Analysis of 3 texts on Childhood
Texts A, C and D are linked by the theme of childhood, with a particular emphasis on how food reveals, or affects, children’s relationships with their parents. While the son in the spontaneous conversation transcribed in A has the ulterior motive of using food as a way to ingratiate himself to his father, C, in comparison is more formal and discursive in nature, focusing on the topic of the relationship between the change in modern eating habits and family relations. On the other hand, D as a literary text uses the theme of food to develop the characters and reveal their relationships with each other, as can be seen in the awkward relationship between the children, Kay, John and Robin and their parents, Gerald and Ingeborg, who is manipulative and controlling. A is a moving text as it develops in adjacency pairs, whereas C and D as crafted texts are static as readers receive it in its final form.
In A, the relationship between father and son is shown to be close, as seen in the son’s repeated use of the informal mode of address ‘dad’. More importantly, however, is how the conversation reveals the son’s concealed intention of winning over his father through the use of food to get a skateboard deck, as seen in his interrogatives (‘d’you wanna cup of coffee’, ‘what about a biccy’), which the son uses to manage the topic of conversation, finally leading to the subject of a skateboard deck (‘…you said that I could have a new deck for me birthday’). However, the initially friendly conversation soon turns combative as the father sees through his son, becoming the more dominant speaker through his use of negative declaratives (‘yer not havin a new one’, ‘no way (.) no chance’, ‘I’m not falling for that’n neither’) in his refusal of his son’s request. The combative atmosphere is also reinforced by the father’s scornful use of slang (‘on yer bike’) as well as the son’s sarcastic words of gratitude (‘well thanks a lot’).
In terms of lexis, the informal atmosphere established can be seen through the frequent use of colloquialisms (‘for God’s sake’, ‘on yer bike’, ‘net’). As the son is initially trying to find favour with his father through the use of food, the first half of the conversation is unsurprisingly in the semantic field of food (‘biccy’, ‘kitkat’, ‘coffee’). The son also tries to persuade his father to get a new skateboard deck through the use of various adjectival phrases (‘completely wrecked’, ‘all scuffed’, ‘really good’), with the former two describing the condition of the deck and the latter, a laudatory phrase, trying to convince his father of the reasonable price of a new deck. In contrast, the father’s steadfast refusal of his son’s request is seen in the negative adverbs (‘no’, ‘not’, ‘neither’), while his annoyance at his son can be seen in his expression ‘for God’s sake’.
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In terms of syntax, text A as transcribed speech is organised in adjacency pairs, with question and answer pairs (‘d’you wanna cup of coffee erm (.) okay (.) that’d be nice’) and statement and corroboration pairs (‘y’know you said that I could have a new deck for me birthday mmm (.) deck’). The conversation itself has disjuncture present (‘huh (.) well I would (.) if I got enough pocket money’) and the use of simple conjunctions such as ‘but’ and ‘and’ (‘yeah (.) but I use it all the time an it’s completely wrecked’, ‘yeah but…an’ it’s only thirty four ninety nine’), which is an indication of looser cohesion common in spontaneous speech.
There are also numerous non-fluency features present in A which indicate that it is a transcription of spontaneous speech. For example, both father and son use voiced pauses (‘erm’, ‘huh’, ‘oh’, ‘mmm’) as well as fillers such as ‘like’ and ‘well’. The use of end clipping (‘an’’, ‘printin’) also indicates the presence of an accent, whereas contractions (‘you’ll’, ‘it’s’, ‘y’know’) are used to speed up speech. Prosodic features are also used by the son in an attempt to persuade his father, as seen in the elongation of the words ‘dad’ and ‘please’, while paralinguistic features are used to indicate action, in particular ‘slams door’ to convey the son’s displeasure.
