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English Essay Analysis

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凤晴                1200017440

Practice 2

Passage one:

Questions for discussion:


From the beginning of the passage, DeLillo describes the mundane existence and ordinary routines in the town in plain style, while exuding a depressive and gloomy atmosphere. “People sit in the shade of ancient maples” and “an insane asylum with an elongated portico, ornamented dormers and a steeply pitched roof topped by a pineapple finial.”, all these descriptions reveal that Jack’s life is not as peaceful as it appears while has plenty of unknown existence. People are always dreadful of unknown things, for that might bring about death in many cases. The depression and gloom in the town deeply deliver the breath of death. When it comes to “a remote and steady murmur around our sleep, as of dead souls babbling at the edge of a dream”, the hint of death is more obvious. In the ear of Jack, those normal sounds became babble of dead souls----we could certainly predicate it as the product of the fear of death.

Hitler, as a war maniac who hardly dragged the world into the abyss of doom, is to a significant extent the symbol of death. Besides, no matter how much effort Jack Gladney put on his studies on Hitler, death is always there. From another point of view, Hitler was a people with giant influence. Even with that, Hitler was already dead. No one can escape from death.

Just as it shows in the analysis, the environment Jack and his family live in was a paradox, absurd and out of control. Feebleness in character and spiritual unease make things around bizarre and motley, just like a dream. From another perspective, there are many contradictions between Jack’s families. However, at the beginning of the book, Jack and his family were living in a seemly harmonious atmosphere. That could be a “dream” produced by Jack and his family to cheat themselves, giving them confidence of living.


The church and the insane asylum, the end of a quiet street Jack and his family live in and the expressway beyond the backyard----those are evidence of the humor from incongruous juxtapositions.

Personally speaking, I do think Jack himself is aware of such humor and make fun of himself. One of evidence is about the insane asylum. From the passage we can see Jack have had a close-up view of the structure and decoration of the insane asylum. Therefore, he possibly have noticed the incongruous juxtapositions in his life. From the following passage, when he narrates about the chancellor, it’s not hard to find the irony in his narration, such as “He was quick to see the possibilities” and “serve as an advisor to Nixon, Ford, and Carter before his death on a ski lift in Austria”.

Delillo uses three “there be” sentences at first to describe the main buildings in the town. All contents about environment consist of definitely objective description, or more accurately, record. These non-judgmental words simply show the peaceful life in the town from the outside view while in another way, those words are coming from the narration of Jack. It is those objective and peaceful narrations that make readers feel that things are all under control.


The excerpt uses first-person limited viewing narration, making readers feel close to characters and environments in the passage and sympathized for the roles, for that they can directly know the narrator’s true feelings. Besides, first-person limited viewing narration means following the protagonist’s view, readers cannot get more than partial grasp on objective truth. Thus there appears suspense.

The narrator Jack’s spatio-temporal perspective is communicated through the adverbial clause of “when”.

When Jack introduces his identity, the excerpt uses flashback to recall the process of Jack’s achievements.

The narrator describes the environment from many senses such as vision, hearing and hearing, making his narration vivid.

The author uses simple sentences and composed sentences just recording to the need for narration. In conclusion, the language style is plain, without many rhetoric. Parts of the excerpt use simile.

When narrator finish his recall of the foundation of his career, following is “At Fourth and Elm, cars turn left for the supermarket”, which is inserted abruptly. This is kind of in a stream-of-consciousness style.

Passage two

Question for discussion:


The “Mall” is the symbol of modern urban civilization. The fact that Gladys Treadwell felt "lost and confused" when trapped in that mall is an epitome of the conflict between old society and new modern city culture. That DeLillo chooses a mall as the place where Gladys Treadwell was traumatized is a suggestion of people’s loss at urbanization. Paces like malls and supermarkets represent modern urban civilization in the book.

“Four years to go” is where the passage is most colloquial in tone, “No sense of the…” namely the last sentence is where the passage is most philosophical in tone. Colloquial tone can make readers feel familiar and dear, while philosophical tone can raise up some truth more formally. DeLillo arranges the sentence that is philosophical in tone to the end of Jack’s ideological activities as a conclusion of Jack’s thought. By this way, DeLillo successfully combines these two tones, making this passage richer. Besides, diverse tones could make readers feel relaxed and interested in the narration, for that make the narrator more life-like.

At the beginning, Jack narrates four cases of death in an objective and bystander tone. At the end of the fourth case, Jack changes the tone in a first-person way and starts to narrate his own thoughts and feelings. For instance, when Jack starts to narrate his own thoughts, his absurd thinking about death make death sound almost comic.


        Here we share the first-person narrator’s perspective. The protagonist is also the narrator and implied writer, you and I are real readers and DeLillo is real writer. The implied writer expresses certain views about death, while the views of the real writer, DeLillo, do not necessarily match the views of the implied writer.



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