Today I am continuing my narcissistic and self-indulgent analysis of my opening paragraph. In Part 1 of this analysis I established the pattern of focusing upon the symmetrical relationship between the opening and closing lines. I continued this pattern in Part 2 where I focused upon the second line and its relationship to the next to last sentence. Today I will continue first by looking at the third sentence and the matching second-to-last sentence. Assuming I don’t bloviate too much, I will conclude by looking at the fourth, and middle, sentence in the paragraph.
For ease of reference, here again is the paragraph in question:
Damon Roth built a grand house. An extensive foundation supported mighty oak limbs that reached skyward, unwavering in their duty, holding soaring gables aloft through the centuries. Wide windows were the manor’s great eyes, searching in all directions from behind a gothic countenance. Color-stained eyes framed the world in a kaleidoscope of possibilities. Clear eyes actualized only one: a well-maintained garden of flowers and shrubs, a manicured lawn sloping gently away, and a resplendent thicket of trees that concealed the mansion from the world. Only the central tower, covered in a spider-web of vines, was tall enough to break the barricade of trees. From there Wizard Roth changed himself by changing the world.
And the sentences I will be focusing on first are:
Wide windows were the manor’s great eyes, searching in all directions from behind a gothic countenance. … Clear eyes actualized only one: a well-maintained garden of flowers and shrubs, a manicured lawn sloping gently away, and a
resplendent thicket of trees that concealed the mansion from the world.
In Part 1 of this analysis I established that the paragraph, and by implication the entire story, is about my protagonist, Damon Roth. I inform the reader that Gods Among Men is an epic fantasy whose central character is willing and capable of challenging the established order to achieve a personal goal.
In Part 2 I explained my use of personification to link to older literary genres, most notably Medieval, Renaissance, and Victorian. I established that everything said about the house as if it were a person is in fact a comment on Damon Roth.
With that thought in mind, consider the phrase, “Wide windows were the manor’s great eyes”. The image of the manor’s windows as eyes links to Damon’s eyes. By implication this links to his vision of the world, both as he sees it now and how he thinks it should be.
This leads to “searching in all directions”. On the surface it says the windows face in every direction from the house. Underneath, by personification, it implies Damon is searching for something. Saying he is searching in all directions carries hints of uncertainty. Does Damon really know what he is looking for? Would he recognize it if he found it? Does he have an idea where it might be, or is he flailing about hoping to stumble across what he wants?
In the sentence “from behind a gothic countenance” we again are given a visual image of the house as a European Gothic manor. This style of architecture begins in 12th-century and lasts into the 16th century, again pushing a Medieval and Renaissance image of the novel’s culture. The sentence also continues the theme of linking to literary genres such as Victorian era Gothic novels.
Given that I am writing a fantasy novel, it is fair to assume that the Gothic reference links to Gothic horror. To be honest, I have always loved the imagery contained in well-written Gothic horror, so I will admit it does strongly influence the direction I am taking my story.
Gothic horror does not focus upon what I refer to as “horror porn”, i.e. an excess of gore and violence. Rather it focuses upon psychological and physical terror, mystery, the supernatural, ghosts, haunted houses and Gothic architecture, castles, darkness, death, decay, madness, secrets, and hereditary curses. The characters of Gothic fiction tend toward being tyrants, villains, bandits, maniacs, Byronic heroes, persecuted maidens, femme fatales, madwomen, magicians, monsters, demons, angels, fallen angels, the beauty and the beast, revenants, ghosts, perambulating skeletons, the Wandering Jew, and the Devil himself.
All of these elements are ones I try, with varying degrees of success, to include in Gods Among Men. With the phrase “a gothic countenance” I am informing the reader of the types of characters and storylines that they may reasonably expect to see throughout the epic.
Moreover, and more specifically, this phrase is a comment upon Damon Roth. He is a Gothic character. In point of fact, he has many of the characteristics of a Byronic hero, though that will only become obvious as the story develops.
Moving on, the second to last sentence begins with “Clear eyes actualized only one”. The eyes are the manor’s windows, so clear eyes are the clear windows; i.e. those that are clear panes of glass. Symbolically they are Damon’s eyes, his vision of the world as it is and should be.
With the word “actualized” a new dimension is added to the story. The word “actualize” literally means make something real and give it substance. Therefore “Clear eyes actualized only one” symbolically means “Damon’s vision of how the world should be is clear and he will make that vision reality”.
The first two parts of the remainder of the sentence are “a well-maintained garden of flowers and shrubs, a manicured lawn sloping gently away”. This is an image of controlled beauty, of life, of an ordered world. Damon’s plans are not to destroy, but to promote life. He is not seeking chaos, but to establish a new order.
The final portion of the sentence is “a resplendent thicket of trees that concealed the mansion from the world.” As I said in Part 2 of this analysis:
Forests, particularly in Medieval and Renaissance literature, were often used as a metaphor for the world or mankind as a whole. Therefore this sentence establishes Damon’s relationship to the world and the rest of humanity.
Ergo, since the mansion is concealed from the world so is Damon. He is alone, isolated, outside. He is separate from the world that surrounds him. He is unseen, and therefore unexpected.
I conclude now with the central sentence in the paragraph. The one with no symmetrical partner and which therefore stands alone. The sentence:
Color-stained eyes framed the world in a kaleidoscope of possibilities.
Once again I return to the image of the manor’s windows as eyes. “Color stained eyes” literally means “windows stained with color” which in turn implies stained-glass windows. This is foreshadowing for later when Damon goes to his casting chamber and begins to cast as powerful spell. All the windows he passes before he gets to the casting chamber are clear glass, clear eyes. The casting chamber has stained-glass windows, eyes stained with color. This sentence becomes a comment upon Damon’s use of magic to examine all the possibilities of what could be, of how the world might be. The word kaleidoscope carries special significance because it translates to mean “looking at beautiful forms”. The sentence as a whole therefore means Damon uses his spells to examine all the possibilities for the way the world could be beautiful to him. From all these possibilities he chooses one, and forces the world to conform to that vision.
This brings us to the end of my analysis. There is more that I see in the paragraph, but I have already written far more about it that I originally intended to. Perhaps no one else will read this in its entirety, but this has been a useful exercise for me. Writing this analysis forced me to put into words the ideas I have never articulated well before. In any event, now when someone asks why I am reluctant to change this one paragraph I can point to this analysis and say, “Here are my reasons.”