A Trip In English

Destination: Diction, Imagery and Tone


Close by the fire satan old man whose countenance was furrowed with distress.

- James Boswell, Boswell's London Journal

The word furrowed shows that the old man's distress is very intense. If the author did not used furrowed and chosen to use lined instead then it wouldn't sound like his distress is causing him extreme pain.

My Example of Diction:

As he walked past the crowd of laughing faces he had a downcast expression.


I sat on the stump of a tree at his feet, and below us stretched the land, the great expanse of the forests, somber under the sunshine. Rolling like a sea, with glints of winding rivers, the grey spots of villages, and here and there a clearing, like an islet of light amongst the dark waves of continuous tree tops. A brooding gloom lay over this vast and monotonous landscape; the light fell on it as if into an abyss. The land devoured the sunshine; only far off, along the coast, the empty ocean, smooth and polished within the faint haze, seemed to rise up to the sky in a wall of steel.

- Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim

Land Images

  • stump of a tree

  • great expanse of the forests, somber under the sunshine

  • continuous treetops

  • grey spots of villages

  • brooding gloom lay over this vast and monotonous landscape

  • devoured sunshine

Sea Images

  • rolling like a sea

  • glints of winding rivers

  • dark waves

  • empty ocean

  • smooth & polished within the faint haze

  • seemed to rise up to the sky in a wall of steel

Conrad's tone about the sea is mysterious due to the image of smooth & polished within the faint haze because it sounds like he can only see part of the ocean through the faint haze and there is still more to discover.

Listen to a story about an utterly silent experience someone has had and try to find a good visual image. I listened to a story about someone at a meteor shower and one of my favorite images was "a huge streak of light zoomed past". I really liked that becuase I could really see a meteor and feel like I could see a meteor going past my eyes.


But that is Cooper’s way; frequently he will explain and justify little things that

do not need it and then make up for this by as frequently failing to explain important

ones that do need it. For instance he allowed that astute and cautious person,

Deerslayer-Hawkeye, to throw his rifle heedlessly down and leave it lying on the

ground where some hostile Indians would presently be sure to find it—a rifle prized by

that person above all things else in the earth—and the reader gets no word of

explanation of that strange act. There was a reason, but it wouldn’t bear exposure.

Cooper meant to get a fine dramatic effect out of the finding of the rifle by the

Indians, and he accomplished this at the happy time; but all the same, Hawkeye could

have hidden the rifle in a quarter of a minute where the Indians could not have found

it. Cooper couldn’t think of any way to explain why Hawkeye didn’t do that, so he just

shirked the difficulty and did not explain at all.

-Mark Twain, “Cooper’s Prose Style,” Letters from the Earth

Twain's tone in this passage is very critical toward the subject of James Fenimore Cooper's writing.

Twain creates this tone by using harsh phrases to describe how he dislikes Cooper's writing style.

My Critique of a movie:

I have recently seen the most boring and confusing movie. On top of the droning on of the main character and his annoyingly frequent change of mind, there are so many characters and story lines to keep track of. Instead of a fun movie about pets, I experienced a headache. If you forgot even one fraction of a detail, the whole movie was unhinged and you could not enjoy the rest of the film. If I could put a negative stars in a review, I would do it in a heartbeat for this movie.