Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Topic: Why Read Literature? Significant Sentences (3)

One-minute review: Some of those “significant sentences” are in the three groups of sentences that follow. These significant sentences had meaning to me as interesting insights into living and life. Each of these “significant sentences,” while obviously related to preceding and following sentences in the book, could stand on it own merit as an idea. As Boswell said of one of Dr. Johnson’s works, “…almost every sentence…may furnish a subject of long meditation.” For me, “significant sentences” are ideas from literature and nonfiction that provoke reflections about life.

Significant Sentences #3: Do you recognize the following sentences and the book from which they were taken?

Dorothea, with all her eagerness to know the truths of life, retained very childlike ideas about marriage. ………. The really delightful marriage must be that where your husband was a sort of father, and could teach you. ………. All men needed the bridle of religion, which properly speaking, was the dread of the Hereafter. ………. For this marriage…is as good as going to a nunnery. ………. We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between breakfast and dinner-time. ………. Certainly, the mistakes that we male and female animals make when we have our own way might fairly raise some wonder that we are so fond of it. ………. Mark my words: in a year from this time that girl will hate him; she looks up to him as an oracle now, and by-and-by she will be at the other extreme.

…correct English is the slang of prigs who write history and essays, and the strongest slang of all is the slang of poets. ………. A prig is a fellow who is always making you a present of his opinions. ………. For in the multitude of middle-aged men who go about their vocations in a daily course determined for them much in the same way as the tie of their cravats, there is always a good number who once meant to shape their own deeds and alter the world a little and the story of their coming to be shapen after the average and fit to be picked by the gross, is hardly ever told even in their consciousness, for perhaps their ardor in generous unpaid toil cooled as imperceptibly as the ardor of other youthful loves.

You never hear of a reform, but it means some trick to put in new men. ………. But Dorothea remembered it to the last with the vividness with which we all remember epochs in our experience when some dear expectation dies, or some new motive is born. ………. The effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffuse: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life and rest in unvisited tombs.

The first group of significant sentences is from Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. The second is from Tolstoy’s War and Peace. The third group of sentences is from George Eliot’s Middlemarch.

To be continued.

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