02 February 2012

The Point of Rhetoric

From The King in the Window (2005), by Adam Gopnik:

"'Imagine all the people looking in their windows, searching for their joy through the lens of their longing! The small boy staring at a train in a toy store window. The woman wanting a hat in the window of Christian Dior; a hungry man staring in the window of the pâtissier who desires a mille-feuilles that he denies himself . . .'

"Oliver seemed to see the people as Racine named each one: the little boy looking into a department store on Christmas Eve on a chilly Parisian boulevard, and the middle-aged lady in her gray suit staring at the hat, and the fat man desiring his pastry, all of them filled with longing as they stared into windows. . . .

"Racine's speech might be very rhetorical, Oliver thought — very fancy and full of metaphors — but it was also extremely affecting, and for the first time Oliver could really see the point of rhetoric. It dressed up ordinary things in fancy paper, and then let you unwrap them in your mind, like presents.

"Racine shut his eyes and paused, and then his chant continued. 'Just think about all the people looking out! The lonely bachelor staring out the window of his study at the children playing in the field below . . . the longing lover peering through the window where the beauties flow . . . the museum guard staring out at the busy street . . .'

"And once again Oliver could see with Racine all the lonely people, the sad old man and the unhappy lover and the rest, all looking out of windows at the things they longed for. He reached out to touch them, but his hand passed right through them" (The King in the Window, 75-76).


Susan said...

"Ah, look at all the lonely people.... Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been...."

You'd almost think that everything has something to do with the Beatles.


Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Exactly, Susan.