I’m still using the sentence inventory (refer to the post titled “The Sentence Inventory”) to study the way my favorite authors construct their sentences and use special effects (rhetorical devices, etc.).
The exercise consists of completing a sentence inventory (see the chart below) for either a paragraph by a favorite author or your own paragraph.
Here’s a chart I created. Please feel free to modify it and use it.
This time I chose to analyze the first two paragraphs of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Here’s my filled-out chart:
Lots of great stuff here! This passage is all description: Tolkien is starting to build a fantasy world, so he uses whimsical sensory and spatial details to help the reader visualize the initial setting. Because he’s describing a place and not an action, the main verbs are fairly simple; that allows the descriptive details (with their verbs) to stand out. I love the way Tolkien takes the reader on a tour of the hobbit-hole, starting at the green, round door and ending at the windows where the reader can see the “garden, and meadows beyond, sloping down to the river.”
The sentence structure is amazing: he uses compound sentences, unusual sentence beginnings, snappy sentence endings, em dashes and parentheses, commas and colons, and clauses of varying length. Notice the rhythm created by ending long compound sentences with short independent clauses. Wow.
There are many more rhetorical devices to notice: alliteration (hobbit-hole), repetition (lots and lots, on and on), parallelism (all were; the best rooms were; for these were), and more.
I’ll end by pointing out Tolkien’s delightful use of adverbs: a perfectly round door; a very comfortable tunnel; fairly but not quite straight. I think the adverbs add a unique flavor to the passage.
I plan to continue my sentence analysis for one more week.
I’ll post again next Monday.