Break-in-the-Narrative (Appsiopesis) 

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Break-in-the-Narrative (Appsiopesis)

Aposiopesis is a device which dictionaries define as "A stop­ping short for rhetorical effect." This is true. But this definition is too general to' disclose the stylistic functions of the device.

In the spoken variety of the language, a break in the narrative is usually caused by unwillingness to proceed; or by the supposition that what remains to be said can be understood by the implication embodied in what has been said; or by uncertajnty as to what should be said.

In the written variety, a break in the narrative is always a stylistic device used for some stylistic effect. It is difficult, however, to draw a hard and fast distinction between break-in-the-narrative as a typical feature of lively colloquial language and as a specific stylistic device. The only criterion which may serve as a guide is that in conversation the implica­tion can be conveyed by an adequate gesture. In writing it is the context, which suggests the adequate intonation, that is the only key to de­coding the aposiopesis.

In the following example the implication of the aposiopesis is a warn­ing

"If you continue your intemperate way of living, in six months' time..."

In the sentence:

"You just come home or I'll..."

the implication is a threat. The second example shows that without a context the implication can only be vague. But when one knows that the words were said by an angry father to his son over the telephone the im­plication becomes apparent.

Aposiopesis is a stylistic syntactical device to convey to the reader a very strong upsurge of emotions. The idea of this stylistic device is that the speaker cannot proceed, his feelings depriving him of the ability to express himself in terms of language. Thus in Don Juan's address to Julia, who is left behind:

"And oh! if e'er I should forget, / swear—;i But that's impossible, and cannot be." (Byron)

Break-in-the-narrative has a strong degree of predictability, which is ensured by the structure of the sentence. As a stylistic device it is used in complex sentences, in particular in conditional sentences, the //-clause being given in full and the second part only implied.

However, aposiopesis may be noted in different syntactical structures.

Thus, one of Shelley's poems is entitled "To—", which is an aposio­pesis of a different character, inasmuch as the implication here is so vague that it can be likened to a secret code. Indeed, no one except those in the know would be able to find out to whom the poem was addressed.

Sometimes a break in the narrative is caused by euphemistic consid­erations—unwillingness to name a thing on the ground of its being offen­sive to the ear, for example:

"Then, Mamma, i hardly like to let the words cross my lips, but they have wicked, wicked attractions out there—like dancing girls that—that charm snakes and dance without—Miss Moir with downcast eyes, broke off significantly and blushed, whilst the down on her upper lip quivered modestly." (Cronin)

Break-in-the-narrative is a device which, on the one hand, offers a number of variants in^deciphering the implication and, on the other, is highly predictable. Thevproblem of implication is, as it were, a crucial one in stylistics. What is implied sometimes outweighs what is expressed. In other stylistic devices the degree of implication is not so high as in break-in-the-narrative. A sudden 'break in the narrative will inevitably focus the attention on what is left unsaid. Therefore the interrelation between what is given and what is new becomes more significant, inasmuch as the given is what is said and the new—what is left unsaid. There is a phrase in colloquial English which has become very familiar: "Good intentions but—"

The implication here is that nothing has come of what it was planned to accomplis

Aposiopesis is a stylistic device in which the role of the intonation implied cannot be over-estimated. The pause after the break is generally charged with meaning and it is the intonation only that will decode the communicative significance of the utterance.


Questions, being both structurally and semantically one of the types of sentences, are asked by one person and e'xpected to be answered by another. This is the main, and the most characteristic property of the question, i. e. it exists as a syntactical unit of language to bear this partic­ular function in communication. Essentially, questions belong to the spoken language and presuppose the presence of an interlocutor, that is, they are commonly encountered in dialogue. The questioner is presumed not to know the answer.

Q uestion- in- the- narrative changes the real nature of a question and turns it into a stylistic device. A question in the narrative is asked and answered by one and the same person, usually the author.

It becomes akin to a parenthetical statement with strong emotional implications. Here are some cases of quest ion-in-tbe-narrative taken from Byron's "Don Juan":

1) 'Tor what is left the poet here?

For Greeks a blush—for Greece a tear."

2) "And starting, she awoke, and what to view?

Oh, Powers of Heaven. What dark eye meets she there? 'Tis—'tis her father's—fix'd upon the pair."

As is seen from these examples, the questions asked, unlike rhetorical questions (see p. 244), do not contain statements. But being answered by one who knows the answer, they assume a semi-exclamatory nature, as in 'what to view?'

