Sunday, June 06, 2010

Comparative Commentary

Text A, an article from HIGH, Mountain Sports magazine, and the poem “Breathless” by Wilfred Noyce both deal with the same experience, mountain climbing. Their themes, general statements on human nature or experience, are similar with minor differences. Although they share a common topic and their themes have a high degree of similarity, they have many differences. Since Text A was found in a sport’s magazine, its key audience was people interested in sports, specifically those interested in extreme sports. As for “Breathless”, it has no specific audience due to the poem’s metaphorical level. Long sentences and long paragraphs with a variation of short to long sentences were used in Text A. Short sentences, often composed of two words, were used in “Breathless” due to the strength and richness of the diction. Both are written in informal register in order to personalize the article or poem to the reader. They used different literary techniques for the same purpose, conveying their theme. The distinct differences in their themes was what led to the poet and journalist to turn to different techniques. The message both of them were sending to the audience was not completely the same, and thus they had to send their messages using effective techniques. Techniques such as imagery, diction, structure, register, and the creation of atmosphere were all ways in which theme was conveyed. The tones of the two writings are very different, the author of Text A wrote with a very passionate tone, while the poet wrote with a very pessimistic tone. “Breathless” was more effective than Text A in terms of conveying theme due to the empathy it created within the reader.

Both authors address the concept of determination in their themes. Text A says that in order to experience the captivating beauty of nature you must be able to endure the hardships that come along with it; thus you must have qualities that make you enduring such as determination, “Summits such as Cook have irresistible climbing appeal but are unnerving in reality.” Text B, on the other hand, talks about the importance of self motivation and determination when aiming for something. Both themes acknowledge that the goal is only part of the experience. Although the speaker in the first text is very passionate about the beauty of nature and the experience itself, he recognizes that reaching the summit was only part of the experience, “Rather than giving satisfaction, they reinforce the sense of urgency that is essential in mountaineering. There was still much to do. Celebrations would have to wait.” Acknowledging that the goal is only part of the experience is one of the enduring qualities that a mountain climber must have, thus in relation to the theme, if you want to experience the beauty of nature you must acknowledge the fact that reaching the summit is only part of the journey. The speaker in Text B also realizes that the reaching the top is only part of the journey. He is struggling throughout his climb to the top, “One step, one heart-beat, stone no nearer, dragging feet.” His emphasis on the struggle of the climb to the top makes it exceptionally clear to the reader that the experience of mountain climbing is composed of multiple journeys. In spite the struggle of the first journey, the speaker in text b managed to go on through determination and self motivation. Self motivation is associated with the interior monologue, thus the interior monologue plays a role in conveying theme; “don’t look up.” Text A includes the beauty of nature in its theme, and not everyone is familiar with the specific beauty of nature in the article, thus the theme is not as effective as it could be. Text B on the other hand, focuses on the feelings of the speaker and thus the reader is able to understand what he is going through, and come to a better understanding of the theme. Although both themes are very similar, the theme of the poem is more easily understood due to the familiarity of the reader with the situation the speaker is in.

Quite an extensive amount of imagery is used throughout both writings. The use of imagery is used to strengthen the understanding of the theme to the readers. A significant amount of visual imagery is included in Text A. The visual imagery was created through the extensive use of adjectives of positive connotation and figurative language such as metaphors and personification. By creating beautiful images in the reader’s mind, the author strengthens his theme which talks about experiencing the beauty of nature. Text A does not have a focus on the drawbacks of mountain climbing as Text B does, thus the author has a more positive outlook on the subject itself. Words of positive connotation are used to describe the view the speaker sees and thus the reader is not discouraged from mountain climbing, and is able to identify with the theme because he/she can picture the captivating beauty of nature, “The Tasman Sea was hidden by a low blanket of white cloud”. Metaphors are also used to beautify nature and it helps the reader identify objects he is familiar with and nature, “The mountains were black silhouettes against the brightening sky”. Through personification the author makes nature seem larger than life, “Once over the summit rocks, the sun climbed higher and we daubed our faces with sunscreen”. Tactile imagery is used in Text B in order to create an emphasis on the struggle of the climb towards the top. The imagery used is so effective that the reader feels that he is going through what the climber is going through, and thus empathy is created. The repetition of the struggle to breathe makes you feel like you are also struggling to breathe, “Lungs pant, dry air, sorry scant.” The reader comes to a complete understanding of the struggle of the climb, and since words of negative connotation are used, the reader is discouraged into mountain climbing. There is also a degree of visual imagery used, in the sense that you can picture the speaker, an exhausted, lonely person who finds every step forward a struggle. The tactile imagery helps to formulate the visual image of the speaker. Through familiarizing the reader with the feelings the speaker is feeling, the reader was able to picture the speaker. The tactile imagery used in the poem is the greatest factor in the creation of empathy. Through the imagery, the reader felt what the speaker felt, and mentally put himself in the speaker’s situation. By being in the speaker’s situation you are able to understand the theme to its fullest. The imagery of Text A on the other hand, focuses on the beauty of nature and the reader can not familiarize with that as much as he can with the feelings of the speaker in “Breathless”.

