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How does Kincaid use punctuation and sentence structure to create a demanding tone in...

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secund1n0 | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted February 2, 2012 at 7:19 AM via web

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How does Kincaid use punctuation and sentence structure to create a demanding tone in the story?

Wash the white clothes on Monday and put them on the stone heap; wash the color clothes on Tuesday and put them on the clothesline to dry; don't walk barehead in the hot sun; cook pumpkin fritters in very hot sweet oil; soak your little cloths right after you take them off; when buying cotton to make yourself a nice blouse, be sure that it doesn't have gum on it, because that way it won't hold up well after a wash; soak salt fish overnight before you cook it; is it true that you sing benna in Sunday school?; always eat your food in such a way that it won't turn someone else's stomach

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schulzie | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted February 4, 2012 at 11:07 AM (Answer #1)

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There are four kinds of sentences: declarative, interrogative, exclamatory, and imperative.  An imperative sentence is a command. It has its own sentence structure in English.  Generally it starts with a verb.  For example:

Study for your test tomorrow. 

Wake your brother at 5:30AM. 

Even if it is a negative command, it just starts with the word "don't"  Examples of this are:

Don't yell in church.

Don't talk to your grandmother with that tone of voice. 

All of these are forms of commands, and commands demand that you do something.  As a native English speaker, we recognize this sentence structure and know that it is a command.

Secondly, he places semicolons between each command.  A semicolon does not carry a full pause the way a period does.  By placing these commands right next to each other, Kincaid gives the reader the impression that it is said in a hurry, one right after the other, and it gives it an urgency which adds to the demanding nature of the words.

Two exceptions to this are the question and the instructions about the blouse.  They are not as demanding and give the impression the speaker had digressed a bit. 

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