Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Style Analysis of Hood by Stephen Lawhead

Style Analysis for Stephen Lawhead’s Hood
By Tim Darney
     Stephen R. Lawhead’s Hood, a rendition of Robin Hood set during the Normans invasion of Brittan. It is one of my personal favorite books by this author, and I highly recommend this series, as well as the numerous other books he has published. As I admire this particular writer, I decided to analyze the opening of Hood, to see what it is that draws me in so well.
     On an overall structural level, the prologue sets the stage admirably. Characteristics are discovered about two of the major characters, and explanations for future actions can be found in the small tale told in these opening pages. It also provides a well written entry to the setting, necessary given that the changes Lawhead makes to this classic tale are predominantly rooted in the era which he has placed his story.
Being fiction, Lawhead plays fast and loose with the topoi on a chapter level, but at a closer sentence and paragraph level, the distinct topoi are substantially more clear. Given that this is a narrative piece, there are naturally a lot of paragraphs focusing on time and space. However, given that this is also supposed to provide an introductory element, there is also a lot of topoi that aid with defining and establishing ideas setting and characters, such as compare-contrast and general to specific. On a sentence level, there is also a lot of time and space, but equally as much cause and effect and, due to the subject matter, appearance versus reality. All in all, this use of topoi in the work is very well done, whether or not is was intentional. The balance between topoi that help define the setting and characters and the topoi that move the small story along is ideal, gripping the reader with an active, compelling narrative while still providing the necessary exposition.
Matching with the structure of the topoi, the sentence structures that the Lawhead uses also strives to strike that balance between exposition and narrative. Once again, a sentence level analysis betrays the fact that this is a narrative work, as it is peppered with pattern 4 and pattern 5 sentences. While his fairly regular use of pattern 4 is noteworthy, the way he frames these sentences with sentence patterns 2 and 3 is more interesting. His use of pattern four makes sense, given the prologue’s aim is to introduce the main character. Pattern 4 sentences allow for this by giving the subject an action, without drawing any attention away from the main character with a direct object. Of course, this character still has to interact with the outside world, so the author cannot entirely avoid using pattern 5 sentences in the prologue. His reasons for using linking verbs mimic the disparity in the topoi he uses. As this is the introduction to the rest of the book, exposition needs to be given. Sentences using linking verbs to define the subject of their sentences are the most efficient way of doing this. Using them as framework for the larger narrative is an ingenious way to provide useful information to the reader without assaulting them with facts that slow the narrative. Once again, the author shows great skill in balancing his exposition with the story he is telling, even upon sentence level structural analysis.  
In the end, Lawhead’s prologue to Hood is all about balance. His paragraphs and sentences alike show how much he is focusing on the balance between the necessity of exposition and the flow of narrative. As such, the reader is drawn in immediately, neither confused at the lack of information, nor bogged down by an overwhelming mountain of exposition to sift through. Overall, a well written and organized introduction.