Stylistic analysis of the text “A Lodging for the night” (by Robert Stevenson)
Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on 13 November 1850, the only child born to Margaret Isabella Balfour (1829-1897) and Thomas Stevenson (1818-1887), a civil engineer and pioneering designer of lighthouses. He would later change “Lewis” to “Louis”, pronounced “Lewis”. When young Louis was not bed-ridden suffering from a fever or cold exacerbated by the damp and chilly Scottish weather, he was often in the company of his father and the fishermen and lighthouse keepers he worked closely with. These times would provide much fodder for his own stories as a child and adult. Louis devoted nurse Allison Cunningham “Cummy” read to him and encouraged him at an early age to write his own stories including “History of Moses”; he dedicated A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885) to her. Stevenson took up a number of positions writing for various newspapers and magazines including The Cornhill Magazine. In 1880 the Stevensons traveled back to Europe, living for a time in Bournemouth, England where Stevenson met fellow author Henry James. However the climate was still too much for him and he spent winters traveling. In 1888 he set sail for the South Seas, and by the end of 1889 was familiar with the island of Samoa, the place where he and Fanny would soon call home. Tevenson’s life, itself the subject of many a scholar, is also mirrored in many of his works; he left a treasure trove of essays, diaries, poetry, letters, short stories, and unfinished manuscripts at the time of his death at age forty-four, including Weir of Hermiston (1896). Other popular novels include his Scottish historical tales of David Balfour in Kidnapped (1886) and its sequel Catriona (1893), and his study of split-personality, good versus evil in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886).
His books are full of brilliant talk – talk real and convincing enough in its purport and setting, but purged of the languors and fatuities of actual commonplace conversation. It is an enjoyment like that to be obtained from a brilliant exhibition of fencing, clean and dexterous, to assist at the talking bouts of David Balfour and Miss Grant, Captain Nares and Mr. Dodd, Alexander Mackellar and the Master of Ballantrae, Prince Otto and Sir John Crabtree, or those wholly admirable pieces of special pleading to be found in A LODGING FOR THE NIGHT and THE SIRE DE MALETROIT’S DOOR. But people do not talk like this in actual life – “tis true”, “tis pity”; and “pity tis”, “tis true”. They do not; in actual life conversation is generally so smeared and blurred with stupidities, so invaded and dominated by the spirit of dullness, so liable to swoon into meaninglessness, that to turn to Stevenson’s books is like an escape into mountain air from the stagnant vapours of a morass. The exact reproduction of conversation as it occurs in life can only be undertaken by one whose natural dullness feels itself incommoded by wit and fancy as by a grit in the eye.
Conversation is often no more than a nervous habit of body, like twiddling the thumbs, and to record each particular remark is as much as to describe each particular twiddle. Or in its more intellectual uses, when speech is employed, for instance, to conceal our thoughts, how often is it a world too wide for the shrunken nudity of the thought it is meant to veil, and thrown over it, formless, flabby, and black – like a tarpaulin! It is pleasant to see thought and feeling dressed for once in the trim, bright raiment Stevenson devises for them.
There is an indescribable air of distinction, which is, and is not, one and the same thing with style, breathing from all his works. Even when he is least inspired, his bearing and gait could never be mistaken for another man’s. All that he writes is removed by the width of the spheres from the possibility of commonplace, and he avoids most of the snares and pitfalls of genius with noble and unconscious skill.
On a bitterly cold winter’s night in 1456, Francis Villon, the greatest poet of medieval France, is huddled in a small house by the cemetery of St. John, trying to write “The Ballade of Roast Fish” while Guy Tabary slobbers over his shoulder, Regnier de Montigny and Thevenin Pensete play a game of chance, and the renegade monk Dom Nicolas watches. All of them are thieves, among whom there is no honor. Hearing the wind rattling the rafters, Villon reminds the others of hanged men dangling on the gibbet at nearby Montfaucon. Despite this memento mori, Montigny leaps...
Fiction is a form of narrative, one of the four rhetorical modes of discourse. Fiction-writing also has distinct forms of expression, or modes, each with its own purposes and conventions.
