What is the town of Holcomb, Kansas like? According to Truman Capote in the opening of In Cold Blood, "like the waters of the river, like the motorists on the highway, and like the yellow trains streaking down the Santa Fe tracks, drama in the shape of exceptional happenings, had never stopped there." Capote's manipulation of specific word choice and syntax effectively convey the image of a desolate and dirty country town to the reader.
In the opening paragraphs of the excerpt, words such as "lonesome", ""out there"", "countryside", and "wheat plains" create strong images in the span of only a few sentences. These phrases hold sensory appeal to the reader. The descriptions of the small, isolated town make Holcomb seem almost like the ideal setting for a Western movie. Also, the selection of certain details enhance the image of the town. The local accent is said to be "barbed with a prairie twang, a ranch-hand nasalness,", and the woman who owns the post office is described as wearing "a rawhide jacket and denims and cowboy boots". The descriptions of the people who live in Holcomb enhance the tone that the town as a whole gives off.
Capote's syntax also helps to show what type of place Holcomb is. The sentences he uses are long and have a somewhat lazy feel to them. Semicolons and commas make this effect possible. The reader needs to slow down to understand the material, which creates the idea that the town is also a slow place. When describing a city such as New York, it would be appropriate to use short sentences. Then the reader would pick up their pace, just as the lifestyle in that city is accelerated.
Capote's word choice and syntax are effectively mixed to create an imaginary but plausible world in the reader's mind. There is no doubt as to what Holcomb looks like, what the people are like that live there, and what the tone of the town is. Capote views Holcomb as run-down and dirty, isolated in the middle of wheat plain covered western Kansas; this is exactly how the reader feels too after scanning the passage because of the use of literary devices.
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