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How can I improve this epistolary narrative based on "The Lady of Shalott" by Alfred,...

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rainbow224 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted May 29, 2013 at 9:54 PM via web

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How can I improve this epistolary narrative based on "The Lady of Shalott" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson?

Part 3 of letter:

At the beginning, I had little care to question uncertainty, to answer reasons, to arrive at a conclusion to explain my presence in here. After years of incessant trying, I had forgotten. Engulfed in ...

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 30, 2013 at 7:26 AM (Answer #1)

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There are several things I really like about your interpretation of the title character in Alfred, Lord Tennyson's "The Lady of Shallot." However, for clarity's sake, here are some suggestions.

At the start, I would change "care" to "desire," as the verb "desire" shows an a wish to make things different, something unclear with "care." I would remove the following sentence, as it is unclear:

After years of incessant trying, I had forgotten.

The reader is unsure of what has been forgotten. In the next sentence, "loathness" is awkward. I would remove it, write "engulfed by," and simply refer to "anxiety and despair." It might be easier to follow if you tried to forget the horrid memories... Next, frustration overwhelmed rather than "conquer," bewilderment "began to well up" (at this point, insert "and"), and shorten the remainder of the sentence to say "in which nightmares haunted my very [not every] sleep." You began the sentence with "days;" there is no need to mentioned days twice in the sentence.

Edit "forecasted" out of the next sentence, using instead "dislodged" and remove "triggered," replacing it with "loosened." (Triggered" is used correctly, but I don't feel it's the best word.) Keep "until the jigsaw of my puzzlement" and add "fell into order." Remove "Most dreams..." until "everything now." I would only casually mention "mother." Maybe write, "I now recall mother's lies, that you, Father, wrongly believed," which infers what brought you to this place.

In the next sentence, remove the first "and" (for you use a comma rather than two "ands"). Also remove the "s" in "judgments."

Father, I beg of you to show mercy, feel pity and reconsider your judgment of me.

Add "Over" to the start of your next sentence, ...Over a period of 18 years... Then replace "learnt" with "learned." The remainder of the sentence is good. Remove the last part of the next sentence so it reads...

It is unjust for an innocent person to be punished...

Your reference to punishment the same as another is unclear for we do not know about your sin or that of another (whoever that may be). Keep the next sentence as is, but replace "excruciating" with "lonely confinement."

I like the personification of your song (giving your song human characteristics as it escapes): simply change "the" to "my prison;" but then remove "natural and social," keeping "world outside." Rather than "unleash...feathers," I would "unfurl my wings" and continue on with the sentence, changing "was" to "have been forbidden..." Instead of "Endless," I believe it is more accurate to use "countless." Of your wishes, write that you have wished to "love and be loved," and "know someone cherished my existence." You don't need the rest.

Next, write... 

...have longed to know how it feels to smile with thoughts of him, and to laugh and quarrel over minor things.

Regarding the rain, change your reaction to "have craved," using the correct (and consistent) verb tense. Refer to "winter's night." If this is a personal response to nature, have the "rushing wind pulling at my hair" or "cloak."  

Finally, start with "Unable..." (the sentence is good), simply change the latter portion to "I have become..." Change "would" to "You will," and finish the sentence as it is, with your quote from the poem. "Half sick of shadows" shows a direct allusion to this famous piece. With it, and your name, the intent of your writing is clear. Nice job: we feel this woman's pain!

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted May 30, 2013 at 1:39 PM (Answer #2)

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You have done a very nice job here. There are a couple of problems though that you may want to address.

  • You have some anomalies.
  • You have some incorrect word choices.
  • You have some grammar errors.

One other important thing is that, depending upon the terms of your assignment (which I of course cannot know), your first paragraph shows a misunderstanding of the meaning of Tennyson's poem. In short, the Lady of Shalott is not miserable. She is cheerful and sings daily with "a song that echoes cheerly." Though she is on a "silent isle" bower, she is in "a space of flowers" indicating loveliness and joy for her, not misery and suffering.

Thus, if your assignment requires understanding and reflecting the life of the Lady of Shalott correctly, you've missed; you've misunderstood her and Tennyson's meaning. If, on the other hand, your assignment gives you free license to reinvent the Lady from your own imagination without any reference to Tennyson's Lady, then the incorrect representation is fine and interesting. Evaluate your assignment to confirm for yourself that it is acceptable to reinvent the Lady without any concurrence with Tennyson's vision.

ANOMALIES
anomaly: someone or something that is abnormal or incongruous; deviates from the rule, the norm, the type (Random House Dictionary)

1. "be part of the natural and social world outside": You have chosen to use pseudo-archaic, high poetic diction. This phrase is strictly contemporary and alludes to modern scientific theory. You might say something like, "prison that holds me back from the sun's warmth and the laughter of voices raised."

2. "to interact with" and "to experience" and "quarrel over minor things": These are anomalous for the same reasons as above: contemporary concepts versus archaic. You might trade "commune" for "interact"; "welcome" for "experience"; "dispute and reconcile" for "quarrel ...."

3. "gale": Gales define a speed of maritime (ocean based) wind that isn't used to reference inland winds. Camelot of legend is thought to be an inland location in South Somerset receded away from the seacoast. If so, "gales" won't normally blow that far inland.

WORD CHOICES
Look up these words for correct selection (meaning) and usage as they are incorrectly selected here.

For example, "loath" means that someone is reluctant or averse, so being "engulfed in loathness (noun)" would mean that you emit the quality that gives others an aversion to you; this is not what you mean: try "loathing" (noun) to mean the feeling of aversion to your situation [you have a feeling of strong dislike or disgust for your situation (Random House)]:

  • loathness
  • daunting
  • benevolent
  • partake

INCORRECT GRAMMAR

  • I had forgetting the horrid memories of the past: wrong tense; "had forgotten"
  • bewilderment begun to well up, questions rose and those were: tense agreement, "began"; comma missing
  • the faces in which I was unable to recall were that of my mother: wrong adverbial, "which"; mother has ONE face, thus tense/number agreement
  • A period of 18 years, I would have learnt a lesson if I had held: adverbial needed to head the introductory adverbial phrase; "after"
  • cherished my existence, relies on it
  • how it feels to smile when in thoughts of him
  • would never understand until we trade
  • Lady of Shalott: your daughter: capitals are required in signatures

All in all, you have done a terrific job of a challenging undertaking employing pseudo-archaic language and high poetic diction. Make a good online dictionary your friend, try Dictionary.com, which gives you access to Random House American English Dictionary and Collins British English Dictionary.

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