In many of his works, Samuel Johnson uses examples and anecdotes to demonstrate his point. These are effective not only because of their relevance but also because of the way Johnson uses wording and structure to portray them. The following passage is a good example of the way Johnson uses individual words to emphasize his point, therefore overtly and subtly convincing the reader he is right.

Thus furnished with irresistible artillery, he turned his batteries upon the female world, and, in the first warmth of self-approbation, proposed no less than the possession of riches and beauty united. He therefore paid his civilities to Flavilla, the only daughter of a wealthy shopkeeper, who not being accustomed to amorous blandishments, or respectful addresses, was delighted with the novelty of love, and easily suffered him to conduct her to the play, and to meet her where she visited. Leviculus did not doubt but her father, however offended by a clandestine marriage, would soon be reconciled by the tears of his daughter, and the merit of his son-in-law, and was in haste to conclude the affair. But the lady liked better to be courted than married, and kept him three years in uncertainty and attendance. At last she fell in love with a young ensign at a ball, and having danced with him all night, married him in the morning.

This description shows outwardly that this man's actions are devious and greedy, but Johnson's words accent his description, imbuing the reader with not only his outward meaning, but also an artistic sense of his point.

Questions

What is the significance of word choices such as artillery, batteries, blandishments and suffered? What effect do these words have on the argument as a whole?

Johnson's second sentence beginning with "He therefore paid his civilities to Flavilla...?" is divided by commas into seven different sections. What is the stylistic effect of a sentence this long? What does Johnson gain by putting these thoughts into one sentence?

Why does Johnson end the passage with the woman marrying a man she met the previous night? Why not just state that she married someone else?

How do Johnson's word choices compare to those of Tom Wolfe in "The Pump House Gang"? What kinds of words does Wolfe use to get his point across? How are his strategies different from Johnson's?


Website Overview Screen Before Victoria Samuel Johnson Leading Questions

24 February 2005