Thematic progressions singled out by F. Danes

Thematic progressions singled out by F. Danes

From the point of view of informative value the rheme plays a more important role in the utterance than the theme, because the introduction of a (relatively) new information is connected with the rheme. But in the inner structuring of a text the theme becomes quite relevant. Low informative loading of thematic elements allows to Use them as a perfect building material.
According to some scholars, any text (text fragment) may be represented as a sequence of themes. The thematic structure of a text is characterized by a peculiar cohesion of themes, their connections with separate parts of the text and the text in general. F. Danes suggested a similar theory; he called the whole complex of thematic relations in the text “a thematic progression” and singled out five main types of thematic progressions in a text.

F. Danes’s thematic progressions are abstract models that underlie the structure of texts. The progressions described by F. Danes seldom occur in texts separately. Most often scholars may come across different combinations of these types.

1. Simple linear progression (a progression with consecutive thematization), where the thematic information of a sentence is the same as the rhematic information of (he preceding sentence. This type of thematic progression in opinion of F. Danes is the most widespread in the text. Consecutive unfolding of information is typical of it: the rheme of the previous sentence becomes the theme of the subsequent one. We shall look, for example, how the consecutive thematization of the rhematic elements occurs in the text fragment describing Saturday morning from Z.Sherburne’s “From Mother… With Love”:

It began like any other Saturday, with Minta lying in bed an extra hour. Breakfast was always lazy and unhurried on Saturday mornings. ‘The three of them in the breakfast room – Minta’s father engrossed in his paper; her mother flying around in a gaily colored housecoat, mixing waffles and frying bacon; Minta selling the table.

On the communicative plane each subsequent sentence of this fragment is based on the previous one. Thus, unfolding of the text occurs from the given (themes) to new (rhemes) information which in its turn becomes the theme of a new sentence.

2. Constant theme, or run-through progression, where the (hematic information of a sentence is the same as the thematic information of the preceding sentence. The characteristic feature of the given type of a thematic progression is the presence of one theme repeated in each sentence (or statement), of a text. Thus, the same theme, penetrating the whole text (a fragment of a text), makes it coherent.

Thus, the theme of the first paragraph from “The Sentimentality of William Tavener” by W. Gather is the theme of Hester, a farmer’s wife.

It takes a strong woman to make any sort of success of living in the West, and Hester undoubtedly was that. When people spoke of William Tavener as the most prosperous farmer in McPherson County, they usually added that his wife was a “good manager. ” She was an executive woman, quick of tongue and something of an imperatrix. The only reason her husband did not consult her about his business was that she did not wail to be consulted.

This theme is repeated several times: it is the starting point of the speaker’s reasoning, the rhematic elements add new features to the image of Hester Tavener.

3. Derived theme progression, where the thematic information is the same for a sequence of sentences but this information is implied, not stated. This type of thematic progression covers such cases of textual organization in which each sentence (or statement) of a text, having no elements of either consecutive or repeated thematization, serves to express a common theme of the fragment. The main theme, or ‘hyper-theme’, as F. Danes calls it, of a text, may be mentioned explicitly by the speaker or may be formulated on the basis of separate descriptions.

It was in the clove of seasons, summer was dead but autumn had not yet been born, that the ibis lit in the bleeding tree. The flower garden was stained with rolling brown magnolia petals and iron-weeds grew rank amid the purple phlox. The five o’clocks by the chimney still marked time, but the oriole nest in the elm was untenanted and rocked back and forth like an empty cradle. The last graveyard flowers were blooming, and their smell drifted across the cotton field and through every room of our house, speaking softly the names of our dead.

