Examples of prose style

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Examples of prose style
This house had a slate roof and stood between an alley-way and a lane leading down to
the river. Inside there were differences in level which were the cause of many a stumble.
A narrow entrance hall separated the kitchen from the parlour, where Madame Aubain sat
all day long in a wicker easy-chair by the window. Eight mahogany chairs were lined up
against the white-painted wainscoting. Under the barometer stood an old piano loaded
with a pyramid of boxes and cartons. On either side of the chimney piece, which was
carved out of yellow marble in the Louis Quinze style, there was a tapestry-covered
armchair and in the middle was a clock designed to look like a temple of Vesta. The
whole room smelt a little musty, as the floor was on a level lower than the garden.
-- Gustave Flaubert, “A Simple Heart” (1877)
[…] and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose
in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me
under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him
with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain
flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel
my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad yes I said yes I will Yes.
-- James Joyce, Ulysses (1922)
Helen Furr had quite a pleasant home. Mrs. Furr was quite a pleasant woman. Mr. Furr
was quite a pleasant man. Helen Furr had quite a pleasant voice a voice quite worth
cultivating. She did not mind working. She worked to cultivate her voice. She did not
find it gay living in the same place where she had always been living. She went to a
place where some were cultivating something, voices and other things needing
cultivating. She met Georgine Skeene there who was cultivating her voice which some
thought was quite a pleasant one.
-- Gertrude Stein, “Miss Furr and Miss Skeene” (1923)
Three gulls wheel above the broken boxes, orangerinds, spoiled cabbage heads that heave
between the splintered plank walls, the green waves spume under the round bow as the
ferry, skidding on the tide, crashes, gulps the broken water, slides, settles slowly into the
slip. Handwinches whirl with jingle of chains. Gates fold upwards, feet step out across
the crack, men and women press through the manuresmelling wooden tunnel of the
ferryhouse, crushed and jostling like apples fed down a chute into a press.
-- John Dos Passos, Manhattan Transfer (1925)
In walks these three girls in nothing but bathing suits. I'm in the third check-out slot, with
my back to the door, so I don't see them until they're over by the bread. The one that
caught my eye first was the one in the plaid green two-piece. She was a chunky kid, with
a good tan and a sweet broad soft-looking can with those two crescents of white just
under it, where the sun never seems to hit, at the top of the backs of her legs. I stood there
with my hand on a box of HiHo crackers trying to remember if I rang it up or not. I ring it
up again and the customer starts giving me hell.
-- John Updike, “A&P” (1962)
DEFINITIONS OF “STYLE”
From Kalaidjian:
o “Prose fiction is made up of words. The ways these words are arranged is called
style” (345).
o “Style involves many choices on the part of the writer about the language of the
piece—diction, sentence length, the rhythm of the words, a predominance of
action or imagery, and the repetition of words or phrases” (345).
o “Style also involves how sentence grammar is used. Sentences may be long and
complex […] or shorter and simpler […]” (346).
o “Style also consists of how much of a story’s prose focuses on images, describes
actions, or presents dialogue. Some stories rely on imagery and suggestion;
they use many adjectives and often linger over descriptions of people and places”
(346).
From the Bedford Glossary:
o “the message or material that the author communicates to the reader, along with
how the author chooses to present it, produce an author’s individual style” (463).
o “Style, however, is as elusive to define as it is to identify and analyze in a
particular work or a group of works” (463).
o “[style] may be viewed, for instance, in light of the means an author uses to create
an effect; a critic may thus focus on such things as a work’s diction, imagery,
and rhetorical devices. Style may also be discussed with regard to a literary
period, movement, or even author” (463)
o “Discussions of style frequently consider whether the sentences of a work are
predominantly periodic or loose. A periodic sentence […] is not grammatically
complete until its very end. Typically, several dependent clauses and parallel
constructions precede the final independent clause in a periodic sentence, so the
meaning of the sentence cannot be ascertained until the entire sentence has been
read” (464) ***formal, elevated
o “a loose sentence typically contains a number of independent clauses joined only
by coordinating conjunctions such as and or but. As such, it can usually be
divided into multiple sentences” (464) ***informal, conversational
o a work with many periodic sentences is usually defined as having hypotactic
style; a work with many loose sentences is defined as having paratactic style
Paratactic Style:
“And the bonds were issued and the schoolhouse built and more than a dozen years later
the big black Cadillac with the Boss whipped past the schoolhouse, the Sugar-Boy really
put his foot down on the gas and we headed out, still on the almost new slab of Number
58” – from Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men (1958)
Hypotactic Style:
“Nevertheless, she had been so good as to diminish his apprehension that the marriage of
a lady in her thirtieth year with his cousin Vernon would be so much of a loss to him;
hence, while parading the lawn, now and then casting an eye at the room where his Clara
and Vernon were in council, the schemes he indulged for his prospective comfort and his
feelings of the moment were in such stirring harmony as that to which we hear orchestral
musicians bringing their instruments under the process called tuning.” – from George
Meredith’s The Egoist (1871)
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