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How does Peake’s choice of form structure and language shape meaning in the spire

Peake is a well known writer who has gained global recognition for his unique style and literary technique.. ‘Titus Groan’ is book one of his classic Gormenghast Trilogy. So powerful is the impact of this book that the New Yorker described it as, ‘a gorgeous volcanic eruption…a work of extraordinary imagination’. Others have gone on to say that Titus Groan is ‘dreamlike, fantastic and macabre … one of most astonishingly sustained flights of the imagination in modern English fiction.’ Peake has through his writing demonstrated an ability to fascinate, influence and torment the reader. He does this in a number of ways.One is through the dramatic use of punctuation. An example is the unorthodox use of hyphenation. See the following example in which Peake effectively conveys the fear in Flay’s mind.”… his thoughts flowed back to the day of the Christening when he had slashed at the great soft face- to the night when he had watched the rehearsal of his murder-to that horrible sack that had been he – to the day of the debauchery of the Great Kitchens- to the horrors of the hooting Earl – to a hundred memories of his tormentor, whose face in his imagination opened out before him in the darkness like something septic.”The extensive use of hyphenated words throws outburst after outburst at the reader, conveying the fear and panic in Flays mind. Peake manages to make the reader sense the passage of broken thought through Flays mind enabling the reader to experience fear and panic. It is as if Peake has been able to intra venously transport Flay’s consciousness into that of the reader..In the four pages under discussion Peake uses the hyphen not only to position the reader in the mind of his characters, but also as a close up audience.Another extraordinary feature of Peake’s work is his ability to generate the visual effect, often more effective than a painter with his painting or a photographer through his photos. In doing this he is able to generate a feeling of empathy for his protagonist.This is in evidence in the following passage.”By day, the heat of the dead light; by darkness, the vomiting of the sick room. There was no escaping. The season had come down.”An effective portrayal of the essence of Gormenghast-a place plagued by mental illness and decay where adherence to tradition is an end in itself. Not surprisingly even the Earl of Gormenghast suffers from mental illness. Peake’s clever use of the imagery of vomit and dead light to signal decay and sickness is compelling. Thegothic imagery symbolizing tradition also effectively presses the point of mindless that results in decay and rot of Gormenghast.Minutely detailed descriptions are another of Peake’s trademark devices. He uses them to breathe life, vividness and colour to his situations. See the following passage;”…against the pale yellow glow could be distinguished the silhouette of Sweter’s upper volume. It was quite simple. It curved up and over in one black dome. There seemed to be no head.”Peake’s extensive use of detail to capture and amplify the feeling of disgust that Flay has towards Swelter’s body is a master stroke. Also note the use of short sentences to generate a feeling of precision and decisiveness. The imagery of the black dome dehumanizing Swelter conveys the feeling of a dark figureless dysfunctional creature.The text in general belongs to the romantic Gothic genre. The setting and descriptions especially that of the castle is reflective of this. Even though a few elements of the gothic genre like the use of the first person is missing,, yet we are able to classify ‘Titus Groan’ as belonging to the gothic genre. Evidence of Peake’s continuous use of romance as parody can be seen in the following passage;”Mr Swelter was nursing it in his arms as though he was suckling it.”In this passage Swelter is shown ashaving a conversation with his cleaver – as though it were his child. Peake shows us the consequences of a dysfunctional relationship. Swelter who is unable to care for those who serve him as kitchen boys is more than able to care for the cleaver as though it were his very own son, even promising to wipe it dry with his silk handkerchief. It is ironic howSwelter is able to show more love for inanimate objects (his cleaver).That Swelter prefers to relate to inanimate objects while being unable to care for humans who serve him is another twist in Peake’s portrayal of the dysfunctional nature of Gormenghast where tradition and ritual are worshipped.The use of pathetic fallacy also adds to the gothic character of the passage and text as a whole.”It was more than that – it was that the darkness was omnipresent.”Darkness is nothingness. Usually we associate God with omnipresence, but here Peake has chosen to use the opposite by associating the qualities of God with nothingness. In the Godless world of Gormenghast chance dominates.Peake also uses rhetoric to engage the reader and to show bewilderment in Flay’s mind and consciousness.”And then, suddenly, what was it that had changed? He had shut his eyes for a moment and on opening them the air had altered. Was the heat even more horrible?”These questions challenge the reader by inviting them to imagine what could have been really happening in Gormenghast.Another feature of Peake’s writing is the impact it creates in the mind of the reader by exposing him to incredibly detailed descriptions of the context. One way he does this is by discussing exact dimensions and measurements – an almost ‘paranoiac denseness of detail’ .”The passageway was narrow at this point, broadening about forty to fifty feet further down the corridor to the dimensions of the hall, whence the second…”Towards the end of the chosen extract Peake uses an epic simile which may be compared to ‘Milton’s’ technique in ‘Lost Paradise’ , wherein the length of the similie is unusually long, it is related to the analogy of the greek literature.”…as lazes through long grass the lethal scythe.”This rather long simile allows Peake to decribe the choppingof Swelters ear in a precise manner.In conclusion it seems reasonable to say that Peake is a powerful writer whose unique style compels us to places it in a genre all of its own – a modern classic.

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