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English Commentary on Canadian Short Stories

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English - Canadian Short Stories This passage from the book, Canadian Short Stories in English by Isabella Valancy Crawford, is a short, fast-paced scene where a young fugitive is tracked down and arrested by three detectives, but then dies heroically whilst saving a drowning baby after his arrest. Using varying diction and detail, the writer portrays the characters in this passage in a clear manner which gives the readers a better understanding of the personality of the characters. Joe (the young fugitive) is portrayed as a "gentleman" (16) who seems to have conscience in him, for his face reflected with "deathly shame" when he was arrested. Contradicting with his character as a young fugitive, he speaks "quietly" (23) and cooperates peacefully with law enforcers, like when he "stood motionless while the detective snapped one manacle of the handcuffs on his wrist" (24). The writer first encourages the readers to question Joe's actual guiltiness by referring him as "the wretched quarry" (19) during his arrest. ...read more.


The writer then uses another animal reference in the passage - with the "child in his teeth", Joe resembles a father canine protecting his cub from harm, which again, contradicts to his character of a criminal. Other than "heroic" and "strong", the writer also portrays Joe as a brave character, like when he "smiled" whilst a detective "covered him with a revolver" and threatened to shoot (36 - 38). After his heroic rescue, the writer then attempts to minimize Joe, right until the death of that character - despite him "beating the hostile current" after the "fight between the man (Joe) and the river", the river claims victory in the end, with that paragraph (46 - 49) describing the scene with utmost detail, consisting of strong terms like "crashed upon him". With synonyms like "it reared against him like a living thing instinct with rage" and metaphors like "wallowing monster-like", Joe is reduced from a strong triumphing hero to the final metaphor - "a bruised and shattered pigmy of creation", in the mere three sentences. ...read more.


when the baby fell in the river, and the "little red bundle" whirling in the river (35). The last two were references to the baby, so this character may represent an omen, symbolizing tragedy, as the baby finds Joe's red flannel shirt (a symbol for danger) attractive (13). Other than the red flannel shirt, the baby is also said to be "crowing with delight" when he catches sight of the handcuffs (26). Finding these symbols of danger attractive was a hint that the tragedy may be related to the baby. The writer controls the pace well throughout the passage. Short sentences, given as a list of three, speeded up the pace when the baby fell in the river - "...a shriek, a flash of red, a soft plunge in the water" (30), increasing tension for the readers. The climax occurred in the lines 46 - 49, an extremely short paragraph describing the death of Joe. With the many events occurring in such a short paragraph, the pace is set to the passage's maximum, making this the climax of the passage. The presence of the baby is ironic in the passage, as babies usually represent birth, new beginnings and happiness. ...read more.

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