Lawrence and Repetition

Jamie Effros '03, English 171, Sages and Satirists, Brown University, 2002

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Throughout Twilight in Italy, Lawrence accounts his experiences through alternating sections of descriptive and analytical prose. He poetically moves through very evocative descriptions of events and surroundings, then continues into an analytical exploration of an event or object's deeper meaning. Within this general structuring of observable-to-theoretical, Lawrence uses certain techniques to color his prose, the most noticeable of which is repetition.

Often times in his descriptive sections, Lawrence will repeat a descriptive word or phrase in back-to-back passages. Sometimes an entire concept will even be reiterated in consecutive passages, as in the following:

So she stood in the sunshine on the little platform, old and yet like the morning, erect and solitary, sun-coloured, sun-discoloured, whilst I at her elbow, like a piece of night and moonshine, stood smiling into her eyes, afraid lest she should deny me existence.

Which she did. She had stopped talking, did not look at me anymore, but went on with her spinning, the brown shuttle twisting gaily. So she stood, belonging to the sunshine and weather, taking no more notice of me than the dark-stained caper-bush which hung from a wall above her head, whilst I, waiting at her side, was like the moon in the daytime sky, overshone, obliterated, in spite of my black clothes.

This second passage is a basic repetition of the first with only a tiny amount of expansion on the image. Lawrence repeats not only the "whilst I" phrase, but also the entire opposition of his night-like presence against the sunny description of the woman. This type of repetition with only the smallest amount of expansion between one thought and the next often reads more like oratory than written prose. Reiteration is a widely used technique in classical and contemporary oratory. Lawrence's re-worded and slightly expanded repetitions often look very much like a written thought processes or stream-of-consciousness, where ideas are constantly being re-hashed. Is it possible that Lawrence's text was meant to be read aloud? If not, how do his repetitions serve him as a literary or rhetorical techniques? Do they help us to better understand his ideas and paint a better picture, or do they interrupt the silent digestion of the reader?

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Last modified 26 October 2003