Well, it’s time for the final installment of Discourse Grammar in The Name of the Wind! If you all remember from my last post, we left off with Robert E. Longacre’s “final suspense” (38)—that small, post-climax action that happens before everything in the story is resolved.
How About We Wrap Things Up?
The last stage on our plot diagram is the resolution, where the reader is traditionally offered some sort of closure at the end of the narrative. As we’ve already noticed, though, Patrick Rothfuss’ novel is anything but traditional—especially regarding its plot. Some resolution does exist near the end, but it doesn’t even remotely match the intensity of the climax or the final suspense that we saw in Part 6.
Once Kvothe recovers from the shock of calling upon the name of the wind, he realizes that he could very well get in trouble, saying, “If they found me guilty of intentionally harming Ambrose, I would be whipped and expelled from the University” (424). Some resolution is eventually found in the fact that his expulsion from the University is suspended and his grade level increased, but other than that, most threads in the plot are left loose.
As the narrator says near the end of his tale, “When I left, my question was still wandering in the House of the Wind, giving no answers, hinting at many. Yes. No. Maybe. Elsewhere. Soon” (455, emphasis in original). Like the denouement, Rothfuss’ resolution seems largely nonexistent—at least for the main narrative of Kvothe’s story.
However, one glimpse at the narrative that takes place in Newarre reveals an even more elusive conclusion. Not only is there a lack of a resolution at the end of this part of the narrative, but one scene in particular looks remarkably like another climax.
A few chapters before the end of the book, the innkeeper stops midsentence in his tale as “[t]he sound of heavy boots on the wooden landing [startle] the men sitting in the Waystone Inn” (434). This section is rich with dialogue and storyline clauses; however, it is only when a half-crazed mercenary enters the inn and tries to kill Chronicler that the peak of the episode occurs:
Looking Chronicler full in the face, the mercenary twisted his hand sharply and the sword broke with a sound like a shattered bell. As Chronicler stared dumbly at the ruined weapon the mercenary took a step forward and laid his empty hand lightly on the scribe’s shoulder.
Chronicler gave a choked scream and jerked away as if he had been jabbed with a hot poker. He swung the broken sword wildly, knocking the hand away and notching it deep into the meat of the mercenary’s arm. (440, emphasis added)
These paragraphs include several punctiliar, simple past tense verbs such as the ones in bold above. However, the presence of storyline clauses aren’t the only indicators that this scene reads like the climax rather than the resolution of a story.
The innkeeper eventually takes part in the fight, “grabb[ing] a dark bottle from the counter and [flinging] it across the bar” (441). Kote’s sudden involvement in the action of this narrative serves as a contextual indicator of a climax, but the scene also has grammatical markers. For instance, Rothfuss changes the pace of the story at one point by switching from long descriptions of action to the one-sentence paragraph “Nothing happened” (441).
This episode seems to indicate the climax of the first embedded narrative (the story of the innkeeper in Newarre), and it doesn’t really bring any conclusion to the embedded narrative focusing on Kvothe.
Things eventually wind down after the innkeeper decides to finish speaking for the night and everyone heads off to bed, but the narrative’s action resumes when Chronicler is woken up by the innkeeper’s assistant, Bast.
Their discussion doesn’t include many punctiliar verbs, but there are a good amount of dialogue paragraphs that indicate mainline and also reveal that Bast intentionally brought Chronicler to Newarre because he thought the scribe’s influence would benefit the innkeeper (457-59). The episode closes with Bast sneaking out of Chronicler’s window so as not to wake the innkeeper (461), and Rothfuss immediately transitions into his epilogue.
A(nother) Silence of Three Parts
The only real resolution to the novel occurs in the epilogue, where Rothfuss returns to the initial narrative of “A Silence of Three Parts.” According to Dr. Clive McClelland, “cohesive devises” such as reiteration help hold a story together (n. pag.), a fact that is especially true in The Name of the Wind, where we can see that the two major embedded narratives lack traditional closure.
The epilogue begins in exactly the same manner as the prologue: “It was night again. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts” (461). The passive tone found in the prologue continues in this section as Rothfuss employs several copular, descriptive sentences that do not indicate mainline.
For example, the epilogue has its own paragraph focusing on things not present in the Waystone Inn: “The first [silence] was a hollow, echoing quiet, made by things that were lacking” (261). This paragraph contains several clauses demoted to Band 2 and lower by the use of past perfect verbs such as “have” as well as the modal “would.”
Just like in the prologue, the first signs of punctiliar verbs come in the third paragraph, but this time the focus is on Chronicler. Rothfuss writes, “Inside the Waystone a man huddled in his deep, sweet-smelling bed. Motionless, waiting for sleep, he lay wide-eyed in the dark. In doing this he added a small, frightened silence to the larger, hollow one” (261, emphasis added). The bolded words are in simple past tense, but all of them seem to describe a state of being rather than a specific action and therefore don’t indicate mainline. Likewise, the verb “added” is demoted to a lower band by the adverbial phrase “In doing this.”
When Rothfuss finally focuses on the innkeeper, he describes him in passive clauses just as he does in the prologue. Near the end of the epilogue, he says, “The man had true-red hair, red as flame. His eyes were dark and distant, and he moved with the weary calm that comes from knowing many things” (462). This description is almost word-for-word as it appears in the prologue, although the words “weary calm” have replaced the “subtle certainty” found in the first occurrence.
The last paragraph is also the same as the one found in the prologue: “The Waystone was his, just as the third silence was his. . . . It was the patient, cut-flower sound of a man who is waiting to die” (262). These repeated elements are cohesive devises that serve as the only true resolution, bringing the narrative back to its beginning in a full circle.
A Brief Works Cited
- Longacre, Robert E. The Grammar of Discourse. 2nd ed. New York: Plenum, 1996. Print.
- McClelland, Clive. 2013. Lectures in ENGL 533.
- Rothfuss, Patrick. The Name of the Wind. New York: Penguin, 2007. Print.
Some Concluding Thoughts
So, this is the end of the long, drawn out (but hopefully engaging!) discussion of Discourse Grammar in The Name of the Wind. Now that I’ve rambled on for seven posts about the subject, what are your thoughts on discourse grammar?
Rothfuss played around with the conventional plot diagram (while still including all the important elements), but how would you structure your own narrative? Would you stick to the “tried and true”?
Feel free to comment!