Grapes of Wrath

Improving Syntax

Read the following excerpt from an essay about Benny Paret by Norman Mailer.

          “And Paret? Paret died on his feet. As he took those eighteen punches, something happened to everyone who was in psychic range of the event. Some part of his death reached out to us. One felt it hover in the air. He was still standing in the ropes, trapped as he had been before; he gave some little half-smile of regret, as if he were saying, ‘I didn’t know I was going to die just yet,’ and then, his head leaning back but still erect, his death came to breathe about him. He began to pass away. As he passed, his limbs descended beneath him, and he sank slowly to the floor. He went down more slowly than any fighter had ever gone down; he went down like a large ship which turns on end and slides second by second into its grave. As he went down, the sound of Griffith’s punches echoed in the mind like a heavy ax in the distance chopping into a wet log.”
The chart below reveals Mailer’s mastery of diction, skilled use of imagery and figurative language, and manipulation of syntax. A glance, for example, at sentence nine, which recounts Paret’s fall, illustrates this idea. This lengthy sentence (31 words) is a series of clauses slipping irrevocably into one another, even as Paret slides slowly to the floor. Mailer consciously manipulates syntax to stress the meaning and effect of the sentence.
|Sentence Number |First Four Words       |Verbs                 |Sentence Types & Tools |Devices                 |Number of Words |
|1               |And Paret             |                      |Fragment               |                        |2               |
|2               |Paret died on his     |died                   |Simple                 |                        |5               |
|3               |And he took those     |took, happened, was   |Complex;               |                        |18               |
|                 |                       |...