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Transcript
Diction
September 17
Consider:
As I watched, the son broke weakly through, brightened the rich red
of the fawns, and kindled their white spots.
- E.B. White, “Twins,” Poems and Sketches of E.B. White
Discuss:
1. What kind of flame does kindled imply? How does this verb
suit the purpose of the sentence?
2. Would the sentence be strengthened or weakened by changing
the sun broke weakly through to the sun burst through? Explain
the effect this change would have on the use of the verb
kindled.
Apply:
Brainstorm with the class a list of action verbs that demonstrate the
effects of sunlight.
Answers:
1. Kindled implies the beginning of a fire, a glowing of easily
ignited material used to start a fire. The purpose of the
sentence is to capture a moment, a scene of fawns and early
morning. The word kindled suits the purpose of the sentence
because it aptly expresses the glow of the fawns’ white patches
and, as with fire, the newness of the fawns.
2. Students could argue convincingly that the change either
strengthens or weakens the sentence. If they argue that the
change strengthens the sentence, they should emphasize that
the verb burst connotes the excitement and violent action of a
new beginning, a birth. If they argue it weakens the sentence,
they should emphasize the newness of the fawns that
corresponds to the newness of the sun’s actions: kindling. In
any case, with the change, the verb kindled would no longer
suit the purpose of this sentence. A sun that bursts through
the clouds does not kindled. The verb burst suggests strong,
decisive action not the gentle action kindling. It may ignite,
enflame, scorch, or singe – not kindle. The word must always
suit the purpose.