Ralph K. Andrist and Robert P. Tristam Coffin
In two excerpts, “General George Custer” by Ralph K. Andrist and “My Average Uncle” by Robert P. Tristam Coffin, both authors employ language to convey the personalities of their subject. Andrist and Coffin both narratively describe General Custer and Uncle Amos in order to portray the two men’s contrasting personalities. Both authors include connotative diction, dissimilar tones, and contrasting syntax to depict the personalities of General Custer and Uncle Amos.
Andrist and Coffin both utilize connotative contrasting connotative diction throughout their passages. Andrist first describes Custer cynically as “a big-mouthed braggart,” but then later on praises him as a “brave and gallant soldier. ” Andrist’s opposing diction generates an image of how Custer is a man with two different personalities. Meanwhile, Coffin’s colloquial diction underscores Uncle Amos’ simplicity and carefree attitude towards life.
Coffin employs diction as simple as Uncle Amos, referring to him as “the averagest man I [Coffin] ever knew,” as well as often referencing to Uncle Amos as “man” as opposed to Andrist’s incorporation of various nouns when referring to Custer. Both authors make use of diction to portray the personalities of the men they are discussing. Throughout the passages, Andrist and Coffin employ dissimilar tones. Andrist’s shifting tone highlights the shifting personality of Custer.
Andrist first refers to Custer with a tone of admiration, when he describes him as “the brave and gallant soldier and peerless Indian fighter who died heroically and gloriously. ” Later on, however, Andrist uses a condescending tone, when he states that “even Custer’s luck could not explain such a promotion,” unable to believe that Custer attained a high-ranking position. The two contrasting tones exemplify how Andrist feels towards Custer; sometimes he believes he is a great leader, other times he looks down on Custer.
Coffin’s tone, on the other hand, remains consistent throughout the passage. Coffin’s nostalgic tone demonstrates how personal the passage is as he writes about his Uncle Amos with details such as “He was the averagest man I ever knew” and “I spent some of the quietest Sundays of my life in Uncle Amos’ yard…he did not expect me to listen at all. ” Coffin recounts his memories with Uncle Amos by incorporating personal pronouns in order to convey a personal tone. Both authors utilize tone to clearly deliver the personality of General Custer and of Uncle Amos.
The two authors incorporate contrasting syntax throughout their passages. Andrist’s multifarious syntax stresses Custer’s multifarious personality. Andrist integrates a simple sentence, “He was a flamboyant leader,” in order to highlight that despite the previous negative anecdotes Andrist wrote about Custer, he was not completely a flop as a leader. The integration of a simple syntactically structured sentence, within a passage filled with complex syntax, makes that simple sentence stick out because the author wanted to underline the positive part of Custer’s personality.
He also includes a complex sentence, “During the war, he two or three times showed a disconcerting habit…side issue that was more exciting – as time he…about to make their escape; he left his command to take care of itself and make a wild dash to capture the train,” in order to show the other half of Custer’s varied and complex personality. This complicated structured sentence is presented this way to parallel the syntax of the passage to the personality of Custer. In contrast, Coffin’s syntax remains consistent throughout his entire passage.
In addition, Coffin’s simple syntax emphasizes Uncle Amos’ simple attitude, with short and simple sentences, “That was his distinction,” and one-sentence paragraphs such as “Uncle Amos never had a fight. ” These sentences also parallel to the simplicity of Coffin’s subject – the simple Uncle Amos. While both authors include different kinds of syntax, they have the common purpose of syntactically presenting their passages in parallel to the personalities of their subject topics.
Andrist and Coffin both encompass their passages “General George Custer” and “My Average Uncle” with connotative diction, disparate tone, and distinct syntax. The author’s also make use of thorough descriptive sentences to better illustrate the image of their subjects in each passage. Through the authors’ descriptive sentences, the readers are able to visualize the men in their head and understand their personalities, as they read the passages written by Andrist and Coffin.