Sunday, December 9, 2012

Rhetorical Devices that Make the Novel "The Shadow of the Wind" Step Out of the Shadows

Not many people have heard of the novel, The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruíz Zafón. However, this novel was a New York Times bestseller, and listed on one of the top 100 books to read before you die. This novel won the prestigious Edebé award; a Spanish literary award for young adult fiction. It is an ‘international phenomenon’, and has been translated into over forty different languages.

What makes this novel so spellbinding that one can hardly put it down once they’ve started? Simple; Zafón has an extraordinary use of the creative style, using many rhetorical devices to bring his story to life. Set in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War, this gothic-themed novel is brimming with descriptive language that makes you feel like you’re walking down the streets of Barcelona. Zafón’s many uses of the creative style not only bring the characters to life, but also add a series of suspenseful plot twists that the reader would never see coming.
Although this book is written for a target audience of teenagers, adults can enjoy it too. It has a very sophisticated, yet dark plot line that would keep older audiences entranced in the story as well. Zafón says “I have written for young readers, for the movies, for so-called adults; but mostly for people who like to read and to plunge into a good story”. This book was written purely for the purpose of enjoying a good book with an imaginative story during some leisure time.

 This book functions in an activity system of leisure reading, and more often than not it is heard of by word of mouth. Many readers suggest or recommend this novel to other readers, and the chain goes on—kind of like a division of labor. In this case, it’s the target audience passing along the final product.

When asked why he writes the way he does, his response is “IIam in the business of storytelling. I always have been, always will be. It is what I've been doing since I was a kid. Telling stories, making up tales, bringing life to characters, devising plots, visualizing scenes and staging sequences of events, images, words and sounds that tell a story. All in exchange for a penny, a smile or a tear, and a little of your time and attention”.

Zafón’s use of his creative style has three main categories; descriptive language, allusions, and plot twists. Zafón uses a wide of rhetorical devices besides those in his novel as well, and in effect that’s what makes his story so irresistible to put down. Taking a closer look at a passage from the novel, I will identify some of his rhetorical strategies used in making the novel so successful.

An excerpt from the beginning of the book is below:

 I wandered through the streets for an hour or more, until I found myself at the base of
the Columbus monument. Crossing over to the port, I sat on the stony steps that descended
into the dark waters next to the dock that sheltered the pleasure boats. Someone had
chartered a night trip, and I could hear laughter and music wafting across from the
procession of lights and reflections in the inner harbour. I remembered the days when my
father would take me on that very same boat for a trip to the breakwater point. From there,
you could see the cemetery on the slopes of Montjuic, the endless city of the dead.
Sometimes I waved, thinking that my mother was still there and could see us going by. My
father would also wave. It was years since we had boarded a pleasure boat, although I
knew that sometimes he did the trip on his own.
'A good night for remorse, Daniel,' came a voice from the shadows. 'Cigarette?'
I jumped up with a start. A hand was offering me a cigarette.
'Who are you?'
The stranger moved forward until he was on the very edge of the darkness, his face still
concealed. A puff of blue smoke rose from his cigarette. I immediately recognized the
black suit and the hand hidden in the jacket pocket. His eyes shone like glass beads.
'A friend,' he said. 'Or that's what I aspire to be. A cigarette?'
'I don't smoke.'
'Good for you. Unfortunately, I have nothing else to offer you, Daniel'
He had a rasping, wounded voice. He seemed to drag his words out and they sounded
muffled and distant like the old 78s Barcelo collected.
'How do you know my name?'
'I know a lot about you. Your name is the least of it.'
'What else do you know?'
'I could embarrass you, but I don't have the time or the inclination. Just say that I know
you have something that interests me. And I'm ready to pay you good money for it.'
'I'm afraid you've mistaken me for someone else.'
'No, I hardly think so. I tend to make other mistakes, but never when it comes to people.
How much do you want for it?'
'For what?'
'For The Shadow of the Wind.'
'What makes you think I have it?'
'That's beyond discussion, Daniel. It's just a question of price. I've known you had it for
a long time. People talk. I listen.'
'Well, you must have heard wrong. I don't have that book. And if I did, I wouldn't sell
'Your integrity is admirable, especially in these days of sycophants and toadies, but you
don't have to pretend with me. Say how much. A thousand duros? Money means nothing to
me. You set the price.'
'I've already told you: it's not for sale, and I don't have it,' I replied. 'You've made a
mistake, you see.'
The stranger remained silent and motionless, enveloped in the blue smoke of a cigarette
that never seemed to go out. I realized he didn't smell of tobacco, but of burned paper.
Good paper, the sort used for books.
'Perhaps you're the one who's making a mistake now,' he suggested.
'Are you threatening me?'
I gulped. Despite my bravado, the man frightened me.
'May I ask why you are so interested?'
'That's my business.'
'Mine too, if you are threatening me about a book I don't have.'
'I like you, Daniel. You've got guts, and you seem bright. A thousand duros? With that
you could buy a huge amount of books. Good books, not that rubbish you guard with such
zeal. Come on, a thousand duros and we'll remain friends.'
'You and I are not friends.'
'Yes we are, you just haven't realized it yet. I don't blame you, with so much on your
mind. Your friend Clara, for instance. A woman like that .. . anyone could lose his senses.'
The mention of Clara's name froze the blood in my veins. 'What do you know about

