Qualities of expression: Force

in-nuce.com: Force -- Climax
Force: Build a ladder for the reader to climb.
Source: "Ladder" by pkuczy
 From Beginnings of Rhetoric and Composition, by Adams Hill:



Force may often be gained by an arrangement that causes a sentence to move from the less to the more effective.
A: He showed much impatience, and presently lost control of himself.
B: He lost control of himself and showed much impatience.
When we know that a man has "lost control of himself," we need not be told that he has shown "much impatience." Sentence A gives these ideas in the order of their importance. A sentence or a paragraph, whatever its length, that rises in importance of ideas and in effectiveness of expression is said to form a climax (the Greek word for "ladder").
A: Each leaf stood away from its neighbor, as in a conventional design; each was arranged in the order in which it might have been left by someone too particular.
B: Each leaf was arranged in the order in which someone too particular might have left it; each stood away from its neighbor as in a conventional design.
After we have been told that the leaves look as if they had been arranged by "someone too particular," we know that the design must be "conventional"; but if we are first told that the design is conventional, and afterward that it is like the work of someone too picky, we keep up our interest, for we learn something new as we go along.
A: Evidently this is a painting, not of a landscape with a tree in it, but of this particular tree in a landscape.
B: The painting is evidently this particular tree in a landscape, not a landscape with a tree in it.
Sentence B sins against clearness by placing "evidently," which is meant to qualify the sentence as a whole, where it seems to qualify the first clause only. It sins more seriously against force by telling what the painting is—the more interesting and important fact—before telling what it is not.  
The forcible order is usually that which moves from the negative to the positive; but when, as in the following example, a writer wishes to emphasize the negative rather than the positive assertion, the reverse order is preferable:—
"He is a man after all," thought I; "his Maker's own truest image, a philanthropic man! — not that steel engine of the Devil's contrivance, a philanthropist!" — Hawthorne.
A: Hazlitt's essays should be valued, not as steady instruction, but as suggestive points of departure; not as a study-lamp, but as brilliant flashes of light.
B: Hazlitt's essays should be valued as brilliant flashes of light, not as a study lamp; as suggestive points of departure, not as steady instruction.
Sentence B is weak in two ways: it puts the positive assertions before the negative, and the figurative expression before the literal. The forcible order is that which moves, not only from the negative to the positive, but from the literal to the figurative.
The best way of learning how to apply the principle of progressive force effectively is to study its application in the works of good authors. For example:—
The secret, so long as it should continue such, kept them within the circle of a spell, a solitude in the midst of men, a remoteness as entire as that of an island in mid-ocean. — Hawthorne.
Thus man passes away; his name perishes from record and recollection; his history is as a tale that is told, and his very monument becomes a ruin. — Irving.
He was made Secretary of the Treasury; and how he fulfilled the duties of such a place at such a time, the whole country perceived with delight, and the whole world saw with admiration. He smote the rock of the national resources, and abundant streams of revenue gushed forth. He touched the dead corpse of the Public Credit, and it sprung upon its feet. — Daniel Webster.
Events which short-sighted politicians ascribed to earthly causes had been ordained on his account. For his sake empires had risen, and flourished, and decayed. For his sake the Almighty had proclaimed his will by the pen of the evangelist, and the harp of the prophet. He had been rescued by no common deliverer from the grasp of no common foe. He had been ransomed by the sweat of no vulgar agony, by the blood of no earthly sacrifice. It was for him that the sun had been darkened, that the rocks had been rent, that the dead had arisen, that all nature had shuddered at the sufferings of her expiring God!
Thus the Puritan was made up of two different men, the one all self-abasement, penitence, gratitude, passion; the other proud, calm, inflexible, sagacious. He prostrated himself in the dust before his Maker; but he set his foot on the neck of his king. — Macaulay.
Each of these passages gains in force by an arrangement which carries the reader onward, step by step, from the less to the more effective. In the passage from Macaulay, the first paragraph presents an excellent example of climax, the second of antithesis.
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