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The Use of Language: Emotion has no bounds

The books we have read in 322 really have reinforced by belief that language, no matter how subtle, can reach the very core of a reader. Especially in the two texts With His Pistol In His Hand and Down These Mean Streets, the use of language invokes a strong feeling of pride or heartbreak. In With His Pistol In His Hand, the transition of language in the Corrido de Gregorio Cortez and the common use of the imperfect show how guitarreros can create a vivid lyrical story that allows the listener to become immersed in the story and feel represented in Cortez himself. On the other hand, Down These Mean Streets often uses slang to immerse the reader in 1950’s New York, effectively communicates Brew’s southern drawl to allow the reader to understand his history, and implements Spanish words to express terms of endearment or ideas that have a profound meaning behind them. No matter the book, language has the potential to immerse the reader in a story and make them feel as if they are living the life of the characters that are described.

The analysis of El Corrido de Gregorio Cortez by Paredes doesn’t simply gloss over the corrido’s history and compare it to historical events, but it offers insight as to how language can create realistic imagery and creating a story that seemingly unfolds before one’s very eyes. Though the transformation of the corrido is interesting, the use of language in all variants hyperbolizes the events of Cortez and through this exaggeration of events shows Cortez as an everyday Mexican-American on the border that fights for his right and is a model for how the average man should live his life. The imagery would not be complete without the subtle yet impactful use of the imperfect tense which gives the listener the feeling that the legend of Cortez is unravelling right there in that cantina or bar. The use of the imperfect doesn’t simply list events that have happened in the past (like the preterite tense would do), but creates a feeling of continuous action in the past that keeps the listener on the edge of their seat. Through the hyperbolization of the life of Gregorio Cortez and the clever use of the imperfect tense, El Corrido de Gregorio Cortez has lived in the hearts of border Mexican-Americans because they felt as if the respectable, honourable man represented what they, as individuals and as a community, believed in and strived to become.

The feeling of being submersed into a story continues as Down These Means Streets talks about the hardships of growing up in the Spanish Harlem and beautifully does this by using slang, exemplifying accents, and using Spanish words and phrases. The use of words like “heart”, “cop” and “paddies” tell of a different time (post WWII) and makes the reader feel as though they are in 1950’s Harlem. The progressive use of this slang doesn’t deter the reader, but actually makes the reading experience more rewarding as the gradual teaching of the slang makes the reader feel like they belong in this story and can almost decode this dated language. The use of slang is impactful, but the depiction of Brew’s accent, through sounding out his southern drawl, allows the reader to understand Brew’s history and where he comes from. Though Brew has very cynical ideas about race and inequality, the phonics of Brew’s speech reinforces that he is from Mobile, Alabama constantly, relaying a message that the reader cannot forget; Brew has these pessimistic views about society because he has come from a place that doesn’t treat him like an equal or even a decent person. The importance of Brew’s message could be easily lost without the phonetic interpretation of Brew’s accent, as it constantly shows Brew’s history of racial discrimination. Lastly, Down These Mean Streets uses Spanish words and phrases to demonstrate endearing terms or ideas that carry profound significance with them. The words “hombre”, “barrio”, and “negrito” all carry very personal and very heartfelt meanings with them. With these words, Thomas transcends from simply telling his story to a passionate, intimate memoir that displays the reality and pride of his Puerto Rican heritage. Also, the use of the Spanish language creates a feeling of exclusivity with those that do not know Spanish, or heartwarming community with those that do.

Through both texts, With His Pistol in His Hand and Down These Mean Streets, clever and powerful application of language is used. Whether hyperbolization, imperfect tense, slang, phonics, or use of Spanish, these two works resonate with readers across the globe because they could captivate audiences by their beautiful demonstration of language.

-Curtis HR

One thought on “The Use of Language: Emotion has no bounds

  1. Hey Curtis,

    Great post! I totally agree with everything you said – It’s amazing how authors have the ability to use their words so eloquently and in a way that fully immerses and teleports the reader into the very words we read. As you said, Paredes does a beautiful job in chooses his words and tenses to make the story completely engaging, as if we, as the reader, are sitting around a campfire being told the folklore. Likewise, I absolutely agree with what you had to say about Down These Mean Streets – the language and the illustrated accents in this book not only made the scenes more real but gave the characters a background, an identity. For me, at least, it almost made the book feel like a movie – I wasn’t reading anymore, but rather I was seeing the scenes and hearing the people speak. Crazy what language can do when used properly!



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