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Functional Stylistic Analysis of "Cat in the Rain"

Author WuYou
Tutor WangYong
School Central China Normal University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords functional linguistics metafunctions "Cat in the Rain" discourse analysis
Type Master's thesis
Year 2009
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Currently, literary criticism and stylistic analysis are the two main approaches to the study of literary works. But most of the works are analyzed from the former perspective while very few are appraised by using the systemic functional linguistics developed by M.A.K. Halliday.Using the systemic functional linguistics in text analysis could achieve two aims: to understand and evaluate a text. Functional text analysis reveals the theme and shows how meaning is conveyed through language.This paper attempts to analyze Hemingway’s short story "Cat in the Rain" in terms of Halliday’s systemic functional linguistics, to find out how the theme is expressed via language and enable readers to understand and appreciate the story better.The paper firstly presents the basic framework of the systemic functional linguistics and the detailed structure of this paper and then reviews the basic theoretical framework of functional grammar and its applications including the analysis which has been done upon this short story. After the literature review, the author analyzes the short story from the three metafunctional perspectives: ideational (the transitivity system), interpersonal (the mood and modality), and textual (thematic structure and cohesion).Through the metafunctional analysis, we make the following major findings:1. Though Hemingway says nothing of the couple’s relationship or their personalities, the analysis of interpersonal meaning realized through mood system, modality and speech role functions reveal that the husband and wife are emotionally estranged and their relationship is sour. The husband is quite indifferent, cold, and uncaring for his wife, while his wife, being unloved and ignored, is dissatisfied with her life. Besides, the analysis of the role exchange in their dialogue indicates that the two are not on equal footing with each other. It is the husband who is in the dominating position. The wife is subordinate to the husband. By comparison, the hotel-keeper and the maid care for the wife and are willing to be of some help to her. They are warm-hearted and considerate.2. Through the analysis of the ideational function, we can see that the husband, having few material processes, are lazy and lethargic and the wife, undergoing many mental processes, is dissatisfied with her indifferent and uncaring husband and her life. She wants to be loved and have someone to love. She desires for things she doesn’t get in her marriage and life: affection, love, romance, sweet home, pleasure, and happiness. Besides, the analysis of the setting also shows that the husband and wife are strangers and foreigner in the dwelling place. They are homeless and lonely there.3. The analysis of thematic structure and cohesive devices enable us to get a clear view of how the whole story is developed. The thematic structure reveals that Hemingway describes things in a similar way as camera records things. He uses marked Theme for the cohesion of the text or to foreground some information. And repetition and referential chains are prominent features of the story. Repetition of words and structure contribute much to the depiction of the wife’s desire for love and dislike of her dull life. The referential chains revolving around cat, the wife, the husband respectively help to put the short story in an organized, unified whole with profound meanings.The paper shows that functional analysis and interpretation gives insight into the characteristics of language, relationship between characters and their personalities as well as the theme of the text. Linguistics can provide objective measure for the analysis of the literary works, and offer the readers’ subjective comprehension towards literary works on linguistically concrete and objective basis.

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