CHITIKA

Epithet as a stylistic device

Epithet (Greek - "addition") is a stylistic device emphasizing some quality of a person, thing, idea or phenomenon. Its function is to reveal the evaluating subjective attitude of the writer towards the thing described.
Let us have a look at the following sentences describing the participants of the episode from the John Fowles novel. Focus on the words in bold type.

  • Charles put his best foot forward, and thoughts of the mysterious woman be­hind him, through the woods of Ware Commons.
  • It was opened by a small barrel of a woman, her fat arms shiny with suds.
  • He was a bald, vast-bearded man with a distinctly saturnine cast to his face; a Jeremiah.
  • He plainly did not allow delicacy' to stand in the way of prophetic judgment.
  • He seemed to Charles to incarnate all the hypocritical gossip and gossips of Lyme.
  • Charles could hare believed many things of that sleeping face; but never that its owner was a whore.
  • What do all the structures have in common? 
Cases like these are called epithets.
Epithets should not be confused with logical attributes, the latter having no expres­sive force but indicating those qualities of the objects that may be regarded as gener­ally recognized (for instance, round table, green meadows, lofty mountains and the like). Though, it is sometimes difficult to draw a clear line of demarcation between epithet and logical attribute. In some passages the logical attribute becomes so strongly enveloped in the emotional aspect of the utterance that it begins to radiate emotiveness. though by nature it is logically descriptive.


Epithets are deemed to be two-fold in nature as their striking effect is owed both to semantics and structure. Thus. Galperin and Kukharenko classify epithets from at least two standpoints - semantic and structural. The tables below illustrate the two possible ways of division.


Semantically epithets are looked at from different angles, which is reflected in the following:
  • Galperin
Associated epithets are those that point to a feature which is essential to the ob­ject they describe: the idea expressed is to a certain extent inherent in the concept of the object, as in: 'darkforest \ fantastic terrors \ 'dreary midnight'.
Unassociated epithets are attributes used to characterize the object by adding a fea­ture not inherent in it. i.e. a feature which may be so unexpected as to strike the reader by its novelty. The adjectives do not indicate any property inherent in the objects but fitting in the given circum­stances only, as in 'heart-burning smile',
'voiceless sands', 'bootless cries'._
Note: As far as novelty is concerned epithets can be trite and genuine. Through their long run some of the latter have become fixed without losing their poetic flavour. Such epithets are mostly used in folk songs and ballads.

  • Kukharenko

Affective (or emotive proper) epithets serve to convev the emotional evaluation of the object by the speaker. Most of the qualifying words found in the dictionary can be and are used as effective epithets (e.g. gorgeous, magnificent, atrocious)
Figurative for transferred; epithets are
formed of metaphors, metonymies and similes expressed by adjectives. Thus epithets can also be based on similarity of characteristics, on nearness of the quali­fied objects, and on their comparison re­spectively. The third and the first types can be found in this:
7 cannot imagine what Bosch-like pic­ture of Ware Commons Mrs Pouiteney had built up over the years; what satanic orgies she divined behind every tree...' (Fowles) As for the metonymic one. study this: 'Her painful shoes slipped off (Updike)
Note: Skrebnev points out that epithets can be metaphorical, metonymic and ironical.
As far as structural division is concerned, the classifications of the scholars have more points in common. Despite the differences in terms, hi essence they are very much alike. The table below contrasts these two approaches.

Epithets [Structurally)

  • Galperin
Simple
Simple (single) epithets are ordinary adjectives (one epithet is used at a time), as in ' the mysterious woman'.

Compound
Compound epithets are built like some compound adjectives as in 'cloud-shapen giant \
Note: Some of them can be based on a sim­ile, as in 'Bosch-like

Phrase
Phrase epithets can consist of a phrase or even a sentence, in which words are crammed into one language unit. Structural elements generally include: (a) the words expression, air, attitude, and others which describe behaviour or facial expres­sion: (b) attributive clauses beginning with that. Phrase epithets are usually hyphen­ated, thus pointing to the temporary structure of the compound word. They always produce an original impression. For instance, 'a move-if-you-dare expression' (J. Baldwin)

String

The suing (chain) of epithets gives a many-sided description of the object. But in the enumeration of comparatively homogeneous attributes there is always a suggestion of an ascending order of emotive elements, culminating in the last one. as in 'You're a scolding, unjust, abusive, aggravating, bad old creature' (Dickens).

Reversed
Reversed (inverted) epithets are composed of two nouns linked in an of-phrase. The subjective, evaluating, emotional element is embodied not in the noun attribute but in the noun described, as in 'a small barrel of a woman '. The epithets like these are called reversed or inverted as what is syntactically an attribute (of a woman) is, in fact, the word which is really defined.
  • Kukharenko
Simple
Simple (single) epithets are ordinary adjectives (one epithet is used at a time), as in ' the mysterious woman'.

