Tuesday, October 5, 2010

a brief introduction to syntax


in a very literal sense, syntax is the order and placement of words in a piece of writing. However, as the skill of a writer increases, their ability to play with syntax effects the paper's tone. The length of sentences, the use of different words, and the placement of words and sentences completely change how a piece of writing is read, and what it might say.

Example:

I quite enjoy the room, now it is bare again.
How those children did tear about here!
This bedstead is fairly gnawed!
But I must get to work.
I have locked the door and thrown the key down into the front path.
I don't want to go out, and I don't want to have anybody come in, till John comes.
I want to astonish him.” Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper.

Function:
The narrator begins The Yellow Wallpaper by telling us of an amazing summer cottage that her husband and herself have rented for a summer vacation. Her description of the house is one that makes you expect a mystery, speaking of ghosts and abandonment. However, this idea fades away to a discussion of herself. She says that she had been suffering from nervous depression, of which her husband does not believe. As a physician, he scoffed at her idea of the illness, diagnosing her only with inactivity and bed rest. In her boredom she starts a journal, and entertains herself by describing her surroundings. Eventually this comes to the yellow wallpaper in the room. This wallpaper is the cornerstone of the story. As she interacts with the wallpaper and deals with her illness, we see her slipping into insanity. During the beginning of the story Gilman expresses the narrator's sanity with complete and well thought out sentences. “It is very seldom that mere ordinary people like John and myself secure ancestral halls for the summer.” This sentence expresses a complete thought, and narrator's fluidity of thought gives an air of intelligence and sanity. Towards the end, however, as the narrator's mental health deteriorates, her sentences become less complex. The length of the sentences alone show signs of this.

I quite enjoy the room, now it is bare again.
How those children did tear about here!
This bedstead is fairly gnawed!
But I must get to work.
I have locked the door and thrown the key down into the front path.
I don't want to go out, and I don't want to have anybody come in, till John comes.
I want to astonish him.”

Her statements are short and choppy, and their erratic nature cause the reader to think the narrator is not mentally well. Gilman chooses short words, that seem to follow the narrator's thoughts as soon as they pop into her head. The extreme change at the end gives no doubt of the sanity of the narrator, ultimately proving that her sickness was real in the first place. This transition into insanity was Gilman addressing the issue of postpartum depression. Herself suffering from this condition, she was mostly ignored. The extreme change in the narrator's personality is remnicant of the change a woman can go through, and in the past, postpartum depression was given no heed,leaving women without the treatment they needed.

13 comments:

  1. Yes syntax is indeed a vital role in conveying feelings. Ordered syntax = calmness. Messed up syntax = unrest or as you have said, 'not mentally well'. It's very prevalent in poetry.

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  2. I liked your perspective in this one... I'm going to have to agree with you

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  3. thanks english master. i feel you bro.

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  4. interesting post. I feel that a lot of people can't find syntax examples in literary works, even though they are so frequently used, especially in poetry. This was a really cool example (from a book I feel I may need to read in the future), and the explanation was quite goo.

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  5. I like your post... GTL and blogging FTW!

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  6. wow amazing how much u can tell about characters jsut by how they talk

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  7. syntax is overlooked in far too many people's writings.

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  8. you've got an interesting point here, good job with the post

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