Logic as an Art


Poetics: The Art of Storytelling



Most of us enjoy reading a story more than any other kind of reading. Many readers, however, find it difficult to enjoy any but the most simple and obvious type of stories such as the "western" or the "true romance." There is a whole world of enjoyment which is closed to them -- the world of stories which can be appreciated only by those who understand something of the art of storytelling. A Chinaman at a baseball game does not enjoy it until the rules of the game are explained to him and he begins to appreciate the art of baseball. The purpose of this chapter is to introduce you to the fundamental rules of the art of storytelling.

The first reason many people do not know how to enjoy literature is that they do not realize that the word "literature" covers very different kinds of writing which have very different purposes. Some people think that all good literature is supposed to teach us a moral, while only cheap literature is entertaining. As a matter of fact there are at least two great types of good literature. One is called imaginative, the other persuasive. The art of writing and of analyzing imaginative literature is called poetics; the art of writing and of analyzing persuasive literature is called rhetoric.*

*    The terms poetics and rhetoric go back to the philosopher Aristotle. Do not make the mistake of thinking that poetics applies only to " poetry" in verse. It applies to many prose compositions, such as the novel and short story. Also do not make the mistake of taking "rhetoric" in a derogatory sense as in the phrase "mere empty rhetoric." Much of the greatest writing in the world is rhetorical, for example, the sermons of our divine Lord or the letters of St. Paul.
Imaginative literature includes a great variety of types: the epic, the novel, the short-story, the play, the lyric poem, some essays, and many other forms. Literature is imaginative or poetic when its purpose is to entertain and delight us by telling a story. Its purpose is recreational, but it gives us a different and more intimate type of recreation than sports or games. Sports and games primarily recreate and refresh the body, although they also give some rest to the mind and emotions. But imaginative writing directly and profoundly rests and delights our souls by lifting our minds and emotions above the cares, confusions, strains, and frustrations of everyday life to a wider and clearer vision. It is not a mere escape from life. Rather it is a glimpse of the goal ahead which encourages and inspires us to live more fully and perfectly.

Persuasive or rhetorical literature does not aim at entertainment, but seeks to persuade us to do something. Propaganda, advertising, selling, the political speech, and the sermon are all examples of persuasion. The imaginative writer invites us to relaxation and enjoyment, while the rhetorical writer urges us to action and achievement. The imaginative writer inspires us with a wider vision of life; the rhetorical writer urges us to a decision about some problem which is immediately at hand. Thus the aims of imaginative and rhetorical writing are, as it were, opposite to each other. As a result, in most cases good imaginative writing is bad rhetorical writing, and good rhetorical writing is bad imaginative writing.

These two arts differ also in this, that the imaginative writer wishes us to notice and to enjoy the skill with which his story is told, but the rhetorical writer seeks to conceal the fact that he is trying to influence us.

We must learn to distinguish these two kinds of writing and judge each by its own purpose and rules. When we ourselves wish to entertain others in conversation or to persuade them in practical life, we need to understand the techniques of these two arts. When others try to entertain or persuade us, we must be able to appreciate and enjoy the entertainment and yet not be unduly influenced by the persuasion.

In this chapter we will be concerned primarily with imaginative writing, in the next with persuasive writing.


In imaginative writing the soul of the writing is its story or plot. No matter how long a novel may be, every detail of it is tied together by its plot, just as every part of our body receives its life from the soul. A part of our body which is separated from the soul dies and is useless, Similarly any word or incident or character in a story which does not contribute to the plot is deadwood. The great storyteller Edgar Allen Poe said:

A skillful literary artist has constructed a tale. If wise, be has not fashioned his thoughts to accommodate his incidents; but having conceived with deliberate care, a certain unique or single effect to be wrought out, he then invents such incidents -- he then combines such events as may best aid him in establishing this preconceived effect. If his very initial sentence tends not to the outbringing of this effect, then he has failed in his first step. In the whole composition there should be no word written of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one pre-established design. And by such means, with such care and skill, a picture is at length painted which leaves in the mind of him who contemplates it with a kindred art, a sense of fullest satisfaction.

We all recognize this in the telling of a joke. One person tells a joke and it is funny. Another tells the same joke and no one laughs. Why? Because the artful storyteller makes every word and every pause contribute to the comic effect, while the dull storyteller spoils the point by introducing irrelevant remarks and by bad timing. The first rule of the art of storytelling is to grasp the plot, which is the very soul of the story, and to make every detail contribute to it.

At first sight it seems quite easy to find the plot of a story. Most people can repeat the incidents of a movie they have seen or a novel they have read. A mere listing of incidents, however, is not the plot. As Poe indicates in the quotation above, a writer does not begin with a series of incidents. He invents the incidents to bring out a central effect or idea. It is this central idea, and not merely a string of incidents, which is the plot.

The central idea of a story, however, is not some abstract thought, it is an action. The plot is some single action of which the various incidents are only parts. In a long novel this action may be made up of hundreds of incidents all of which form a single whole. In a short lyric poem this action may be a single event which takes place within someone's mind and heart. If we can discover this single action or plot on which the whole story is built, we will truly appreciate it. In order to learn to do this, we should practice trying to state the plot of each story we read in a single sentence. Of course such a sentence only gives us a faint notion of the reality of the plot itself. If a writer could present the plot to us fully in a sentence, he would not have bothered to write his story in so many pages. But such a summary sentence is a test of whether we have really begun to see the plot. If we try this exercise, we will soon realize how poorly we have been reading and bow much we have been missing. We will probably find that we have only been reading incidents and have missed the plan of the whole story. We are like a man who works in a skyscraper and has been in every room of it, but who never sees the building from a distance. Such a man has no idea of the size or beauty of the whole building.

Some people, even famous critics, do not appreciate the plot of stories. They think that only rather trivial writers of mystery stories or adventure stories pay much attention to plot. Such critics often say that the important thing in a story is the characters, or the thought, or the style. It is true that in some very fine stories the element of plot may be very simple, while the element of character or thought or style is very much emphasized. There are plays, for example, in which the incidents are quite simple, but the psychology of the characters is very vividly portrayed. There are other plays in which we are most interested in the witty dialogue or thought of the speakers, and others in which the beauty of style seems to make up for lick of action. Nevertheless, if we study such plays carefully we will discover that they do not hold our attention unless the characters, the thought, and the style contribute to making the plot strong and effective, regardless of how simple it may be. This is especially clear in a play, but it will be found to be true also in all kinds of imaginative writing. The reason for this is that character can be known perfectly only through action ("by their fruits you shall know them"), while thought is imaginative and poetic only when it expresses the motives which move people to act. Abstract thought, separated from human action, does not have an imaginative effect. As for style, human words are much more suited to narrate actions than to paint pictures or descriptions in static terms.

Thus we may say that an imaginative work has three objects of representation or imitation' namely, plot, character, and thought. Of these, plot is primary. All three are the form of a poetic work, while the style pertains to its medium or matter. *   

*    Do not confuse the term "form" used of the plot with the term "literary forms," such as the novel, short story, lyric, sonnet, bank-verse, etc. The true form of a work is its plot. Its literary "form" is merely a convenient classification of the technique with which it is told, and really pertains to the matter of the work.


What makes a plot good? Not every account of an action makes a good plot. We might write an accurate account of some battle which would be very poor entertainment. Mere dry fact does not catch our imagination, nor please us. Yet Shakespeare in many of his plays took such dry historical accounts and turned them into exciting stories. This was because he knew how to put feeling or emotion into his account.

Both imaginative and rhetorical writing differ from matter-of-fact writing, because they not only state facts but also arouse our emotions and feelings. They make us tense and excited about what comes next, or satisfied and delighted with the way things turn out. Rhetorical writing arouses our emotions in order to get us to do something. Hence the preacher or salesman attempts to keep its emotionally keyed-up until we can act. The imaginative writer, on the other hand, is trying to entertain and refresh us. Hence he not only arouses our emotions, but also satisfies them and brings them to rest in the contented enjoyment of the beauty of his work. At the end of a good novel or play we feel calm and at peace, although during the reading or performance we may have felt fear or excitement, or even have wept. This peace of soul enables us to look back over the novel or play and see it as a beautiful whole which expresses some deep truth about life which we had never fully appreciated before, but which seems to us so perfectly embodied in the artist's work.

