EL5221 Discussion: Session 5

On Mood & Modality

Discussion date: 12th September 2006


Do a stylistic analysis of the relevant features of mood and modality in the four extracts below.

Relevant notes: nos.  6, 7 and 8.


(a) Extract from a short story by Katherine Mansfield

From eight o’clock in the morning until about half past eleven Monica Tyrell suffered from her nerves, and suffered so terribly that these hours were – agonizing, simply. It was not as though she could control them. ‘Perhaps if I were ten years younger...’ she would say. For now that she was thirty-three she had a queer little way of referring to her age on all occasions, of looking at her friends with grave, childish eyes and saying: ‘Yes, I remember how twenty years ago...’ or of drawing Ralph’s attention to the girls – real girls – with lovely youthful arms and throats and swift hesitating movements who sat near them in restaurants. Perhaps if I were ten years younger...’
    ‘Why didn’t you get Marie to sit outside your door and absolutely forbid anybody to come near your room until you ring your bell?’
    ‘Oh, if it were as simple as that!’ She threw her little gloves down and pressed her eyelids with her fingers in the way he knew so well. ‘But in the first place I’d be so conscious of Marie sitting there, Marie shaking her finger at Rudd and Mrs Noon, Marie as a kind of cross between a wardress and a nurse for mental cases! And then, there’s the post. One can’t get over the fact that the post comes, and once it has come, who – who – could wait until eleven for the letters?’

(b) Extract from a D. H. Lawrence novella

Lou Witt had had her own way so long, that by the age of twenty-five she didn’t know where she was. Having one’s own way landed one completely at sea
    To be sure, for a while she had failed in her grand love affair with Rico. And then she had had something really to despair about. But even that had worked out as she wanted. Rico had come back to her, and was dutifully married to her. And now, when she was twenty-five and he was three months older, they were a charming married couple. He flirted with other women still, to be sure. He wouldn’t be the handsome Rico if he didn’t. But she had ‘got’ him. Oh yes! You had only to see the uneasy backward glance at her, from his big blue eyes: just like a horse that is edging away from its master: to know how completely he was mastered.
    She, with her odd little museau, not exactly pretty, but very attractive; and her quaint air of playing at being well-bred, in a sort of charade game; and her queer familiarity with foreign cities and foreign languages; and the lurking sense of being an outsider everywhere, like a sort of gypsy, who is at home anywhere and nowhere: all this made up her charm and her failure. She didn’t quite belong.

(c) Extract from Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights

    “And what is my father like?” he asked. “Is he as young and handsome as uncle?”
    “He’s as young,” said I; “but he has black hair and eyes, and looks sterner, and he is taller and bigger altogether. He’ll not seem to you so gentle and kind at first, perhaps, because it is not his way; still, mind you be frank and cordial with him; and naturally he’ll be fonder of you than any uncle, for you are his own.”
    “Black hair and eyes!” mused Linton. “I can’t fancy him. Then I am not like him, am I?”
    “Not much,” I answered; not a morsel, I thought, surveying with regret the white complexion and slim frame of my companion, and his large languid eyes – his mother’s eyes, save that, unless a morbid touchiness kindled them a moment, they had not a vestige of her sparkling spirit.
    “How strange that he should never come to see mamma and me” he murmured. “Has he ever seen me? If he has, I must have been a baby. I remember not a single thing about him.”
    “Why, Master Linton,” said I, “three hundred miles is a great distance; and ten years seem very different in length to a grown-up person compared with what they do to you. It is probable Mr. Heathcliff proposed going from summer to summer, but never found a convenient opportunity; and now it is too late. Don’t trouble him with questions on the subject; it will disturb him for no good.”

(d) Extract from a short story by Doris Lessing

A certain English gentleman, a sort of semi-lord, being a middle son (he refers to himself with a rather tetchy refusal to conform to current prejudices as well-connected) lives in a large country-house but alone, as his wife died shortly after their marriage. Alone, that is, except for his manservant. Failing to remarry, the usual rumours gathered about him and his way of life, dark tastes of all kinds were hinted at, and the women who had not succeeded in marrying him allowed it to be understood that it was their discovery of his secret which had cooled their pursuit.
    He had been a widower for more than a decade when he was taken to what he called ‘a show’. He did not care for the theatre at all. There he saw Mary Griffiths, a woman who had been married twice but who had announced to everyone and even to the Press that she did not intend to marry, she chose freedom.
    She was an attractive blonde woman, her stage personality formed in the fifties to the formula of that time – casual, loud-mouthed, frank – and, as she insisted, as common as dirt. She took pains to conceal her middle-class origin – a handicap when she first started to act. She took care to play parts suited to this formula – mostly sad dishevelled girls doomed to disharmony. ‘A lost ugly duckling with moments of swan,’ as one critic put it. A jolie laide@ said another, thus enabling Mary to describe herself as more laid than jolly, and to reap double benefit, when people protested that the joke was not new, by claiming: ‘Well, I’ve never had an education – I’ve never pretended I did – have I then?’
    What the gentleman saw in her struck his friends into incredulity, and her into laughter, and then thought. She was the reincarnation, he said, of his grandmother, the best horsewoman in the country, the bravest woman he had ever known – and, but of course, a great lady.

@ French. An oxymoron: ‘prettily ugly’ or ‘a pretty [but somehow] ugly woman’.


Last revised: 10 August 2006