Inside an emotional state

Reading Tom Sawyer to my children at the moment, and tis mighty powerful stuff in places, and even though the language is very difficult at times it is so evocative they go with it.

Twain is brilliant at getting inside emotional states and sounding them out fully to convey their nature and complexity and subtle shifting over time. Such pieces show why we need good writing:

Here Aunt Polly has just scolded Tom for something that for once he was innocent of.

"Tom sulked in a corner, and exalted his woes. He knew that in her heart his aunt was on her knees to him, and he was morosely gratified by the consciousness of it. He would hang out no signals, he would take notice of none. He knew that a yearning glance fell upon him, now and then, through a film of tears, but he refused recognition of it. He pictured himself lying sick unto death and his aunt bending over him, beseeching one little forgiving word, but he would turn his face to the wall, and die without that word said. Ah, how would she feel then? And he pictured himself brought home from the river, dead, with his curls all wet, and his poor hands still for ever, and his sore heart at rest. How she would throw herself upon him, and how her tears would fall like rain, and her lips pray God to give her back her boy, and she would never, never abuse him any more! But he would lie there cold and white and make no sign – a poor little sufferer whose griefs were at an end. He so worked upon his feelings with the pathos of these dreams that he had to keep swallowing – he was so like to choke … And such a luxury to him was this petting of his sorrow, that he could not bear to have any wordly cheeriness or any grating delight intrude upon it … This picture brought such agony of pleasurable suffering that he worked it over and over again in his mind and set it up in new and varied lights till he wore it threadbare."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great passage - plucked me right out of web dev and into the mind of young Tom.