General Question

troubleinharlem's avatar

Help with sentence clarity?

Asked by troubleinharlem (7978points) October 29th, 2009

Here’s the sentence.

The novel does not simply state that fate or Henchard’s own choices are the results of his own downfall; instead the author’s feelings are shown through other characters around Henchard in Casterbridge.

I feel like that isn’t a very clear sentence… is it a run-on sentence? I honestly can’t tell. I’ve gone through my MLA handbook and the guidelines, and I haven’t found anything.

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25 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

Choices aren’t the result of a downfall in this case, are they? Aren’t they a cause? Or perhaps you meant that they result in his own downfall.

troubleinharlem's avatar

@pdworkin – Ohh, that makes more sense. I don’t think it’s a run on sentence.

troubleinharlem's avatar

@pdworkinUltimately, Hardy created a true character in which the very imperfections, with the help of a conscience and good, occasional deeds, allow him a small bit of redemption.

That doesn’t make sense, does it?
I don’t want a correction – I just want to know if it makes sense at all. xD

dpworkin's avatar

Perfect sense. I love Thomas Hardy.

troubleinharlem's avatar

@pdworkin – I like his books, but writing an analytical essay about him bites. x__x
Thanks so much. ^^

the100thmonkey's avatar

The novel does not simply state that Henchard’s downfall was the result of fate. Nor does it state that it was his own choices that were his undoing. Rather, the author chooses to express his feelings through the characters that surround the protagonist.

RedMosquitoMM's avatar

@the100thmonkey I love your version of the sentence, but it seems to be adding meaning to the original that wasn’t necessarily intended.

To answer the original question: no, it’s not a run-on. Could it be clarified? Yes.

“The novel doesn’t explicitly state that Henchard’s downfall was the result of his own choices; rather, it does so through characters…”

Shegrin's avatar

…decisions…lead to downfall…? Also, is it part of the assignment to include the name of the town and the county at the end of the sentence?

prasad's avatar

@RedMosquitoMM GA.

Well, I understood both sentences-original and @RedMosquitoMM‘s and found meaning the same.
I’m no good at English and English is not my first language.

Haleth's avatar

The sentence looks fine to me. I love semicolons and wish people would use them more often!

RedMosquitoMM's avatar

@Haleth Ha, I use them far too often. My pieces ended up being peppered with them. Then again, maybe I’m my own most scathing editor.

Jeruba's avatar

To make the very least intrusive change while solving the problem:

The novel does not simply state that Henchard’s downfall is the result of fate or Henchard’s own choices; instead the author’s feelings are shown through other characters around Henchard in Casterbridge.

@pdworkin is correct that your original version reverses cause and effect. Fate and choices cause downfall, and not the other way around.

Apart from the logical reversal, it is a well-written sentence and does not need to be reworked further. However, I must ask: are you sure it is the author’s feelings and not his attitudes or beliefs? This answer will depend on what else you are saying about Hardy and Hardy’s own views and how you are developing those themes in your paper.

A semicolon is correct for joining two closely related independent clauses that could otherwise stand as complete sentences. That is what you have here. You could use a period after “choices” and begin a new sentence, but the semicolon implies a link between them that is in fact present, so it is an appropriate mark to use.

I took a whole semester-length course in the novels of Thomas Hardy, nine of them, and wrote several papers. Funny, unlike you, I think I liked writing papers about Hardy better than I liked reading his books. There was always plenty to grab onto.

janbb's avatar

The question has been answered so well by others that it’s hardy worth adding my two cents.

dpworkin's avatar

Well then stfu, Penguin.

janbb's avatar

Hope I wasn’t being too obscure. (I can go on all night like this.)

dpworkin's avatar

what are you, institutionalizable?

janbb's avatar

I looked in a thesauras and the only synonym I could find was “deranged.” Which one are you using?

dpworkin's avatar

my lil head

janbb's avatar

What are you, off your rocker?

dpworkin's avatar

what are you, gormless?

janbb's avatar

pant, pant, pant (runs over from other thread) No, that’s my dog, silly rabbi.

dpworkin's avatar

(insert something about Kosher Trix here)

janbb's avatar

Now that we’ve seriously negated any use this thread had to the original poster…

Jeruba's avatar

Hey, guys, get a thread, will you?

ECassandra's avatar

@RedMosquitoMM gave a great answer, but @Jeruba gave an even greater one. @Jeruba addressed everything that I found unclear about your sentence, and while @Jeruba‘s least intrusive version is great (and probably more helpful than what I have to offer), I would have written it this way to maximize the character count:

While the author does not explicitly state that Henchard’s downfall is the result of fate or of his own choices, analysis of (the behavior of/conversations had by/interactions with) the characters surrounding Henchard in Casterbridge leads to this conclusion.

(Then again, if I was writing the paper, this answer would already have come too late, because I would have been asking the question at 2 AM on the day it was due.)

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