, the significant items surrounding the action and the characters.
The exposition is an introductory part of the story, where the characters are introduced and some explanation of the background is given.
The climax is the decisive point on which the fate of the characters and the final action depend. It is the point at which the forces in the conflict reach the highest intensity.
Denouement, or unknotting, is the final resolution of the plot. It comes after and sometimes coincides with the climax. It is an event or episode that brings the story to its end.
Ending is the manner of bringing a piece of fiction to a close. An unexpected turn of the plot not made clear until the end of the story is called surprise ending.
Suspense is a state of uncertainty, doubt and anxiety produced in the reader by the deliberate development of the plot.
This part of the analysis is presented as the summary of the text. A summary is a clear concise orderly retelling of the contents of a passage or a text and is ordinarily about 1/3 or 1/4 as long as the original.
How should one work?
Read the passage thoroughly, write out clearly in your own words the main points of the selection. Subordinate or eliminate minor points. Retain the paragraphing of the original. Preserve the proportion of the original. Change the direct narration to indirect wherever it is possible, use words instead of word combinations and word combinations instead of sentences. Omit figures of speech, repetitions and most examples. Don't use personal pronouns, use proper names. But don't forget to indicate the exposition, climax and unknotting.
1.5 The story may be told from the point of view of: 1) the author; 2) the chief character of the story; 5) an onlooker who may be some minor participant of the action or some person outside the group of characters. The focus of narration has to do with who tells the story. If it is the "author observer", a story is told in an objective way, without going into the minds of the characters and without his own comments. If it is the "omniscient author", he tells what happens with complete liberty to go into the minds of the characters and to give his own comments. There are, of course, various combinations of the main types of narration.
A story may be told in:
1) direct speech, the characters speaking themselves;
2) indirect speech, the author describing the thoughts and feelings of his characters;
3) non-personal direct speech (see "interior monologue").
The student should remember that any work of fiction consists of relatively independent elements - narration, description, dialogue, interior monologue, digression, etc.
Narration is dynamic, it gives a continuous account of events. Description is static, it is a verbal portraiture of an object, person or scene. It may be detailed and direct or impressionistic, giving few but striking details.
Dialogue gives better opportunities for the characters' portrayal. It brings the action nearer to the reader, makes it seem more swift and more intense.
Interior monologue renders the thoughts and feelings of a character. The most recent development in interior monologue is the so-called stream of consciousness which gives the reader an impression of the unending and uneven flow of ideas, feelings and memories in a person's mind (see also above and on p.10).
Digression consists of an insertion of material that has no immediate relation to the theme or action. A digression may be critical, philosophical, lyrical, etc.
1.6 Characterization, or character drawing, is one of the most important problems of the writer, who is to present his characters to the reader as individual human beings. There are two ways of characterization in stories:
1) direct characterization, when the author or another person defines the character for the reader by describing or explaining it, thus offering his own interpretation of the person;
2) indirect characterization, through the action and conversation, when the author leaves it to the reader to judge the characters by what they do and say.
When characterizing the heroes the author resorts to the wealth of stylistic expressive means, that should be commented on. The student must analyze the use only of those stylistic devices that contribute to the character drawing and creating the general tone of the piece of writing under analysis.
1.7 The purpose of a writer of fiction is to reproduce in the reader his own thoughts and feelings, to make the reader visualize and feel what he wants him to visualize and feel. The choice and arrangement of appropriate words and sentence patterns, the use of various stylistic expressive means to a great extent determine the effect the literary production will have on the reader.
Among stylistic devices used by a writer we distinguish between phonetic, lexical and syntactical expressive means.
Phonetic expressive means are confined mainly to poetry and are not dealt with here.
Lexical expressive means can also be referred to as "figures of speech", or "tropes". We shall mention the most important ones.
An epithet is usually an attributive word or phrase expressing some quality of a person, thing or phenomenon. An e epithet always expresses the author's individual attitude towards what he describes, his personal appraisal of it, and is a powerful means in his hands of conveying his emotions to the reader and in this way securing the desired effect. Example: an unpleasant inevitability; the unpopular oral examination; terrible displeasure.
A simile (образное сравнение) is an expressed imaginative comparison based on the likeness of two objects or ideas belonging to different classes (in contrast to a comparison which compares things belonging to the same class and is not a figure of speech). The comparison is formally expressed by the words "as", "like", "as if", "such as", "seem". Example: To a medical student the final examinations are something like death ...; ... he goes at them like a prize-fighter ...;...we attended all his ward rounds, standing at the front and gazing at him like impressionable music enthusiasts at the solo violinist.
