Words are all I have to take your heart away… but sentences matter too – and characters above all. Yet words and sentences give flesh and emotion to the characters that I’ve just finished reading Faulks on Fiction (Sebastian Faulks BBC Books 2011). In a brilliant essay on Great Expectations, Faulks shows us how Dickens makes things matter. The convict Magwitch has just climbed the stairs to Pip’s room:
I could not recall a single feature, but I knew him! If the wind and the rain had driven away the intervening years, had scattered all the intervening objects, had swept us into the churchyard where we first stood face to face on such different levels, I could not have known my convict more distinctly than I knew him now, as he sat in the chair before the fire.
Faulks, amongst other useful analysis, points out the devastating impact of that little word “my” linked as it is with “convict”, linking both Pip and the reader with that dramatic scene at the beginning of the book where the poor boy Pip, terrified out of his wits, helps a shackled criminal – and then takes the reader – and Pip – back into the cosy, domestic scene, beside the warmth and living flame of the hearth-warming, heart-warming fire.
Just such a connection is made in Wilfrid Owen’s Anthem for Doomed Youth, but that will be made in a future blog.