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The stylistic analysis of Hemingways The Old Man and the Sea"


: . : 03.05.2012. : 2011. : 4. antiplagiat.ru: < 30%


Moscow State University of Psychology and Education
The Faculty of Modern Languages

Course Project

The stylistic analysis of Hemingways The Old Man and the Sea

Group 3.1
Myagkova Elena

Moscow, 2010


    Style and stylistic features.3
    Lexical analysis.7
    Syntactic analysis..12
    Form and structure14
    The list of the literature used16

Style and stylistic analysis.

"Style is the dress of thoughts;
and let them be ever so just,
if your style is homely, coarse, and vulgar,
they will appear to as much disadvantage."
(Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield) 1

In modern English the word style is polysemous. The Oxford dictionary gives the following entry:
Style noun (plural styles)
    the way something is done, made, said, or written etc.
    the part of a pistil that supports the stigma in a plant.
stylistic adjective
The first meaning presented in the entry is more or less suitable for the topic we deal with. But still I suppose it is necessary to clear up the content of the lexeme style relative to fiction works.
2,000 years ago the Latin word stylus meant "a pointed instrument used for writing." Nowadays, definitions of style point not to the instrument used by the writer but to characteristics of the writing itself:
The way in which something is said, done, expressed, or performed: a style of speech and writing. Narrowly interpreted as those figures that ornament discourse; broadly, as representing a manifestation of the person speaking or writing. All figures of speech fall within the domain of style. Jonathan Swift determined this term in the following way: "Proper words in proper places, make the true definition of style."
Exploring fiction works presupposes examining of linguistic means and the features of their contextual using. Being the only source of creative self-expression of the writer, a work reflects uniqueness of artists world-view. That is the individual authors style.
The aim of this particular work is to explore The Old Man and the Sea from the point of view of stylistics and to highlight those features of Hemingways individual style which are presented in the text of the narrative.

A writers problem does not change. He himself changes, but his problem remains the same. It is always how to write truly and, having found what is true, to project it in such way that it becomes a part of the experience of the person who reads it.2

Ernest Miller Hemingway was a famous American writer. In 1954 he was awarded by The Nobel Prize in Literature "for his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style". Undoubtedly this particular story can not be considered as an expression of his modern diction. The matter is The Old Man and the Sea is a quite traditional book for Hemingway from the point of view of stylistics. He introduced the newest style in those works which had been written much earlier. Nevertheless the Nobel Committee fastened to reward the writer for this narrative, until he did not create another time bomb.
So, what is it like, this legendary Hemingways style? Is it conciseness journalistic diction and reticence of his first books or maybe wider breath of For whom the Bell Tombs, terse minimalism or vivid dialogue, laconism of expressions or detailed description? It is neither one, nor another separately, but everything taken together. Hemingway is a deft craftsman of words. He managed to combine all these incompatible characteristics in one style. It is extremely difficult to describe the writing style of such a master of the art of narrative because Hemingway was developing during his life and his views and the manner of writing were also changing. There exist genre, topical, compositional and linguistic distinctions between Hemingways creative works referred to earlier and later periods. The explorers marked the exact boarder between two periods. It takes in the middle of the thirties. They ascribed all the three collected stories and novels Fiesta, and the Sun Also Rises and Farewell to the Arms to the first period. And the second period is presented by two long African stories, The Old Man and the Sea, novels To Have or Have not, Across the River and into the Trees, For whom the Bell Tombs and Islands in the Ocean.
The most popular means of realization of creative individuality of the author are lexical composition and syntactic structure of the narration. Therefore this work is dedicated to these two scopes of the inquiry.

