Word Length

The mean wordlength for each of the characters in each chapter was established by counting the number of letters in each word used by the character in the chapter, summing these counts, and then dividing by the total number of words used by that character in that chapter. Strictly speaking the 'narrator' (the voice who speaks the preludes) does not speak in the chapters, but the prelude to each chapter has been analyzed along with it, to enable both examination of the 'narrator's' voice, and comparison with the characters for that section of the text. The results of this investigation are plotted in figures 27, 28 and 29.As the narrator's score is mostly higher than that for the characters, figure 28 shows the characters only, so as to provide a better spread on the vertical axis, and hence greater detail. Figure 29 shows the trends for the characters, derived as before (the calculations for Bernard this time included chapter IX).

Figure 27: Mean Word Length (Characters and Narrator) Figure 28: Mean Word Length (Characters only) Figure 29: Mean Word Length Trends (Characters only)

There are few general trends in the very confused picture shown by these graphs.

Over the whole book the tendency is for word length to increase, as shown by figure 29. Despite substantial local variation, all the characters and the narrator finish with a longer mean word length than at the beginning. Initially, the words used are fairly short, with an average length of 3.90 to 4.15 letters (depending on the character). By chapter VIII (the last in which all characters speak) the average has risen to be in the range 4.20 to 4.45. This increase in word length is consistent with the characters' growth and maturation, and with a corresponding development in their speech. In the case of the 'narrator', it is consistent with the analogous development of the preludes, as they reflect and illuminate the characters' lives. This is, however, a relatively crude generalization, and the true pattern is not quite so simple, the expected parallel development being overridden by other less easily defined factors.

Of all the voices, the narrator has the highest score overall, as illustrated well by figure 27. As one might expect, these extremely rich passages preceding each chapter show in general the highest mean word length, although briefly surpassed in chapter VII by Jinny and Susan, and in chapter VIII by Louis. The use of longer words in these preludes, compared to the rest of the book, is one of the ways in which these preludes derive their effects. Although longer words are not always necessarily more effective, when skilfully used they can give the effect of a vibrant tapestry, the colours carefully blended and woven into intricate patterns. Such is the case here, with the evocative sonorities of the words heightening the rich, almost surreal feeling of the preludes.

Looking at figure 28, no single character dominates overall, although in terms of scores for the whole book, Bernard has the highest average word length of 4.322 (the total scores for the whole book were not graphed) - despite not having the highest average word length for chapters I to VIII. Only in chapters III and IV does he surpass the others. This discrepancy is most probably due to the different, and special, style of speech he employs in chapter IX. His results for two of the measures (Word length and Sentence length) show discrepancies between chapters I to VII, and the total. This means that the cause of the difference must lie in chapter IX, and the graphs bear this out. The value for chapter IX is higher than the average for chapters I to VIII, affecting his overall average. As the content of chapter IX is unlike the rest of Bernard's speech, or indeed the rest of the book, a difference in the measures between chapter IX and the rest of the book, affecting Bernard's overall averages, is quite likely. As chapter IX is such a large percentage of his total output, any differences between it and the rest of his soliloquies would exercise a strong influence on his overall total. Bernard's overall high position is consistent with his representation within the text as a phrasemaker, one who revels in words. Bernard's trend line also shows the least change over the book. This is one more pecularity of his speech.

For the rest of the characters the situation is nowhere near as clear. The scores for each of the characters fluctuate wildly, and thus no ranking for the other five characters can be given, except in terms of their totals for the whole book. On this, Bernard, as has already been mentioned, has the highest score, followed by Louis, Neville, Rhoda, Jinny, and Susan. It is noteworthy that the three males score ahead of the three females. This is possibly because they are the only ones who pursue tertiary studies, with the exception of Louis, who has the keenest mind of them all anyway. This exposure to a different environment may be reflected in their speech.

Although the overall picture is irregular, there are some interesting points on the graph. All the characters except Louis show a local peak in chapter IV for which he explanation is clear enough. This is just one more manifestation of the euphoria and communion felt by all during the dinner to farewell Percival, the highpoint of their life as a group. They are the closest they will ever come to achieving full communion, the group becoming greater than the sum of its parts. The characters' speech is lyrical as they are caught up in the spirit of the occasion, and their use of longer words reflects this. If this is so, why is Louis the odd one out? In fact, with the exception of Bernard, his score is the the highest of all the characters in this chapter. The reason for his mean word length not falling in chapter IV is that his score has been even higher in the two preceding chapters. In fact, in chapter II, his score is higher even than Bernard's. These two high scores seem to be a reflection of his academic accomplishments. In chapter II, he is the "best scholar in the school" (p. 38), and as such uses longer words than Bernard or Neville. In chapter III, he is working in an office, while they are reading at university. He is struggling to retain his keen intellectual edge, reading poetry "propped against the bottle of Worcester sauce" (p. 68) in cheap eating houses. His diminished abilities are reflected in a slightly lower mean word length for this chapter. By chapter IV this has fallen still further, and though still quite high, it is not what it was. Chapter VII, in which he looks back over his life, seems to be a rallying point, and by the following chapter, he is caught up in the joy of the group's communication, restoring old memories and patterns of speech.

Both chapters VII and VIII are cluster points for the mean word length scores, places where the scores of the individual characters converge to some extent, as they do in chapter IV. In VII, the great self-evaluation chapter, Neville's score drops more than the scores of the other characters, but this difference is probably not enough to be significant, due to the small magnitudes involved. For both this chapter, and for chapter VIII, the convergence is by no means close. However, compared with the overall variation in the scores elsewhere in this graph, it is probably significant. The clustering of the scores in chapter VIII, although not as tight as in chapter IV, reflects the partial fusion of the characters achieved at Hampton Court, itself not as successful as in their previous meeting. As they join together, however imperfectly, their language becomes more similar, reflecting their unity at this point, and this is detectable in this measure as elsewhere.

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