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by sculpture, drawing, or painting, the resemblance of these forms to the real house would express the thought, without previous preparation on the part of the observer. But if the word house should be presented to one for the first time it would fail to communicate the idea house; there is nothing in its nature to do so. Hence we say that it is an arbitrary symbol. Of course printed language, being a degenerate form of picture writing, did in that form naturally express its object; as perhaps did spoken language at one time. They no doubt lost their natural character and assumed the conventional in the effort of man to express his thought more effectively. Thus the purpose of discourse has shaped its instrument through the ages, as it immediately shapes it in each particular discourse.
Discourse, then, connects itself with every other object in the universe, words and sentences included, in the fact of expressing thought, or having meaning. It lifts itself out of the universe of objects, with the exception of a small group, by the fact of existing for the sole purpose of communicating thought. It now separates itself from the small group by communicating its thought through the arbitrary symbol of language. Discourse may, therefore, be defined as the expression of thought in language for the purpose of communication. Thus is bounded the field of our further study, with a guiding map of the territory, purpose in discourse ; thought in discourse ; language or style in discourse.
Thus appears the organizing principle of our science ; namely, the effective expression of thought in language to a definite, worthy aim,
THE PURPOSE IN DISCOURSE.
EFFICIENT MEANS TO A WORTHY END.
Discourse, like any other instrument, must be studied in its adaptation to the end sought ; and is estimated to have merit in proportion to its efficiency as a means to a worthy end. Hence purpose or effect in discourse is the only standard by which it can be measured, as well as the only motive by which it can be produced.
Discourse, being a means to an end, stands between two minds, one of which produces the discourse while the other is affected by it. The effect of the discourse in the mind of the reader is the cause of the discourse in the mind of the writer. While skating produces pleasure, pleasure produces skating; that is, pleasure in idea produces the skating which brings the pleasure in reality. Pleasure is both cause and effect in the skating. Exercise causes health, but health, in idea, causes the exercise. Speed in locomotion produces the train, and the train produces speed in locomotion. Thus everything man produces, as an engine, a palace, or a poem, moves in a circle from end in idea to end as reality.
Likewise a discourse stands between the effect held in idea by the author and the effect produced in the reader or hearer. When one calls to his friend, “ See the rainbow !” it is because he wishes his friend to have the same rainbow delight which charms himself. This effect held in mind produces the discourse, “See the rainbow”; and this discourse realizes the delight in the one addressed. If one announce that the French President has resigned, it is because he desires the idea which he entertains to be entertained by others. The following lines stand between the heartbreak which Tennyson held in mind and the heartbreak which he desired to produce in the reader :
“ And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill ;
And the sound of a voice that is still.!”.
Thus a writer or a speaker idealizes an effect desired in another mind, and under this guidance and impulse constructs the discourse which realizes the effect. The reader or hearer is also striving to make real the same effect. The end of constructing a discourse and of interpreting it are in a sense the same, — are to bring the two minds, through discourse, into the same idea, sentiment, or volition. This is suggested by the word interpretation, whose root meaning is to declare between. An interpreter stands between the speaker and the hearer and aids in bringing their minds into unity. With the composer, the effort is to bring the interpreter into a given thought; and with the interpreter the effort is to bring himself into the same thought. Discourse is a means to the unity of two minds in the same thought ; which common thought is
the purpose of the discourse both to the author and to the interpreter.
Hence discourse has it purpose to the reader or auditor as well as to the writer or speaker. It would be as vain to read as to write without a purpose ; in either case the discourse is used for a purpose. It is possible for the reader to use a discourse for another purpose than that for which the author intended it ; as an instrument designed for one purpose may often be serviceable for another. In fact it is sometimes claimed that a reader cannot know the purpose of an author ; but the reader can know what effect a given discourse produces on himself, and to him this effect is the purpose of the discourse, being that for which he uses the discourse. We attribute as purpose to the author what we find to be the effect of the discourse in ourselves. We should be much surprised to find the practical outcome of a discourse to be one thing, as tested by our experience in reading it, and to learn from the testimony of the author that he had intended something entirely different. But what is worse, it is claimed that in the case of a poet he has no purpose ; that he but sings as the linnet, and speaks in numbers because the numbers come. If the urgency to utterance is so strong as to obliterate consciousness of an objective effect, this does not prove that the composition seeks no objective end; that it has no use either to the author or the interpreter. And if in such cases the spontaneous outbreak adapts the discourse without the usual course of patient planning, so much the more credit to the inspiration of purpose.
Be this as it may, all such self-forgetful frenzy of inspiration is quite exceptional ; and the ordinary writer must still set up a definite aim to be realized, and use the most diligent care in adapting his discourse to the end set up. If this were not so every discourse would be a chance product, lawless and irresponsible ; quite apart from our ordinary experience of sequence in cause and effect and the adjustment of means to end. When it is claimed that there is no science of literary discourse, it must be assumed that there is no certainty as to the effect produced in different minds ; and no necessary connection between design and accomplishment. In such uncertainty the speaker before an audience on the Fourth of July, designing to produce an inspiration of patriotism, might instead, by chance, arouse base passions of spoils and anarchy, or the delightful experience of an ocean voyage. The writer of a great poem designing to exalt religious faith might instead produce skepticism and despair, or the joy of moonlight scenery. Milton wrote “Paradise Lost," but to the reader it might happen to be “ Paradise Regained.” Now, let any number of people read the “ Psalm of Life,” the “ Barefoot Boy,” “ Ivanhoe,” or the “ Nineteenth Psalm,” and all will report substantially the same impression ; and the fuller and the more accurate the comprehension of the selection the more nearly will there be confessed unity of effect, and the more pronounced the conviction that the author knew what he was about in the writing.
We are often warned of the danger of reading into a discourse more than the writer put into it ; and it is