A metaphor is an implied imaginative comparison expressed in one word or in a number of words or sentences (the so-called prolonged, or sustained, metaphor - развернутая метафора). A metaphor expresses our perception of the likeness between two objects or ideas. Examples: "Yes", I croaked. I rallied my thoughts and stumbled through the answer. Little shreds of success collected together and weaved themselves into a triumphal garland (prolonged metaphor).
A metaphor may be expressed by different parts of speech. Note that practically every simile can be compressed into a metaphor and every metaphor can be extended into a simile.
Irony is a figure of speech by means of which a word or words (it may be a situation) express the direct opposite of what their meanings denote, thus we often say "How clever!” when a person says or does something foolish. Irony shows the attitude of the author towards certain facts or events: "... the porters began tearing papers away from the gentlemen"; "...hoping by an incomplete sentence to give the examiners the impression of frustrated brilliance".
Zeugma (зевгма) is a stylistic device, typical of English, in which one word is used in relation to two (or more) other words in a different sense. Example: "...a lively boarding house with a billiard table and low prices; all tennis rackets, trousers, and opinions are held in common".
Oxymoron (оксюморон) is a figure of speech consisting in the use of an attribute the meaning of which is incongruous with the meaning of the word it modifies. Example: "There is rarely any frank cheating in medical examinations..."
Periphrasis (перифраз) is a stylistic device consisting in replacement of one word denoting an object by its description in a roundabout way, which brings out one of its features or qualities. Example: "... inescapable anatomic arrangements".
Euphemism (эвфемизм) is the use of a milder word or phrase instead of the one that seems rough or unpleasant: "opiate oblivion" (alcohol), "unspeakables" (trousers).
Metonymy (метонимия) is a figure of speech by which the name of one object is given to another, not by way of comparison (as in metaphor), but because one suggests the other by some or other association of facts or idea: I know Dickens (Dickens' works); City (people living in the City); Benskin discovered that Malcolm Maxworth was the St. Swithin's representative ... (St. Swithin's Hospital); "Haven't you heard how they mark the tripos at Cambridge?” (Cambridge University); ...like the policemen that flank the dock at the Old Bailey (Central Criminal Court, situated in London in the street of the same name).
Personification (олицетворение) is a special kind of metaphor, which represents an inanimate object or an idea as having human characteristics, as capable of thought, action or feeling. Example: "... it was the hand of Fate that doped out a way for me to find her".
Allusion (аллюзия) is an indirect reference, by word or phrase, to a historical, literary, mythological, biblical fact or to a fact of everyday life made in the course of speaking or writing. The primary meaning of the word or phrase which is known serves as a vessel into which new meaning is poured. Example: "But the viva is judgement day".
Syntactical Expressive Means deal with construction of sentences.
The general character of sentences is to be taken into consideration. Sentences may be long or short, simple or complex, each of them having their uses depending on the object of the writer.
Repetition (reiteration) of the same word or phrase in a sentence or sentences usually lends a peculiar emotional force or emphasis to what is being said. It may also make the utterance more rhythmical. Repetition is often used in oratorical style to make the speaker's meaning clear, to lay greater emphasis on his statements so that the listeners could grasp the full significance of what he says. Repetition is classified according to compositional patterns. We shall name some of the most important.
Syntactical parallelism, or a parallel structure, is the repetition of the same syntactical pattern: "... some people are smarter than others, some people have more opportunity..., some people make more money than others, some ladies make better cakes than others..."
Anaphora is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses or sentences: "...she persisted in breaking it. She persisted and ..."
Epiphora is the repetition of a word or phrase at the end of successive phrases, clauses or sentence: "... he swore out a warrant, no doubt signing it with his left hand, and Tom Robinson now sits before you, having taken his oath with the only good hand he possesses - his right hand.”
Anadiplosis, or linking, or reduplication (подхват) is the repetition of the last word of a clause at the beginning of the next clause: "... she has merely broken a rigid and time-honored code of our society, a code so severe that…". Sometimes the repeated word may not be the word itself but its derivative: "... in the cynical confidence that their testimony would not be doubted, confident that you ..."
Note that syntactical parallelism and a repetition of the same word often go together.
Antithesis, or contrast (противопоставление), is the stylistic expressive means when parallel patterns are used for the purpose of contrasting two opposed ideas or features thus heightening the effect of the utterance: "Youth is hot and bold, age is weak and cold", or in a number of sentences or paragraphs, as in: "...on the assumption that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral, that ... Which, gentlemen, we know is in itself a lie ..., a lie I don't have to point out to you. You know the truth, and the truth is this: some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral, some ...". The parallel constructions combined with the repetition of the same words emphasize the contrast expressed by the words "all" - "some", "lie" - "truth".
