“Sine” of Great Sentences

I have been reading about power inverters that convert direct current to alternating current, but I have also – for separate reasons – been reading Old Man and the Sea again. What a beautiful synthesis of thought dawned on me when I read Hemingway’s  sentence-paragraph:

He loved green turtles and hawk-bills with their elegance and speed and their great value and he had a friendly contempt for the huge, stupid loggerheads, yellow in their armour-plating, strange in their love-making,  and happily eating the Portuguese men-of-war with their eyes shut.

When I read the sentence again, the first part with its staccato rhythm of phrases joined by “and,” “elegance and speed and their great value and he had…” reminded me of the square wave inverters. They are simple and cheap and work with a short of push-pull. But the second part of Hemingway’s sentence, with its smoothly flowing parallelism:  “yellow in their armour-plating, strange in their love-making,  and happily eating…”seemed to flow as a sine wave, in lovely smooth rhythm.

Brooks Landon speaks of the writer’s craft of building great sentences in one of The Great Courses says that readers “recognize distinctive rhythms in prose,”  which are a series of long and short steps akin to Morse Code, or Aristotle’s vision that prose should not be metrical, nor should it be without rhythm.” Writers have to feel the variety pulse through our fingers as we create precise, intense sentences  so that we carry our readers along.  Thus, the sine wave is a metaphor for the effective sentence, illustrating the silky flow of power moving back and forth in a series of high frequency pulses.

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Filed under Around the world while you were sleeping..., Literature

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