In contrast to A, C, as befits an essay of the discursive genre, is much more formal. C adopts a more general approach to the topic of childhood and food as compared to A and D, and as such, uses a slightly more impersonal tone to offer readers a wider perspective on how changing eating habits have influenced parent-child relations. While there is the occasional first-person narrative (‘I may not have spent so much time with my parents…’), C is predominantly in the third-person voice (‘in other words, parents spend time with their children but don’t actually communicate…’), making the text sound more authoritative. This is further reinforced by the frequent use of declaratives (‘In the mid-seventies…’, Anyone who lives…’), which are supported by formal research (‘Gershuny found…’, ‘A research team at University College London…’), making the writer sound more reliable, as is common in a text with a purpose to inform. The writer also uses parallel structure to make relevant comparisons between the data to illustrate the change of certain habits in the past and present (‘In 1961 we spent ninety-five minutes a day eating; by 1995 it was down to fifty-two minutes’, ‘In the mid-seventies one in three…Now it is down to nine’). However, the writer also makes an attempt to include readers, as seen in the use of a rhetorical question (‘So what are they doing with the extra time together?’) to engage readers, as well as the use of the collective pronoun ‘we’ in the last paragraph of the text. The writer also provides some of his comments and opinions on society, especially his criticism of adults’ treatment of children, as seen in ‘We claim to be a child-centred society, but in reality there is little evidence that we are’.
Unlike A, which has more informal lexis with colloquialisms, C uses a modified formal register with more formal esoteric lexis (‘consumption’, ‘subsidiary’, ‘communicate’) common in texts of a discursive genre, and high frequency lexis (‘eat’, ‘fatter’, ‘traffic’). The purpose of C, that is to inform, can be seen through the abundant use of concrete nouns (‘children’, ‘food’, ‘teenagers’) to discuss the subject, as well as proper nouns (‘Gershuny’, ‘Exeter University’, ‘University College London’) to establish his sources of information. Numeral adjectives (‘fifty-two’, ‘2000’, ‘one-in-three’) and factual adverbials (‘in 1961’, ‘8.30 a.m’, ‘a generation ago’) are also used to describe supporting facts by research, as well as to give an accurate timeline of the change in habits between the past and the present. However, the writer also uses a hyperbole (‘In London you can get into your car…with a reasonable expectation of arriving at your destination the same day’) to emphasise his point that parents frequently drive their children around, as well as a simile (‘…like pampered pets’) to criticise how children are treated in modern society. C, like A, deals with the topic of food, and as such, is predictably in the semantic field of food (‘’eat’, ‘food consumption’, ‘fast foods’).
In terms of syntax, Text B as a crafted text is more organised than A, which has looser syntax. Although not particularly complex, sentences in C are significantly more complex than the short utterances in A. There is one sentence that has five clauses (‘Our adult-centred society has tried…excluding…blaming…admitting…treating’) which criticises modern-day parenting, but most complex sentences used to explain the change in childrens’ lifestyles are mostly shorter at two or three clauses in length (‘A research team…looked…was done…compared…’). The writer also uses short, succinct sentences to emphasise his point (‘Something else to worry about’, ‘The traffic jams disappear’, ‘`It had fallen by a quarter’) on how the decrease in the amount of walking done by children affects their health.
Unlike texts A and D, C has no clear representation of speech. However, the writer uses direct quotes by academics (‘irregular and non-familial grazing of pre-cooked or fast foods’, ‘masking of food consumption…’ ) and indirect quotes (‘Researchers at Exeter University found…’, ‘Gershuny found…’, ‘A research team at University College London looked…’) to provide readers the result of data collected by research teams.
