A Dream of Winter Literary Analysis

Posted on January 19, 2011


December 24, 2010

Dita Surya Kartika/ C0308031

Introduction to Prose Studies

A Dream of Winter Essay

The Effectiveness of Imagery to Form Catharsis Effect

in “A Dream of Winter”

(Formalism Approach)

A Dream of Winter presents vivid imaginations using one of figures of speech called imagery. Overall, the work poses colourful vocabulary in which differs it to the other kind of writings. A strategy of defamiliarization is used to employ certain words- commonly adjectives – to create the imagery. These common words are presented in a startling way so that the readers would make the literary work distinguishable thus view them as an art. Moreover, the imagery is recognized as an appealing element in releasing the emotional aspects of the story. A successful imagery is the one which can elicit an emotional response from the reader so that the overall message is felt more deeply. The more effective the use of imagery, the higher the possibility of attached emotional connection to the work so that it can make a catharsis effect after reading the story. A Dream of Winter, with its setting in a natural landscape of a distant land, has numerous imageries that shows us the description of the place as well as the actions of the characters. Looking at the connection between imagery and the catharsis effect happening to the reader, it can be measured how effective the imagery in forming the effect.

The common use of imagery in A Dream of Winter is to visualize actions so that it would not directly tell what the characters are doing. Instead, it creates a visual image in our mind so that the story has a tangible quality of portraying the “world”. The imagery is also used to cast light upon the readers what the character are suffering. The explanation of the main character’s condition at the very beginning of the story can be viewed as imagery:

In the middle of the great frost she was in bed with influenza.

The connection between “the great frost” and “influenza” indicates how the character feels at that time. The readers can imagine how the character is tortured by such condition. Having influenza while the climate is super frosty is a nightmare and they can imagine her shivering. It draws on a feverish imagination.

The initial paragraph of the story already introduces the readers to a feverish imagination. The readers are bound to a sorrowful tone that influenced the reader perception as they read the rest of the story. The exposition of landscape uses a rich combination of adjectives, nouns, and verbs. The narrative is not merely telling what the object is but describes its quality by modifying nouns with the merited adjective.

She lay staring out upon a mineral landscape: iron, ice and stone. Powdered with a wraith of spectral blue, the chalky frost-fog stood, thickened in the upper air; and behind it a glassy disc stared back, livid, drained of heat, like a gas lamp turned upside down, forgotten, staring down uselessly, aghast, upon the impersonal shrouded objects and dark relics in an abandoned house. The silence was so absolutely that it reversed itself and became in her ears continuous reverberation.

The excerpt above describes the situation of the character’s environment. The choice of words “powdered”, “wraith”, “spectral blue”, “chalky frost-fog”, “thickened” and “upper air” allows the readers to experience a sense of seeing a thick fog and only small parts that still revealing blue sky. The next sentence gives a feeling of idle world. The world has no passion by its silence. On the last sentence, it is clearly stated that the absolute silence resulted in the character’s sentiment to hear echoes that is not really there. The effect posed by the chosen language suggests a fear of loneliness. This fear of loneliness influences the character’s next action to expel the lonely feeling until someone is coming from downstairs.

The imagery found on the story is not only one-for-one correspondence, that is, one word or phrase does not only consists of one kind of imagery, but also overlapping each other. The overlapping imagery is necessary and is viewed beneficial to create a complex sense of emotions.

They pranced on the balcony; tapped on the pane, peered in with faces of lunatic triumph, presenting themselves as the shock of her life.

The description of children’s action generates both visual and auditory fantasy. Furthermore, the word “pranced” is effective and efficient to get a sense of seeing and hearing someone walking in a spirited manner. The word “tapped” strengthen the quality of “pranced”. Consequently, “faces of lunatic triumph” expands the narration to illustrate children behaviour. The whole sentence hints out that the main character’s is dismayed by her children’s excessive behaviour.

To manifest imagery is not an easy task. However, it is offered an infinitive choice of words. A common word in certain topic of discussion, once it is well formulated, can draw a distinct reading.

They communicate with each other in a low drone, bee-like, rising and sinking in a minor key, punctuated by an occasional deep-throated “Ah!” Knocking, hammering, wrenching developed.