This is true even if a story is sad. Some people cannot endure to read a sad story because it leaves them depressed. This is either because the author has not told his story well or because the reader does not know how to appreciate the art of storytelling. A good reader enjoys the story even if it is sad, for he delights in the beauty with which it has been told. In fact, sad stories are often more truly entertaining than joyful ones, since they seem so true to the facts of life, which are often very sad, and since they help us to look through this sadness to the great and perfect pattern of God's providence, which is working to bring eternal beauty and joy out of the sorrow of this world. Even the Greeks, who as pagans had only a dim notion of God's providence, realized that in tragedy there is something grand and noble in the restoration of the law of the universe through the punishment of sin.

This power of a story first to arouse the emotions and then bring them to rest in the vision of life was called by the Greeks catharsis (purification), because it cleanses the soul of disturbed emotions. Most people live a rather petty life of worries, frustrations, and routine. Their emotions are out of tune, and their vision is narrow and blurred. The magic of the imaginative writer releases the emotions from their daily worries and sets them in tune like a beautiful melody, so that they lift the mind on wings to take a broad view of the universe. A wise man or philosopher (a lover of wisdom) is able to take this broad view at will. Such wisdom comes only after a long life of discipline and thought, but the poet is able to give us a glimpse of that broad vision even when we are young and perhaps foolish. Even the wise man grows weary at times and needs the refreshment of the poet's spell.

If a story is to produce this catharsis and this vision, it must be very vivid and concrete, since the emotions are not aroused by something dry and abstract. It is only when one can imagine very clearly how an event took place -- and can sympathize with the people to whom that event happens that one becomes emotionally involved. That is why a poor reader can enjoy a movie but not a book. When he reads, be does not know how to imagine the events. But a good reader finds the book even more vivid than the movie; and when he sees a movie made from some great book he has read, he usually finds the movie version very thin and uninteresting. The great writer is the one who has firmly grasped the central idea or single action of his story and then has been able to render that action entirely concrete and vivid.

Since the plot is the soul of the poetic work it must be unified; otherwise it would not weld the part of the work into a perfect whole. It is unified when it consists of only one principal action. There may be other interwoven sub-plots, but these must strengthen the main plot by emphasis or contrast, and must not confuse or hinder it. Nothing should be admitted to the story that does not contribute to this main plot, although in some types of writing (particularly the novel), we permit the organization to be looser than we expect in an intensely moving play, short story, or lyric.

The plot must be complete or it will leave us unsatisfied. To be complete it must have a beginning, in which a new action arises from some situation. This new action should unfold in a series of connected events or incidents which form the middle of the story, and these should lead to a final rest or resolution (the end), in which an the forces set in motion at the beginning work themselves out. These requirements seem rather obvious; yet many plays and stories win be found which are faulty because the writer is either too slow in getting his action started, or because he does not work out the middle in a series of connected but contrasted incidents, or because -- and this is the hardest task of all -- the writer cannot bring the forces set in motion to a real rest and conclusion.

Sometimes a plot is simple; then its action moves in one straight line from beginning to end. More interesting is the complex plot, in which the action seems first to move toward one goal and then suddenly to reverse itself and move toward a contrary goal. This reversal is also often called the climax of the play, while the resolution or ending is called the denouement. The magnitude or length of a story or poem (the number of incidents, etc.) must be sufficient for the forces set in motion to work themselves out. It should be no longer.


The characters who carry out this action must appear to be consistent and like real human beings; they must also be appropriate to the type of action they are to perform so as not to make the plot itself seem improbable. It is in the characters that the reader sees both the outward action and the inward action or emotion. It is this sharing in the emotions of the characters which helps one to enter into their experiences and to understand them more fully than if they were only known in an abstract way.

The characters reveal themselves chiefly through what they do, but if we could see only their actions we would not fully understand their interior motives. Hence a third element in a story is the thought expressed in the speeches of the characters and also by the comments of the author. Unless this thought helps us to understand the action and enter into it, it is irrelevant and boring. If it is to represent the way in which one character seeks to persuade or influence another, it is clear that thought must obey the rules of rhetoric. In the next chapter we will study these rules which must be known by an imaginative writer if he is to express thought well in his stories. The imaginative writer, however, must be careful in making use of rhetoric that his story does not become a sermon. Thought and the rhetoric used to express it must be kept strictly subordinate to plot if a story is to be good imaginative literature.

Plot, character, and thought are the form of the poetic work because they are the objects represented or portrayed by the writer. They are the pattern which he wishes to embody in his materials, just as a builder wishes to embody a blueprint in stone and brick, glass and steel. What are the materials of the imaginative writer? They are words. The great storyteller is one who so thoroughly understands the magic of words that he is able to use them to make his story, with its characters and thoughts live in our imagination. This is not to say most authors first work out their plot completely and then find words for it. As they write, words and plot, matter and form, body and soul, weave themselves together so that the plot gives form to the words and the words give body to the plot.

Many people have no conception of the magic powers of words. In the second part of this chapter we are going to study words very carefully with the purpose of learning something of this magic. The study of words constitutes the first step in the study of style. Words must be put together into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into whole compositions. This weaving of the matter of a story to fit its plot is what is called style.

Before taking up this study of words let us consider an example of good story telling. In Part IV, Section I you will find a short story by the French writer, Alphonse Daudet, called The Last Lesson. This simple story is told with very great art. Let us see how we would begin to appreciate the storytelling skill of the author.

First we try to grasp its central idea or plot. Some readers if asked for the plot of this story would say:

An Alsatian boy was late on his way to school. On the way he saw people looking at a notice before the mayor's office, but be did not read it. When he got to school be found not only the teacher and the pupils but some of the townsfolk. He learned that this was the last class to be taught in French, because the occupying Germans were abolishing French in the schools. The teacher was in his Sunday best and he taught the lesson very solemnly. All the pupils, impressed by the occasion, studied very hard. Franz, the boy in question, did not know his lesson. The teacher did not scold him, but pointed out that be and all the rest bad not appreciated the French language when they were free to use it. Now the schoolmaster after so many years of teaching had to go away. The lesson came to an end when the teacher wrote Vive la France on the blackboard because he was so overcome by emotion that he could not speak.

This is a summary of the incidents of the story, but it does not at all make clear the plot or central action. The plot can be much more clearly expressed by a single sentence:

A country which lacked patriotism learned it only on the day when it lost its right to its own culture.

When we express the plot in this compact way we see that the various incidents, such as the boy's tardiness, the crowd at the bulletin board, the faulty recitation, etc., were invented by the author to bring out his central story.

We should now see if this plot is complete and unified. The obvious beginning is the incident of the boy's running late to school, but this is only a way of expressing the real beginning of the action:

A country lacked patriotism so that it permitted a foreign country to occupy it without realizing what it had lost.

The end of the action is:

This country finally realizes its loss just when it is too late.

This is expressed by the last words of the schoolmaster when he writes "Vive la France" and closes the school.

The middle is the series of incidents that lead from this beginning to the end. They are:
1. The crowd reading the bulletin board.
2. The boy's surprise at the unusual scene in the schoolroom.
3. The boy's poor recitation and the teacher's speech.
4. The earnest application of the students to their lesson.
5. The sound of packing of trunks upstairs which reveals that the teacher must leave town.
6. The sound of the clock and of the Prussians returning.

The plot can be judged to be unified if each of these incidents is needed to carry the action forward to the end. It is complete if the end brings this action to a full rest.

