In “The Chase” by Annie Dillard, the actual chase sequence is only six paragraphs long, a relatively short selection. But when read by the reader the passage seems to be much longer than only six paragraphs. This effect is made possible through Dillard’s excellent use of description, details, transitions, repetition, sentence variety, parallelism, point of view, and tension. “He ran after us, and we ran away from him, up the snowy Reynolds sidewalk. At the corner, I looked back; incredibly, he was still after us. He was in city clothes: a suit and tie, street shoes.
Any normal adult would have quit, having sprung us into flight and made his point. This man was gaining on us. He was a thin man, all action. All of a sudden, we were running for our lives. ”(105) In this paragraph we see the very detailed style of writing that Dillard uses to keep the reader engaged in the story. The excellent imagery in this passage puts the reader right into the action. Another example of great imagery is: “He chased Mikey and me around the yellow house and up a backyard path we knew by heart: under a low tree, up a bank, through a hedge, down some snowy steps, and across a grocery store’s delivery driveway.
We smashed through a gap in another hedge entered a scruffy backyard and ran around its back porch and tight between houses to Edgerton Avenue; we ran across Edgerton to an alley and up our own sliding woodpile to Halls’ front yard; he kept coming. We ran up Lloyd street and wound through mazy back yards toward the steep hilltop at Willard and Lang. ”(105-106) They way Dillard uses the actual street names and names of houses really gives the story a sense of homeness; as if this city could be your very own hometown. The short prepositional phrases also put you right into the action.
“Wordless, we split up. ”(105) is how the transition to the next paragraph reads. This very unique transition is unlike most transitions that would tell the reader how far the chase has gone or how much time has expired. But, Dillard’s story lacks these time markers, thus making a short period of time seem much longer. The transitions to the next couple paragraphs also lack time markers. Paragraph 12, “He chased Mikey and me around the yellow house…. ”. Paragraph 13 “He chased us silently, block after block”. Paragraph 14 “Mikey and I had nowhere to go”.
No concept of time can be drawn from any of these transitions, so for all the reader knows two hours have passed. One cannot tell. Little children always see things much bigger than they actually are. The fact that this story is written from the point of view of a seven year old, is of great credit to Dillard as she perfectly puts that childish grandeur to great use in this story. All the streets seem twice as long, the man seems twice as big and fast, and everything takes more time because Dillard puts the reader into the body of a little seven year old child in a huge unfathomable world.
“He chased us silently, block after block. He chased us silently over picket fences, through thorny hedges, between houses, around garbage cans, and across streets. ”(106) Here we see the use of repetition used effectively to lengthen out the story. We can also see the use of the short prepositional phrases that lengthen the story. “Mikey and I had nowhere to go, in our own neighborhood or out of it, but away from this man who was chasing us. He impelled us forward; we compelled him to follow our route.
The air was cold; every breath tore my throat. We kept running, block after block; we kept improvising, backyard after backyard, running a frantic course and choosing it simultaneously, failing always to find small places or hard places to slow him down, and discovering always, exhilarated, dismayed, that only bare speed could save us – for he would never give up, this man – we were losing speed. ”(106) Two writing techniques were used very well in this paragraph. The first was repetition and the second parallelism.
All the verbs in each sentence use the same tense. “Running” and “Choosing”. “Impelled” and “Compelled”. This use of parallelism is another way that Dillard lengthened out the story. Also the repetition has the same effect. Sentences like “block after block” and “backyard after backyard”. Throughout “The Chase” sequence we see that Dillard’s effective use of description, details, transitions, repetition, sentence variety, parallelism, point of view, and tension lengthens the story and makes it seem much longer than it actually is.
Courtney from Study Moose
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