In this passage, there are quite a few rhetorical devices at play. When Zafón talks about locations in his novel, they are filled with parallelism and allusions. This is because most of his readers do not live in Barcelona (since it has been translated into over 40 different languages), so they may not have as clear a mental picture as Zafón does. In a way, he is defamiliarizing Barcelona while also familiarizing it with his intended audience. Right away there is an allusion used in the first sentence, “I wandered through the streets for an hour or more, until I found myself at the base of the Columbus monument.” An allusion is making a known reference to a known person, object or event . He also utilizes parallelism in, “From there,you could see the cemetery on the slopes of Montjuic, the endless city of the dead.” Parallelism is putting equally important ideas into similar grammatical structures. This could also be seen as Distincto, which is presenting the specific meaning of words to prevent ambiguity.

Zafón uses a lot of similies and amplification to better describe his characters. The new character introduced in the passage is given a distinctly creepy and menacing atmosphere, which couldn’t have been more appropriately done without these rhetorical strategies. When ‘the stranger’ is introduced, he is surrounded by shadows and darkness. Zafón keeps his face concealed to add to the mystery of his persona. The first description of his face is “His eyes shone like glass beads.” This is a simile, which is an explicit comparison between two otherwise different things. There is use of amplification later in the passage: “He had a rasping, wounded voice. He seemed to drag his words out and they sounded muffled and distant like the old 78s Barcelo collected.” An amplification is restating a word or idea and adding in more detail. In this instance, it is the stranger’s voice that is being amplified. There is also another simile comparing his voice to an old 78. Also in Zafón’s character description is the use of conduplicatio: “I realized he didn't smell of tobacco, but of burned paper. Good paper, the sort used for books.” Conduplicatio is repeating a key word from a preceding clause or sentence at or near the beginning of the next sentence.

 The most dominant rhetorical device in this passage is the use of hypophora, which is used in his characters’ dialogue. A hypophora is asking questions and then preceding to answer them. The majority of this passage is dialogue; with it not only are the character’s questions answered, but also answering the reader’s questions as well. Within the hypophora, there are also aporias. An aporia is expressing real or pretended doubt about a fact, idea or conclusion. In this case, it’s the denial coming from Daniel saying that he doesn’t have the book that the stranger wants (in this case it’s pretended doubt):

How much do you want for it?'
'For what?'
'For The Shadow of the Wind.'
'What makes you think I have it?'

 At the very end of my selected passage, the character Clara comes up by the stranger. This is a plot twist; one of many that Zafón includes in the novel; essentially what keeps it suspenseful and irresistible to put down once you start reading it.

All of these strategies come together in a successful and suspenseful tangle of words which unravel the tale of The Shadow of the Wind. Zafón utilizes these rhetorical strategies to get the maximum effect out of his novel; which effectively made the book an international success. This is a very small analysis of just one of Zafón’s novels. With this book becoming a key part in a series of his books in terms of both location and time period (as well as some of the same characters), it leaves the critique and further analysis open to how well Zafón utilizes his rhetorical devices and plot twists to successfully integrate the other novels together. There are many more rhetorical devices at play in The Shadow of the Wind, but if I were to address them all, my central points would have been lost or forgotten as the reader continued.
--Annalise Falck-Pedersen


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