A study of these middle incidents will quickly show us that the plot is indeed unified and complete. The running boy's glimpse of the crowd at the bulletin board suggests to us what is about to happen and arouses our interest. This is increased by the strange scene in the classroom. At this point we finally understand the situation and the beginning of the story is complete. The incidents of the teaching and the teacher's sorrowful speech are the climax of the story. Up to this point we have probably been thinking that the cause of the disaster is merely the tyranny of a foreign nation. Suddenly at this point we see that the deeper cause is the failure of the French themselves to appreciate their own culture. It is this that has led to the occupation by a foreign nation. The fifth incident stirs up our anxiety about how the story will end. Mat will the teacher do or say before lie leaves forever? Thus the conclusion is complete, because the teacher's words written on the blackboard express the final outcome of the action: the resolution of all present to be true patriots in the future. The story seems to end sadly, but it does not end in defeat since now the village has acquired the patriotism which it lacked before. The author is very skilful in making the teacher write rather than merely speak these words. The fact that they are written on the board symbolizes that they are now forever written in the hearts of the village.

We should then ask if this plot is truly imaginative; that is, does it produce a catharsis? We can answer this by showing that the emotion of anxiety and fear aroused at the beginning of the story is brought to rest in the act of patriotic determination in the souls of the villagers. At the end they are sorrowful, but they are also filled with grim courage and loyalty they had not known before. We can see how the author created this emotional effect. He does not describe emotions, but he renders his plot in concrete terms. We see the boy running, the crowd at the bulletin board, the strange scene in the classroom, the sound of the Prussian troops drilling. These scenes create the impression of fear and anxiety. This is renewed just before the end by the sounds which indicate the end is approaching. Finally the emotion of determination is expressed by the clear cut action of the teacher as he writes on the board.

Once we have learned the central idea of the plot, we should then see how the characters and thought have been employed to bring it out. Why is the story told through a little boy? Why is he a poor and tardy student? Why is the teacher a rather harsh and unsympathetic teacher? As we study the characters we will see that the chief character is really the teacher. He is the one who at this crisis of his life finally wakes up to his own importance. It was his duty to teach the villagers to be true patriots, and be has never really devoted himself to his task. He has acted as if he were just a daily drudge driving little boys to learn about participles, instead of the teacher of the whole village who should have taught noble virtues and ideals. The author has shown us what a humdrum, uninspiring teacher this poor man was, and yet at the last moment how noble he becomes. Is this consistent and lifelike? I think we should answer "yes," for the author has indicated that once this teacher had great ideals, but that he had fallen into a rut.

The little boy stands for the other villagers. He is a symbol of his whole village, in his laziness and lack of clear-sighted ideals. The author has selected him because a child receives vivid impressions and suggests to us how the village will have to maintain its determination until its children have grown to manhood and are able to strive for liberty. Among the other villagers, only old Hauser is singled out as typical of the older generation. The character of the foreign invaders is merely hinted at, since the story is not about them. Thus the author has used only such characters as will contribute to his plot effectively, and these are consistent with themselves, with their function in the story, and with human nature.

The thought element in the story is found in the speeches of the teacher and in the boy's own hidden thoughts. The author carefully distinguishes the simple, concrete reactions of the boy and the dignified but emotional speeches of the teacher. The boy's wandering imagination is beautifully shown by his fancy that even the birds must learn to sing German, a fancy which slips itself into his thoughts in spite of his intense concentration on his lesson. This shows how wandering those thoughts must have been at school on other days. It is noteworthy that in this very short story the author chose to tell the story in the boy's own words, thus avoiding any comment of his own.

The art of Daudet in telling his story thus becomes very clear, and the more carefully we read the tale the more astonished we are at how perfectly every incident contributes to the effect. Can we find a similar care in storytelling in a poem which at first sight seems to tell no story at all? Let us look at a short poem, Emerson's "The Concord Hymn," written on a theme similar to that of Daudet.

"The Concord Hymn" (Part IV, Section I) is a type of short poem called a lyric. In such poetry the plot is not as obvious as in a narrative work like an epic poem or a novel. Nevertheless there is a plot. What happens in "The Concord Hymn"? It can be summarized as follows: As we come to erect a monument on this almost forgotten battlefield, we begin to realize how much we owe to those who died here and how little gratitude we have shown; and we feel moved to pray that future generations will better honor and preserve their heritage of freedom. This is a little story, which has a beginning, a middle, and an end,

We Come to this battlefield to erect a monument to dead heroes. (1st stanza)

a. We begin to realize that we had almost forgotten what they did and have showed little appreciation. (2nd stanza)
b. Our act of raising a monument seems inadequate. (3rd stanza)

But we pray that God, who never forgets, will maintain this memory and this heritage in future generations. (4th stanza)

Thus we have the story, not of some external action, but rather of the internal thought and feeling of Emerson and the group for whom he speaks. It will be noticed that what is expressed is not merely thought, but also the arousal and quieting, or catharsis of feeling which is the characteristic of all poetic argument. Thus the first stanza indicates a feeling of wonder or desire to understand, and then awe, a kind of fear which we feel when suddenly confronted with something great and unknown. Emerson suddenly begins to realize what a great historic spot this is which he has so often passed without even thinking of it. This awe deepens in the second stanza into a sense of sorrow and shame, mixed with a certain indignation or anger, on thinking of the ingratitude and forgetfulness with which the dead have been treated. Then in the fourth stanza the emotion begins to resolve itself, as he turns to the monument with the determination and courage to make up for the past by setting up the monument, and yet with a feeling that this is not enough. Finally, in the last stanza the emotion turns to one of solemn reverence and of hope -- even joy -- to think that, however men may forget, God, who is eternal and unforgetting, will never let the memory or the example of the heroic dead be lost. Thus accompanying the thought is a movement of emotion:

love - desire - fear - anger - resolve - humility - hope - joy

This last emotion brings the poem to a close, since all emotion ends either in sorrow and resignation, or in joy and delight. This emotion reinforces and blends with the thought, so that our sense of surprise in the first stanza helps us to realize the greatness of the battle and our feeling of prayer and hope in the last stanza brings us face to face with the realization that the true honor due to patriotism comes from God, who justly rewards all men.

The story is the chief thing in this poem -- as in every poem -- since it gives the whole shape, unity, and meaning to the work. Nevertheless, tile story would not be possible unless it happened to some character or characters. Who are the characters here? Obviously the chief is not a single individual, but rather the whole group, the people of America who have come to raise the monument, the "we" of the poem. Does the poet characterize these people in any way? Not directly. But indirectly, he shows us that they are simple, sincere, and frank; that they have the nobility to be ashamed of having forgotten, and the humility to admit their weakness; that they are busy people looking to the future and hence likely to forget; and finally that they are a reverent and courageous people with confidence in God. One of the reasons this poem is so beautiful is that the movement of emotions which it contains shows us the soul of the American people as we like to believe it is: simple, reverent, humble, courageous, The other characters are the dead -- both the heroic Americans and their foe -- and the Americans of the future. Nothing much is said about any of these except the dead heroes, and they are shown us in a simple vivid picture at that great moment of the battle when they fired the first shot. This is enough, however, to make us think of them as simple (because farmers) but mighty and courageous (they fired the shot heard around the world). It is better that they be characterized only in this simple fashion since it makes them a better symbol.

The thought of the poem is the connection of ideas expressed by the chief character. It has an interest all its own. First of all, in the opening stanza we see a connection established between a very small event (the first shot) and a tremendous consequence (heard round the world). Why was this action a world-wide event? Not merely because it began a war, but because the American Revolution became a model for countries all over the world and encouraged them to overthrow governments that denied human rights.

In the second stanza there is the interest of the contrast between the men opposed in battle who now rest side by side, and the philosophical thought that Time runs on, bearing everything away. In the third stanza our thoughts go into the future. What will become of America tomorrow? In the last stanza we have the deepest thought of all. Behind Time and Nature is a God. It was his Providence that made this little battle so important in its consequence. It is his will that men should be free. He inspired the minutemen to fight. He will not fail to help our country in the time to come, if we turn to him. We might wonder why Emerson calls God the "Spirit." Is it not a rather impersonal way to speak of God? Is it perhaps because Emerson is thinking of God more as a force than as a person?

