Analysis of Ragtime
The extract taken for the analysis tells about the time when Coalhouse becomes a good job with the Jim Europe Chief Club Orchestra and tries to bring Sarah back. The novel is written in a very specific manner. This style is called telegraphic. It means that the author’s speech is dry, has no vivid descriptions of characters, their feelings and their surroundings. To show some changes in the life of the characters the author uses rather syntactical devices than stylistic ones.
In order to show something new in the life of the main characters the author uses inversion (“Such was the coming of the colored man in the car to Broadway Avenue”). Another sign of the telegraphic style is the use of asyndeton (“The driver was looking right and left as if trying to find a particular address; he turned the car around at the corner and came back. ”) and polysyndeton (“He sat on the piano stool and immediately rose and twirled it till the height was to his satisfaction”).
E. L. Doctorow uses these devices to create the atmosphere which characterizes the scene of the novel can remind the readers the rhythm of ragtime. In this extract another specific stylistic device is also used. The author reproduces the speech of the characters without using direct or indirect speech. This also helps to create a rhythm (“The boy realized he meant the woman in the attic. She’s here”, “What can you play? He said abruptly. Why don’t you play something for us? ”).
The members of the family that shelters Sarah have no names (Mother, Father, the boy, Grandfather and Mother’s Younger brother). The author does this in such a manner because these characters are important but not the main ones. First of all this novel is about the music and a hard life of a black musician at the beginning of the 20th century. Many stylistic devices are used here. But we can say that most of them serve to describe the music Coalhouse played and the impression it makes on the listeners. In order to create this E.
L. Doctorow uses metaphors (“Small clear chords hang in the air”, “The most famous rag of all rang through the air”, “music that roused senses and never stood still a moment”, “The boy perceived it as light touching various places in space, accumulating in intricate patterns until the entire room was made to glow with its own being”), epithets (“syncopating chords and the thumping octaves”, “the most robust composition”, “mute and unforgiving Sarah”), and similes ( “chords like flowers”, “The melodies were like bouquets”).
Repetition is also used in this extract. In order to create the rhythm of the text the author uses anaphora (“She told him to wait and closed the door. She climbed to the third floor. She found the girl Sarah…”, “…always knocking at the back door. Always turning away without compliant…”), epiphora (“There was a silence…There was another silence”), and repetition of verbs (“The colored man took another glance at the child, rose, thanked her and departed”).
To sum everything up we can say that all the stylistic and syntactical devices used in this extract of the novel “Ragtime” by E. L. Doktorow serve the only purpose – to create the atmosphere of rag, to reproduce its rhythm with the help of words. Music can be regarded here as a symbol of hope. With the help of music Coalhouse tries to bring Sarah back and hopes that music would also give him enough money for living. So we can say that music is one of the main characters of the novel because it plays a big part in lives of the other characters and influences all of them.