0

“Deep in the forest a call was sounding, and as often as he heard this call, mysteriously thrilling and luring, he felt compelled to turn his back upon the fire and the beaten earth around it, and to plunge into the forest, and on and on, he knew not where or why; nor did he wonder where or why, the call sounding imperiously, deep in the forest.” ― Jack London, The Call of the Wild.

I think I understand that a comma gets used to point to the location of a clause boundary and that 'and as often as he heard this call' gets separated from the previous clause because it contains the conjunction 'and' (?)

Can I confirm that 'mysteriously thrilling and luring' is an adjectival phrase while 'he felt compelled to turn his back upon the fire and the beaten earth around it' and 'he knew not where or why' are independentant clauses?

1

The meaning here can be expressed clearer by simply reordering the words like so:

and as often as he heard this mysteriously thrilling and luring call, he felt compelled to turn his back upon the fire and the beaten earth around it, and to plunge into the forest

The original form doesn't seem quite as correct to me as this modified version. In my opinion, the author is really abusing commas and destroying the flow of the language here by doing so. I don't know this author nor do I hold some lofty title granting me authority to be a critic. This is just my opinion as a native speaker.

Edit
As Brian Hitchcock has pointed out in the comments, the use of commas to set the rhythm of the writing varies based on the personal style of the writer. This is why I offered my personal opinion on the style presented here. The style is personal preference, and I personally don't like it, but that doesn't make it wrong.

  • 1
    Your syntactic analysis is correct. And you're right, you are not in a position to critique Jack London's style. Commas are all about rhythm; and that's a personal thing, with a lot of leeway for the author, as long as the sentence holds together grammatically. – Brian Hitchcock Jun 26 '15 at 9:56
  • @BrianHitchcock I agree with you it is more about personal style and this is why I commented my opinion on his style. I personally don't like it, I think it's over-done and to me gives the same effect as many frequent full stops. But anyway thanks for expanding, I think I'll edit to reflect what you've said here. – user20827 Jun 26 '15 at 11:00
  • 2
    @TechnikEmpire: I'm a professional editor and I agree with you - Jack London or no Jack London, this sentence has too many commas! – CocoPop Jun 26 '15 at 11:33
  • Yes, Jack London was a serial abuser of the comma. I imagine that he couldn't have cared less. – P. E. Dant Aug 20 '16 at 6:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.