If we consider whether the poet has used plot, character, and thought well, we will notice be has kept the character in the background and revealed it mainly through plot. This is effective since character exists to serve plot, not the other way around. The character is thus appropriate to the plot, and it is also lifelike, since the succession of emotions and consistency of one emotion with another is maintained. It is very natural that from wonder and awe at the scene of the historic spot, we should then begin to feel the other emotions mentioned in their proper order. Thus the plot is unified and complete, because from the first event and emotion the others follow step by step to a complete catharsis. The thought also in this poem is subordinated to the succession of emotions which are the main events of the story; yet it is interesting, since Emerson is awake to the significance of events; lie perceives their irony and at last arrives at a deep understanding of them.



To learn to read stories well or to tell them, we must first be equipped with a rich vocabulary. We cannot build a magnificent building out of scraps. We must have a great and rich variety of materials. Fortunately, we have ready at hand a wonderful supply of such materials in the dictionary.

The dictionary is a printed vocabulary, a magic chest out of which we can draw every material we need to build the world of imagination. The words which it contains have been invented by countless generations of men, women and children who have coined or remade words to express their personal thoughts and experiences. No one has contributed more to this treasure chest than the tellers of tales, who are always looking for richer and more striking words.

The big unabridged dictionary contains the most commonly used words. Let us look up a few entries in it. We will select the two main ideas which we found in The Last Lesson and the "The Concord Hymn." We found that both concern patriotism, and that each tries to show that patriotism is a true virtue which few people appreciate properly. We will also make use of a rhetorical example on the same theme, Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" (page 413), to show that persuasive writing uses many of the same methods as does imaginative writing. If we look up patriotism and virtue in Webster's Unabridged Dictionary we find the following:

These two examples show us the kind of information given us by an unabridged dictionary. Notice the following:

1. The pronunciation of words. A word is a conventional sign (see pages 5 and 21); that is, each is a sound that leads to the knowledge of something other than itself because of human custom and usage. Animals make sounds only by instinct; but men have control over the sounds they make, and they agree to use particular sounds to stand for definite things. That is why men have different languages; but every robin has the same song, and every lion the same roar.

Although the connection between the sound and the idea in human language is only a matter of custom, sometimes a sound is chosen as a word because it resembles the thing it stands for, as when we call a dog "a bow-wow." This method of making words is called onomatopoeia (on-o-mat-o-pé-ya). Sometimes the sound is not an imitation, but is somehow appropriate to that for which it stands. Thus the word "gloom" suggests a dark and sad effect because of the long m which gives it a deep, murmuring sound; the word "shining" sounds bright and clear because of the high, thin "i's."

The sounds of words can be very beautiful and expressive, a spoken music. When we hear music, even without words, it fills our minds with images and makes us feel happy or sad, peaceful or excited. All speech, when properly pronounced in a musical voice, is very pleasant, charming, and moving to the hearers. When it is mumbled, sloppy, harsh, it repels the listeners and detracts from the effect of what is said.

The study of sounds as tools of expression belongs to the art of music. Every sound has several qualities: it is high or low because of its quality of pitch; it is loud or soft because of its quality of volume; it is rich or thin, etc., because of its quality of timbre.

When a sound has a definite pitch, it is a musical sound and is pleasant to the ear. When it is a mixture of unrelated sounds, it is a noise and is unpleasant. In speech certain sounds are musical and can be sting on a sustained pitch. These are called vowels: a, e, i, o, u in their various pronunciations. Others are sounds made at the beginning or ending of a vowel sound and cannot be pronounced or sung by themselves. These are called consonants (Latin for "sounding with") because they have to be pronounced with a vowel. A few consonants (l, m, n, ng, r, w, y) include a vowel sound; therefore they can be pronounced alone and are called semi-vowels.

In singing, the pitch moves up and down a series of definite tones called the scale. In speaking, there is no definite scale but only a slight rise and fall of the voice, called inflection. The increase in volume on the principal syllable of a word is called the accent. A similarity between vowels is called assonance (Latin for "sounding too"); when this similarity also extends to the final consonants of a word it is called rhyme. When the similarity of sounds is at the beginning of syllables, there is alliteration.

If we learn to appreciate and use the music of words, we will find a new pleasure in speaking and listening, and will be able to influence those with whom we speak.

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In the above entries for "patriotism" and "virtue," the pronunciations are given with the exact sound of each vowel and with the accent for the principal syllable. In Webster's New International Dictionary, pages xxii-lxxviii, one finds a very detailed and scientific discussion of the sounds of the English language and the difference in pronunciation in different parts of England and the United States. What is meant by a "southern accent" or a "Brooklyn accent" or an "Irish brogue"?

In "The Concord Hymn" there are many examples of the choice of words whose sound is musical and appropriate. Notice, for example, the quiet and mysterious effect given by the second stanza. The alliteration of the s sounds and the l sounds is largely responsible for this effect. Notice also the pattern of rhymes. In the "Gettysburg Address" the alliteration of f, n, and l helps to make the first sentence very musical. A careful reading aloud will show that Lincoln took care to choose certain vowels like the long o throughout his speech to give it a solemn and ringing sound. (See page 413).

2. The origin of words. The dictionary also tells us how a particular combination of sounds came to stand for a particular idea. This is called the etymology or word-origin. Words usually were invented to describe something of everyday life. They were concrete, and referred to something individual and apparent to the senses. Then they came to be used in a more abstract way to refer to some general idea which could be applied to many things, and which appealed more to the intellect than to the senses.

Knowing the origin of a word helps us to grasp the basic idea that underlies it, since we too have to learn abstract ideas by beginning with what is concrete. It takes time and thought to understand an abstract idea.

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The word "patriotism" had its origin in one of the most fundamental words of our language, the word "father" (Latin pater), which goes back to a still simpler word "Papa" which is one of a baby's favorite sounds. The word "virtue" goes back to the Latin for "man," because it is a quality every real man should have.

In "The Concord Hymn" the word "votive" comes from the word for "vow," and the word "deed" from an old form of "to do," and "redeem" from the Latin for "buy back." When we realize this, we understand that a "votive stone" expresses a vow to thank and to imitate the heroic dead, while "to redeem their deed" means to bring back from the past the memory and example of their heroic actions.

In reading the "Gettysburg Address," it helps to know that "civil war" means a war between citizens of the same state because "civil" comes from the word for "city"; that "consecrate" comes from words meaning "to set aside as something holy"; that "dedicate" means "to declare that a thing is holy"; and that "vain" means "empty."

Emerson, the author of "The Concord Hymn," in his essay Language advises us to use words with something of their original meaning if we want to speak or write forcefully:

Every word which is used to express a moral or an intellectual fact, if traced to its root, is found to be borrowed from some material appearance. Right means straight; wrong means twisted; spirit primarily means wind; transgression, the crossing of a line; supercilious, the raising of the eyebrow .... The etymologist finds the deadest word to have once been a brilliant picture. Language is fossil poetry.

3. The grammatical function of words. The dictionary also indicates to which part of speech a word belongs. Sometimes a word may serve as several different parts with a slightly different meaning and perhaps a different pronunciation for each.

If we had the simplest kind of language, we could get along with nothing but the names of things. Notice, for example, how the second stanza of "The Concord Hymn" would read if it were made up of names only:

Foe. Silence. Sleep.
Conqueror. Silence. Sleep.
Time. Bridge. Ruin.
Darkness. Stream. Sea.

Each name calls up an object before the mind and we quickly supply the necessary connections between one object and another. Children love to know and to repeat the names of things. Prayers and poetry make great use of names.

