Sentence Fragments, Sound, and Setting in Suttree and The Road

Rachel Furey


Cormac McCarthy is widely known not only for his distinct choices in style that set him apart from other writers, but also for the significant changes in style that he implements with each new novel. John Cant notes that “no two novels of his have the same form” (“The Road” 267). Separated in publication by twenty-seven years, Suttree and The Road are two such novels. However, despite their differences in style, they also share some similarities. Of all of McCarthy’s work, they offer readers the most access to the internal thoughts of the protagonists. McCarthy’s stylistic choices, particularly sentence fragments, which relay thoughts to readers in the same manner characters would think them, work to both close the gap between the reader and the protagonist while also pulling the reader’s attention toward specific details. Often, the details found within the sentence fragments highlight the abject. J. Douglas Canfield notes that Julia Kristeva’s “theory of abjection” was published at about the same time as Suttree (665). He refers to the abject as “filth, detritus, excrement, the slime of life that pulls us ineluctably toward what Freud calls the ‘reality principle’ of death” (Canfield 665). Both novels feature the frequent use of sentence fragments, which generally serve one of two functions: to demonstrate the protagonist’s thoughts as action is occurring (drawing the reader’s attention to particular details regarding the actions of the protagonist, including character flaws) or to describe the setting surrounding the protagonist (drawing the reader’s attention to particular details regarding the setting, especially the deteriorating parts of it).

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