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The March - Part 1 (pages 42 - 85) 
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Post The March - Part 1 (pages 42 - 85)
The March - Part 1 (pages 42 - 85)

Edited by: Chris OConnor  at: 11/18/05 11:18 pm



Fri Nov 18, 2005 11:18 pm
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Post Re: The March - Part 1 (pages 42 - 85)
Page 59 is pretty funny, but I'll post about it later.




Sun Nov 27, 2005 9:14 pm
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Post Re: The March - Part 1 (pages 42 - 85)
I'm reminded of one of my pet peeves -- phonetic dialect. There are exceptions to every rule, but for the most part, I don't like it when authors use odd spellings to emphasize a character's accent. It slows down the reading, for one thing, particularly when you come across a word and aren't immediately sure what word it's supposed to be. I got caught on the word "gul" during Pearl's conversation with Clarke about the drummer's uniform, and it took me a minute to figure out from the context that she meant "girl". Usually, the grammatical construction of a sentence is enough to convey the differences in accent, if you ask me, and far less obtrusive.

Anyway...

Chapter V (I think -- I don't have my copy of the book at hand) started off with an interesting comparison. Clarke compares Pearl to the girls he knew back home in Boston. He suspects that the girl's natural nobility is the result of her African lineage, suggesting that she may even be a few generations removed from royalty. Maybe so, but I also wonder if maybe there's not the implicit suggestion that her character is the result of her experience living in pre-Bellum Georgia. It may be that genteelity was less forced there, and that it's even more fiercely expressed in Pearl because she had something to prove.




Fri Dec 02, 2005 3:29 pm
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Post Re: The March - Part 1 (pages 42 - 85)
I was wondering what you called that style of writing. So "phonetic dialect" is the name. Well, I have to agree with you on this one, but I can see the perspective of the author. Doctorow is trying to mimic uneducated black people from the Civil War era. Sadly enough today's ebonics hasn't much improved.

Every time I come to a section with this phonetic dialect it is like hitting a speed bump. I slam on the breaks and try to figure out wtf is being said. The same goes for real life. When I come across ebonics speaking people I slam on the breaks, scratch my head, and wonder what went wrong in their education to make them sound so damn ignorant.

Edited by: Chris OConnor  at: 12/2/05 5:32 pm



Fri Dec 02, 2005 5:31 pm
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Post Re: The March - Part 1 (pages 42 - 85)
I like phonetic dialogue in fiction. My opinion is that it is often the best way to insert realism into dialogue. The reader may have to work a little harder, but the character's voice is more authetic.

I've read a couple Scottish writers who employ it successfully, Alister Grey, for instance. And you have to work!

Doctorow's banter between Arly and Will is priceless, and though the dialogue is not so severly phonetically altered, it still is.

I have to tell you I've now met General Sherman, and the horror of war is piling up and saddening me. There is a possibility I may not be able to hack the cold plotting of the war, blood, gore and anguish. I was just so saddened reaching Sherman's chapter. There is that chance I won't be able to finish this. I'm not dropping out, just letting you know where I stand tonight. Maybe if pick the book up again I can get a grip on myself.




Sat Dec 03, 2005 10:38 pm
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Post Re: The March - Part 1 (pages 42 - 85)
Chris OConnor: I was wondering what you called that style of writing. So "phonetic dialect" is the name.

Ooh, don't go around using that confidently. I made that up to describe what I saw in the book. There may be a more academic name for it, and I wouldn't want you to go making a fool of yourself just because I didn't know the right word.

Sadly enough today's ebonics hasn't much improved.

I take a more relative point of view. The dictionary is written to accord with usage. So if everyone spoke ebonics, that's what would eventually start showing up in the dictionary. The biggest sin of ebonics is that it isn't as widely used as Standard American English. Education in that sense is the defense of the status quo. Ancient Romans could have just as easily complained about rudimentary French -- from their perspective, it was a corruption. From our perspective, it was the beginnings of a language that is beautiful in its own right.

