Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Call of the Wild ~ Poetic Parallelism

Parallelism in The Call of the Wild @ Mt. Hope Chronicles 

I’ve written about parallelism in the past. It’s powerful and poetic (and picturesque). After finishing The Call of the Wild by Jack London, I am compelled to compose a complete post with copious quotes from this conspicuous narrative. [Oh, wait. This is a post about parallelism, not alliteration.]

The Call of the Wild is an excellent introduction to classic literature for older kids. It’s a fairly short and simple story (my copy has 134 pages with a fair amount of white space), but the themes are more complex than most children’s books and the vocabulary is rich and varied. For example, London manages to squeeze two of my favorite words into a short sentence:

“And so it went, the inexorable elimination of the superfluous.”

As I was reading, I noticed that London used parallelism prolifically in this novel. Because parallelism is a prominent skill taught in The Lost Tools of Writing as well as the building block of many literary devices, students should be on the lookout for examples in their own reading.

The Call of the Wild is a literature selection for the Classical Conversations Challenge 1 program, so it is a handy example for Challenge students. Let’s explore a few instances of parallelism in this novel.

Among the terriers he stalked imperiously, and Toots and Ysabel he utterly ignored, for he was king—king over all the creeping, crawling, flying things of Judge Miller’s place, humans included. [three present participial adjectives]

Manuel had one besetting sin. He loved to play Chinese lottery. Also, in his gambling, he had one besetting weakness—faith in a system; and this made his damnation certain. [anaphora (the repetition of “Manuel/he had one besetting____”)]

Here was neither peace, nor rest, nor a moment’s safety. [emphasis on the 3rd noun with the addition of an article and possessive adjective]

The day had been long and arduous, and he slept soundly and comfortably, though he growled and barked and wrestled with bad dreams. [two adjectives, two adverbs, then emphasis on the third with three verbs]

This first theft marked Buck as fit to survive in the hostile Northland environment. It marked his adaptability, his capacity to adjust himself to changing conditions, the lack of which would have meant swift and terrible death. It marked further decay or going to pieces of his moral nature, a vain thing and a handicap in the ruthless struggle for existence. [Three clauses (subject, verb, direct object) with anaphora (the repetition of “theft/it marked” at the beginning of each clause)]

Their irritability arose out of their misery, increased with it, doubled upon it, outdistanced it*. The wonderful patience of the trail which comes to men who toil hard and suffer sore, and remain sweet of speech and kindly+, did not come to these to men and the woman. They had no inkling of such a patience. They were stiff and in pain; their muscles ached, their bones ached, their very hearts ached^; and because of this they became sharp of speech, and hard words were first on their lips in the morning and last at night. [*emphasis on third without preposition, +emphasis on third with extra words “of speech and kindly,” ^emphasis on third with “very”]

All things were thawing, bending, snapping. [three present progressive verbs]

And amid all this bursting, rending, throbbing of awakening life, under the blazing sun and through the soft-sighing breezes, like wayfarers to death, staggered the two men, the woman, and the huskies. [three gerunds, three nouns]

With the dogs falling, Mercedes weeping and riding, Hal swearing innocuously, and Charles’s eyes wistfully watering, they staggered into John Thornton’s camp at the mouth of White River. [one gerund, two gerunds, gerund/adverb, adverb/gerund—love the alliteration of “wistfully watering” (and “with,” “weeping,” and “White”)]

Mercedes screamed, cried, laughed, and manifested the chaotic abandonment of hysteria. [four “-ed” verbs, emphasis on the last as it continues with a vivid direct object]

But love that was feverish and burning, that was adoration, that was madness, it had taken John Thornton to arouse. [anaphora (“that was…”), the first clause has a predicate adjective, the second two have predicate nominatives]

And when, released, he sprang to his feet, his mouth laughing, his eyes eloquent, his throat vibrant with unuttered sounds, and in that fashion remained without movement, John Thornton would reverently exclaim, ‘God, you can all but speak!’ [anaphora (“his” repeated each time); so poetic with the adjective following the noun]

He sat by John Thornton’s fire, a broad-breasted dog, white-fanged and long-furred; but behind him were the shades of all manner of dogs, half-wolves and wild wolves, urgent and prompting, tasting the savour of the meat he ate, thirsting for the water he drank, scenting the wind with him, listening with him and telling him the sounds made by the wild life in the forest, dictating his moods, directing his actions, lying down to sleep with him when he lay down, and dreaming with him and beyond him and becoming themselves the stuff of his dreams.

Strangling, suffocating, sometimes one uppermost and sometimes the other, dragging over the jagged bottom, smashing against rocks and snags, they veered in to the bank. [two present participles, two “sometimes____” phrases, two present participles + prepositional phrases]

They went across divides in summer blizzards, shivered under the midnight sun on naked mountains between the timber line and the eternal snows, dropped into summer valleys amid swarming gnats and flies, and in the shadows of glaciers picked strawberries and flowers as ripe and fair as any the Southland could boast. [past tense verb + two prepositional phrases, past tense verb + three prepositional phrases (last with compound object), past tense verb + two prepositional phrases (last with compound object) (all objects of prepositions in first three phrases have adjectives), but emphasis placed on the last phrase by switching order and starting with prepositional phrase and ending with past tense verb (and compound direct object)—so poetic!]

There is a patience of the wild—dogged, tireless, persistent as life itself—that holds motionless for endless hours the spider in its web, the snake in its coils, the panther in its ambuscade… [three adjectives, emphasis on the third with a simile; three nouns with prepositional phrases repeating “in its”]

…this patience belongs peculiarly to life when it hunts its living food; and it belonged to Buck as he clung to the flank of the herd, retarding its march, irritating the young bulls, worrying the cows with their half-grown calves, and driving the wounded bull mad with helpless rage. [present participles with direct objects, increasing intensity and adding words to each subsequent phrase]

As twilight fell the old bull stood with lowered head, watching his mates—the cows he had known, the calves he had fathered, the bulls he had mastered—as they shambled on at a rapid pace through the fading light. [three nouns with adjectival clauses, with repeated “he had”—very strong grammatical parallelism]

From then on, night and day, Buck never left his prey, never gave it a moment’s rest, never permitted it to browse the leaves of the trees or the shoots of young birch and willow. [three verb phrases with “never” repeated at the beginning of each (anaphora), each subsequent phrase getting longer]

The birds talked of it, the squirrels chattered about it, the very breeze whispered of it. [three clauses, grammatically parallel; interesting switch from “of” to “about” in the second clause, emphasis on third clause with addition of “very,” epistrophe (repetition of the word “it” at the end of the clauses)]

He plunged about in their very midst, tearing, rending, destroying… [three present participles]
Thenceforward he would be unafraid of them except when they bore in their hands their arrows, spears, and clubs. [three nouns]

One wolf, long and lean and gray, advanced cautiously… [three adjectives]

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