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ture. Which of these two vehicles of depiction — the canwas or the pen – has the advantage of the other, depends entirely upon the nature of the thing to be described.
I. Enumerate the advantages of word description over painting, and decide, in six cases, which makes the stronger impression.
Description and Exposition. — While Description and Exposition are two distinct and different forms of composition, yet they frequently occur together and are often confused. The kind of Exposition called Descriptive Exposition (see page 218), where the purpose is to explain the parts of a machine, let us say, or a building, is especially likely to be confused with pure description. Let us not forget, therefore, that the purpose of exposition is to make something understood; that the purpose of description is to make something seen, or felt. We may read a description or see a painting of a large ship and get a perfect mental picture of it – its size, shape, masts, funnel, decks, portholes, and all the rest — so that we shall be able to recognize a ship from the picture. But this will not help us to understand the construction or the working of the ship in the slightest. Some one may tell us exactly how a ship is built or how it is operated, and we may understand his explanation, but this may not help us to recognize a ship when we see one, if we have never yet had that experience. Of course we may be wonderfully helped to understand a thing, if it is at the same time described, and we may picture it better for having it explained. If we are told, for instance, that port-holes are round, because round openings can more safely and easily be fitted with water-tight windows than square
ones, we have had them both described and explained, and X
the one form of composition has completed the other for our better and fuller knowledge. And so in describing the parts of anything, we may explain their use, or their nature, to the great advantage of the reader. Our description of an aéroplane, of an automobile, of a kite, of a fishing net, of a thresher, may be necessary to the complete understanding of its working, just as our exposition of any one of these things may need some accompanying description to make it clear. Similarly, as a description of face and person may help us to understand an exposition of the character of a man or woman, so also a little explanation will often make a description of appearance more effective. Do not be afraid of mixing the two forms of discourse so long as you know when you are doing so. But while this intimate relation between Description and Exposition exists, let us not forget the distinct province of each. None of us can doubt that the following: —
Now, the long stretch of wet shiny pavement was deserted. Only the constant patter of rain could be heard; only the sullen luster of the occasional street lamps could be seen. No buzz of voice, no vari-colored streamers, no vestige of life, nothing but silence and vacancy, where so lately had been tumult and marching and merrymaking,
is distinctly different from this: —
Take two short boards of equal height and width, – say, two feet high by one wide. Place them three feet apart, slanting slightly inwards at the top. Then place your plank on top of them and nail it fast. This will serve you as a rough and ready bench for your
I. Which of the following pasages are Description; which are Exposition; which combine the two 2 — 1. Habit is thus the enormous flywheel of society, its most precious conservative agent. It alone is what keeps us all within the bounds of ordinance, and saves the children of fortune from the envious uprisings of the poor. It alone prevents the hardest and most repulsive walks of life from being deserted by those brought up to tread therein. It keeps the fisherman and the deck hand at sea through the winter; it holds the miner in his darkness, and nails the countryman to his log cabin and his lonely farm through all the months of snow; it protects us from invasion by the natives of the desert and the frozen zone. It dooms us all to fight out the battle of life upon the lines of our nurture or our early choice, and to make the best of a pursuit that disagrees, because there is no other for which we are fitted, and it is too late to begin again. It keeps different social strata from mixing. Already at the age of twentyfive you see the professional mannerisms settling down on the young commercial traveler, on the young doctor, on the young minister, on the young counsellor-at-law. You see the little lines of cleavage running through the character, the tricks of thought, the prejudices, the ways of the “shop,” in a word, from which the man can by and by no more escape than his coat-sleeve can suddenly fall into a new set of folds. On the whole, it is best he should not escape. It is well for the world that in most of us, by the age of thirty, the character has set like plaster and will never soften again. — WILLIAM JAMEs. 2. In spite of all the magnificent muscular development which this man possessed, there was nothing of the Hercules about him. The grace of strength was wanting, the curved lines were lacking; all was gaunt, angular, and square. The chest was broad enough, but flat, a framework of bones hidden by a rough hairy skin; the breasts did not swell up like the rounded prominences of the antique statue. The neck, strong enough as it was to bear the weight of a sack of corn with ease, was too short, and too much a part, as it were, of the shoulders. It did not rise up like a tower, distinct in itself; and the muscles on it, as they moved, produced hollow cavities distressing to the eye. It was strength without beauty; a mechanical kind of power, like that of an engine, working through straight lines and sharp angles. There was too much of the machine, and too little of the animal; the lithe, easy motion of the lion or the tiger was not there. The impression conveyed was that such strength had been gained through a course of incessant exertion of the rudest kind, unassisted by generous food and checked by unnatural exposure. — RICHARD JEFFERIES' The Toilers of the Field (The Wood Cutter).
3. We now found ourselves in a deep narrow ravine, filled with beautiful groves, with a steep avenue, and various footpaths winding through it, bordered with stone seats and ornamented with foontains. To our left we beheld the towers of the Alhambra above us; to our right, on the opposite side of the ravine, we were equally dominated by rival towers on a rocky eminence. These, we were told, were the Vermilion Towers, so called from their ruddy hue. No one knows their origin. They are of a date much anterior to the Alhambra; some suppose them to have been built by the Romans; others, by some wandering colony of Phoenicians. Ascending the steep and shady avenue, we arrived at the foot of a huge square Moorish tower, forming a kind of barbican, through which passed the main entrance to the fortress. This portal is called the Gate of Justice, from the tribunal held within its porch during the Moslem domination for the immediate trial of petty causes: a custom common to the Oriental nations, and occasionally alluded to in the Sacred Scriptures. “Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, and they shall judge the people with just judgment.” — IRVING's The Palace of the Alhambra. II. (a) Write brief paragraphs (1) describing, (2) explaining, a machine, a chicken house, a section of city street, a magazine, a dress, an extensible chair, a musical instrument. (b) Combine the Exposition and Description in single paragraphs.
PosNT OF VIEW AND GROUPING IN DESCRIPTION
Point of View. — In no kind of composition is close observation so important as in description. But before we
observe we must have some point of view. We have studied in Chapter II how one’s “looking ” has been ordered by nature; how by the very operation of our organs of vision we see first only in general, and second in detail. Furthermore, everything that we see is viewed from some position. This position in description is called Point of View. It is, of course, the beginning of our observation, just as the position of the camera is the important beginning of picture taking. In case the photographer wants to get several different views of one scene, however, he is obliged to move his camera from place to place. So we, in describing the interior of a house, let us say, may find it necessary to move about, noticing all that can be seen from one point and then moving to another. Hence, we are sometimes obliged to take a moving point of view. This will often, and rightly, be the case in our description of things or scenes, but the reader must know when we move. Impression. — After we have secured our position and
taken a general and a detailed view of some scene or object, the next mental operation, so it will be found, is usually to form some impression of the whole. The chief operations, then, in viewing anything may be set down roughly as follows: —
Point of view.
This order represents the actual sequence of our deliberate viewing of any scene. We should test the truth of this by some experience. Perhaps we have been told that the view from some hill is particularly fine. Taking our position on