That said, 80-90% of "The March" is written in SAE. Doctorow is clearly not appealing to ebonics as a first language. And his intent in writing dialect phonetically is to mark the difference between educated whites and uneducated, newly freed slaves. All good and well, I just think that the effect has already been achieved grammatically, and that the phonetic emphasis distracts more than anything else.

AnnetteS: My opinion is that it is often the best way to insert realism into dialogue. The reader may have to work a little harder, but the character's voice is more authetic.

The test, for me, is this. Take any line of dialogue spoken by Pearl in the opening chapters. Rewrite it with all of the standard American spellings of the words. Now read it out loud. Does the structure of the sentence suggest the dialogue on its own? I think it does, and I think that anyone familiar with the sort of speech Doctorow had in mind would have recognized it even with the proper spellings. Anyone not familiar with that sort of speech was unlikely to benefit one way or the other. Of course, you may still disagree, and I guess it ultimately boils down to personal preference.




Mon Dec 05, 2005 1:34 am
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Post Re: The March - Part 1 (pages 42 - 85)
I got a little curious today and looked up the word Sartorius in the dictionary. It's an anatomical term, referring to a muscle in the thigh, the longest muscle in the body. Appropriate name for a surgeon. But what may be a little more to the point with the character of Wrede, at least metaphorically, is that the word is derived from the Latin "sartor", which means tailor. Also appropriate for a character who spends most of his day cutting and sewing, albeit flesh and bone rather than fabric and thread. And I'd say that, so far, Emily Thompson seems to expect Wrede to sew together a great deal more than just men. Looks like she has her hopes for the whole of civilization pinned on poor, weary Wrede.




Tue Dec 06, 2005 4:27 pm
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Post Re: The March - Part 1 (pages 42 - 85)
Wrede gives an interesting metaphor for the army in this section. Any thoughts on the idea that the army is analagous to something like a giant centipede? I wonder how far that analogy can be taken, but within the context of war and in the larger context of a civilization at peace.

As for Will and Arly, one thing I've noticed with their chapters is that they've managed to reverse themselves so many times that allegiance means pretty much nothing so far as they're concerned. To become non-partisan, they've had to demonstrate their willingness to play for whichever side happens to be the bigger person threat at the time. As such, they may be the only characters to appear thus far who don't have an either implicit or explicit allegiance.

And the character of Judge Thomas, Justice Thomas' brother, brings another aspect to the religious themes running through the narrative. He's a believer, but he's flirting with the antagonistic side of belief, the side which both maintains the claim that God exists but which declares God and enemy. His motivation seems to be the inversion of societal norms. The civilization that he holds dear has been imploded, and he finds himself at odds with any God who would allow the destruction of what he regards as a just society.




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Post Re: The March - Part 1 (pages 42 - 85)
Another small complaint: where is all of this swampland supposed to be? At least two chapters have featured characters crossing through or on the borderland of swamp.

Georgia is notable for its swampland, yes. But the major tracts of swamp are over 250 miles South of Atlanta. There are numerous lakes around Atlanta, but as far as I know, nothing that would qualify as swamp. There's marshland along the coast of the state, but even that is several hundred miles away, and you wouldn't expect them to hit that until they've hit Savannah.

Maybe Doctorow knows something I don't. The geography may have changed significantly over the last 150 years. Or maybe he's using the term in a way I'm not familiar with -- archaic usage may have been different than modern usage. Or maybe it's just a faux pas. Doctorow may have underestimated the size of the Georgia and the rather drastic changes in topography from one end to the other.

Sorry for the mini-rant. That was just something that had bothered me.




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Post Re: The March - Part 1 (pages 42 - 85)
Not sure what I think of Doctorow's handling of Sherman just yet. Depending on what he does with it later on, his depiction of Sherman with Pearl as adoptive son may end up coming across as cheap pseudo-psycho-analysis. Let's hope he pulls off something a little more meaningful than that.

In the meantime, the central conflict that I'm seeing in the Sherman sections is that between the idea of honor and that of death. Sherman is horrified that soldiers would strew a road with landmines rather than stand and fight, but then, isn't this a man waging total war by burning civilian communities to the ground?




Tue Dec 13, 2005 12:24 am
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