Literary Challenge

Find a sentence from a piece of literature where a single, simple word makes all the difference in the world. A lovely example, as noted by Paul Crenshaw, comes from a Robert Hayden poem:

“Sundays too my father got father got up early”

The word that tells a huge chunk of the story is “too,” which reveals that the father performs miracles of domesticity every day of the week, and saturates the poem with the speaker’s belated appreciation for his father’s love.

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10 Responses to Literary Challenge

  1. Kaylee Hall says:

    “What is done in love is done well.” Van Gogh
    This quote uses simple words to portray a greater meaning, the word ‘done’ symbolizes actions. Van Gogh had a way of using his art and words to create a bigger picture. Actions are done in love or good intentions, which are significant as being good.

  2. Jon Kiesel says:

    Well, the sentence would be a whole Stanza in Rudyard Kipling’s “If” poem, so I’ll cut to what I thought was interesting:
    ” If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
    And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’”
    Here the word “Will” is personified in two ways: 1. you can point out that the initialization of the word supposes that Will is a person, and 2. is about what Will is doing here, that is of course, saying to “Hold on!” It sparks wonder about who is “the Will?” and why is he in all of us? Will could be good for all we now, and as with the author’s intention here, he probably is good to have.

  3. Lexi Holdiness says:

    One of the most famous poems by Emily Dickenson is “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain”. The poem describes the tragedy of madness. The author feels themselves slipping into a mental abyss of darkness. The ending line in the poem, “And finished knowing -then-” easily distorts the readers understanding of the poem. The simple word “then” makes everything a little more interesting. Instead of ending the poem, Dickenson chooses to silently continue it. “Then” doesn’t necessarily change the entire meaning of the poem, but it adds another element completely: Never being done. Often in Dickenson’s poems, the theme of never ending work appears again and again. Emily Dickenson was never done, she never stopped writing until she died. “Then-” continues her poem, and therefore her madness.

  4. Gordon Welch says:

    “Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door-” Edgar Allen Poe, “The Raven.”
    The word that makes this literary quote rather intriguing is the word, “entreating.” It gives an anxious feeling and meaning to the sentence and jump starts the entire poem. The word perfectly describes what is currently going on while foreshadowing what could happen in the near future.

  5. Willem says:

    “In time, all storms settle to a pleasant breeze.” -Neal Shushterman, Thunderhead
    The word here is ‘pleasant’. In time, all storms settle to a breeze. All bad things can be washed away with time. But add the word, ‘pleasant’ in front of breeze, it implies that you’ll be glad that it happened. For to move on from something is a given, but noticing that you might be glad that it happened, is closure.

  6. Aaron Sharp says:

    “Love looks not with the eyes”
    -Shakespeare (Midsummer Night’s Dream)

    This quote is a very interesting one as it personifies love using the significant word “looks”. This gives love a deeper meaning of un-shallowness, because if love does not look with its eyes, then it does not judge on beauty, but judges instead on character.

  7. Arika Gardner says:

    “she comprehended the perversity of life, that in struggle lies the joy.”
    -Maya Angelou (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings)

    The word struggle has a negative connotation associated with it. When we think of struggle we don’t think of joy being in the same sentence as it unless you’re a psycho of course. The struggle of life will soon lead to some of your most joyful days. You cannot have a rainbow with a little rain. The flowers that come after a season of rain are what Ms. Angelou is referring to. In a life-guaranteed struggle, there is also joy in between its cracks.

  8. Maurisha Arnold says:

    “You did your best to seal up the cracks in my armour and make my heaven here.”
    Shane Koyczan ‘Heaven, or Whatever’
    In his poem, Koyczan explores the intricate, and beautiful relationship with his grandfather. The piece revolves around the contemplation of his grandfather’s version of heaven, a belief that he personally struggles to wrap his head around. The word in this line that stuck out the most was “here.” It really shows the complexity of how Heaven is a different concept for everyone. It may represent a spiritual place, or somewhere that just makes you happy. It reminds us that although many have conflicting spiritual paths, you can still find harmony and respect between each other. I myself struggle with religion, but this poem reminds me that it is okay to believe or not believe, because Heaven is truly within. It’s what brings me happiness and hope.

  9. James Talamo says:

    “And be one traveler, long I stood” Frost’s use of one really emphasizes the meaning of the path poem. By specifying one, he was put in a choice position with no one trying to convince him, just his better judgment

  10. Everett "CJ" Mason, Jr says:

    “It is nothing to die; it is dreadful not to live.” ~ Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

    The use of the word dreadful is important to the understanding of this sentence. Without it, the reader might just interpret that dying and not living are synonymous, but the use of the word “dreadful” makes the reader realize they are two different things. “Not living” by normal conventions means to be dead, but here, it is used to represent not living your life to its fullest and doing something fulfilling.

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