On the other hand, although text D, like A, is much more specific than the discursive point of view offered in C, it has a different purpose of establishing the characters and revealing their relationships with each other, and this is seen through the eyes of a third-person narrator (‘The children were now happily settled…’), as seen in the frequent use of pronouns such as ‘she’, ‘her’ and ‘his’, only affording readers an external view of the characters. It is through this external view that Ingeborg’s domineering personality can be seen (‘with mock seriousness’, ‘fussily’), as well as the childish self-confidence displayed by her sons, John and Robin (‘with the importance of the eldest child’, ‘primly’), in contrast to Kay’s submissive nature (‘Kay looked at her father obediently’, ‘But Kay looked at her mother’, ‘wriggled nervously’). However, readers feel closer to Gerald, as the author, Angus Wilson, gives readers an internal view of his thoughts, particularly his fondness for his daughter (‘Gerald looked at his leggy daughter with affection’) which later turns to annoyance (‘It annoyed Gerald, that she apparently had no views of her own…’) at submissive Kay’s overdependency on her parents, particularly her controlling mother Ingeborg. Because of the same internal view afforded by Wilson, readers are more sympathetic with Gerald as he retaliates slightly against his daughter’s inability to choose for herself, as shown in ‘…hating himself for his facetiousness which he could not avoid with his children’. Here, unlike the relationship shown in A, the parent-child relationship can be seen to be stilted and forced, although Gerald’s family is shown to be having a meal together, unlike Gershuny’s findings in C, which shows family meals to have ‘virtually disappeared’.
In terms of lexis, D’s purpose of establishing the characters of the novel can be seen as well. In particular, Kay’s meek personality is presented through adverbs and adverbials (‘nervously’, ‘obediently’), as is Ingeborg’s controlling personality (‘with mock seriousness’, ‘fussily’) and her brothers’ childishness (‘primly’, ‘with the importance of the oldest child’, ‘with glee’). The characters’ word choice also reveals their character. This can be seen in Ingeborg’s patronising use of the overly formal noun ‘gentleman’ as well as the noun phrase ‘big man’ when addressing her son Robin, as well as her repeated use of the adjective ‘little’ to describe Kay. Similarly, Gerald’s irritation at his daughter’s behaviour is seen in the condescending way he uses the mode of address ‘Madam’ when speaking to her, as well as the proper noun ‘facetiousness’ to describe the way he retaliates against his daughter’s submissiveness. The way in which Ingeborg behaves is also seen in the reporting verbs, such as ‘laughed’, ‘cried’, and ‘whispered’. Kay’s embarrassment at her father’s question of ‘at your command’ is can be seen in the adjectival phrase ‘very red’, while Gerald’s inner thoughts are seen in the verbs used such as ‘hating’ and ‘annoyed’. As can be seen in C, D has a mix of both sophisticated lexis (‘facetiousness’, ‘affection’, ‘agony)’ as well as high frequency lexis (‘laughed’, ‘asked’, ‘waiter’), as compared to the highly informal lexis present in A.
Similar to C, D as a crafted and is more organised in comparison to A. D, as a literary text, is more narrative, and as such uses declaratives (‘The children were now…’, ‘Kay became very red…’). However, there are more complex sentences (‘It annoyed Gerald that she apparently had no views of her own..was…guessed…was…though…’) to describe Gerald’s feelings as well as short succinct sentences, mostly observations of Kay which are revealing of her personality (‘Kay became very red in the face’, ‘Kay looked at her father obediently’, ‘But Kay looked at her mother’), which establish the D’s purpose of developing the characters and their relationships.
Wilson successfully mimics speech in D through the use of direct speech (‘And so Robin is a big man now and he chooses smoked salmon,’ said Ingeborg…’), with the use of reporting verbs and adverbials revealing the characters’ moods. In particular, the adverbial of ‘with glee’ illustrates Robin’s amusement at his sister’s discomfort, whereas the way in which Ingeborg peaks to the waiter ‘with mock seriousness’ shows the way in which she infantilises her children. The way in which the characters speak also reveals their personalities, and this is seen in Ingeborg’s frequent use of declaratives (‘And so Robin is a big man now and he chooses smoked salmon’, ‘I’ve ordered her some fried sole’) as well as her rhetorical questions (‘Do you think you will like that?’, ‘Oh, Gerald, my dear, what have you said?’) which she uses to control the conversation. Ultimately, while D is different from C with the use of speech representation, A and D are similar in that the speech reveals the speakers’ attitudes and personality. However, D is vastly different in that speech is shown to have a dramatic purpose as compared to A, while, on the other hand, the use of direct and indirect quotations in C are used to establish the authoritative voice in the essay.