The names of things are called nouns, and this is the most important of all the parts of speech. Sometimes, however, it becomes awkward to keep repeating the noun which names some object we are discussing. Hence most languages also have pronouns, which substitute for a noun already used. Obviously it is very important that it be clear exactly to which noun a pronoun refers. To show this connection a pronoun has several forms indicating gender (he, she, it), number (he, they) and person (I, you, he) which must agree with the noun for which it substitutes. Pronouns are called personal when they refer to a definite person or thing, or indefinite (any, some, etc.). They are reflexive when they refer back to the subject (herself, own, etc.), or relative when they introduce a clause (who, which, what), or interrogative when used in a question (who? which? what?).

We say, that a noun is the name of some thing, but in the example given above is it true to say that "silence," "sleepy," "darkness" are things in the same way that "foe," "conqueror," "stream," and "sea" are things? Strictly speaking, a thing is a substance; that is, something which can exist in its own right, not merely as the modification or relation of something else. Thus a man is a substance which can exist in its own right; but the color of a man's hair, his size, his shape, his position, and his actions exist only as modifications or relations of a man. In Alice in Wonderland the Cheshire cat slowly vanished until nothing was left but its smile. A smile, a shape, a color, a relation cannot exist in its own right but only in something else. Such secondary aspects of substances are called accidents or attributes of substances. Nouns were originally invented to name substances. When we use them to name accidents like a smile or a color, we do so because we are thinking of these accidents as if they could exist by themselves like the smile of the Cheshire cat.

The philosopher Aristotle tried to figure out very carefully just how many types or categories of accidents or modifications and relations of substances there are. He found that there are ten categories corresponding to ten questions that we ask about things. They are as follows-

1. What is this thing? Category of substance; e.g., man, dog, rose, salt, iron, angel.
2. How many or much of it is there? Category of quantity; e.g., three, one hundred, whole, part.
3. What sort of thing is it? Category of quality; e.g., red, melodious, sour, soft, virtuous, healthy.
4. What are its connections? Category of relation; e.g., similar, different, bigger, smaller, equal, cause, effect, father, mother.
5. Where is it? Category of place; e.g., here, there, near, up, down.
6. What is its position? Category of position; e.g., upright, bent, prone, standing, sitting, reversed.
7. Is it covered or uncovered? Category of vestition; e.g., naked, clothed, armored, harnessed, uniformed.
8. What is it doing? Category of action; e.g., running, sleeping, cutting, building, flying, talking.
9. What is happening to it? Category of reception; e.g., being cut, being heated, being built, being plowed.
10. When is it acting or being acted upon? Category of timing; e.g., today, yesterday, now, then, once.

Fundamental natural science will teach why there are only these ten categories. As we learn each part of natural science, we will learn each of these classifications. Outlines of them can be given, as we shall see, but they will never be wholly completed, since science goes on discovering things to go into each classification.

These categories are used in all human thinking and by every race of men, but each language has its own way of expressing them. All of them can be expressed by nouns (or pronouns), but since the nine categories of accidents are not really things, but modifications or relations of things, it is more satisfactory to have other parts of speech which express these categories as modifiers of nouns.

The categories of quantities and qualities include modifications of substances (nouns); hence the part of speech called the adjective was invented as a modifier of nouns especially to indicate quantities (the numerals) and qualities. The special forms of the pronoun indicate quantity (plural or singular) and gender (which is a quality). The category of vestition is also indicated by an adjective since clothing can be thought of as a kind of quality of the thing clothed.

The category of relation is indicated in many languages by a modification of the form of the noun called case. For example, in Latin vir means man; viri is the possessive case (indicated in English by 's) which indicates a relation of possession; and virum is the objective case (indicated in English by special forms of the pronoun: him, them) which indicates reception or relation.

In English, however, we usually express relation by a preposition. This is convenient because in every relation there must be two things which are related, The preposition expresses the relation between the modified word and another noun called its object. Thus in the sentence "The bridge was built by him," the relation of the builder to the bridge is indicated by the preposition by.

The other categories of place, position, action, reception and timing are not relations, but since they involve relations also, they are often expressed by prepositions. Action and reception, however, are extremely important, because we know substances mainly through what they do or through the changes they undergo. Hence almost all languages have a special part of speech, the verb, to give full expression to these two categories. Thus the noun which names a substance and the verb which shows how that substance reveals itself through what it does or undergoes are the two most important parts of speech.

Among verbs, the verb is is called the copula (joiner) because it expresses the act of the mind by which we join two ideas to make a sentence, as when we say, "The man is patriotic." Other verbs actually contain the copula, plus the idea of some other action besides the action of our mind. Hence they can be analyzed into two words, the copula and another word which is the name of an action. Thus "The man fights" can be analyzed into "The man is fighting." This name of an action when used as a noun is called a gerund (from Latin gerere meaning to bear, because it bears the part of a noun) as in "Swimming is fun"; when the action is expressed with to, it is called an infinitive (from Latin for "without a limit," because it is not limited to a particular action) as in the sentence "To swim is fun;" when the name of the action is used as an adjective it is called a participle (because it is part of a verb) as in "The boy is swimming."

Since an action must take place in time, the verb also expresses the category of timing by its tense. This is the special mark of a verb which distinguishes it from all other words.

In English these ideas are often made clearer by the use of helping verbs or auxiliaries, such as have, will, shall, etc., which contain the copula plus the idea of time.

Actions can have various degrees of intensity, because they produce their effect more or less perfectly. Hence adverbs have been invented to modify verbs and to indicate their intensity, as in the sentences "He ran swiftly" or "He hit hard." Since the effect of an action is often to produce some quality, adverbs are also used to modify adjectives, as in the phrase "The smoothly polished surface." Finally, since an action always requires time and place in which to occur, adverbs often modify a verb by showing the time or place in which the action happens. Conjunctions (and, therefore, because, but, etc.) also express relations, but these relations are not between things, but between sentences or parts of sentences. These are mental relations and will be discussed in the next chapter. Interjections are sometimes classed as a part of speech, but they express emotion rather than thought.

Thus we see that the parts of speech, although they do not perfectly correspond to the categories, have been invented to express the categories with a clarity which is sufficient for ordinary writing and speaking. In order to understand the function of a part of speech we have only to ask "What does it modify?" and "What type of information does it give and how?" and "What category does it express?" Unless we know the part of speech to which a word belongs we do not know its whole meaning.

The diagram on the opposite page of the first stanza of "The Concord Hymn" shows how in a single sentence many categories of information may be given. This sentence contains all the categories

THE FARMERS (substance; plural indicates quantity;
    "the" indicates concept is particular not universal)
       WERE (copula, with past tense for timing)
          a. EMBATTLED (reception, means that farmers were attacked)
          b. STANDING (action):
               1. HERE (place)
               2. ONCE: (timing)
               3. BY BRIDGE (place, indicated as a relation to a substance,
                    since "bridge" is an artificial substance,)
                   (a) THE: (indicates particular concept)
                   (b) RUDE (quality)
                   (c) ARCHED THE FLOOD (really a quality,
                        i.e., shape, and a position, i.e., over the river,
                        but described with the river as an object completing
                        action; "the" for particular concept)
          c. (HOLDING) FLAG (implied action, completed by its object,
                  an artificial substance)
               1. UNFURLED TO BREEZE (position of flag, indicated as
                   a relation to a substance [air] in action [breeze])
                        APRIL'S (timing indicated by a personification)
               2. THEIR (relation of possession)
          d. FIRING SHOT (action completed by its object, i.e.,
                  shooting, which is another action)
               1. HEARD (reception)
                     ROUND THE WORLD (place indicated as relation to a substance;
                     "the" for particular) except vestition,
                     which we might add by writing "The farmers
                     in their work clothes...." 

