In this blog post, I would like to get into a technical aspect of reading literature and talk about how form can make a lasting impact on how you understand and interpret what you read. Form can be defined as “the manner or style of arranging and coordinating parts for a pleasing or effective result, as in literary or musical composition” according to dictionary.com, therefore, the way a piece of literature is physically structured can make an impact on how we perceive it. Specifically, I want to talk about the effectiveness and importance of a line break. Although this is more prominently used within poetry, it can be just as effective in many other types of literature. By using a line break, it creates a emphasis on the following line, leading the reader to pay a little more attention to it. In this post, I would like to talk about an instance where this happens within Fortune’s Bones that really stood out to me.
In Fortune’s Bones: The Manumission Requiem, Marilyn Nelson is consistently drawing our attention to the idea that a person is not defined by his physical body, or in this case, his bones. This is a steady theme throughout the book, but I found that my attention was most drawn to it on page 26: There are are two paragraphs that talk about the physical skeleton of Fortune and how he suffered terribly through labor and died, as well as the fact that although he has been reduced to “a bunch of bones,” he is and was so much more than that, such as “someone’s son, maybe someone’s father” (Nelson, 26). This is followed by a single short sentence on it’s own line that reads “But he was free” (Nelson, 26). This line really struck me and caught my attention, which I believe was Nelson’s intention.
By placing this sentence on it’s own individual line, it is set apart from everything else being discussed and allows for the reader to put a little more thought into the significance and meaning of the sentence in regards to the overall theme. “But he was free” really reinforced the idea for me that Fortune is not defined by his bones, because despite all of the hardship he went through in the life, and the disrespect his remains suffered, his soul is free from all of this. The fact that this line was literally free and stood alone from the rest of the paragraphs is the example of how form can create a “pleasing or effective result.” This effective use of form for this sentence in conjunction with the poem “Not My Bones” on the previous and following pages (25 and 27) really brought together the idea of the separation between the body and the soul, and how there is so much more to a person than what his remains indicate.