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More Language Rhythms, Part 2: 

Learning how to talk about style, cadence, diction, and more

Passage #3:





Student description:

But mountains yes Rose did think about mountains and about blue when it was on the mountains and feathers when clouds like feathers were on the mountains and birds when one little bird and two little birds and three and four and six and seven and ten and seventeen and thirty or forty little birds all came flying and a big bird came flying and they flew higher than the big bird and they came down and one and then two and then five and then fifty of them came picking down on the head of the big bird and slowly the big bird came falling down between the mountain and the little birds all went home again.                                                                                                       G. Stein


Instead of the sophistication of Faulkner or the one-two punch of Hemingway, we have a one-sentence paragraph whose lack of punctuation turns what could have been a dry, straightforward sentence into a churning river that cheerfully overcomes any attempt to dam it.  The language is simple, the vocabulary one that might be used by an excited child: no Latinate abstracts, just vigorous Anglo-Saxon.  The lack of punctuation, the simple language, and the repetition and infectious rhythm combine to create a sense of naïve, excited joy.


Passage #4:






But it was the doors that annoyed her; every door was left open… That windows should be open, and doors shut—simple as it was, could none of them remember it?  She would go into the maids’ bedrooms at night and find them sealed like ovens, except for Marie’s, the Swiss girl, who would rather go without a bath than without fresh air, but then as home, she had said, “the mountains are so beautiful.”  She had said that last night looking out of the window with tears in her eyes.  “The mountains are so beautiful.”  Her father was dying there, Mrs. Ramsay knew.  He was leaving them fatherless.  Scolding and demonstrat­ing (how to make a bed, how to open a window, with hands that shut and spread like a Frenchwoman’s) all had folded itself quietly about her, when the girl spoke, as, after a flight through the sunshine the wings of a bird fold themselves quietly and the blue of its plumage changes from bright steel to soft purple.  She had stood there silent for there was nothing to be said.  He had cancer of the throat.  At the recollection—how she had stood there, how the girl had said “At home the mountains are so beautiful,” and there was no hope, no hope whatever, she had a spasm of irritation, and speaking sharply, said to James, “Stand still.  Don’t be tiresome,” so that he knew instantly that her severity was real, and straightened his leg and she measured it.


                                                V. Woolf