Monday, March 7, 2016

Passage Analyses

"An Episode of Bed-wetting": pg. 18

(1) I knew the bed-wetting was (a) wicked and (b) outside of my control. (2) The second fact I was personally aware of, and the second I did not question. (3) It was possible, therefore, to commit a sin without knowing that you did it, without wanting to commit it, and without being able to avoid it. (4) Sin was not necessary something that you did: it might be something that happened to you. (5) I do not want to claim that this idea flashed into my head as a complete novelty at this very moment, under the blows of Sambo's cane: I must have had glimpses of it even before I left home, for my early childhood had not been altogether happy. (6) But at any rate this was the great, abiding lesson of my boyhood: that I was in a world where it was not possible for me to be good. (7) And the double beating was a turning point, for it brought home to me for the first time the harshness of the environment into which I had been flung. (8) Life was more terrible, and I was more wicked than I had imagined. (9) At any rate, as I sat sniveling on the edge of a chair in Sambo's study, with not even the self-possession to stand up while he stormed at me, I had a conviction of sin and folly and weakness, such as I do not remember to have felt before.

Passage Analysis:

George Orwell's "An Episode of Bed-wetting" tells a compelling story of Orwell's childhood, disclosing sins he made as a young boy and how they shaped him throughout his lifetime. Provided that Orwell tells 'people what they do not want to hear,' this exposes a time in his life where the truth costed him a painful price. Not to mention how this essay taking place during Orwell's early life exposes his natural instinct to tell the truth, the instinct he followed throughout his remaining years. Located near the end of the essay, the above passage is key in conveying the essay's meaning--as it seems to conclude an appropriate series of ideas Orwell places deep insight. The paragraph prior describing the moments spent crying about his incapability to follow the rules of good and evil, and the paragraph after explaining Orwell's profound interpretation of these moments decades later, signifies the importance of this passage in between. Here readers can grasp how well Orwell got from an early assumption in life to novel assumptions much later--better yet, how this early assumption tremendously impacted his outlook for years and years to come. Orwell's stylistic choices construct the nine sentences so as to deliver movement and a sense of rhythm for the reader, making points of each sentence flow coherently. Through both the use of consistent diction as well as sentences and sentence patterns, Orwell uses figures of speech that isolate the parallel theme of sin and the significance of intentions.

Sentence (1) and (2) immediately begin the passage with common, general, and informal language to describe Orwell's thoughts on bed-wetting. Likewise, Orwell's language categorizes his thoughts from sentence (1) to (2) in a parallel structure: the anithesis shown in '(a)' and '(b)' in sentence (1) parallels 'second' and 'first' in sentence (2). Here 'second' expresses Orwell's awareness of bed-wetting's unintentional wickedness, thus paralleling 'first' to emphasize how he mustn't question it. Also common, general, and informal language, sentence (3) extends the analogous diction. It first uses the transitional device 'therefore' to relay the unintentional result of the unintentional sin, then describes the result through repetitive phrases for emphasis: 'without'; 'knowing'; 'wanting'; 'being able'; 'to commit'; and 'to avoid'--'being able' and 'to avoid representing the sentence climax. Sentences (4) through (6) generate movement from the more simple language to the more emotive language, becoming more specific and formal in nature. Nonetheless, Orwell never overdoes it, as he merely employs more descriptive word choice--sentence (5)'s verbal use/phrases and (6)'s adjectives (particularly the italicized not possible)--as the sentences advance. He does not overwhelm the reader, so we are more willing to stay intrigued, and the paralleled lesson from sentence (4) to (6) is made clearer. Moreover, sentences (7) through (9) continue this increase in specific and formal language, however the central simplicity in Orwell's diction--the most recurring 'be' and 'had' verbs--keeps sentences balanced. Sentence (7) may also continue the general language from sentence (6) in relation to its basic conjunctional transition; however, the sentence becomes more vivid in imagery, as the reader is aware that 'turning point' indicates the 'harshness' of his second lesson learned. Sentence (8) then corresponds via linguistic repetition--'life' being 'more terrible' and Orwell being 'more wicked' than he thought possible--this repetition paralleling the harshness 'to which he had been flung. Not to mention the repeated word, 'wicked,' first cited in sentence (1) bears familiar ideas for the reader to recognize. And sentence (9)'s complexity in diction brings home for the reader Orwell's ultimate lesson. More notably, (9) parallels sentence (6), as the repeated opening transition allows readers to discern the theme of two lessons being learned: sin we cannot control, and sin that we can. Here we can infer that this is sin Orwell could have controlled, for the words 'conviction,' 'folly,' and 'weakness' imply guilt, and the phrases, 'as I do not remember to have felt before' imply this must be harsher sin than bed-wetting. Overall, Orwell's diction in this passage is principally abstract, conveying a theme of childhood--'boyhood,' 'home,' and 'environment'--as referential memories being made into lifelong, emotive lessons. Above all, I deem his plainness in language as a perfect representation of childhood in itself, for how he concluded his ideas on sin as a young boy were probably just like this; this plainness, therefore, is just enough, because the points comprised of extra description are the points readers effectively notice their prominence.

