Diction Style and Form: Definition & Explanation

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      “All Form in literature includes Style in the same manner that all Style includes Diction.”

      Diction means wording or phrasing. There is always a conscious choice of words in a good composition. Words are not chosen at random, but with a sensitive awareness of their suggestive power and their appropriateness to convey the precise shade of thought or feeling which the writer has in mind.

      Style refers to the entire machinery of expression at the disposal of the writer and, naturally, includes diction. It refers not only to the choice of words and their arrangement in sentences and paragraphs, but also to the playing up or down of ideas, the balance or contrast suggested between them, the tone which the words are made to convey — in fact, the complex armory which the poet has for the expression of his intuition or vision.

      According to Pater, expression is the chief problem of the artist. To this end the style is fashioned and perfected. Truth of expression consists for him in the artist giving perfect form to his intuition.

      Now, in preparation for this supreme duty of the literary artist, Pater expects him to study, weigh, and winnow words, to develop a sense of their finer edges and to dread all’ surplusage’. This is the science of his art. As an artist, he conceives a work of art architecturally, and then as a craftsman, he begins to build it part by part, never losing sight of the whole design. When he has finished the whole, the parts fall into place and the entire poem, novel or play becomes an organic, unified entity. Knit together by an inner principle of organization, it achieves some pattern, some significance. It is this final shape, which the work of art assumes, that is called Form. It is the totality of all the elements that go to make a work of art. Form is, as Scott-James says, the expression of the entire thought organism. That is, form is the final impression of the completed poem, novel or play is a whole much greater than the sum of its parts, says Walter Allen, speaking of the Form of Browning’s ‘A Light Woman”. But in working towards this form, this design, which the entire work takes on when finished, by reason of the perfection of every part and the perfect connection in which they are held together, the artist will have made use of style. He makes expression yield the maximum of meaning. The complex yet unified structure of the play or poem (that is, their form) would not be possible if each little part did not contribute. And this is achieved with expression, with the effort to realize Form, as Pater defines it.

      Expression is style and style is the comment, remarks Allen in one context. Though he identifies one with the other in order to bring out their intimate relationship, we may indicate their precise relationship as follows: The artist’s problem is one of expression, of giving perfect form to his vision. Form is what ultimately emerges out of the completed work when a principle of unity runs through and knits together all the parts. The final picture is a complex built up by each single word and image. So style is a means towards achieving form. Style, of course, includes diction, but it is much more, and it is itself subsumed under Form (for that, too, is an instrument of expression).

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