Watching Henry watching television, Lyman says, "He sat in his chair gripping the armrests with all his might, as if the chair itself was moving at a high speed and if he let go at all he would rocket foward and maybe crash right through the set." How would you describe the diction in this sentence? What effect does the sentence's length—and its syntax—create? What is the tone? What does the line, and the paragraphs around it, tell you about Lyman's reaction to Henry's change?

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The diction and speed in the sentence are used to create a sense of anxiety, urgency, and movement. Lyman's description of Henry's state—moving and yet unmoving—is replicated in the reader as they complete the sentence. The tone is also urgent and somewhat helpless.

Louise Erdrich achieves this by using short...

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The diction and speed in the sentence are used to create a sense of anxiety, urgency, and movement. Lyman's description of Henry's state—moving and yet unmoving—is replicated in the reader as they complete the sentence. The tone is also urgent and somewhat helpless.

Louise Erdrich achieves this by using short words and a long sentence length. These two things combined create the feeling of movement as a reader moves from one word to the next. The longest word in the sentence only has two syllables. The entire forty-one–word sentence only has seven words that are two syllables. It's a sentence meant to be read quickly so that the reader feels what Henry is feeling and what Lyman is observing—a sense of motion, anxiety, and urgency.

Lyman is distressed over the change in Henry, but he can't do anything about it. Henry is experiencing these things in his own head, which is a place that Lyman can't reach him. Even when he tries, the attempt ultimately fails, and Henry dies still feeling detached and separate from the world he returned home to.

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The diction, meaning the words and phrases in this sentence, and its length convey a sense of speed and a sense that Henry feels that the world around him is out of control. The sentence is a concatenation of images and ideas, starting with Henry sitting in the chair while gripping it tightly and moving on to the image of the chair speeding forward and then to the image of Henry falling through the air and crashing. The sentence is long, giving the effect of the confusion Henry feels and the movement of the world around him in a confusing way, and the tone of the sentence is harried and wild. The syntax, tone, and length of the sentence convey Henry's disorientation after returning from Vietnam.

The lines around this sentence, and the paragraph as a whole, convey the idea that Henry has shut down and that Lyman doesn't know how to reach his brother. Lyman says that Henry is still, "but it was the kind of stillness that you see in a rabbit when it freezes and before it will bolt." Lyman has the sense that Henry is only still out of fear and confusion and that Henry will run away from him the first chance he gets. Lyman doesn't understand how to reach Henry. 

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