Saturday, March 06, 2010

Use of description to build character

A while ago I quoted a beautiful passage from Ken Kesey in which he used description specifically to create character. Here is another example, from Ted Hughes's Gaudete.

She hauls herself to her feet, towering
And walks
And enters the still house.

Rooms retreat.
A march of right angles. Barren perspectives
Cluttered with artefacts, in a cold shine.
Icebergs of taste, spacing and repose.

The rooms circle her slowly, like a malevolence.
She feels weirdly oppressed.
She remembers
A shadow-cleft redstone desert
At evening.
The carpet’s edge. The parquet.
The door-knob’s cut glass.
She observes these with new fear.
The kitchen’s magenta tiles. The blue Aga.

It is her fifteen years of marriage
Watching her, strange-faced, like a jury.


You can almost see this woman, early middle-age, wandering round her beautiful house and feeling the helplessness of it all. She has everything she has ever wanted, but now realises that none of it provides her with what she needs. The claustrophobia is palpable. Right angles, barren perspectives, rooms circling, malevolence - it all paints a disturbing picture of loneliness and despair, beautifully crystalised in the final couplet, with the wreckage of her marriage watching her, judging.

Wonderful stuff.

1 comment:

boxofficegirl said...

I would have to agree with you there Tom a beautiful piece of imagery. Your blog too is inspiring and always worth a visit.