Dissertation
Dissertation > Language, writing > FOREIGN > English > Semantics,vocabulary,semantic

Grace under Pressure—Analysis of Speech Acts in the Old Man and the Sea under Narrative Focalizations

Author ZhangLiYu
Tutor XuHuanRong
School Hangzhou University of Electronic Science and Technology
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords The Old Man and the Sea narrative focalizations speech acts the characteristics of the old man grace under pressure
CLC H313
Type Master's thesis
Year 2012
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The Old Man and the Sea, one of Hemingway’s representative works, contributed a lot to hiswinning the 1954’s Nobel Prize in Literature. It has attracted vast attention from numerous scholarsboth home and abroad; however, no studies have been found done from the combination of thetheories of narrative focalizations and speech acts. The thesis adopts this unique and innovative wayto investigate into the old man’s image and its implied social significance based on a rationalclassification of focalizations in combination with the pragmatic property of narrative language as aspeech act.Narrative focalization as an essential narrative strategy is a structural category. Traditionalresearch on it mainly focuses on its classification but neglects its speech act nature. Since thenarrative focalization has to be realized through language, it acquires the speech act property,carrying out some illocutionary function via conveying some propositional contents and achievessome perlocutionary effects. This thesis identifies two kinds of focalization, i.e., the externalfocalization and the internal focalization, based on the position of the focalizer, with the formerhaving the focalizer outside the story, and the latter inside. The internal focalization is sub-classifiedinto the first-person retrospective and experiencing focalizations and the third-person experiencingfocalization, while the external focalization into the traditional first-person and third-personomniscient focalizations, the second-person focalization, and the camera-type focalization.In The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway swam between the internal and externalfocalizations with great mastery, rendering the old man’s grace under pressure via a probe into hisinner thoughts and an external examination of his harsh living conditions and of his appearance andreactions. The external focalization is embodied in the traditional third-person omniscientfocalization and the camera-type focalization, both working together to reflect the pressure the oldman is faced with. The propositional act the camera-type focalization performs is to make it explicitthe old man’s living conditions; its illocutionary act is to expose the harshness of the old man’ssituation, including his poverty-stricken life, lack of luck and humiliation; the perlocutionary act isto make readers feel great pity for him. Under the third-person omniscient focalization, thepropositional act is to focalize the internal and external behaviors of the old man; the illocutionaryact is to evaluate the old man’s behaviors from the omniscient and authoritative narrator’s angle; theperlocutionary act is to make readers sense the old man’s grace. The external focalization isdominated by objective depictions and the comments from the narrator.The internal focalization is realized by the third-person experiencing focalization achieved by a large number of monologues of Santiago, which further consist in a mixture of direct speech,indirect speech and free direct speech. The propositional act is to focalize the old man’s innerconsciousness; the illocutionary act is to show the old man’s rich, profound and contradictory innerthoughts; the perlocutionary act is to make narratees deeply touched by the old man’s gracereflected through his confidence, bravery and optimism, as if they could walk into the old man’sheart and see what he is thinking about with no distance.The shift of focalizations makes narratees impressed by the old man’s grace under muchpressure and inspired by his spirit: When facing cruel social realities and miserable fate, man shouldbe brave and fight against all the pains and treasure life; the meaning of life lies neither in "success",nor in "failure", but in the fight itself.The thesis adopts the methods of theoretic analysis and close text reading, aiming at the innerlogic of narrative focalization variation in the function of speech acts with the purpose of diggingout the masterful narrative skills of the author. This approach fits into the interdisciplinary trend inliterary studies, which is a new attempt at the development of relevant theories and practices interms of novel studies.

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