4. The current meanings of words. It would be very convenient if we had a different word for every concept, and if every word stood for only one concept. When a word has a single meaning, it is said to be univocal. Actually, however, the world is too full of things and our minds are too full of new experiences for language to keep pace with thought. Confronted with a new idea we grope for a word to express it, and cannot find one ready at hand. Hence we tend to take the name of something previously known and apply it to the new object. Thus a word acquires several meanings and is said to be equivocal (from Latin for "equal' and "sound," that is, a sound which means at least two things). When there is no apparent connection between these meanings, they are said to be purely equivocal. Pure equivocation is not very common; usually the diverse meanings have some connection, and hence the term is said to be analogical. If this connection is one of similarity, we have analogy of similarity or proportionality. If this similarity is a merely accidental resemblance between things, the analogy is said to be improper or metaphorical. If it is a similarity which is essential, the analogy is said to be proper.

If the connection is of any sort other than one of similarity, the analogy is called an analogy of connection or attribution. Such connections when examined will be found to be due to some relation of cause and effect. These different terms are shown in the diagram on the following graphic.

DIVISION OF "TERMS" - - - - - HTML - - - - - - GRAPHIC

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The dictionary shows that the word "patriotism" has been taken from "patriot" and that the latter has four uses, two of which are now obsolete. These are all connected with each other by similarity, but meaning 3 is derived from meaning 2 by an accidental comparison (a rebel is not essentially like a patriot, but only accidentally like him, since both claim to be fighting for freedom) and hence is used by analogy of improper similarity or metaphor.

"Virtue" has no fewer than ten different usages, all of are based on some similarity which is essential. Hence all are analogical by analogy of proper similarity.

In "The Concord Hymn" the poet has obviously used "stream" to stand for "time" and "forgetfulness," since the stream has carried away the bridge that once marked the battlefield just as time has caused us to forget the battle itself. On the other hand, he uses the "stone" to stand for remembrance of the battle. These are analogies of similarity; but the resemblance between a river and time, or a stone and memory is merely accidental or improper. The comparison of "death" to "sleep," however, is an essential comparison; hence the analogy is proper. We should notice, nevertheless, that although the former comparisons are improper analogy, this does not mean that they are poor writing. We will explain below why metaphor is very useful and artistic in writing and speaking.

The expression "shot heard round the world" is an interesting example of analogy of connection, and so is the use of the "bridge" as a symbol of the battle, and the "flag" as a symbol of the army. "The shot" is not similar to the battle, but only connected with it as one of its incidents. The "bridge" is not similar to the battle, but only connected with it as the place on which it occurred. The "flag" is not similar to the army, but only something used by it. Yet all of these have connection with the thing they stand for.

The "Gettysburg Address" contains an analogy of proper similarity which runs throughout the entire speech, since Lincoln keeps comparing the conception, birth, struggle, and rebirth of our nation to that of a child. There really is an essential similarity between the birth and growth of an individual and that of the whole society.

In our selections it is not easy to find an example of pure equivocation, because good authors avoid purely equivocal expressions. A careless reader of the "Gettysburg Address," however, might think that Lincoln said "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought fourth on this continent a new nation." "Forth" and "fourth" have the same sound, but utterly different and unconnected meanings. Or this poor reader might mix up the meanings of "vain" in the last paragraph with those of the word "vane," or "perish" with "parish."

5. The connotations of words. Sometimes two words mean the same thing and are called synonyms ("together-names"); sometimes they mean opposite things and are called antonyms ("opposite names"). Even synonyms, however, have different "shades of meaning." The things to which any word can be applied are called its extension, because it extends to cover them all. A word is said to denote (point out) all the things to which it extends. If it denotes only one individual thing, it is a singular term. If it denotes many things each one of which is exactly like the other, then it is a universal term. If it denotes some or a few of these things which are exactly alike, it is called a particular term. If it denotes a group of things taken as a group it is a collective term.

However, two words can have the same extension or denotation and yet have a different content of meaning. One may tell us only a little about the things to which it extends, another very much. This is a difference in comprehension or connotation. Words with a rich comprehension convey a great deal of information, but are more difficult to understand. Ordinarily if a word has a rich comprehension it has a narrow extension and can be applied to a few things only, since the more meaning a word has, the fewer are the things which it will fit.

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In "The Concord Hymn" the words "flood" and "stream" are synonyms, as are "votive stone" and "shaft." "Foe" and "conqueror" are antonyms, as are "sires" and "sons." In the "Gettysburg Address" "dedicate," "consecrate," "hallow" are synonyms; so are "fitting" and "proper." But "living" and "dead," "add" and "detract are antonyms.

In "The Concord Hymn:" "embattled farmers" denotes or extends to all the minutemen. "Conqueror" extends to all the minutemen buried by the bridge; "foe" to all the English soldiers buried there. "Farmers" is a universal term. "Flag" is a singular term. "The foe" and "the conqueror" are collective terms since they mean the two armies each taken as a group. If Emerson bad said that "some of the minutemen are now sleeping in death," then "some of the minutemen" would be a particular term.

The terms "flood" and "stream" have the same denotation or extension here, but their connotation or shade of meaning is not the same. "Flood" makes us think of the river as filling its banks, while "stream" only suggests that it is flowing. The connotations of "dedicate," "consecrate," "hallow" in the "Gettysburg Address" are quite different: "dedicate" indicates only that the battlefield is set aside as a memorial; "consecrate" adds the idea that it is to be used only for this purpose; "hallow" brings out the fact that it is to be a holy place, worthy of deepest veneration.


A thesaurus is a collection of synonyms, antonyms, and other related words. The most standard work of this sort is Roget's Thesaurus, but there are many other similar works. Such a work helps us to discover all the different possible words ,which the language contains to express similar ideas. By using it we can discover the word which best suits our purpose.

In using words we are always aiming at two goals: clearness and vividness. It is not easy to achieve both these goals at the same time, because clear words are often very abstract, while vivid words must be concrete. Clarity comes from the use of exact or technical terms and these we will consider in the last section of this chapter. Vividness is achieved by using words which are concrete, rich in connotation and imagery, and pleasant to the ear. Poetry especially requires this sort of vivid language. Readers often complain that poetry is not clear. This is because the poet sometimes deliberately chooses to sacrifice something of clarity in order to achieve vividness.

One of the most useful ways to increase the vividness of language is to use words with unusual meanings, because this attracts the bearer's attention and makes him search his imagination. These special uses of words are called figures of speech, generally involving some type of analogy.

The most important figure of speech is the one based on an analogy of similarity (see pages 49-51), known as metaphor.*   

*    The term metaphor in Greek simply means "transferred"; hence it was used by Aristotle and is still used by some authors to mean any figure of speech.
Sometimes this is reversed, so to speak, by using a term which is just the opposite of what we mean, or which contrasts what we actually say with what is expected. This is called irony. When a metaphor is made very explicit by using such words of comparison is "like" or "as" it is called a simile. Sometimes it is not merely a word which is treated as having a hidden meaning, but a thing. Then we speak of this thing as a symbol or type, as Moses who led his people out of slavery was a historical symbol or type of our Lord who leads us out of sin.

Besides these figures based on the analogy of similarity there are others based on the analogy of connection (see pages 49-51). These are called metonymy, or the transference of a word from its original meaning to something connected with it in some way other than by similarity or dissimilarity. The most important type of metonymy is called synecdoche, the transferring of the name of a part to the whole, or of the whole to a part. Sometimes this is done by substituting the name of a class for a member of the class (genus for species), or vice versa.

There are many other figures of speech based on these two types, but since most of them involve not only words but sentences and whole compositions, we will treat them in later chapters.

Not only do figures of speech and the choice of words with rich connotations and striking sounds make language more vivid, but they also produce an emotional effect. This is important in poetry, but most especially in rhetoric. Juliet argued that "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet," but nevertheless we are very much affected in our attitudes by the names we give things. Some suggest the ideal, or the lovable, while others suggest something hateful or disgusting. In using words we have to consider the audience to whom we are speaking, and observe its reaction to particular words.