Sometimes quest ion-in-the-narrative gives the impression of an inti­mate talk between the writer and the reader. For example:

"Scrooge knew he was dead! Of course he did. How could it be, otherwise? Scrooge and he were partners for I don't know how many years." (Dickens)

Quest ion-in-the-narrative is very often used in oratory. This is ex­plained by one of the leading features of oratorical style— to induce the de­sired reaction to the content of the speech. Questions here chain the atten­tion of the listeners to the matter the orator is dealing with and prevent it from wandering. They also give the listeners time to absorb what has been said, and prepare for the next point.

Quest ion-in-the-narrative may also remain unanswered, as in:

"How long must it go on? How long must we suffer? Where is the end? What is the end?" (Norris)

These sentences show a gradual transition to rhetorical questions. There are only hints of the possible answers. Indeed, the first and the

second questions suggest that the existing state of affairs should be put an end to and that we should not suffer any longer. The third and the fourth questions suggest that the orator himself could not find a solution ta the problem.

"The specific nature of interrogative sentences," writes P. S. Po pov, "which are transitional stages from what we know to what we do not yet know, is reflected in the interconnection between the question and the answer. The interrogative sentence is connected with the answer-sentence far more closely than the inference is connected with two interrelated pronouncements, because each of the two pronouncements has its own significance; whereas the significance of the interrogative sentence is only in the process of seeking the answer." l

This very interesting statement concerning the psychological nature of the question, however, does not take into consideration the stimulating aspect of the question.

When a question begins to fulfil a function not directly arising from its linguistic and psychological nature, it may have a certain volume of emotional chargerQuestion-in-the-narrative is a case of this kind. Here its function deviates slightly from its general signification.

This deviation (being in fact a modification of the general function of interrogative sentences) is much more clearly apparent in rhetorical questions.

Represented Speech

There are three ways of reproducing actual speech: a) repetition of the exact utterance as it was spoken (direct speech), b) con­version of the exact utterance into the relater'smode of expression (in­direct s p*e e с h), arid c) representation of the actual utterance by a second person, usually the author, as if it had been spoken; whereas it has not really been spoken but is only represented in the author's words (represented speech).

There is also a device which conveys to the reader the unuttered or inner speech of the character, thus presenting his thoughts and feelings. This device is also termed represented speech. To distinguish between the two varieties of represented speech we call the representation of the actual utterance through the author's language uttered r e p r e -sen-ted speech, and the representation of the thoughts and feelings of the character—unuttered or'inner represented speech.

The term direct speech came to be used in the belles-lettres style in order to distinguish the words of the character from the author's words. Actually, direct speech is a quotation. Therefore it is always in­troduced by a verb like say, utter, declare, reply, exclaim, shout, cry, yell, gasp, babble, chuckle, murmur, sigh, call, beg, implore, comfort,

assure, protest, object, command, admit, and others. All these words help ot indicate the intonation with which the sentence was actually uttered. Direct speech is always marked by -inverted commas, as any quotation is. Here is an example:

"You want your money back, I suppose," said George with a


"Of course I do—I always did, didn't I?" says Dobbin.


The most important feature of the spoken language—intonation— is indicated by different means. In the example above we have 1) graph­ical means: the dash after 'I do', 2) lexical: the word 'sneer', and 3) grammatical: a) morphological—different tenses of the verb to say ('said' and 'says'), b) syntactical: the disjunctive question—'didn't I?'.

Direct speech is sometimes used -in the publicistic style of language as a quotation. The introductory words in this case are usually the follow­ing: as... has it, according to..., and the like.

In the belles-lettres style direct speech is used to depict a character

through his speech.

In the emotive prose of the belles-lettres style where the predominant form of utterance is narrative, direct speech is inserted to more fully de­pict the characters of the novel. In the other variety of the belles-lettres prose style, i.e. in plays, the predominant form of utterance is dialogue. In spite of the various graphical and lexical ways of indicating the proper intonation of a given utterance, the subtleties of the intonation design required by the situation cannot be accurately conveyed. The richness of the human voice can only be suggested.

Direct speech can be viewed as a stylistic device only in its setting.s in the midst of the author's narrative or in contrast to all forms of indi­rect speech. Even when, an author addresses the reader, we cannot classify the utterance as direct speech. Direct speech is only the speech of a char­acter in a piece of emotive prose.

