Stylistics and Their Relation to Meaning and Mood
The stylistic choices an author makes in a piece of writing give said piece distinctive qualities that create significance and atmosphere. In “Lover of Mankind” and “The Camera Eye (5),” John Dos Passos’s uses unconventional paragraph structures, but the characterization and dialogue of each differ. While the first showcases a sympathetic mood toward working-class struggles, the former creates the mood of an unsophisticated narrator.
John Dos Passos’s “Lover of Mankind,” a biographical account of union leader Eugene V. Debs, is characterized by unconventional paragraph structure, matter-of-fact characterization, and italicized dialogue—characteristics which create a mood of sympathy toward working-class struggles. This segment is primarily distinguished by single-sentence paragraphs and paragraphs made up of dependent clauses, some of which do not have capitalization or proper punctuation. Structuring paragraphs in this way, Dos Passos emphasizes the points that stand alone per line, such as the following:
“[Indented] but [people] were afraid of him as if he had contracted a
social disease, syphilis or leprosy …
[Indented] but on account of the flag
[Indented] and prosperity
[Indented] and making the world safe for democracy …
[Indented] or to think much about him for fear they might believe him….” (Dos Passos 21)
These paragraphs, marked by the label “Indented,” underscore that Debs was feared, because of his proliferating influence, and emphasize this was because of his socialist inclinations (flag), desire to re-distribute wealth (prosperity), and the determination to self-government (democracy). In addition, similarly structured paragraphs create characterization:
“[Indented] He was a tall shamblefooted man, had a sort of gusty rhetoric …
[Indented] made [workers] want the world he wanted,
[Indented] a world brothers might own” (Dos Passos 19)
Drawing attention to themselves, these paragraphs characterize Debs physically, and possessing of remarkable oratory skills and being committed to the creation of an economically just world for workers. Elsewhere, Dos Passos characterizes Debs through italicized dialogue paragraphs in first-person point of view, illustrating that he was not power-driven, believing workers were in charge of their own emancipation, and was deeply emphatic, identifying with disenfranchised groups. These stylistic choices, along with Dos Passos’s compassionate tone toward Debs and his mission, create a sympathetic mood toward the struggles of the working class. Similarly, Dos Passos’s stylistic choices in other segments distinguish them and cre...