Tag Archives: Descriptive

Describing the body

“The body which lay in the bath was that of a tall, stout man of about fifty. The hair, which was thick and black and naturally curly, had been cut and parted by a master hand, and exuded a faint violet perfume, perfectly recognisable in the close air of the bathroom. The features were thick, fleshy and strongly marked, with prominent dark eyes, and a long nose curving down to a heavy chin. The clean-shaven lips were full and sensual, and the dropped jaw showed teeth stained with tobacco. On the dead face the handsome pair of pince-nez mocked death with grotesque elegance; the fine gold chain curved over the naked breast. The legs lay stiffly stretched out side by side; the arms reposed close to the body; the fingers were flexed naturally.” (Sayers 8)

Sayers, Dorothy. Whose Body? 1923. Reprint, New York: Dover, 2009.

In her novel, Whose Body?, Sayers consistently gives the reader specific and detailed information on the characters as well as the events taking place. This passage directly tells the reader what the body in the bath looks like. This description distinctively states what Lord Peter sees, and therefore the reader gets a clear picture of the appearance of the body and can imagine himself at the scene. Contrastingly, in The Jolly Corner, Henry James is not as upfront with the reader. James’ character Brydon does not always relay to the reader the information needed to piece the story or scene together. There is not always an obvious picture of what he is experiencing, which leaves the reader frequently wondering about what is actually happening. This technique of delayed specification is not used by Sayers in this passage, which shows a clear difference between the two stories. One is very explicit in giving descriptions, while the other is continuously delaying in giving the reader information.

Whose Body?

“He drifted across the passage into his bedroom, and was changing with a rapidity one might not have expected from a man of his mannerisms. He selected a dark-green tie to match his socks and tied it accurately without hesitation or the slightest compression of his lips; substituted a pair of brown shoes for his black ones, slipped a monocle into a breast pocket, and took up a beautiful Malacca walking-stick with a heavy silver knob” (p.4)

Sayers, Dorothy. Whose Body? 1923. Reprint, New York: Dover, 2009

 

This novel becomes increasingly more and more descriptive as you read through the chapters. As we progress, the attention to detail is so evident that it keeps me wanting to read more. The description of Lord Peter going through the options of his clothing and delicately placing a monocle into his pocket. This vivid imagery helps the reader imagine the scenario in place. Sayers truly describes everything in detail giving clear images of what she wishes you to see. Compared to the other texts we have read such Stein’s story Melanctha or Conrad’s text Heart of Darkness, the imagery is completely evident. The other texts continually use literary devices which can sometimes make the purpose of the scene unclear. Sayers text sets the scene and the purpose of the scene always feels evident.

Delay and Confusion in “Melanctha”

“Jeff sat there this evening in his chair and was silent a long time, warming himself with the pleasant fire.  He did not look at Melanctha who was watching.  He sat there and just looked into the fire.  At first his dark, open face was smiling, and he was rubbing the back of his black-brown hand over his mouth to help him in his smiling.  Then he was thinking, and he frowned and rubbed his head hard, to help him in his thinking.  Then he smiled again, but now his smiling was not pleasant.  His smile was now wavering on the edge of scorning.  His smile changed more and more, and then he had a look as if he was bitter in his smiling, and he began, without looking from the fire, to talk to Melanctha, who was now very tense with her watching” (80).

This passage demonstrates Stein’s ability to manipulate the way in which readers perceive her narrative.  Rather than just outwardly stating that Jeff transitioned into a bitter mood as he spent that evening with Melanctha, Stein provides details of his changing facial expressions and body language so that readers are learning of his changing mood at the same time that Melanctha is within the story.  This delay adds a sense of confusion to the text and ultimately seems to work with Stein’s writing style.

Source:

Stein, Gertrude. “Melanctha.” Three Lives. New York: Dover Publications, 1994. Print.