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Ah, that's so sad!

Hamilton, Essential Literary Terms (98-111; 150-166) -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)

"...and when she laughed her grey-green eyes sparkled with disappointed shyness and the tip of her nose nearly met the tip of her chin."

This quote was a striking example to me of how really simple details can evoke a lot of emotion. It really makes a case for showing and not telling. Joyce doesn't tell you exactly what she feels; instead he very precisely describes her facial expression. While there is a little bit of subjectiveness in describing the "disappointed shyness," you never get a direct statement about how Maria's trying to hide her emotions. I think the best pathos comes when the author doesn't tell you how to feel but instead gives you the images for you to judge for yourself.

Comments (3)


I agree with you Matt. Sometimes its more fun to try to figure out what the author means then having them tell you flat out. Good example.

Corey Struss:

This is a good example, for sure, because it isn't boring. I can read it without any second thought, and understand how the character is feeling, but on reflection, the author never really said how she felt. The reader just infers that she is sad and upset through her facial expressions.

I agree. It almost seems like the less blunt methods do have a much greater impact. If the author just comes right out and says exactly how the character feels, we know on a logical level that they feel like that, but it doesn't really do much more than inform us. The subtler way causes us to really think about it, which, in turn, causes us to relate to the character a little better.

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