We have indirect speech when the actual words of a character, as it were, pass through the author's mouth in the course of his narrative and in this process undergo certain changes. The intonation of indirect speech is even and does not differ from the rest of the author's narrative. The graphical substitutes for the intonation give way to lexical units which describe the intonation pattern. Sometimes indirect speech takes the form of a precis in which only the main points of the actual utterance are given. Thus, for instance, in the following passage:

"Marshal asked the crowd to disperse and urged responsible diggers to prevent any disturbance which would prolong the tragic force of the rush for which the publication of inaccurate information was chiefly responsible." (Katherine Prichard) In grammars there are rules according to which direct speech can be converted into indirect. These rules are logical in- character, they merely indicate what changes must be introduced into the utterance due to change in the situation, Thus the sentence:

"Your mother wants you to go upstairs immediately" corresponds to "Tell him to come upstairs immediately."

When direct speech is converted into indirect, the author not infre­quently interprets in his own way the manner in which the direct speech was uttered, thus very often changing the emotional colouring of the whole. Hence, indirect speech may fail entirely to reproduce the actual emotional colouring of the direct speech and may distort it unrecogniza­bly. A change of meaning is inevitable when direct speech is turned into indirect or vice versa, inasmuch as any modification of form calls forth a slight difference in meaning.

It is probably due to this fact that in order to convey more adequately the actual utterances of characters in emotive prose, a new way to repre­sent direct speech came into being—r epresented speech.

Represented speech is that form of utterance which conveys the actual words of the speaker through the mouth of the writer but retains the peculiarities of the speaker's mode of expression.

Represented speech exists in two varieties: 1) uttered represented speech and 2) unuttered or inner represented speech.

a) Uttered Represented Speech

Uttered represented speech demands that the tense should be switched from present to past and that the personal pronouns should be changed from 1st and 2nd person to 3rd person as in indirect speech, but the syntactical structure of the utterance does not change. For example:

"Could he bring a reference from where he now was? He could."


An interesting example of three Ways of representing actual speech is to be seen in a conversation between Old Jolyon and June in Gals­worthy's "Man pf Property."^

"Old Jolyon was on the alert at once. Wasn't the "man of prop­erty" going to live in his new house, then? He never alluded to Soames now but under this title.

'No1—June said—'he^was not; she knew that he was not!'

How did she know?

She could not tell him, but she knew. She knew nearly for certain. It was most unlikely; circumstances had changed!"

The first sentence is the author's speech. In the second sentence 'Wasn't the "man..."' there is uttered represented speech: the actual speech must have been 'Isn't the...'. This sentence is followed by one from the au­thor: 'He never...'. Then again comes uttered represented speech marked off in inverted commas, which is not usual. The direct speech 'No—', the introductory 'June said' and the following inverted commas make the sentence half direct half uttered represented speech. The next sentence 'How did she know?' and the following one are clear-cut models of uttered represented speech: all the peculiarities of direct speech are preserved,

i. e. the repetition of 'she knew', the colloquial 'nearly for certain', the absence of any connective between the last two sentences and, finally, the mafk of exclamation at the end of the passage. And yet the tenses and pronouns here show that the actual utterance passes through the author's


Two more examples will suffice to illustrate the use of uttered repre­sented speech.

"A maid came in now with a blue gown very thick and soft. Could she do anything 'for Miss Freeland? No, thanks, she could not, only, did she know where Mr. Freeland's room was?"'


The shift from the author's speech to the uttered represented speech of the maid is marked only by the change^ jg 1Ь^.^уЖдШса1 pattern erf the sentences from declarative to ifitef fogatiуерйНГТОТГТКе' narr atfve pattern to the conversational.

Sometimes the shift is almost imperceptible—the author's narrative sliding over into the character's utterance without any formal indications of the switch-over, as in the following passage:

"She had -known him for a full year when, in London for a while and as usual alone, she received a note from him to say that he had to come up to town for a night and couldn't they dine together and go to some place' to dance. She thought it very sweet of him to take pity on her solitariness and accepted with pleasure, They spent a delightful evening." (Maugham)

This manner of inserting uttered represented speech within the au­thor's narrative is not common. It is peculiar to the style of a number of modern English and American writers. The more usual structural model is one where there is either an indication of the shift by some introduc­tory word (smiled, said, asked, etc.) or by a formal break like a full stop at the end of the sentence, as in:

"In consequence he Was quick to suggest a walk... Didn't Clyde want to go?" (Dreiser)

Uttered represented speech has a long history. As far back as the 18th century it was already widely used by men-of-letters, evidently be­cause it was a means by which what was considered vulgar might be excluded from literature, i.e. expletives, vivid colloquial words, expres­sions and syntactical structures typical of the lively colloquial speech of the period. Indeed, when direct speech is represented by the writer, he can change the actual utterance into any mode of expression he considers appropriate.