As seen above, the formulation of appropriate choice of words composed a very different reading than if the words just standalone. Together they released a sad impression in which the characters are pessimist that their efforts to make money from beehive will succeed. The key point lies in the word “minor”. There are several literal meanings of minor itself but none of them give the exact correct meaning. Minor can be “not very large, important, or serious” or “a term in music based on a scale in which the semitone/half tone higher than the second note” (Hornby, 2005). Looking at the context, the message that implies within the word is read as a sad tone. It is also reinforced by the fact that minor key in music moved us to release pity feelings.

The story narrate the physical appearance of beehives so thoroughly that it requires in-depth examination ultimately to evaluate its word choices thus classify it as an aid for creating catharsis effect to the readers.

Atolls of pale honeycomb ridging the length and breadth of beam and lath, thrusting down in serrated blocks into the cavity; the vast amorphous murmuring of black swarm suddenly exposed, stirring resentful, helpless, transfixed in the icy air. A few of the more vigorous insects crawled out from the conglomeration, spun up into the air, fell back stupefied.

The condition of beehives is pictured with the help of numerous adjectives. Precisely, the arrangement of the expressions facilitates the readers in understanding the form of beehives. A visual followed by auditory perception indicates a sequence of event in which is the strength of the story. The narration flows smoothly as if it is happen in real life. Then, the mind is acquainting with the word “stupefied” with the intention to reveal the failure of beekeeping.

Frails, blond, brittle, delicate as coral in construction, weightless as a piece of dried sponge or seaweed.

The composition of words clearly indicates the sense of seeing, tasting, and touching simultaneously. The simile shown compares the weight of the honeycomb to a piece of dried sponge or seaweed. In other words, the honeycomb is really light as if there is no substance in it. Hence the bee man’s occupation is to get honey from beehives; this occurrence represents the characters letdown. The emotion let out easily because the image of disappointment is the result of a mixed feeling of the readers’ knowledge on the man’s background as a bee man and the description of the honeycomb. The quality of imagery to show the character’s feeling plays significant role to wrap the form and content so that the literary work do posses defamiliarization. The defamiliarization makes the literary work does not perceive autonomously. Instead, the readers are involved in the art exposure to experience complex emotions.

the papery transparent aspects of these ethereal growths meant a world extinct.

In here, the other figurative language namely metaphor shows the light honeycomb once again. The words “papery”, “transparent” and “ethereal” exaggerate the description of a very thin and light honeycomb. Fear arises because the income is absent. If the income is absent, from where she gets income to support her children? So:

She shivered violently, her spirit overwhelmed by symbols of frustration.

Besides showing the sequence of events, the imagery is also showing the sequence of actions. The use of appropriate verbs is the key to bring out the vivid image about the sequences.

A pause; then up came the knife, hand again, lifting a clot of thick yellow sticky stuff.

…and as he held up, the syrup began to drip down slow, gummy, amber-dark.

The readers can catch the image of someone pulling honey from its honeycomb. Moreover, the description of honey as “thick yellow sticky stuff” exposes visual and tactile imagery. The next excerpt strengthens the quality of honey.

Isled in the full attack of total winter there it hung, inviolable, a microcosm of summer, melting in sweet oils.

A near perfect pity is covering the character expectation to get money from the honey. That is when a “miracle” happened. One of the honeycombs produces honey as she expected. In the middle of a severe winter like this, there is “a microcosm of summer” in form of “sweet oils”. That is, a small amount of honey survives and can be harvested. The endurance of this small amount of honey represents the little hope to earn something for a living.

The depiction of characters shows the characterizations. This way the reader can grasp the characterizations from his thoughts and actions.

…his face creased in a wide grin

His speech had a curious humming drawl, not altogether following the pattern of the local dialect: brisker, more positive.

“Take a look,” he called cheerfully.

He marched briskly across the room…

By gathering the description of John the readers can portray John as a positive person, who takes life as it is. The simplicity in John’s characterization, compared to the main character’s, is contradictory. The main character has a strong point to make her life as she wants. So, when the two characters meet, there is a strong sense of verbal irony between them. The lack of beekeeping knowledge the woman has makes the reader feel sorry for her.

The analysis of imagery above agrees that the imagery is effective to form catharsis effect. The imagery uses a vivid adjective and verbs to help the reader grasp the images of seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and so forth. A Dream of Winter consists of great imagery that not only describes the things but also sequence of events and action, even characteristics. Its choice of words and formulations successfully draws the readers’ attention to comprehend fully the story and release some pity and fear emotions.


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