When we use slang or newly invented words, we can often get very vivid effects; but it suggests to those to whom we speak that we are very young, impressionable, imitative. If we use less formal or colloquial language we give the impression that we are being friendly and easy-going. When, however, the occasion demands that we be formal and serious, we must be careful to use only formally correct language; otherwise people will think that we have no respect for them or that we are ignorant of good manners. The dictionary usually indicates whether a word is slang, colloquial, or formally correct.

The great rule in choosing words is to use words which are appropriate to the audience, and as simple and clear as possible, and yet the composition should be spiced with a few well-selected figures of speech or less common words to give vividness.

In "The Concord Hymn" the bridge is a symbol of the battle that once took place there and of the forgetfulness of the people, since it has fallen into ruins and been swept away. The river is the symbol of time since it destroys the bridge, that is, the memory of the battle. The sea is the symbol of the past and of total oblivion. On the other hand, the memorial stone is a symbol of renewed memory. River as used in the poem is a metaphor based on the similarity of the things compared. A river is like time, because it is perpetually flowing. The bridge is used by metonymy, since the bridge is not similar to the battle for which it stands, but is merely connected with it. "The shot heard round the world" stands for the whole battle of which it was merely the first part; hence this expression is an example of synecdoche. Irony is seen throughout the poem in the contrast between the glorious deed of the minutemen and the forgetfulness of their descendants, in the struggle between the two armies and their quiet sleep in death side by side, alike forgotten, and finally in the fact that soldiers must "die and leave their children free." In each case the truth is brought out by contrast to its opposite. The poem contains no explicit similes.

The "Gettysburg Address" also contains no similes. Nor do we find in it any use of metonymy or synecdoche, although there is something of these in the way in which Lincoln uses the battlefield to symbolize the battle itself (metonymy) and this single battle to stand for the whole war (synecdoche). A beautiful metaphor, however, runs throughout the entire speech. Lincoln compares our nation to a child which was "conceived in liberty," "brought forth" "four score and seven years ago, " and "dedicated to liberty." It has almost died in the course of the civil struggle, but is now to have "a new birth of freedom." Irony is found in the contrast between the littleness of human speech and the greatness of the soldiers' sacrifice, and in the contrast (as in "The Concord Hymn") between the soldiers' death and the new life given to their country.


The choice of the right word or phrase, however, is often not sufficient to make our terms really understood. To make them clear we must define them; that is, replace the name of the thing by an explanation of it. Such an explanation gives the full comprehension and connotation of the name. It also gives us its extension by showing exactly to which things the name can be applied.

The simplest way of defining is by a description, and this is the method commonly used in poetic and rhetorical writing. The description must fit the thing defined and distinguish it from anything else, that is, it must have the right extension. It should also bring the thing defined vividly before the imagination if it is to be used for poetry or rhetoric. This is accomplished by selecting the details which are most characteristic and unusual, and by taking care to appeal to all the senses. Thus in describing a man we must pick out those features which are most unique and interesting, and we must mention not only his appearance, but his gestures, his clothing, the sound of his voice, perhaps even his smell.

If we remember the categories they will assist us in describing well. We should explain the nature of a substance by telling what it does or undergoes (action and reception). These actions must be in a place and a time, and will produce some quality or quantity, some position or vestition in the substance, and will result in its having certain relations to other things. Thus in describing a man we should tell how he behaves and when and where, and how this gives him certain qualities and a certain size, position, and habit of dress, and certain relations with other people and things. Frequently in writing we make the mistake of describing only the qualities of a thing by the use of many adjectives, when a careful use of the other parts of speech, especially of verbs, would give a much livelier picture.

Vivid speech and writing depend largely on the power to present the subject being discussed and what is being said about it (the two main terms) by striking descriptions. The careful selection of words and the use of figures of speech are the main tools in giving such descriptions.

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"The Concord Hymn" does not describe its main terms in an obvious way. Nevertheless, Emerson presents them in a deeply moving manner. We see the "bridge" which is characterized by two words: it is "arched" over the flowing river, and it is "rude." It stands for the battle that takes place there. Then the battle is presented to us by the picture of the "flag" flying in the spring breeze, and suddenly in this cheerful and simple scene we hear the first crack of gunfire, and its echo, "the shot heard round the world."

All these details describe for us the subject of the poem, the patriotism of the minutemen. Emerson leaves us to fill in the details for ourselves, having given us very sharply the outline of the description.

The second idea of the poem is that patriotism should be honored. This notion of honor Emerson presents to us first by ironical contrast. He pictures the bridge, symbol of heroism, falling into ruins and being swept away by the dark stream down to the sea of utter forgetfulness. Here symbol and metaphor are used to picture the reverse or opposite of honor, namely forgetfulness and ingratitude. Then he pictures honor as the memorial stone set on the green bank, but at once indicates that the real memorial can only be the determination of future generations to imitate the minutemen by being true patriots themselves.

Lincoln also avoids obvious description in the "Gettysburg Address" because he aims at lifting the minds of his audience to a lofty spiritual ideal. He defines "patriotism" by his solemn references to the dead and to their total sacrifice. He then defines "honor" by using the metaphor of the "rebirth of the nation," showing that the greatest glory of patriotism is that it produces a new life for the fatherland.

In The Last Lesson Daudet avoids any detailed description so as not to overload his very brief and simple story; yet he is very careful to give us enough detail to make clear to us the main terms. Patriotism is embodied in this story in the form of the schoolmaster. Daudet tells us what the schoolmaster is like, not by describing his appearance, but by picturing his actions and attitudes. The height of this description comes in the paragraph which reads:

From time to time, when I raised my eyes from the paper, I saw Monsieur Hamel sitting motionless in his chair and staring at the objects about him as if he wished to carry away in his glance the whole of his little schoolhouse. Think of it! For forty years he had been there in the same place, with his yard in front of him and his class just as it was! But the benches and desks were polished and rubbed by use; the walnuts in the yard had grown, and the hop-vine which he himself had planted now festooned the window even to the roof. What a heart-break it must have been for that poor man to leave all those things, and to hear his sister walking back and forth in the room overhead, packing their trunks!
It will be noticed that time is used in the description in a beautiful way to show us the deep, loving attachment a man has to his home. This makes clearer to us the true meaning of patriotism than a great deal of talk could do.

The honor due to patriotism is defined for us in the boy who gradually comes to see something great and honorable in his teacher which he had never before appreciated. It is by the change that takes place in the boy's attitude, shown in his reception of the schoolmaster's action, that we come to appreciate the worth of what the teacher stands for.

A careful reading of The Last Lesson will show that while Daudet uses very little visual description, he makes a special use of sound. The whistle of the blackbird in the first paragraph and the suggestion of the sound of the sawmill bring before us the loveliness of the country. In contrast to them is the sound of the soldiers drilling in the field. The same contrast is repeated at the end in the sound of the Angelus contrasted to the sound of the Prussian bugles. Daudet obviously intends the sounds of the country and of the church to symbolize the traditional life of the village, while the sound of the army symbolizes its destruction. This theme is also found in the middle of the story, where the boy bears the cooing of the pigeons and wonders if they too must learn to speak German! There are other sounds such as the insect wandering into the room, the sound of the little students singing "ba, be, bi, bo, bu." Each of these sounds has a special emotional effect in the story. Can you explain the function of each?


These definitions summarize everything that has been discussed in this chapter. If you memorize them, understand their meaning, and use them in your reading and writing you have thoroughly mastered this chapter.

