A Portrait Of A River Essay, Research Paper
Mark Twain is known to be one of the greatest American writers in history. His fifteenth novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is one of the most read, discussed, and taught novels in American culture. Twain\’s unusual ability to present thoughts and ideas in many different ways played a significant part in the success of this novel. In the second paragraph of Chapter 19 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain uses a colloquial style to paint a portrait of the Mississippi river, a recurring theme throughout the plot. He uses many different techniques to achieve the picture he desires to portray to the audience; such techniques include vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure, and imagery. By using these techniques, Twain gives the audience a realistic picture of the river that also proves to be poetic.
The vocabulary that Twain uses illustrates a calm and comfortable image of the river. The comfortable image is conveyed through the given fact that the characters would \”by-and-by, lazy off to sleep. Wake up, by-and-by\” and spend their days \”lazying around,\” fearless of being caught. Twain\’s repeated use of the words \”lonesomeness\” and \”lazy\” bring to mind another quiet and peaceful picture of the comforting river. Another literary device that Twain uses to communicate the security of the river is voice. The underdeveloped vocabulary and lack of grammatical education given to Huck\’s character give the passage a relaxed, conversational voice. \” We couldn\’t see no sign of them; it made you feel crawly, it was like spirits carrying on that way in the air. Jim said he believed it was spirits; but I says: \’No, spirits wouldn\’t say, \’dern the dern fog.\’\” In this quote, one can see the simplistic and colloquial language in which both Huck and Jim speak. Although their dialect may, at times, be difficult to understand, their unadorned speech gives no unnecessary words to garble the audience.
In this short passage, grammar and sentence structure go hand in hand to create a sense of rhythm and timing of the river. The passage contains only a few sentences, varying slightly in length, but they are all generally clearly phrased. The scene of the ax chopping wood that Huck describes is one long sentence divided up by commas, dashes, and semi-colons: \”You\’d see the ax flash, and come down – you don\’t hear nothing; you see that ax go up again, and by the time it\’s above the man\’s head, then you hear the k\’chunk.\” Each of the commas, dashes, and semi-colons represent a \”tick\” and \”tock\” of the time that Huck is passing away on the raft. The \”tick\” and \”tock\” keep the passage flowing, almost at a pulsating beat. Another example of such is the description of the steamboats seen floating by on the river: \”Wake up, by-and-by, and look to see what done it, and maybe see a steamboat, coughing along up stream, so far off towards the other side you couldn\’t tell nothing about her only whether she was stern-wheel or side wheel.\” These quotes from the passage created a rhythm, which was imperative in making it a poetic piece.
The use of imagery in this passage is crucial to establishing a realistic view of the river. In the scenes in which Huck and Jim \”cook up a hot breakfast,\” \”see a raft sliding by,\” and \”listen to the stillness,\” Twain is creating a \”real\” river where the characters do everyday things. Though the serenity of the Mississippi river may represent the calmness and security of nature, as opposed to the harsh, chaotic world on shore, it is not a complete safe-haven from the dangers and disorder that humanity can present. By creating scenes of everyday actions, Twain is demonstrating the fact that anything that can occur on shore may occur on the water also, regardless of how unethical it may be.
Though some may believe the second paragraph of Chapter 19 is but a mere description of the scenic view, careful analyzing would lead one to rethink their thoughts on the subject. Through careful utilization of literary devices such as vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure, and imagery, Mark Twain is able to give deeper meaning to what seems to be a simple descriptive paragraph. His writing techniques enable him to present a portrait of the river in a simple, yet poetic, realistic, and lyrical manner.
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