Writing about Slow-Motion Writing


I like the way some writing lends itself to slow motion.
I was settling the books on my shelves, when I saw my old foe, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I hated it during graduation, because it was rambly and quite difficult to fit in my reading schedule. I started on the first page, and with new-found appreciation I read these lines:

`Hold your noise!’ cried a terrible voice, as a man started up from among the graves at the side of the church porch. `Keep still, you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat!’ A fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg. A man with no hat, and with broken shoes, and with an old rag tied round his head. A man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars; who limped, and shivered, and glared and growled; and whose teeth chattered in his head as he seized me by the chin. `O! Don’t cut my throat, sir,’ I pleaded in terror. `Pray don’t do it, sir.’

Firstly, I dig the way Dickens throws in the man’s description between the threat by the man and the boy’s plea in reply. Time seems to have stopped for the boy in his shock and terror, and he notices all the details of the man’s appearance. So apt.
Secondly, I realize that the whole para is made of incomplete sentences. There is no verb, no action. Again, very, very relevant. If time has stopped, there can be no action, because time itself is a function of motion.

In conclusion, I understand how terribly debilitating studying literature can be, and how it takes away from the enjoyment and appreciation of a book. I was blind to these lines and their effect for all these years, ever since I had skimmed over them for the first time, quite possibly before some exam or the other.

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3 comments

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  1. Damyanti

    Jason, yes. It is just that I had never imagined that i’d find anything magical about Dickens:)

    DBA,

    Thanks for stopping by and your wise words. I hope to grow wiser as I grow older as well.

  2. DBA Lehane

    As a young schoolboy I used to hate anything like Dickens with a passion. As I’ve got older and hopefully wiser I really appreciate him so much more. Yes, youth is wasted on the young – they live too fast and slow motion writing just don’t fit with that! 🙂