In Fielding's "History of Tom Jones the Foundling" we find vari­ous ways of introducing uttered represented speech. Here are some inter­esting examples:

"When dinner was over, and the servants departed, Mr. Al-worthy began to harangue. He set forth, in a long speech, the

many iniquities of which Jones had been guilty, particularly those which this day had brought to light; and concluded by telling him, 'That unless he could clear himself of the charge, he was re­solved to banish him from his sight for ever."'

In this passage there is practically no represented speech, inasmuch as the words marked off by inverted commas are indirect-speech, i.e. the author's speech with no elements of the character's speech, and the only signs'of the change in the form of the utterance are the inverted commas and the capital letter of 'That'. The following paragraph is built on the same pattern.

"Hislieart was, besides, almost broken already; and his spirits were so sunk, that he could say nothing for himself but acknowledge the whole, and, like a criminal in despair, threw himself upon mercy; concluding, 'that though he must own himself guilty of many follies and inadvertencies, he hoped he had done nothing to deserve what would be to him the greatest punishment in the world.'"

Here again the introductory 'concluding' does not bring forth direct speech but is a natural continuation of the author's narrative. The only indication of the change are the inverted commas.

Mr. Alworthy's answer is also built on the same pattern, the only modification being the direct speech at the end.

"—Alworthy answered, "That he had forgiven him too often already, in compassion to his youth, and in hopes of his amend­ment: that he now found he was an abandoned reprobate, and such as it would be criminal in any one to support and encourage," 'Nay,' said Mr. Alworthy to him, 'your audacious attempt to steal away the young lady, calls upon me to justify my own character in punishing you.—'"

Then follows^a long speech by Mr. Alworthy not differing from indi­rect speech (the author's speech) either in structural design or in the choice of words. A critical analysis will show that the direct speech of the characters in the novel must have undergone considerable polishing up in order to force it to conform to the literary norms of the period. Colloquial speech, emotional, inconsistent and spontaneous, with its vivid intona­tion suggested by elliptical sentences, breaks in the narrative, fragmenta-riness and lack of connectives, was banned from literary usage and re­placed by the passionless substitute of indirect speech.

Almost in any work of 18th century literary art one will find that the spoken language is adapted to conform to the norms of the written language of the period. It was only at the beginning of the 19th century that the elements of colloquial English, began to elbow their way into the sacred precincts of the English literary language. The more the process became apparent, the more the conditions that this created became fa­vourable for the introduction of uttered represented speech as a literary device.

In the modern belles-lettres prose style, the speech of the characters is modelled on natural colloquial patterns. The device of uttered repre­sented speech enables the writer to reshape the utterance according to the normal polite literary usage.

Nowadays, this device is used not only in the belles-lettres style. It is also efficiently used in newspaper style. Here is an example:

"Mr. Silverman, his Parliamentary language scarcely conceal­ing his bitter disappointment, accused the government of break­ing its pledge and of violating constitutional proprieties.

Was the government basing its policy not on the considered judgement of the House of Commons, but on the considered judge­ment of the House of Lords?

Would it not be a grave breach of constitutional duty, not to give the House a reasonable opportunity of exercising its rights under the Parliament Act?"

'Wait for the terms of the Bill,' was Eden's reply."

s Uttered represented speech in newspaper communications is some­what different from that in the belles-lettres style. In the former, it is generally used to quote the words of speakers in Parliament or at public meetings.

b) Unuttered or Inner Represented Speech

As has often been pointed out, language has two functions: the com­municative and the expressive. The communicative function serves to convey one's thoughts, volitions, emotions and orders to the mind of a second person. The expressive function serves to shape one's thoughts and emotions into language forms. This second function is believed to be the only way of materializing thoughts and emotions. Without language forms thought is not yet thought but only something being shaped as thought.

The thoughts and feelings going on in one's miad and reflecting some previous experience are called inner speech.

"4 Inasmuch as inner speech has no communicative function, it is very fragmentary,- incoherent, isolated, and consists of separate units which only hint at the content of the utterance but do not word it explicitly.

Inner speech is a psychological phenomenon. But when it is wrought into full utterance, it ceases to be inner speech, acquires a communicative function and becomes a phenomenon of language. The expressive function of language is suppressed by its communicative function, and the reader is presented with a complete language unit capable of carrying informa­tion. This device is called inner represented speech.

However, the language forms of inner represented speech bear a resemblance to the psychological phenomenon of inner speech. Inner represented speech retains the most characteristic features of inner speech. It is also fragmentary, but only to an extent which will not hinder the understanding of the communication.

