All can relate to that one special time of the year, Christmas, when whole families unite and spend hours endlessly sharing stories, making memories, and of course, opening presents! What happens though, when all of the sentimental value of Christmas is replaced solely with physical value, the gifts? What would Christmas be like then? Richard Rodriguez takes the readers through one of his annual Christmases and brings to light, through his thoughts, the disconnect that exists between himself, his siblings, and his parents. Rodriguez’ chronological presentation of events with flashbacks, short, abrupt syntax, light-hearted attention to detail and concerned tone contribute to suggest his worried attitude toward his family.
Rodriguez builds a sense of the lacking sentimentality through the syntax, using short, abrupt sentences to show how the family’s Christmas is just another thing done every year and not a special time. These short, abrupt sentences are down to the basics. There is no “fluff” just like there is no sentiment in Christmas. This style of syntax mirrors the sentimentality of the family. It is nothing but another stop. “The room grows uncomfortably warm. The talk grows listless.” The family has finished the business of opening gifts and they are ready to move on to their next event.
Rodriguez adds little detail at first to create a lighthearted mood associated with the positive parts of Christmas. “So you’ll have to buy me soft food and put a blue wig on my head.” Later in the prose, Rodriguez’ selection of detail is used to show the physical items that have taken over in place of sentimental things. “a shiny mink jacket,…” “…where expensive foreign cars idle sharply.” Details like these are used throughout the second half of the passage to add to the loss of sentimentality within the family.
Rodriguez uses dialogue throughout the passage to add effects and to help the reader to understand what the author is experiencing. Rodriguez uses interesting punctuation, parenthesis, to represent his personal thoughts as well as background conversation, where he uses both parenthesis and quotations. “(“we have to get up early tomorrow”),” “(sad that we are all going home?…).” Rodriguez’ personal thoughts are crucial in helping the reader understand the narrative.
Rodriguez’ use of short, abrupt syntax, specific use of details, and interesting punctuation in the dialogue makes the narrative of his annual family Christmas become much deeper with an underlying worrisome, concerned tone and an emphasis of the loss of sentimentality of not only family Christmas but of family as a whole.
Courtney from Study Moose
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