Sentences and their Uses

I perused extracts from the following:

  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2007) – the part where they stop to rest, sleep and wake in the morning to continue their journey from nowhere to nowhere
  • The Passion of New Eve by Angela Carter (1982) – the part where she experiences the places, people and activities of New York for the first time and finds them strange.

Reflecting on how their sentences are structured and what effects they produce (especially in relation to narrative, character and atmosphere), these are my ways of describing how their sentences behave:

  • The sentences in The Road are, for the most part, short, terse and filled with the same tension that is evident in the story. There is danger here and little of interest. Little worth describing. Where there are long sentences, the man is describing the boy or things concerning the boy, who he loves and protects. Plenty of parataxis to indicate isolation and disconnectedness.
  • The sentences in The Passion of New Eve are long with lots of hypotaxis. Everything seems to be related to something else and words are mashed together in the same way that people are sardined into small places alongside rats, disease and fearful thoughts. There’s no time to pause in these breathless sentences and conditions. One indicates the other. Time hurries. Space is short. Language reflects.

And now I know how the lengths of sentences can do more than just hurry a reader through a book with short ones, or slow them down with long ones. They can also indicate the state of emotion, space, time and relationships in a story.

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