In Jennifer Donnelly's A Northern Light, provide sentences that demonstrates the author's style.

1 Answer | Add Yours

booboosmoosh's profile pic

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

Posted on

Jennifer Donnelly, author of A Northern Light, is praised for her writing style that engenders an...

...unflinching honesty in its portrayal of loss, poverty, racism, and pregnancy.

Donnelly's voice (sometimes also referred to as tone) catches the essences of her characters, in particular that of the dead Grace, through the letters she wrote. Mattie's teacher, Miss Wilcox, explains what "voice" is; it is...

...not just the sound which comes from one's throat but feelings which come from one's words...

We can find this in Grace's letters—we hear the voice of the young woman who died: who was full of doubt and worry, alone and wishing Chester would come to her and comfort her. She had no way of knowing that Chester's arrival would lead to her imminent death:

Chester, I have done nothing but cry since I got here. If you were only here I would not feel so badly...I can't help thinking you will never come for me...Everything worries me and I am so frightened, dear...

In these words, Donnelly is able to clearly convey emotions that many readers can identify with: yearning, fear, isolation. These feelings are carefully and successfully shared with the reader so he or she can feel what Grace was feeling. In this way, the reader can also identify with her, which makes her a realistic and sympathetic character. It is also noted:

The voice of Mattie Gokey is direct, intimate, and searching...

We "hear" Mattie's struggle and her concern that Grace receive justice, for she knows, no matter how she tries to convince herself otherwise, that something is wrong with Grace's alleged accidental drowning. Connelly portrays Mattie as a young woman of strength and conviction as she struggles to remain uninvolved—to destroy the letters as Grace had asked her to—but loses the battle because of the debt she believes she owes to Grace's memory:

I shouldn't do this; I know it's wrong, but so is that wound on Grace Brown's forehead.

Connelly's voice is also used to give the reader a sense of how sensitive Mattie is: she is not a youngster who lives in a dream world. She has experienced and seen enough to know that hardship and heartache are a part of life. This side of her allows us to see her as a credible character. The author's voice is eloquent as she conveys Mattie's knowledge of the world, seen through what the guests "leave behind:"

They leave things behind sometimes, the guests. A bottle of scent...And sometimes they leave other sorts of things. Things you can't see. A sigh trapped in a corner. Memories tangled in the curtains. A soft fluttering against the windowpane like a bird that flew in and can't get out. I can feel these things. They dart and crouch and whisper.

Connelly's use of voice allows the reader to be sympathetic toward Grace, and to cheer for Mattie's convictions, not in simply how she champions the cause of Grace, but in how she is able to make the tough choices that will allow her to realize her own dreams.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,911 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question