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Being a man given to oratory

22 February 2013

Being a man given to oratory and high principles, he enjoyed the sound of his own vocabulary and the warmth of his own virtue.

Sinclair Lewis

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4 Comments to “Being a man given to oratory”

  1. Spot on. ‘nough said.

  2. Wow, nice little twist at the end. This is characterization!

    Nice.

    • Still more, this is irony. A good orator is not hypnotized by the sound of his own voice: he pays his chief attention to the response of his audience. A real man of principle does not bask in his own virtue: he is aware that his principles are very much higher than his practice, and labours daily, and often hopelessly, to try to live up to them.

      What Lewis describes here is a contemptible little man who thinks himself possessed of capacities he does not actually have, and remains so secure and self-possessed in his conceit that he never stirs beyond it to regions where he might be exposed to the truth. And Lewis has done it with the maximum of economy. It’s a beautiful technique — showing the character from his own point of view, without a single word of authorial intrusion, and yet showing that his point of view is a lie.

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