Category Archives: Light
In “Old School”, the narrator’s simple language gives the story the quality of lightness. Calvino says that lightness can be defined as the narration of a train of thought or psychological process. The entire novel is told through the narration of the boy. As I was looking through Seger to find instruction, I stumbled across the section titled “The Reflective Voice”. In this section, Seger discusses the importance of a character revealing his or her character traits. They can do this simply by speaking and allowing the reader to listen to the dialect and language the character uses. The narrator does not reveal his name, but aside from that, the reader can figure almost everything else about the narrator. Just by revealing his thoughts on each event, the narrator reveals his personal traits. The language of the narrator is not only the essence of lightness according to Calvino, but also serves as the building block for Cornell’s reflective voice.
Modeling my collage after the boxes that Cornell made famous, I made a ‘blox’ that represents the lightness in the novel “Old School” by Tobias Wolff. The ‘blox’ depicts a book being held up in the air by some words with varying sizes. At the base of the words supporting the book is the smallest sized letters. These are simple words that are said by the young boy who narrates the novel. They are at the base because the lightness of these simple words are what hold up the meaning and theme behind the book. The light language of the boy is not only at the base of the meaning and theme, it is also at the base of the entire book as well as the base for value of the whole book. This ‘blox’, reflecting the work that Cornell did on his boxes, represents where the reader can find the value of the story. The narrator conveys a sense of truth in his words by expressing his most inner thoughts. The language of his thoughts is one of simple explanations but is able to convey the story in full.
Calvino explains that there are three senses of Lightness. His first sense is lightness of language, described as ” meaning is conveyed through a verbal texture that seems weightless, until the meaning itself takes on the same rarefied consistency”. His third sense of lightness was described as the sense of “a visual image of lightness that acquires emblematic value…”. As you noticed, I skipped the second sense. This is the sense of Lightness that I believe applies the heaviest to “Old School”. Calvino describes this sense as the narration of a train of thought or psychological process. The entire novel is written as a narration of a train of thought. The boy narrates the entire story. This is where the story finds its most value. The reader only can see and think what the boy does. His language is simple and conveys the scenes with little complexity. The light language then embodies the work, making “Old School” a piece of light language. Although the language is light, the theme and meanings behind the story are far from light. Calvino says that the work with verbal lightness takes on that ‘same rarefied consistency’. “Old School” does not follow pattern. It is a novel that finds value in its self-identifying narrator’s ability to convey his most inner thoughts. The language is light, the novel has weight.