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Please give me suggestions on how to improve this epistolary narrative based on The...

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

Posted May 27, 2013 at 2:46 PM via web

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Please give me suggestions on how to improve this epistolary narrative based on The Lady of Shalott by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. 


14 May 1453

To whom it may concern,

I am writing this letter to tell my story in hope for someone to read it. I have no one to share, express my inner feelings to and so I decided to write this letter to who it may fall in the hands of.

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

Posted May 28, 2013 at 6:26 PM (Answer #1)

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The first comment I'd make is that much in your narrative has no relationship to the context of the poem. In other words, you can't support a number of your statements from the text (especially paragraph 3). If it is important that your narrative accurately reflect the content of the poem, then you have a bit more work to do in understanding Tennyson's language (if on the other hand, you have free reign with your imagination for the assignment, my remark won't apply).

Only reapers, reaping early
In among the bearded barley,
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly,

She was happy to weave her magic loom and never look out the window until one evening, having seen the mirrored "shadow" of a newly wed couple go along the river, she became heartsick and longed, as grown people do, for something more than the shadows of a happy life lived by others.

Or when the moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed;
"I am half-sick of shadows," said
      The Lady of Shalott.

It was while she was in this mood that Lancelot happened to return to Camelot along the river and be reflected in her mirror. He and his warrior's steed were decked in radiance and jewels; his banners "blazon'd baldric" were shinning; bells rang from his horse's bridle. What with his splendor and her weariness of shadows and her longing for the substance of life (not the shadow of life), she for the first time ever felt an urge to look at real life through the window.

It is at the precise moment that she looks out the window that her misery starts, not before then: the curse comes upon her and her death begins.

Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
      The Lady of Shalott.

Thus if your narrative is meant to reflect the feelings of the Lady of Shalott as Tennyson created her, then you have more to understand and at least one-and-a-half paragraphs to rewrite (paragraphs 2 and 3 specifically).

The other problem that is immediately notable is that your syntax, especially in your first paragraph is not accurately Standard English syntax. Standard form requires (except in rhetorical variations) Subject Verb Object or Complement (who did what to whom / who is what), also indicated as SVO/C. Some Verbs require an Object (some don't) while some Subjects and Verbs require a Complement to the Subject. The only way to know if you are using Objects and Subject Verb combinations correctly is to double check each word in a good dictionary. I suggest Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. It explains usage in a "somebody did something to somebody or something" or in a "somebody is/has/will be something" pattern and similar patterns.

In paragraph one, here is an example of a missing Verb:

  • A person (Subject) that I am able to share my story with (post-modifying adjectival that-clause) [a verb indicating what "a person" does or is is required]

Other examples from your first paragraph--that can lead you toward finding others throughout your narrative--of syntax errors are:

  • I am writing this letter to tell my story in [the] hope of someone to read it. [to read error: requires agreement with "writing"; should be "reading"]
  • I have no one to share, ["share" in this usage is part of a phrasal verb and requires the preposition "with" (acting as a "particle") to complete the phrasal verb for "share with"]
  • , express my inner feelings to {enclose this ellipsis phrase with a closing comma for "[comma] express my inner feelings to [comma]}


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