Inner represented speech, unlike uttered represented speech, ex­presses feelings and thoughts of the character which were not material

ized in spoken or written language by the character. That is why it abounds in exclamatory words and phrases, elliptical constructions, breaks, and other means of conveying feelings and psychological states. When a person is alone with his thoughts and feelings, he can give vent to those strong emotions.which he usually keeps hidden. Here is an example from Galsworthy's "Man of Property":

"His nervousness about this disclosure irritated him profoundly; she had no business to make him feel like that—a wife and a hus­band being one person. She had not looked at him once since they sat down, and he wondered what on earth she had been thinking about all the time. It was hard, when a man worked hard as he did, making money for her—yes and with an ache in his heart— that she should sit there, looking—looking as if she saw the walls of the room closing in. It was enough to make a man get up and leave the table."

The inner speech of Soames Forsyte is here introduced by two words describing his state of mind—irritated' and 'wondered'. The colloquial aspect of the language in which Soames's thoughts and feelings are expres­sed is obvious. He uses colloquial collocations: 'she had no business', 'what on earth', 'like that' and colloquial constructions: 'yes and with...' 'looking—looking as if...', and the words used are common colloquial.

Unutteredor inner represented speech follows the same morphological pattern as uttered represented speech, byiJhe^XQlactical pattern shows variations which can be accounted forfiy the fact fHatItis'ffiner speech, not uttered speech. ~THe tense forms are shifted to the past; the third per­son personal pronouns replace the first and second. The interrogative word-order is maintained as in direct speech. The fragmentary character of the utterance manifests itself in unfinished sentences, exclamations and in one-member sentences.

Here is another example:

"An idea had occurred to Soames. His cousin Jolyon was Irene's trustee, the first step would be to go down and see him at Robin Hill. Robin Hill! The odd—the very odd feeling those words brought back. Robin Hill—the house Bosinney had built for him and Irene—the house they had never lived in—the fatal house! And Jolyon lived! H'm!" (Galsworthy)

This device is undoubtedly an excellent one to depict a character. It gives the writer an opportunity to show the inner springs which guide his character's actions and utterances. Being a combination of the au-.thor's speech and that of the character, inner represented speech, on the one hand, fully discloses the feelings and thoughts of the character, his world outlook, and, on the other hand, through efficient and sometimes hardly perceptible interpolations by the author himself, makes the de­sired impact on the reader.

In English and American literature this device has gained vogue in the works of the writers of the last two centuries — Jane Austen, Thackeray, Dickens, Charlotte and Ernily Bronte, Jack London, Gals-242

worthy, Dreiser, Somerset Maugham and others. Every writer has his own way of using represented speech. Careful linguistic analysis of indi­vidual peculiarities in using it will show its wide range of function and will expand the hitherto limited notions of its use.

Inner represented speech, unlike uttered represented speech, is usually introduced by verbs of mental perception, as think, meditate, feel, occur (an idea occurred to...), wonder, ask, tell oneself, understand and the like. For example:

"Over and over he was asking himself: would she receive him? would she recognize him? what should he say to her?"

"Why weren't things going well between them? he wondered."

Very frequently, however, inner represented speech thrusts itself into the narrative of the author without any introductory words and the shift from the author's speech to inner represented speech is more or less imperceptible. Sometimes the one glidesjnto the other, sometimes there is a sudden clear-cut change in the mode of expression. Here are examples:

"Butler was sorry that he had called his youngest a baggage; but these children—God bless his soul—were a great annoyance. Why, in the name of all the saints, wasn't this house good enough for them?" (Dreiser)

The only indication of the transfer from the author's speech to inner represented speech is the semicolon which suggests a longish pause. The emotional tension of the inner represented speech is enhanced by the emphatic these (in 'these children'), by the exclamatory sentences 'God bless his soul' and 'in the name of all the saints'. This emotional charge gives an additional shade of meaning to the 'was sorry' in the au­thor's statement, viz. Butler was sorry, but he was also trying to justify himself for calling his daughter names.

And here is an example of a practically imperceptible shift:

"Then, too, in old Jolyon's mind was always the secret ache that the son of James—of James, whom he had always thought such a poor thing, should be pursuing the paths of success, while his own son—!" (Galsworthy)

In this passage there are hardly any signs of J;he shift except, per­haps, the repetition of the words 'of James'. Then comes what is half the author's narrative, half the thoughts of the character, the inner speech coming to the surface in 'poor thing' (a colloquialism) and the sudden break after 'his own son' and the mark of exclamation.

Inner represented speech remains the monopoly of the, and especially of emotive prose, a variety of it. There is hardly any likelihood of this device being used in other styles, due to its spe­cific function, which is to penetrate into the inner life of the personages of an imaginary world, which is the exclusive domain of belles-lettres.


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