How can I compare and contrast the writers' use of style, structure and linguistic features to convey the context, identities, feelings, and purpose? I need to compare the excerpt about country...

How can I compare and contrast the writers' use of style, structure and linguistic features to convey the context, identities, feelings, and purpose? I need to compare the excerpt about country dancing from Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit with the poem "Not Waving But Drowning."

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

These two texts are very different. The genre of the first text is a novel or autobiography, and the context is the narrator's experience in a dancing class. The second text is a poem about a man who drowns and the narrator's feeling of drowning. The structures are also very different, as the first text tells a story related to dance class, while the second text narrates a man's experience of drowning. 

The style of narration of each text is also different. The first text is narrated from the point of view of a young person experiencing the events in the tale; for example, the narrator says, "We flapped along twisting each others' fingers off and promising untold horrors as soon as the lesson was over." The narrator explains how the children in the dance class torture each other when they are forced to dance together. The poem is similar to the first text in that it is also narrated in the first person; however, it is not clear who the "I" in the poem is. While the narrator in the first text is not identified, it is clear that he or she is a child who has to endure dance lessons. The narrator of the poem is unidentified. He or she witnesses a man drowning and then says, at the end of the poem, "I was much too far out all my life/And not waving but drowning." The reader understand the narrator's feelings but knows little about him or her.

In the first text, the narrator captures the humiliation and torture of childhood dance lessons with a few very descriptive sentences. The first sentence, "Country dancing was thirty-three rickety kids in black plimsolls and green knickers trying to keep up with Miss who always danced with Sir anyway and never looked at anybody else" conveys the haphazard, embarrassing, and tortured nature of the dance class right away. Using an economy of words, the narrator explains why he or she hates the class. The text uses humor and imagined dialogue, such as, "'What me Miss? No Miss. Oh Miss. I never did.' But I did, I always did," to explain how the narrator explains away his or her antics to the teacher. The addition of "I always did" makes the text darkly funny, as does the description of the different tortures awaiting the girls and boys.

The second text uses a metaphorical image--a man drowning while others think he is waving--to describe the narrator's sense of desperation. The poem starts with a literal drowning and moves to a metaphorical drowning to explain the narrator's emotions. Both texts convey a sense of the narrator's desperation, but the first, a story that is darkly funny, leaves a different sense in the reader's mind than the second text, which is a more metaphorical explanation of the narrator's emotions. The more spare form of the poem presents an image in the reader's mind of a person drowning, and the style of each text affects the reader in different ways. The first text is funnier, while the second text is starker.