Descriptive Essay Show Not Tell

Descriptive Essay Show Not Tell-28
1)In his story opening, Dickens deftly moves to dialogue that Gradgrind’s ‘by-the-rules’, bullish character. Call yourself Cecilia.’ ‘It’s father as calls me Sissy, sir,’ returned the young girl in a trembling voice, and with another curtsey. 1-2)In how Gradgrind addresses Sissy, Dickens shows us the traits described in the first introduction.

1)In his story opening, Dickens deftly moves to dialogue that Gradgrind’s ‘by-the-rules’, bullish character. Call yourself Cecilia.’ ‘It’s father as calls me Sissy, sir,’ returned the young girl in a trembling voice, and with another curtsey. 1-2)In how Gradgrind addresses Sissy, Dickens shows us the traits described in the first introduction.

Gradgrind, squarely pointing with his square forefinger, ‘I don’t know that girl. ’ ‘Sissy Jupe, sir,’ explained number twenty, blushing, standing up, and curtseying. His ‘squareness’ is further emphasized in how he points ‘squarely’ with his ‘square forefinger’.

The way Gradgrind bullishly reduces Sissy to trembling shows his personality – a bullying, forceful nature that is important for further plot developments in the story.

The Nobel-winning poet Wislawa Szymborska ran an advice column.

She once told an aspiring author who’d used abstract terms such as ‘freedom’ in his writing the following:‘You’ve managed to squeeze more lofty words into three short poems than most poets manage in a lifetime: ‘Fatherland,’ ‘truth,’ ‘freedom,’ ‘justice’: such words don’t come cheap.

We don’t feel the character’s rumbling cramps with as much empathy as when we read ‘gut roaring with gas and cramp’.

This blending works because we see the character’s unique individuality.1)Note how Proulx blends telling us about long-range character experiences (‘he survived childhood’) with small physical and emotional details about Quoyle. We form a sense of Quoyle’s lived, bodily reality when Proulx describes his ‘gas and cramps’.Proulx also describes a character tic that she later expands on – how Quoyle claps his hand over his chin.If we rewrote this same example of ‘showing’ as expository ‘telling’:‘That morning, Sarah had sprinted for the train but arrived seconds too late.’This telling simplifies, moving the story along quickly to the next piece of information.‘That morning’ implies that the event precedes a more important piece of information (the consequences of Sarah’s lateness, for example).For example:‘Quoyle had a weak digestive system but got through childhood despite it.He was embarassed by his chin, solving his embarassment by hiding it with his hand.’The problem with this version is that it creates distance – we hear Quoyle, but don’t see him clapping his hand over his chin.This tic is due to embarrassment (we learn later) about its size – a genetic inheritance.This character introduction is more striking than if Proulx had continued with telling like her first sentence.This passage wouldn’t be nearly as effective merely told.Tolkien could have written:‘Frodo was horrified by the landscape – every rock formation reminded him of gravestones and there were foul smells and eerie sights at every turn.’In this case, we lose the specificity, the detail and the power of Tolkien’s clearly visualized setting. To show settings clearly, like Tolkien: opens with the pompous and narrow-minded teacher Thomas Gradgrind, a ‘man of realities’, lecturing his students.

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