What is the purpose of the dashes used in the following sentence of Henry David Thoreau's "Ktaadn"? "It was the fresh and natural surface of the planet Earth, as it was made forever and ever,--to...

What is the purpose of the dashes used in the following sentence of Henry David Thoreau's "Ktaadn"?

"It was the fresh and natural surface of the planet Earth, as it was made forever and ever,--to be the dwelling of man, we say--so Nature made it."

The dashes serve to illustrate...

a. Natures ability to destroy  man

b. Man's insertion of himself into Nature.

c. Man's domination over Nature.

d. Nature's inherent connection with man.

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kcoleman2016 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

The most likely answer to your question is Option B. Let's take a look at why that is: 

Not (a) Nature's ability to destroy man

This response is contradictory to the tone of the line itself, which is positive and evokes creation, not destruction. If the dashes were to imply any sense of destruction, it would be man destroying the flow of nature, as the dashes disrupt the line and sentiment. 

Possibly (b) Man's insertion of himself into Nature

This would be the most likely answer given the use of punctuation to mirror the sentiment of the line itself. The line discusses Man forcing his own interpretation into the creation of Nature, and like this idea, the dashes force this statement into the middle of the line. They do not join it seamlessly or even try to blend in. 

Possibly (c) Man's domination over Nature

This could be a likely response given that the line's sentiment is disrupted by the dashes, which introduce "man" into the mix. Usually, the power to interrupt is associated with dominance. 

Not (d) Nature's inherent connection with Man

This response would contradict the use of dashes, which are a more disconnected form of punctuation than alternative options, such as commas. Here, the sense is not one of connection but of disruption. 

Through the process of elimination, we can see the most likely answer is (B).

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