Gradation, or climax (нарастание), is the stylistic device when the writer arranges his ideas according to the degree of their importance or emphasis, the most important, from his point of view, coming last. This makes his point plain or shows how vital it is. Example: "This case is not a difficult one, it requires no minute sifting of complicated facts... To begin with, this case should never have come to trial. This case is as simple as black and white". The speaker expounds his point by repeating the same idea in a different way.
There are various ways in which the writer or the speaker can draw the attention of the reader or listener to what he finds important and wants to bring to his notice. Such are:
1) the use of the verb "to do" in affirmative sentences: "... it does require you to be sure ... as to the guilt of the defendant";
2) the use of the interrogative sentences in the character's narrative (question-in-the-narrative). A question in the narrative asked and answered by the same person is often used in oratory. It chains the attention of the listener to the matter the orator is dealing with, gives him the time to absorb what has been said, and prepare for the next point: "What was the evidence of her offense? Tom Robinson, a human being";
3) the structure with the emphatic "it" (it was ... that): " ... it was guilt that motivated her";
4) the emphatic word order (stylistic inversion) aims at attaching logical stress or additional emotional colouring to the meaning of the utterance: "All around us and in the balcony on the opposite wall the Negroes were getting to their feet". Here the adverbial modifier is placed at the beginning of the sentence;
5) the use of the negative pronoun "no" instead of the negative particle "not": "... she was no child hiding stolen contraband ...";
These and other similar stylistic devices are commonly used in the characters' direct and non-personal direct speech.
Asyndeton (бессоюзие) is the deliberate avoidance of conjunctions: "No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds. November!".
Polysyndeton (многосоюзие) is a repetition of conjunction in close succession: "They panted and grunted and moaned ..., and Fatty panted and moaned with them". It makes the utterance more rhythmical and shows things isolated.
Non-personal direct speech (half-reported speech, unuttered or inner represented speech, interior monologue) is a style of narration in which the author describes the events, thoughts and feelings from the point of view of his literary character, as if it were the character himself expressing his opinion and estimation of those events, "thinking aloud" as it were. In contrast to direct speech, non-personal direct speech is characterized by the absence of quotation marks, the use of the 3rd person instead of the 1st, and the tense shift required by the rule of the sequence of tenses. One of its main features is also the style peculiar to oral forms of communication. Non-personal direst speech is the point of view of the character incorporated into the structure of the narrative:
"For the moment Walter Streeter felt reassured. A woman, a little mouse-like creature, who had somehow taken a fancy to him! What was there to feel uneasy about in that! It was really rather sweet and touching, and he began to think of her and wonder what she looked like. Did it matter if she was a little mad?"
Framing (обрамление) can be used for antithesis or contrast. The same pattern is repeated at the beginning and at the end of the paragraph: "How did she howl,... . How they will enjoy themselves!"
1.8 The author's likes and dislikes may be presented as the conclusion to pp. 1.5, 1.6, 1.7.
1.9 The analyzer's opinion is the expression of his aesthetic estimation of the piece of writing.
This scheme of the analysis is only a proposition. It is possible that certain points of it may change in order, overlap and even intertwine (pp.5 - 9). But all the points should be covered. An exception can be made onl for p. 1.
Here is the vocabulary that may come in handy for the student.
- ... возникновением письменности к таким устным переводчикам – «толмачам» присоединились и переводчики письменные, ... и зарубежной теории и практики перевода опыта использования трансформаций ... всем стилям письменной речи английского языка употребление так ...
- ... . Возникновение устной и письменной речи определило специфику развития мышления. Уникальные особенности каждого языка связаны с историческим ... применять их на практике. ГЛАВА I. ЯЗЫК И РЕЧЕВЫЕ СВОЙСТВА ЛИЧНОСТИ. 1.1. Речь и язык. «Язык так же древен ...
- ... ." В письменном типе речи в английском языке выделяются а) общая литературно-книжная лексика и б) функциональная литературно-книжная лексика. В устном ... , еще не закрепленные общественной практикой. Письменный же тип речи всегда литературно обработан. В нем ...
- ... английскому языку, не может не ставить новых проблем в теории и практике преподавания английского языка ... себя. На среднем этапе устная и письменная речь занимают в учебном процессе ... главной целью овладение устной речи английского языка. Она была направлена ...
- ... Программы по практике устной и письменной речи, которые являются руководящими документами по преподаванию языков в вузах ... Верещагина И.Н. и Прыткина Т.А. Английский язык Учебник для 2 класса школ с углубленным изучением английского языка, лицеев, гимназий ...