Furthermore, this passage's stylistic elements not only construct a parallel structure in diction, but also in its sentences--displaying consistency in length as well as patterns. Just as Orwell follows an expansion from simple to detailed diction, his sentences, too, expand from short to long in order to give the reader a break. By doing so, we're eased into Orwell's gradual understanding of sin. His sentences are also often parallel regarding structural patterns; readers, thus, successfully interpret one point of one sentence and apply it to the next. While this is notable in sentences (1) and (2), this is most notable in sentences (4) through (6), as Orwell utilizes the colon in each to parallel the growth of his lesson. Even more, sentences (5) all the way through (9)--with the exception of (8)--exemplify isocolons, once again utilizing repetition for thematic emphasis: the sentences' clauses and phrases, prepositions most repeated, of similar length and rhythm creates climaxes that accentuate Orwell's overriding guilt. 

That Orwell constructs this passage as to almost constantly use some sort of balancing and repetitive scheme through diction and syntax in itself conveys the theme of sin analogous to intentions. Since readers are continually moved from one sentence to the next by frequent figures of speech, the passage meaning jumps out at readers. Readers mustn't work to understand what Orwell wants understood; he does it for them, just as he would if he were explaining it to a child, such as himself as a young boy.

"Politics and the English Language": pg. 311 

(1) Each of these passages has faults of its own, but, quite apart from avoidable ugliness, two qualities are common to all of them. (2) The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. (3) The writer either had a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. (4) This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. (5) As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of terms of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse.

Passage Analysis:

George Orwell never refrains from outward honesty, and it shows in "Politics and the English Language." Given Orwell's passion for social change, the essay pinpoints the dying strength of political language. The passage above is located near the beginning of the essay, in which he explains the stylistic errors of the writing examples he displays from previous authors. A short but rich accumulation of sentences, the passage, too, serves as the bridge from specific examples--in the paragraphs prior--to specific errors, in the paragraphs after; here readers are given a break to understand Orwell's general argument. A believer in the rules of  English prose style, he argues writing has lost not only clear but meaningful language. Using paradoxical discourse, Orwell's metaphorical diction and sentence structure are presented wisely, as they parallel the English prose style authors such as those displayed should enhance in their writing.

While it may appear disorganized to begin with the stylistic elements of sentence (5), I perceive (5) as the foundation for the passage's overall stylistic motif. First, in terms of diction, Orwell explains that when particular political concerns are raised, writers lose sight of concrete language and it 'melts into the abstract.' The term melt is stylistically crucial for the passage's altogether theme: melt in itself may be deemed a concrete word, however Orwell's style uses it metaphorically, drawing on the abstract. 'Terms of speech'--assuming schemes and tropes as conceptual techniques of literature--and 'hackneyed,' only further this abstractness. The language is essentially ironic, however more so, expresses a subtle parallelism: ironic because he essentially articulates a political stance by the abstract diction he censures, however, it predominantly parallels the ways abstract figures of speech can still be used effectively. In relation to melt, this concrete/abstract word choice teaches that while concrete language may be difficult in choosing definite terms, there are ways to utilize definite terms in order to convey theoretical ideas. Not to mention, it's no coincidence that Orwell uses the abstract verb melt to explicate how political writing changes from concrete to abstract. Equally important, Orwell finishes the paragraph with the same metaphorical diction, though this time with an explicit simile: the repetitious language starting from 'less and less of words,' emphasizes the climax of 'more and more phrases' being 'like sections of a prefabricated henhouse.' Thus, the simile, even more concrete than melt, still conveys a theoretical idea. Additionally, I'm sure once again it's no coincidence that words being more concrete, he identifies them as abstract meaningless; and phrases being more abstract, he identifies them as concrete sections of a building pre-constructed. Even more significant than diction are the passage's actual sentences, for a sentence holds all these words and their implications together. A sentence of grammatical, functional, as well as rhetoric structure, sentences (1) through (4) being much simpler reveals (5)'s prominence.

Sentences (1) through (4) embody the same abstract schemes and metaphorical tropes as (5), in which  each sentence plays an expressive role in the development of the passage. Sentence (1) begins the paragraph with not only an abstract metaphor, even more so an oxymoron--the 'faults'' 'avoidable ugliness'--but introduces the emotive diction Orwell employs in the subsequent sentences. Sentence (2) parallels (1) via effective syntax, as the 'first' and 'other' before and after the semicolon draws a clear connection between the 'two qualities' mentioned in (1). More significantly, sentence (2) is a true indicator of Orwell's prominent style in sentence (5). He uses 'staleness' for authors' faulty imagery, in which as sentence (5) imitates, staleness--commonly deemed concrete just like melt--is written as an abstract metaphor.

While sentence (3)'s diction specifies those authors and their mistakes--repeating words like 'mean' and 'meaning'--it is Orwell's polysyndeton that emphasizes the three mistakes writers make in meaning. Here the language becomes more concrete as well as referential, in which readers grasp the true subject--the 'writer' and the male pronoun, 'he.' This denotative concreteness, however, as sentence (5) explains, shows how concrete language is being melted into the abstract. At any rate, (3) located in the middle of the passage alone may be stylistically organized, as Orwell may be illustrating the core, the heart, of the issue. Sentence (4) appears to sum up the faults--using 'modern' to portray societal change--summing up, also, the abstract diction with even clearer abstract descriptions: 'vagueness' and 'sheer incompetence' as the sentence's conceptual subjects.

As a whole, one of the dominant elements of style to which Orwell illuminates climaxes is verbal usage, as seen in sentence (5). Considering sentences (1) through (4) all employ 'be' or simple verbs, and (5) employs such unique verbs as discussed, Orwell articulates the development of prominent ideas.