Close Reading Prose Exercise (10 points): Write a 500-word analysis of one of the passages below. You may select one by either Aphra Behn or Jonathan Swift. For this assignment, analyze the formal features of your chosen passage (diction, syntax, tone, grammar, context within the book, etc) and make a brief argument about why the formal decisions that the author makes matter. In other words, do not simply summarize or describe the passage but make an argument about it—tell me what makes it worthy of commentary and explication.
1) Oroonoko, or The Royal Slave – Aphra Behn
Norton vol. C, p. 2336)
I ought to tell you that the Christians never buy any slaves but they give ’em some name of their own, their native ones being likely very barbarous and hard to pronounce; so that Mr. Trefry gave Oroonoko that of Caesar, which name will live in that country as long as that (scarce more) glorious one of the great Roman; for ’tis most evident, he wanted1 no part of the personal courage of that Caesar, and
acted things as memorable, had they been done in some part of the world replenished with people and historians that might have given him his due. But his misfortune was to fall in an obscure world,
that afforded only a female pen to celebrate his fame; though I doubt not but it had lived from others’ endeavors, if the Dutch, who immediately after his time took that country,2 had not killed, banished, and dispersed all those that were capable of giving the world this great man’s life, much better than I have done. And Mr. Trefry, who designed it, died before he began it, and bemoaned himself for not
having undertook it in time.
2) Oroonoko, or The Royal Slave – Aphra Behn
Norton vol. C, p. 2331
This commander was a man of a finer sort of address and conversation, better bred and more engaging
than most of that sort of men are, so that he seemed rather never to have been bred out of a court than almost all his life at sea. This captain therefore was always better received at court than most of the traders to those countries were; and especially by Oroonoko, who was more civilized, according to the European mode, than any other had been, and took more delight in the white nations, and
above all men of parts and wit. To this captain he sold abundance of his slaves, and for the favor and esteem he had for him, made him many presents, and obliged him to stay at court as long as possibly he could. Which the captain seemed to take as a very great honor done him, entertaining the prince
every day with globes and maps, and mathematical discourses and instruments; eating, drinking, hunting, and living with him with so much familiarity that it was not to be doubted but he had gained very greatly upon the heart of this gallant young man. And the captain, in return of all these mighty favors,besoughttheprincetohonor hisvesselwithhispresence,somedayorother,todinner,before
he should set sail; which he condescended to accept, and appointed his day.
1 Lacked?2 In 1667 the Dutch attacked and conquered Surinam, and England ceded it by treaty in exchange for New York.
Gulliver’s Travels: Part 2, Chapter 1 – Jonathan Swift
Norton vol. C, pp. 2538-39
I hope the gentle reader will excuse me for dwelling on these and the like particulars, which however insignificanttheymayappeartogrovelingvulgarminds,yetwillcertainlyhelpaphilosopher3 toenlarge his thoughts and imagination, and apply them to the benefit of public as well as private life, which was my sole design in presenting this and other accounts of my travels to the world; wherein I have been chiefly studious of truth, without affecting any ornaments of learning or of style. But the whole scene of this voyage made so strong an impression on my mind, and is so deeply fixed in my memory, that in committing it to paper I did not omit one material circumstance; however, upon strict review, I blotted out several passages of less moment which were in my first copy, for fear of being censured as tedious and trifling, whereof travelers are often, perhaps not without justice, accused.
Gulliver’s Travels: Part 4, Chapter 10 – Jonathan Swift
Norton vol. C, pp. 2621-22
When I thought of my family, my friends, my countrymen, or human race in general, I considered them as they really were, Yahoos in shape and disposition, perhaps a little more civilized, and qualified with the gift of speech; but making no other use of reason than to improve and multiply those vices, whereof their brethren in this country had only the share that nature allotted them. When I happened to behold the reflection of my own form in a lake or fountain, I turned away my face in horror and detestation ofmyself, and could better endure the sight of a common Yahoo than of my own person. By conversing with the Houyhnhnms, and looking upon them with delight, I fell to imitate their gait and gesture, which is now grown into a habit; and my friends often tell me in a blunt way, that I trot like a horse; which, however, I take for a great compliment. Neither shall I disown, that in speaking I am apt to fall into the voice and manner of the Houyhnhnms, and hear myself ridiculed on that account without the least mortification.
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