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What do you think of the style of writing? (3 or more sentences supported with...

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kmcnair0888 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 8, 2011 at 11:16 PM via web

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  1. What do you think of the style of writing? (3 or more sentences supported with evidence from the text)

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 9, 2011 at 4:08 AM (Answer #1)

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In "Barn Burning," William Faulkner uses a mix of all of what Walker Gibson calls "Tough, Sweet, and Stuffy."  Just look at the first two sentences:

The store in which the justice of the Peace's court was sitting smelled of cheese. The boy, crouched on his nail keg at the back of the crowded room, knew he smelled cheese, and more: from where he sat he could see the ranked shelves close-packed with the solid, squat, dynamic shapes of tin cans whose labels his stomach read, not from the lettering which meant nothing to his mind but from the scarlet devils and the silver curve of fish - this, the cheese which he knew he smelled and the hermetic meat which his intestines believed he smelled coming in intermittent gusts momentary and brief between the other constant one, the smell and sense just a little of fear because mostly of despair and grief, the old fierce pull of blood.

The first sentece is fairly simple and straightforward: 15 words, all of which are high-frequency, with one interrupter, and a passive verb.  The second sentence is a 116-word behemoth that, according to eNotes:

...contains between twelve and sixteen clauses, depending on how one parses it out; its content is heterogeneous, moving from Sarty's awareness of the smell of cheese in the general store through the visual impression made by canned goods on the shelves to the boy's sense of blood loyalty with his accused father.

Walker Gibson lists this passage as "Mixed" with a score of 8 parts "Tough"; 5 parts "Sweet"; and 7 parts "Stuffy."  He says:

Very interesting mixture, with lush effects of Sweetness and Stuffiness to qualify the simplicity of the diction.  (Four-fifths of these words are monosyllables!)  Faulkner is generous with adjectives (Sweet) and with subordinate clauses (Stuffy); he is free with "self-embedding" structures (Stuffy); his repetitions of the "the" are extraordinary (Tough).  It is of course a very exciting style which fits no pat classification; the [style] machine cannot touch whatever it is that holds this together.

What Gibson is saying is that Faulkner has a style all his own.  Like the perspectivist narrative style in which he shifts point of view, time, and consciousness, so too does Faulkner invent a word choice and sentence structure that shifts between all styles.  His writing is stream of consciousness, both polished and haphazard.  Even though the point of view is largely confined to Sarty Snopes consciousness, Faulkner intrudes on it with his own stylized intrusion.

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