The purpose of both authors was to convey the theme. Text A was found in a Mountain Sports Magazine, thus it was inferred that the author wanted to directly tell people that mountain climbing is a beautiful experience, but a hard one, and the person has to be up to it. The fact that it was in a mountain sports magazine implies that the reader takes the sport seriously, thus the author wanted to say that it is a serious task that requires determination. The author successfully achieved his purpose through imagery, diction, and the end of the article (“There was still so much to do. Celebrations would have to wait”). The diction used helped add to the calm, pleasant mood which is directly related to the theme. The theme of Text B was conveyed through the tactile imagery, diction, repetition, and diction. The repetition at the end of the poem, “heart aches, lungs pant, dry air, sorry scant” was used to emphasize the fact that when you reach the top you have to repeat the journey over again; reaching the summit is only a part of the experience. Through tactile imagery, the author was able to relate to the reader more effectively, and thus the purpose of the poet was achieved much more effectively than the article.

The atmospheres in the two texts are completely different than one another. In simple terms, Text A could be describes as light, and Text B as dark. The first text seems to have a calm, peaceful atmosphere, while the other text seems to have a unnerving, depressing, and frustrating atmosphere. The visual imagery in the first text greatly helps establish the peaceful atmosphere, “The snow beneath broke and crunched like shards of glass.” Glass breaking is usually not associated with positive atmospheres, but the comparison of the glass breaking to the snow breaking creates a beautiful mental image that calms the reader. Also, the positive diction used greatly contributes to the positive atmosphere. Finally, you do not feel that the speaker himself is nervous or tired, he seems calm and is experiencing the beauty of nature to its fullest. The tactile imagery in Text B adds to the atmosphere. By feeling what the speaker is feeling, you can have a vivid sense of what the atmosphere is like, it is depressing, unnerving, and somewhat frightening, “Grind breath, once more then on.” The reader can imagine himself in the position of the author and thus can familiarize with the atmosphere. The words of negative connotation greatly contribute to the negative atmosphere, “dry air”. The atmospheres of both texts can be linked to the themes, the author of Text A created a positive atmosphere in order to emphasize on the beauty of nature, while the author of Text B created a negative atmosphere in order to emphasize on the struggle of the climb. The atmosphere of the poem is more familiar to the reader than the paradise like atmosphere of the article. The poem’s atmosphere is more real to the reader, and that is why he can relate to it better, thus creating a better understanding of the theme.

The theme of “Breathless”, although very similar to the article was conveyed more effectively due to its empathetic appeal. It’s empathetic appeal was greatly created through the tactile imagery and the atmosphere established in the poem. The poem was more real to the reader, and thus its theme was understood better than the article. The article’s use of extensive visual imagery established an atmosphere that was not very real to the reader, and thus the reader could not identify with the main point of the theme (the summit is only part of the experience), as easily as it could with the poem. The visual imagery and words of positive connotation led to a focus on the natural aspect of the theme, and not the important message in it. The author of the article included it in the end of the article possibly for effect, but due to the visual imagery the reader was distracted from the main point. But with the poem, the reader is the speaker, and the theme is a lesson the reader can identify with.
Samar Al-Ansari
Feb. 8, ‘05

No comments: