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This paper will analyze Mark Twain’s works from the perspective of rhetoric: based on the reports of the rhetoric in “a dog’s tale”, highlighted the writer’s intention of writing. For example, people feel upset about the lame foot of Mavourneen Aileen and it looked as if they were to cry is a personification. The vanity of the dog’s mother and the humility of the dog make a comparison. Through the analysis of the rhetorical ontology and vehicles, then highlighted the present situation of people’s life, thus reveal the deeper meaning of this short story and broaden the reader’s imaginary space. At the same time, understand and master the characteristics of simile and the like in English masterpiece. This can help us better understand the masterpiece and enjoy it better. What is more, we can learn more language skills. All these can help us to be well cultured in literature.
Key words: rhetoric; humanity; simile; metaphor; metonymy; hyperbole; personification; comparison
1.1 Introduction of Mark Twain
Mark twain is quite famous in America. He is an excellent humorist, writer and orator. Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in 1835, led one of the most exciting and adventuresome of literary lives. He was successively a journeyman printer, a steamboat pilot, a halfhearted Confederate soldier (for a few weeks), and a prospector, miner, and reporter in the western territories. His experiences furnished him with a wide knowledge of humanity, as well as the perfect grasp of local customs and speech that manifests itself so well in his writing.
With the publication in 1865 of “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras Country,” Twain gained national attention as a frontier humorist. Boasting of himself as “The Wild Humorist of the Pacific Slope,” he turned out the lighthearted colorful tales of his early years: “A Day at Niagara” (1869), “A Curious Experience” (1881), “The stolen White Elephant” (1882), and other such delightful pieces.
With the publication of life on the Mississippi (1883), which includes some of the tales found in this anthology, and finally, the novel The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn (1885), twain was recognized by the literary establishment as one of the greatest writers America would ever produce.
For over forty-five years, books, stories, travelogues, and observations emerged from his fertile imagination. Toward the end of his life, plagued by personal tragedy and financial failure, Twain grew more and more pessimistic-an outlook not alleviated by his natural skepticism and sarcasm. His later work reflects this darker turn of mind. During this last period, twain produced such “fables” of a fallen mankind as the brilliant and bitter “The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg” (1899) and “The Mysterious Stranger” (1916). Though his fame continued to widen-Yale and Oxford awarded him honorary degrees, and he was in wide demand as a lecturer-twain spent his last years in gloom and exasperation, writing venomously about “the damned human race”. And “The Dog’s Tale” is his later work. And it is written under a pessimistic attitude toward humanity.
1.2 Brief introduction of A Dog’s Tale
Mark Twain sometimes showed his humor through a different angle of view, that is, see the world from others’ eyes. In A Dog’s Tale, from a dog’s eyes, we see a world-full of selfishness, hypocrisy, and indifference and inhuman. The dog mom often told the little puppy some only fine large words meaning nothing likes: “My father was a St.Bernard, my mother was a collie, but I am a Presbyterian”. She liked to say those words and saw other dogs look surprised and envious when they found she got so much education. In fact, she knew nothing about those fine large words which she listened in the dining-room and drawing-room when there was company, and by going with the children to Sunday-school. Whenever she heard a large word she said it over to herself many times, and keep it until there was a dogmatic gathering in the neighborhood, and then, get it off to surprise and distress all the dogs. What a hypocritical dog! However, if we say it hypocritical, those people from who the dog mom learned the fine large words should be more hypocritical. Actually, the dog mom is the hypocritical bourgeoisie in miniature. When the little puppy grew up, it was sold to a new family. Once in a fire it saved the owner’s baby, but the owner misunderstood it and struck furiously at it with his cane and caused it to be a lame. When they knew the truth, “a dozen times a day Mrs. Gray and Sadie would tell the tale to new-comers, and say I risked my life to say the baby’s.”. “And then the company would pass me around and pet me and exclaim about me, and you could see the pride in the eyes of Sadie and her mother; and when the people wanted to know what made me limp, they looked ashamed and changed the subject, and sometimes when people hunted them this way and that way with questions about it, it looked to me as if they were going to cry.”. At last, it was rewarded by the death of its child. After reading this article, people will absolutely show deep sympathy to the brave, honest, loyal, pathetic dog and disgust the selfishly, indifferent and inhuman bourgeoisie.
A Dog’s Tale was a short novel written in 1903 and it was Mark twain’s later work. Mark Twain showed his humor through a different angle of view in A Dog’s Tale. Through the humorous and ironic words, a real scene and hypocritical personality of human come into our sight. Mark Twain didn’t adopt complex language, but just used some simple words and are quite easy to be understood. His literary language in this novel was simple, precise, subtle and also humorous and ironic. Also, he used many kinds of figures of speech, such as simile, metaphor, hyperbole, personification and so on. Through the comparison between the behavior of the two dogs (the narrator and its mother) and that of the human beings, we can sense that the author is critical to human being, and through the behaviors of the dogs, we can also see the expectations of the author to human being. While reading between lines, we can easily feel the power of his sarcastic words. For example, we know from the first part the dog’s mother was kind-hearted, gentle and well-educated, but the more descriptions of its mother Mark Twain gives, the more deeply he satirizes human beings, who are hypocritical, ugly, and brutal and who will do whatever can help achieve their dirty purposes. It is really unbelievable and ironic that a dog is more humane than human, the most advanced animals in the world.
2. Literature review:
There are many scholars who study Mark Twain in the world. They studied his masterpieces from different angles. Some studied his humor, satire and reflection of human nature. For example, Yangjiezhi from jiujiang, china, he wrote a paper studying Mark Twain from the aspects of human nature, humor, conscience and will. Some studied Mark Twain’s refraction in his works. Mawenna, from Shandong province, wrote “The Shadow of Mark Twain Reflected in his works” In this paper, she focuses on the relation between Mark Twain and his works, especially the two novels “The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn” and “The Adventure of Tom Sawyer”. She points out that one of the reasons why Mark Twain’s works are so famous is that his works are tightly related to the great writer’s life, experience, ideas and the society in which he lived. The entire above are reflected in his works, especially in the two masterpieces “The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn” and “The Adventure of Tom Sawyer”. Some studied his sense of religion from the work “Diary of Adam and Eve”. Other studied his ingenious idea of art.
So far, most of scholars who studied Mark Twain think he humorous exaggerated but not lose the truth. His early works are very optimistic. However, toward the end of his life, plagued by personal tragedy and financial failure, twain grew more and more pessimistic. He subjected to criticism and satire from the society to the whole human. “The Dog’s Tale” is his later work. And by far there are rare scholars study this story. The Chinese famous writer Lu xun’s thinks he became humorist in order to live, but later confirmed he was very pessimistic about the society. YinGuiPing from Shanxi University thinks the writing technique of this novel — use of contrast. Throughout the novel, twain revealed the evil of humanity through the kindness of animal. And she think after reading this short story, she can’t just for a dog misery and heartache, more human meanness and pain. Mark Twain wrote in his autobiography: in the last five years of my life, I’ve been truly dedicated to the research of human. The dog’s tale and many short stories after all successfully explain: Mark Twain is indeed a great humanity researcher (Shanxi: 100pct pieces, more college.i 2, 2001)
This paper will analyze Mark Twain’s works from the perspective of rhetoric: based on the reports of the rhetoric in “a dog’s tale”, highlighted the writer’s intention of writing. For example, people feel upset about the lame foot of Mavourneen Aileen and it looked as if they were to cry is a personification. The vanity of the dog’s mother and the humility of the dog make a comparison. Through the analysis of the rhetorical ontology and vehicles, then highlighted the present situation of people’s life, thus reveal the deeper meaning of this short story and broaden the reader’s imaginary space. The dog’s tale is Twain’s late masterpiece and so far there is few academics study on it.
3. Analysis of Figures of speech in A Dog’s Tale
It is a figure of speech which makes a comparison between two unlike elements having at least one quality or characteristic in common. To make the comparison, words like as, as…as, as if and like are used to transfer the quality we associate with one to the other. Simply stated, a simile makes a comparison between two things using the words like or as. The words like or as are the distinguishing characteristic of a simile. Simile adds depth and excitement to fiction writing.
In A Dog’s Tale, Mark Twain used a few similes. For example, “she had one word which she always kept on hand, and ready, like a life-preserver, a kind of emergency word to strap on when she was likely to get washed overboard in a sudden way—that was the word Synonymous.” The word is like a life-preserver for the dog’s mother. Here, the subject is the word, the knowledge of the dog’s mother. The word is like a life-preserver implied the word is the powerful weapon for the dog’s well-educated mother to get and save her reputation when she shows off to other dogs. In the first part of novel, the dog’s mother was kind-hearted, gentle and well-educated, but the more descriptions Mark Twain gives to its mother, the more deeply he satirizes human beings, who are hypocritical, ugly, and brutal and who will do whatever can help achieve their dirty purposes. The simile used here made the work humorous, plus, it was though-provoking. The dog’s mother shows off her word is a good refraction of the hypocritical human being.
“She would say the word, as calm as a summer’s dayâ€¦” the dog’s mother behaves as calm as a summer’s day. Summer always makes people excited and happy. Here the dog’s well-educated feels so excited and so proud of showing her knowledge and she is so happy and so satisfied about that. The author used these two similes to reflect some certain hypocritical, ugly faces in reality. Moreover, it is really unbelievable and ironic that a dog is more humane than human, the most advanced animals in the world.
In the third part, the author described the dog’s two owners, Mrs. Gray and her daughter like this “Mrs. Gray was thirty, and so sweet and so lovely, you cannot imagine it; and Sadie was ten, and just like her motherâ€¦” Sadie was just like her mother, so she was sweet and lovely too. The descriptive words for these two were simple but meaningful. In fact, both of them were kind to the dog. On one hand, the author used these beautiful words to show there exited some kind people in the world; on the other hand, they were in contract to the hypocritical, ugly and brutal faces.
It is like a simile, also makes a comparison between two unlike elements, but unlike a simile, this comparison is implied rather than stated. It uses attributive or predicative structure to express the relationship between subject and vehicle. Similes use like or as but metaphor does not. Metaphor has three functions: descriptiveness, instructiveness and illustrative.
In the first part of A Dog’s Tale, the author also used metaphor to describe the dog’s mother. “She was a daisy” the dog’s mother was as fresh as a daisy when she told other dogs with the phrases, which she did not know the meaning by herself. The dog’s mother made good use of other dog’s ignorance to get proud and reputation. The dog’s mother was full of vanity while other dogs just followed blindly. The profound meaning of the metaphor was that it showed the ugly side of human being in a good way. Other dogs were the refraction of people who trim the sails. In the dog’s eyes, she thought her mother “she was just a soldier”. Yes! The dog’s mother was so brave to show her “knowledge” and got so much victory. The dog thought there was more to her than her education. Metaphor has more than descriptiveness. The dog made people moved because she loved her mother so deeply. From the other angle, the dog was so innocent. She did not care about if what her mother had done was wrong or right, she just respected her mother from the bottom of her heart and remember her mother’s words deep in heart. The first part was all about the dog’s mother, who had a profound impact to her child’s later life.
There was one famous and humorous sentence in the novel “my other bones were saved” my other bones meant the dog’s rest of life. It is metonymy. The dog’s so naive and deeply believes in its owner, however, human doesn’t treat it as it deserve. The poor little doggie, it saved its owner’s child and was rewarded by lame leg. After reading, I have a deeper impression of a brave, honest, loyal, pathetic dog more than the social meaning Mark Twain want to express. The dog show me a positive attitude to life, that is, no matter how people treat you, do what you think is right. At the same time it implied that the male master is said to be a scientist who means that he is admirable. Indeed he is cold-blooded, selfish and lack of sympathy as well as intelligence.
It is the deliberate use of overstatement or exaggeration to achieve emphasis. A recognized figure of rhetoric, meaning an extravagant statement or assertion, which, when used for conscious effect, is not to be taken too seriously or too literally. Yet the hyperbole is often used unconsciously by the men of vivid yet unbalanced imagination whom the world sometimes calls liars and sometimes fools.
In the third part, the dog saved the baby, which I think is the most wonderful part. The dog “sprang to the floor in her fright, and in a second was half-way to the door; but in the next-half second her mother’s farewell was sounding in her ears, and she was back on the bed again.” A second! What a speed! This was the instinct for everyone when he was in danger. I can not see any selfishness in the dog. In the next-half she reminded her mother’s words, so she went back to save the baby out of danger. The hyperbole used here clearly showed the dog’s kindness. Although she hesitated at the very beginning, she saved the baby just in time. Compared to the male master owner, who beat the dog without any sympathy or any consideration, the dog was a great hero, which was much better than the human being.
The dog’s life rose and fell in the third part. After people knowing the truth that the dog saved the baby. The owner just seemed to worship her. “They couldn’t seem to make me a bed that was fine enough; and as for food, they couldn’t be satisfied with anything but game and delicacies that were out of season;” the dog seemed became the king of the family. The hyperbole made the content vivid and though-provoking. A dog deserved such a great treat. It was out of question. I think the author wants to embody people’s selfishness. The owner treated the dog so well because the dog did good deed for them. What if one day the dog harms the people? The dog will be sorry. Maybe that is the nature of humans and unfortunately animals become the victims.
It gives human form of feelings to animals, or life and personal attributes to inanimate objects, or to ideas and abstractions. Personification can make the content vivid and full of intimacy. In “the dog’s tale”, it made it! “The nurse was out, and we two sleepers were alone” we two sleepers, sounded everything was quiet and so peaceful. It showed a warm home for the readers. But what happened later made the warm atmosphere became nothing. The dog’s life was unstable all the time. I think the underlying meaning here is that Mark Twain has looked into the society so deep. In his times, America was unstable all the time. And Mark twain changed all he had seen into writing.
When the dog got his innocence, people treated so well. However, when people asked the owner about the dog’s lime leg, the owners looked ashamed and changed the subject. And people “it looked to me as if they were going to cry” seemingly, it was full of intimacy. Actually, it showed the hypocritical and ugly and relentless side of human being. The animal was so kind to them but they just treated him in a rude way. What’s worse, they hid the truth. They were so disgusting.
Comparison was through the whole novel. Mark twain showed people’s evil by animal’s kindness. The dog’s excellent qualities compares with people’s base; “I” am kind to people but they treat me rude and kill my child; the dog’s modest compares her mother’s proud and vanity; all these represent the dog’s misery and people’s base. Mark twain once said in his autobiography “during the last five years of my life, I contribute myself to study the human being”. He just did it in “a dog’s tale”. He is a great writer to study on human being.
In my mind, Mark Twain is a particularly brilliant writer. He has a wide knowledge of humanity and he revealed it through a dog’s eyes in a sarcastic ways. Actually, I have never thought of such an impressive way as Mark Twain did. In this novel, the dog saved the host’s baby from fire but was beaten by him for misunderstanding. In the end, the dog’s baby even killed by its host for his stupid experiment.
After studying the figures of speech of “a dog’s tale”, I better understand it and its author. More importantly, through the analysis of the rhetorical ontology and vehicles, then highlighted the present situation of people’s life, thus reveal the deeper meaning of this short story and broaden the reader’s imaginary space. At the same time, understand and master the characteristics of simile and the like in English masterpiece. This can help us better understand the masterpiece and enjoy it better. What is more, we can learn more language skills. All these can help us to be well cultured in literature.
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