Lexical analysis.
Lexical composition of narration is explored first of all concerning of frequency of using of this or that lexeme.
The biggest group of high-frequency words is presented by syncategorematic and synsematic words. The per cent of these lexemes in the word list is 1% or even less. At the same time they are over 50% of the text. Its impossible that such a great part of the fiction work were not used for making this or that impression.
The per cent of the definite article in Hemingways texts is 8,3%. First paragraphs contain 12-17 % of the same category. The explanation of this fact is in the creative method of the artist. There are no works which first chapters presuppose acquaintance with future characters and places. Any object mentioned for the first time is accompanied with the definite article. The definite article presupposes forestalling mentioning of the lexeme. It makes the beginning of the story look as if it was not beginning but continuation. The beginning from the middle makes the readers think that theres some information outside the text, it creates an implication of precedence, increase textual capacity. This feature also presents in The Old Man and the Sea. There are 10 definite articles and only one indefinite article among 80 words contained in the second paragraph. The whole story contains 84,1% of definite articles and only 15,9% of indefinite ones whereas usually article ratio is 60-70% - 30-40%.
The same aim is reached by initial using of the third person pronouns, which are used before names. An unknown character or object is perceived as if it had been already mentioned. The Old Man and the Sea begins with: He was an old man who fished alone while the old mans name Santiago - appears only at the fourth paragraph. The same can be said about the boy and his name (Manolin). By the way Hemingway uses Santiago only three times and the old man 202 times in the narrative; Manolin 2 times and the boy 96 times. Such frequency can be explained by using the third person pronouns in the remarks for dialogues. The subject is expressed by the pronoun in 60% of the remarks.
Theres one more mean on reaching the same aim, it is demonstrative pronoun. Nevertheless in The Old Man and the Sea this method is rarely used.
Locative prepositions and adverbs also fulfill a stylistic function. They are about 10% of the text and they are utilized as concentrated groups in one phrase: The boy was back now with the sardines and the two baits wrapped in a newspaper and they went down the trail to the skiff, feeling the pebbled sand under their feet, and lifted the skiff and slid her into the water. Locative groups express all the movings and locations of the characters and the objects. Its frequency can be explained by the authors wish to make the effect of trustworthiness of the events by means of detailed description of outer, virtually existing characteristics.
Conjunctions are also high-frequency group of words. The most popular ones are:
    and (one of the final pages contains 59 of and)
    but (most of the pages contain 6- 9 of but)
    then (many pages contain 5- 8 of but)
Sometimes Hemingway combines polysyndeton and frequent usage of prepositions in one sentence: He no longer dreamed of storms, nor of women, nor of great occurrences, nor of great fish, nor fights, nor contests of strength, nor of his wife.

The second cluster of high-frequency words are topical and key words. Their usage is caused by the topic of the work. That is a category of lexemes which can predict its common sense being isolated. Signifying one and the same denotata the thematic word becomes more and more concrete on one hand and on the other hand it gains several connotations. As a result it can be said that the word assumes a special character: it has a special meaning in the particular fiction work. Compare the word bridge in For whom the Bell Tombs and its common meaning and fish, sea in The Old Man and the Sea. It is significant to say about the word luck and its derivatives and synonyms. As luck is one of the key topics of the work, and maybe even a character of the story, Hemingway uses it rather often. (luck, lucky, fortune, salao). This word gains negative connotation because the old mans fortune is not really happy: I am not lucky. I am not lucky anymore. - The hell with luck - the boy said. - Ill bring the luck with me.
Besides topical and key words there are other lexemes. They reflect creative views and preferences of the author. Verbs looked, said fulfill this function.
The remarks of the dialogues are cliched. The writer uses only two words for naming of speech process. They are said (189 times/ the text), told (9 times/ the text) and asked (17 times/the text). The latter is usually used for describing conversations of the man with the boy, with the fish and with the bird. In the same situations there used told. And also you can meet told in the following context: the old man told himself It is significant that such verbs as talked and spoke are not mentioned in the story. Stereotyping nature of the most of authors remarks is not the result of the absence of fantasy. Vice versa it indicates the artists aim at showing instead of telling. The characters speech plays a paramount role. And the pale remark being a background makes the reader to pay his or her attention only at the most significant parts of the dialogue.
The frequency of using looked is also explained by this principle. Hemingway does not like telling anything from the narrators point of view. He describes everything by what the character sees. He looked down into the water and saw the red sifting of the plankton. Here is a formula of using look in The Old Man and the Sea: he looked back/behind/across/up/ and saw

The second cluster of notional words consists of favorite words. As for Hemingway these are work and way which are used in many different meanings, smooth and clean with all kinds of nouns.
Almost each description contains information about colors. With the development of writing craft you can see increasing and quality changing of Hemingways manner of coloring his pictures. The aim is to make the reader believe in the reality, to make the descriptions more detailed, trustworthy: The clouds over the land now rose like mountains and the coast was only a long green line with the gray blue hills behind it. The water was a dark blue now, so dark that it was almost purple. As he looked down into it he saw the red sifting of the plankton in the dark water and the strange light the sun made now. The most of colors describe the same objects during the story, e.g.
    blue water; the fishs back, fin, head; hills;
    yellow weed, eyes;
    green coast, dolphin;
    purple backs, heads, fins, spots, stripes of various fish; filaments;

