Should I use "is" or "was" in the following sentence?
The "outlandish parrot," the crockery dog and cat, and the turkey feather fan above the fireplace impress the naive Huck, who [is|was] accustomed to Pap's rustic cabin.
I consider it should be was.
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I completely agree with mwestwood's answer above, but I would also add that since it appears that you are writing a literary analysis of a novel, it is important to always use present tense verbs in this type of writing. The thinking is that the action in a story is always happening -- someone, somewhere in the world is reading the story for the first time, so the action is always happening -- in the present tense. Even when you talk about multiple events that happen throughout a novel, each event should be in the present tense. For example:
Jim and Huck travel down the river and eventually arrive at the farm where Jim is then held captive.
Huck meets the many people along his travels, but none are more interesting than the Duke and the King who are actually con men who play off the foolishness of the people they meet.
It is a good idea to proof read your paper for consistent present tense verbs. Once you get good at it, it will second nature to write literary papers in this way.
In English it is always extremely important to maintain what is called tense consistency. That is there are certain rules to follow:
- Verbs must be in tenses that complement each other and remain in a logical order.
- Tenses should not be changed when there is no time change for the action
- Tense should only be changed when there is a need to do so.
In the example sentence above,
The "outlandish parrot," the crockery dog and cat, and the fireplace impress the naive Huck who ___ accustomed to Pap's rustic cabin.
there are two verbs to be used. The first is in the present tense--impress. Therefore, the second verb should not shift the tense to the past because there is no need to do so. For, there is no time change in the two actions. For, Huck is still accustomed to his Pap's rustic cabin.
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