Short Story – “Lifeguard”

1. Examine the diction used in the story, and write a well-developed paragraph about the diction.  Discuss specific words from throughout the story: why did the author choose these specific words rather than other, similar words?   What do these words connote that other words might not?  How does the author’s diction enhance the story and contribute to the tone of the story?  Be sure to use text evidence (quotes!) to support your analysis.

The diction in this short story is quite interesting, the author uses synonyms of the words that we know and cherish, however, some words were quite interesting thus forcing me to use a dictionary to look up each of these words, putting that aside lets now get to the fun part. Some of the words in this short story were quite interesting such as, hirsute, miasmic, chiaroscuro, unguents, antimacassar, and platitudinous but I will not necessarily cover all these words. Hirsute is a word that I did not expect to see in a short story, the author placed this word in a good spot, “My slightly narrow and gingerly hirsute but not necessarily unmanly chest becomes brown.” By using this word, the author shows us the image of a human with a somewhat shaggy “but not necessarily unmanly chest,” this word is an excellent choice because it doesn’t necessarily say “oh he has a hairy but not unmanly chest,” the author’s use of this word is good because it sounds more formal that saying that its hairy. Platitudinous is another word that somewhat caught me off-guard because I did not expect the author to place it before a word that does not deserve to be dull, “our most obvious possession, our most platitudinous blessing,” the author here is saying that to some people a blessing can mean nothing or that it’s just dull. Unguents is another word that is really one those words where only the most educated know, “true, a red cross, signifying bandages, splints, spirits of ammonia, and sunburn unguents.” At first when I read this part I was asking myself what “unguent” meant but as I looked it up on a dictionary, it literally meant a type of ointment or salve for wounds or sores, the author here made a good word choice because one might not expect unguent to replace the word sunscreen. This short story has excellent diction because the way the narrator is using these words gives the story a more formal style and mood.

2. Examine the punctuation and syntax (sentence structure) used in the story.  Choose a few (3-5) sentences with interesting punctuation and/or structure, and write a well-developed paragraph analyzing the usage and effect of the punctuation. Be sure to use text evidence (quotes!) to support your analysis.

The punctuation and syntax in this short story are quite interesting, such as the following sentence, ” Swimming offers a parable. We struggle and thrash, and drown; we succumb, even in despair, and float, and are saved.” This sentence is the quite an interesting one, due to the semicolon the sentence describes the before and after of being in the water, one that does not swim thrashes and struggles which leads to drowning, however, there is the part where the person succumbs in despair but saved at the last moment. The punctuation here is good because it joins together the two sentences that the narrator would’ve said had it not been for that semicolon. Another example of an interesting sentence would be, ” Young as I am, I can hear myself the protein acids ticking; I wake at odd hours and in the shuddering darkness and silence feel my death rushing towards me like an express train.” The author’s use of punctuation here is good but it could’ve used more to give more suspense, but the use of punctuation here is enough because the narrator does not pause between “…silence feel my death…” and that gives an extra feeling of death being closer than one might expect. This story has many good sentences of which I will show such as, “Is it maiden, matron, or crone that the females will be eternalized? What will they do without children to watch and gossip to exchange? What of the thousand deaths of memory and bodily change we endure – can each be redeemed at a final Adjustments Counter?” This sentence is another one the interesting ones, usually by the fact that the narrator is asking himself these questions about these young women that he sees earlier in the story, the punctuation here is very good because he is just asking himself these questions and ends with wondering if each woman can be saved. Overall the punctuation used in this short story is good though it could’ve been more interesting if there was more use of punctuation although the syntax of each sentence is fine, if this short story had more use of punctuation then it would’ve been even better.

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