Tropes and other rhetorical figures play an important role in any fiction work, that is why I suppose it is not worth to examining the text from this point of view. Among early works by Hemingway you can hardly find any examples. Those few you can find are clished, they are hyperbole, oxymoron, metonymy. The works of the later period contain increased number of rhetorical devices, especially epithet, metaphor, comparison: He looked at the sky and saw the white cumulus built like friendly piles of ice cream and high above were the thin feathers of the cirrus against the high September sky. They were as old as erosions in a fishless desert. Homoioteleuton also takes place in the narrative: I can remember the tail slapping and banging and the thwart breaking and the noise of the clubbing. I can remember you throwing me into the bow where the wet coiled lines were and feeling the whole boat shiver and the noise of you clubbing him like chopping a tree down and the sweet blood smell all over me (it fulfills a function of making the situation extremely dynamic). Another popular trope of Hemingway is a stylistic repetition: I was too timid to ask him. Then I asked you to ask him and you were too timid or But tonight the smell of the land breeze came very early and he knew it was too early in his dream and went on dreaming to see the white peaks of the Islands rising from the sea and then he dreamed of the different harbours and roadsteads of the Canary Islands. It is silly not to hope, he thought. Besides I believe it is a sin. Do not think about sin, he thought. There are enough problems now without sin.
Undoubtedly among all the tropes used in The Old Man and the Sea the most important rhetoric figure is personification. In this story you can see this device almost everywhere: the old mans hands, legs, head are also the characters of the story and his so-called interlocutors.

Another important cluster of words presented in the narrative is foreign lexis or more exactly Spanish. It is explained by that fact that the events take place in Cuba, and again Hemingway makes the story more trustworthy. Here are some examples of Spanish lexis: salao, il/la mar, que va, agua mala, dentuso, galano, ay, bodega.
The last important class of words is special lexis which is somehow connected with fishing. The aim is the same. Examples: skiff, harpoon, stern, bait, cast net.

Syntactic analysis.

Short sentences, seemingly simple and straightforward - actually unrevealing and difficult. It could be said that Hemingway atomized description in a way that Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, and others, in their cubist phases, broke visual perceptions into perspectival shards3
Alan Filreis

Many people think that Hemingways sentences are short and simple, still such traditional view on the syntax of the writer is to be reconsidered. In early prose the middle length of the sentence is 15.9 words, but in later one it is 28,4 lexemes. The first works of the great master contain many short sentences in authors narration and in remarks. The number of long sentences (more than 40 lexemes) pads 10 times. The second period is also characterized by separate extremely long phrases (80-100 lexemes), which become some kind of norm. The longest Hemingways sentence consists of 276 words (To Have or Have not). As for The Old Man and the Sea there are no such long sentences, but still I do not think anyone could call this sentence short or having simple wording: But the bird was almost out of sight now and nothing showed on the surface of the water but some patches of yellow, sun-bleached Sargasso weed and the purple, formalized, iridescent, gelatinous bladder of a Portuguese man-of-war floating close beside the boat.
There changes the structure of sentences. The most of them become complex. The rest becomes more complicated by appearing more and more absolute and participle constructions.
Syntactic means also fulfill impressive functions. For example at the end of the narrative, when the heat of the struggle is described the emotional tension of the old man is expressed through usage of exclamations and more expressive lexis (Bad luck to your mother).
Hemingway is also considered a master of dialogue. The conversations between his characters demonstrate not only communication but also its limits. The way Hemingways characters speak is sometimes more important than what they say, because what they choose to say (or leave unsaid) illuminates sources of inner conflict. Sometimes characters say only what they think another character will want to hear. In short, Hemingway captures the complexity of human interaction through subtlety and implication as well as direct discourse.

Form and structure.
Unlike most novels, The Old Man and the Sea has no chapter divisions. This could be attributed to its relative shortness, but there is another reason. From beginning to end, we are given a continuous account, almost a motion picture of Santiago's three-day ordeal. Until the last pages, there is never a moment when we are not with him. Chapter divisions or headings would be an unnatural intrusion into this exceptionally intimate slice of life. We look at the novel from a conventional framework of time: three days on the sea, with a "day before" and a "day after."
There are other ways, however, of assigning a time structure to the story. The days on the sea itself could be divided into
(a) the time before Santiago hooks the marlin,
(b) the battle to bring the marlin in and kill it, and (c) the journey back to the harbor. The second section could be further divided into the period wherein the marlin keeps pulling the skiff further out to sea, and the period wherein the marlin begins to circle the skiff and finally is brought in and harpooned.

The results of researching of the general scopes of the inquiry of artistic usage of linguistic resources by Hemingway proves that common point of view which says that Hemingways style is stable and homogeneous is absolutely wrong.
You can still call Hemingways diction laconic, chary of words, and colloquial, but it is very important to mention the period you talk about. Early prose can be determined as:

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