Pair epithets 
Pair epithets are represented by two epi­thets joined by a conjunction or asyndeti-cally, as in: 'wonderful and incomparable beauty7' (Oscar Wilde) or 'a tired old town' (Harper Lee). They are often united by al­literation, as in: 'everyone would be on the lookout of a masked and muffled man' (H G. Wells).
Phrase-Attributes
Phrase epithets can consist of a phrase or even a sentence, in which words are crammed into one language unit. Structural elements generally include: (a) the words expression, air, attitude, and others which describe behaviour or facial expres­sion: (b) attributive clauses beginning with that. Phrase epithets are usually hyphen­ated, thus pointing to the temporary structure of the compound word. They always produce an original impression. For instance, 'a move-if-you-dare expression' (J. Baldwin)
The chain of epithets gives a many-sided description of the object. But in the enumeration of comparatively homogeneous attributes there is always a suggestion of an ascending order of emotive elements, culminating in the last one. as in 'You're a scolding, unjust, abusive, aggravating, bad old creature' (Dickens).
Inverted
Inverted epithets are composed of two nouns linked in an of-phrase. The subjective, evaluating, emotional element is embodied not in the noun attribute but in the noun described, as in 'a small barrel of a woman '. The epithets like these are called reversed or inverted as what is syntactically an attribute (of a woman) is, in fact, the word which is really defined.
Two-step
Two-step epithets are called so because The process of qualifying seemingly passes two stages:
The qualification of the object and the qualification of the qualification itself as in 'a distinctly saturnine cast'.
Two step epithets have a fixed structure of Adv + Adj model.

Read the sentences that follow. Discuss the structure and semantics of epithets used in them in terms covered above. Follow this plan:
1. Structure:
a) Syntactic function or / and part of speech
b) Structural type
2. Semantics;
a) Associated / non-associated type
b) Affective /figurative
c) The type of the figurative epithet.
1. He lias that unmistakable tall lanky "rangy" loose-jointed graceful close-cropped formidably clean American look.    (Murdoch)
2. Across the ditch Doll was having an entirely different reaction. With all his heart and soul, furiously, jealously, vindictively, he was hoping Queen would not win.  (Jones)
3. During the past few weeks she had become most sharply conscious of the smiling interest of Hauptwanger. His straight lithe body - his quick, aggres­sive manner - his assertive, seeking eyes.     (Dreiser)
4. He's a proud, haughty, consequential, turned-nosed peacock.   (Dickens)
5. The Fascisti. or extreme Nationalists, which means black-shirted. knife-carrying, club-swinging, quick-stepping, nineteen-year-old-pot-shot patriots, have worn out their welcome in Italy.      (Hemingway)
6. Where the devil was heaven? Was it up? Down? There was no up or down in a finite but expanding universe in which even the vast, burning, dazzling, ma­jestic sun was in a state of progressive decay that would evennially destroy the earth too.     (Hawkes)
7. She has taken to wearing heavy blue bulky shapeless quilted People's Volun­teers trousers rather than the tight tremendous how-the-West-was-won trou­sers she formerly wore.        (Barthehne)
8. Harrison - a fine, muscular, sun-bronzed, gentle-eyed, patrician-nosed, steak-fed. Oilman-Schooled, soft-spoken, well-tailored aristocrat was an out-and-out leaflet-writing revolutionary at the time.    (Barth)
9.   In the cold. gray, street-washing, milk-delivering, shutters-coming-oii-tlie-shops early morning, the midnight train from Paris arrived in Strasbourg. (Hemingway)

10. She was a faded white rabbit of a woman. (Cronin)
11. And she still has that look, that don't-you-touch-me look that women who were beautiful cany with them to the grave.      (Barth)
12. Ten-thirty is a dark hour in a town where respectable doors are locked at nine. (Capote)
13. He loved the afterswim salt-and-sunshine smell of her hair.  (Banyan)
14. I was to secretly record, with the help of a powerful long-range movie-camera lens, the walking-along-the-Batteiy-in-the-simshine meeting between Ken and Jerry.    (Uhnak)
15. "Thief!" Pilon shouted. "Dirty pig of an untrue friend!"     (Steinbeck)
16. She spent hausfrau afternoons hopping about in the sweatbox of her midget kitchen.    (Capote)
17. He acknowledged an early-afternoon customer with a be-with-you-in-a-minute nod.      (Uhnak)
18. He thoroughly disliked this never-far-from-tragic look of a ham Shakespear­ian actor.   (Hemingway)
19. "What a picture!" cried the ladies. "Oh! The lambs! Oh. the sweets! Oh. the ducks! Oh. the pets!"   (Mansfield)
20. A branch, cracking under his weight sent through the tree a sad cruel thunder. (Capote)
21. There was none of the Old-fashioned Five-Four-Three-Two-One-Zero busi­ness, so tough on the human nervous system.     (Clarke)
22. His shrivelled head bobbed like a dried pod on his frail stick of a body. {Gardner)
23. The children were very brown and filthily dirty. (V. Wool/)
24. Liza Hamilton was a veiy different kettle of Irish. Her head was small and round and it held small and round convictions.        (Steinbeck)
25. He sat with Daisy in his amis for a long silent time.      (Fitzgerald)









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