Robert Stevenson mostly used composite sentences with a number of attributive and co-ordinate clauses, joining by means of the conjunction “and” “The monk shuddered, and turned his face and spread his open hands to the red embers”, also there is a great number of sentences which connected with a help of semicolon “The clock was hard on ten when the patrol went by with halberds and a lantern, beating their hands; and they saw nothing suspicious about the cemetery of St John”; “His hands were small and prehensile, with fingers knotted like a cord; and they were continually flickering in front of him in violent and expressive pantomime”. It is used by author to concentrate our attention on each part of the description and for better understanding the thoughts of the narrator “A flat smile illuminated his face; his bald head shone rosily in a garland of red curls; his little protuberant stomach shook with silent chucklings as he swept in his gains”.
Also, to show that his heroes thievs-poets Stevenson used the knowledge of Latin: “Hominibus impossibile”, like a little irony in such circumstances.
Rhetorical question – used for show doubt of the hero: “Was it only Pagan Jupiter plucking geese upon Olympus? or were the holy angels moulting? He was only a poor Master of Arts, he went on”.
Author used a great number of verbs, Infinitives for creating antithesis (contrast) in behavior his personages: “Dom Nicolas winked both his big eyes…Montfaucon, …, stood hard by the St Denis Road and … touched him on the raw. As for Tabary, he laughed immoderately over the medlars…Villon fetched him a fillip on the nose, which turned his mirth into an attack of coughing…”
To show that they play in cards Stevenson used special phrases from game: “Doubles or quits?”
From the other side the author used gradating or climax in description of nature changes: “The air was raw and pointed, but not far below freezing…; The cold was growing sharper as the night went on…” and, in some way, it is connected with gradation in description peoples relation – like physiological parallelism with nature: “Villon and Guy Tabary were huddled together over a scrap of parchment …; Villon, protruding his lips, imitated the gust with something between a whistle and a groan…; The black dog was on his back, as people say, in terrifying nursery metaphor; and he breathed hard under the gruesome burden…”
There is many sentences which describe appearance? That is why some of them consisted of homogeneous parts: “It was an eloquent, sharp, ugly, earthly countenance…”
The greatest part of this extract Stevenson used epithets, which used for expressing some quality of the person, at the same time it shows as an authors attitude towards this heroes “more light-hearted… sepulchral… gruesome burden… benightcapped… beery, bruised appearance; circuitous, interminable; air was raw and pointed; slobbering lips; aquiline and darkling in the face; rigorous, relentless persistence; prehensile”.
Also we can find simile in this extract, which used by the authour to compare on the likeness two or more objects: “…they saw the island like a large white patch, and the bridges like slim white spars, on the black ground of the river…; The crockets were like upright pillows swollen on one side. In the intervals of the wind; …worthy burghers were long ago in bed, benightcapped like their domiciles…”; “His hands were small and prehensile, with fingers knotted like a cord…”; “flavor of good birth and training, as about a fallen angel”; “clericus – the devil with the hump-back and red-hot finger nails”; “He looks as if he could knife him”.
In this extract Stevenson mostly used prolonged or sustained metaphor, it shows us the perception of the likeness between two objects: “His mouth was a little to a side; one nostril nearly shut, and the other much inflated. The black dog was on his back, as people say, in terrifying nursery metaphor; “The wolf and pig struggled together in his face. It was an eloquent, sharp, ugly, earthly countenance; “many a statue wore a long white bonnet on its grotesque or sainted head. The gargoyles had been transformed into great false noses, drooping towards the point; “and awake to evil purpose, in that snoring district”; “covered with a network of congested veins, purple in ordinary circumstances; Greed had made folds about his eyes; three-legged medlar-tree.
Through the whole extract we feel some irony of the author, especially in description thieves-friends of main hero Villon: “But within, behind the shuttered windows, Master Francis Villon the poet, and some of the thievish crew with whom he consorted, were keeping the night alive and passing round the bottle;” His dilated shadow cut the room in half…; His face had the beery, bruised appearance of the continual drinker’s; He carried his four-and-twenty years with feverish animation; he had become a thief, just as he might have become the most decent of burgesses; About the first there clung some flavor of good birth and training, as about a fallen angel…”
According to the speech of the main hero, we can say about his profession and to see an attitude of the author to his heroes: “You may dance, my gallants, you'll be none the warmer! Whew! what a gust!” etc.
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