1. A univocal sign is one which has only one meaning.
2. An equivocal sign is one which has more than one meaning.
1) A purely equivocal sign is one which has two or more meanings which have no connection with each other.
2) An analogous sign is one which has two or more meanings which are connected by similarity or causality.
3. A distributive universal sign or concept is one which signifies a nature possessed by each and every one of many things.
1) The comprehension of a universal sign is its meaning content.
2) The extension of a universal is all the things to which it can be applied.
4. A definition is an expression showing what a thing is, or what a name means.
1) An etymological definition gives the original meaning of a name.
2) A nominal definition is an expression showing what a name means.
3) A real definition is an expression showing what a thing really is.
5. A category is a classification of things which are not a part of some larger classification.
1) The category of substance is a classification of created things that can exist by themselves. The modifications of a substance are called its accidents.
2) The category of quantity is a classification of all the accidents by which a substance has parts each of which if separated would be a thing.
3) The category of quality is a classification of all the accidents by which a substance is characterized in itself.
4) The category of location is a classification of all the accidents through which a substance is immediately contained by surrounding bodies.
5) The category of vestition is a classification of all the accidents through which a substance is loosely contained by surrounding bodies.
6) The category of position is a classification of all the accidents by which a substance is orientated in relation to surrounding bodies.
7) The category of timing is a classification of all the accidents by which a substance and its changes are measured by some regular motion.
8) The category of action is a classification of all the accidents by which a substance changes another.
9) The category of reception of action is a classification of all the accidents by which a substance is changed by another.
10) The category of relation is a classification of all the accidents by which a substance is merely ordered to another.


It is suggested that a grammar handbook or workbook be used (such as John Warriner and Francis Griffith's English Grammar and Composition, A Complete Handbook, or John E. Warriner and Joseph C. Blumenthal's English Workshop, New Series, Grade Nine; both published by Harcourt, Brace & Company) and one of the standard anthologies of literature. One main objective of the year, however, should be to read poetic arguments in complete books other than the anthology. The work of the year might conveniently be divided into the following units:

Read and discuss "The Story of the Liberal Arts" in home-room period or Christian Doctrine class as an orientation to the whole work of the high school. See discussion topics at the end of that chapter.

Unit I: Analyzing stories.
A. Reading:

Study the rules of analysis given in this book and apply to a number of short stories and poems contained in the anthology. Stress the exercise of trying to state the plot in a single sentence and insist that in all analyses the student show how the other elements contribute to this one central idea.

B. Writing:

At least one short writing assignment should be given weekly. Subjects like the following are suggested:

1. Sentences expressing the plot of each story in three different single-sentence versions.
2. Simple expositions with the first paragraph telling what the paper will do, the last one telling what it has done, and the body increasing gradually throughout the year from one to three paragraphs. For any given story explain or describe:
a. The action which starts its plot.
b. The action which climaxes its plot.
c. One incident in the middle of the plot.
d. What a particular character thinks about something and how you were shown that.
e. What kind of a person a particular character is and how you were shown that.
f. How you feel toward a particular person and one reason why.
g. One reason why you like the story.
h. How you would have ended the story.

C. Grammar:
Review and require in all writing assignments throughout the year:
1. Words correctly spelled (E. W., "Usage and Spelling" sections).
2. Words properly syllabicated, compounded, and hyphenated (E. G. C., pp. 627-8).
3. Apostrophe properly placed in contractions. (E. W., "Usage and Spelling" sections; E. G. C., p. 607).
4. An before a word beginning with a vowel sound.
5. Avoidance of omission of necessary words, double subjects, double negatives.
6. Titles properly capitalized, punctuated, centered, and followed by a vacant line (E. W., p. 97; E. G. C., pp. 611-2, 568-9).
7. Titles which briefly summarize the subject of the paper.

D. Speaking:
1. Careful enunciation: t, ed, ing, wh.
2. Correct pronunciation: just, because, been (bin), question (kwes-chun), surprise, probably, government, athlete, get, root, our.
3. Projection of voice to those farther removed.
4. Visualizing a group of words and then saying them while looking at the audience.
5. Pausing for two counts between sentences.
Unit 2: Using the dictionary: word-origin, pronunciation, and parts of speech.
A. Reading:
The examples of onomatopoeia given on pages 419 ff should be studied, and other examples should be found in anthology selections. It is not enough merely to point out such examples, their function in the story must be stressed. Word-origins on pages 422-424 should be studied. Then the student should look up various difficult words in the selections read to see how their etymology casts light on their meaning. Why did the author use these particular words? Was he conscious of the same connotations given them by their origin? Does he use these connotations? (See E. C. C., Chap. 20-23.)

B. Grammar:
The parts of speech should be reviewed (E. W., See. 1-3; E. G. C., Part 1, Sec. 1-3), after studying dictionary examples of words which can very well be used as several parts of speech, and discriminating among the meanings of each. The students should give the conventional definitions of the parts of speech; then the teacher should explain these logically in terms of the categories (pp. 44 to 47).

C. Writing:
The student should rewrite some of the assignments previously written, trying to improve the vocabulary, sound, quality, and grammatical variety of his composition. There should be exercises in trying to write the same ideas. It should be emphasized that the purpose of knowing grammar is not merely to ensure "correct speech," but mainly to provide a variety of methods of expressing our ideas so that they will be more clear or more vivid.

Other suggestions for short expositions are explanations of:

1. One particular figure of speech used in a particular selection.
2. One particular sound effect used.
3. How two meanings of a word are associated.

Assignments for writing rhetorical arguments might be:

1. A letter to a friend persuading to some action.
2. A short speech urging the class to some definite action.

D. Speaking:

Some of the stories or poems analyzed should be read aloud (perhaps memorized). The student should see how well he can bring out the sound effects intended by the author: the onomatopoeia, the rhythm, the melody, and the emotional expression of the characters. Proper vocal production and breathing may be discussed and illustrated.

Unit 3: Using the dictionary: word meanings, figures of speech.
A. Reading:
The major literary selection for the year (perhaps The Merchant of Venice) should be read and analyzed, using principles studied in Unit 1. Special attention should be given to word meaning, imagery and figures of speech. The theory given on pages 49-58 and the examples on pages 424-427 should be studied in preparation for this. (See E. G. C., Chap. 1.)

B. Writing:
Assignments like the following are suggested to give practice in using the techniques studied in poetry:
1. Write in rhyme the names of classmates that fit a certain rhythm.
2. In about four lines of verse describe one character of a story:
a. Using the rhyme and rhythm of a poem studied.
b. Using an onomatopoetic word.
c. Using the recurrence of a similar vowel sounds.
d. Using the recurrence of similar consonant sounds.
e. Using the figure of speech last taught.
3. In about four lines of verse describe one single action in a story read, using two of the previously mentioned techniques in each assignment.
4. In about four lines of verse describe some vivid sense experience, choosing words which by sound effects and meaning produce:
a. A sorrowful emotion.
b. A joyful emotion.

C. Grammar:
The teacher should insist on the value of grammar in interpreting difficult passages in reading, for example, in Shakespeare. Continue with the study and application of topics previously suggested, including others as need arises. (Cf. E. G. C., Part VIII; E. W., Sec. 6 and 7.)

D. Speaking:
Vocal interpretations of passages from the work should be given.

Unit 4: Description
A. Reading:
Anthology selections in which description is well used should be read, along with theory on pages 56-58 and examples on pages 520 ff. (See also Cleanth Brooths and B. P. Warren, Fundamentals of Good Writing [formerly Modern Rhetoric], Harcourt, Brace and Company, Chap. 5.)

B. Writing:
Short essays on topics like the following are suggested:
1. The Most Interesting Person I Have Ever Met.
2. The Most Interesting Place I Have Ever Seen.
3. Students should attempt to imitate the technique of some particular author in some definitely assigned details.
4. Two descriptions of the same person or thing, trying in one of them to make it attractive, in the other repulsive.

C. Grammar:
The agreement of subject and verb, pronouns, antecedents, irregular verbs (E. W., Sec. 8 to 10; E. G. C., Part II, Sec. 6 to 8). The teacher should review these matters to correct errors in the foregoing compositions.

D. Speaking:
The year may end with a series of oral book reports of similar or contrasted works compared to the major work studied during the year. The speaker should make an explicit comparison of work studied in class with one which he has read privately. He should build his report around a statement of the plot and the means used by the author to present that plot.