4. Progression with a split theme. This type of thematic progression is based on a double rheme, the components of which during thematization form the starting points for the development of separate thematic progressions. Such thematic progressions may present different types (described above) and develop by turns. Let’s see, for example, the way independent thematic progressions develop in the fragment from Norman Mailer’s “The Notebook”:

The writer was having a fight with his young lady. They were walking toward her home, and as the argument continued, they walked with their bodies farther and farther apart:

The young lady was obviously providing the energy for the quarrel: Her voice would rise- a little bit, her head and shoulders would move toward him as though to add weight to her words, and then she would turn away in disgust, her heels tapping the pavement in an even, precise rhythm which was quite furious.
The writer was suffering with some dignity. He placed one leg in front of the other, he looked straight ahead, his face was sad, he would smile sadly from time to lime and nod his head to every word she uttered.
Let’s consider, for example, the fragment that describes the natural phenomena typical of autumn (“The Scarlet Ibis” by James Hurst):

The writer was having a fight with his young lady. They were walking toward her home, and as the argument continued, they walked with their bodies farther and farther apart:
The young lady was obviously providing the energy for the quarrel: Her voice would rise- a little bit, her head and shoulders would move toward him as though to add weight to her words, and then she would turn away in disgust, her heels tapping the pavement in an even, precise rhythm which was quite furious.
The writer was suffering with some dignity. He placed one leg in front of the other, he looked straight ahead, his face was sad, he would smile sadly from time to lime and nod his head to every word she uttered.

5. Progression with a thematic jump. This kind of progression presupposes that a break may occur in a theme and rheme chain, which, however, is easily restored from the context. Such break is mostly observed in a progression with consecutive thematization. Let’s observe one of the variants of thematic jump on the example of the abstract taken from J. Steinbeck’s “The Pastures of Heaven”.

“Well Miss Mary Morgan, as near as I can figure, the purpose of this interview is to give me a little knowledge of your past and of the kind of person you are. I’m supposed to know something about you when you’ve finished. And now that you know my purpose, I suppose you’ll be self conscious and anxious to give a good impression. Maybe if you just tell me a little about yourself, everything’ll be all right. Just a few words about the kind of girl you are, and where you came from.”

Molly nodded quickly. “Yes, I’ll try to do that, Mr. Whiteside, ” and she dropped her mind hack into the past.

There was the old, squalid, unpointed house with its wide back porch and the round washtubs leaning against the rail. High in the great willow tree her two brothers, Joe and Tom, crashed about crying, “Now I’m an eagle.” “I’m a parrot.” “Now I’m an old chicken.” “Watch me!”

The screen door on the back porch opened, and their mother leaned tiredly out. Her hair would not lie smoothly no matter how much she combed it. Thick strings of it hung down beside her face. Her eyes were always a little red. and her hands and wrists painfully cracked. “Tom. Joe,” she called. “You’ll gel hurl up there. Don’t, worry me so, boys! Don’t you love your mother at all?” The voices in the tree were hushed. The shrieking spirits of the eagle and the old chicken were drenched in self reproach. Molly sat in the dust, wrapping a rag around a stick and doing her best to imagine it a tall lady in a dress. “Molly, come in and stay with your mother. I’m so tired today.”

Molly stood up the stick in the deep dust. “You. miss, ” she whispered fiercely. “You’ll get whipped on your bare bottom when I come back. ” Then she obediently went into the house.
Her mother sat in a straight chair in the kitchen. “Draw up, Molly. Just sit with me a little while. Love me. Molly! love your mother a little bit. You are mother’s good little girl, aren’t you?” Molly squirmed on. her chair. “Don’t you love your mother, Molly”.

‘The Utile girl was very miserable. She knew her mother would cry in a moment, and then she would be compelled to stroke the stringy hair. Both she and her brothers knew they should love their mother. She did everything for them. They were ashamed that they hated to be near her. but they couldn’t help it. When she Called to them and they were not itr sight, they pretended not to hear, and crept away, talking in whispers.

“Well, to begin with, we were very poor,” Molly said to John Whiteside. “I guess we were realty’ poverty-stricken. I had two brothers a little older than I. My father was a traveling salesman, but even so, my mother had to work. She worked terribly hard for us.

Belles-lettres texts usually manifest a complex interlacing of various thematic lines. This interlacing reflects the strategy the speaker uses in the process of realization of his communicative idea.

Thematic progressions of F. Danes, being abstract models, can not reflect all aspects of semantic organization of a text, however, they may be used, fro example; for the purpose of analysis of factual information in a text.

O.I. Moskal’s’ka use’s theme-theme relations for the analysis of the communicative structure of a text fragment. The scholar builds up a scheme that reveals a complicated hierarchy of themes and rhemes. But for all its complexity the scheme reflects the communicative continuity of a text quite clearly; because it presents only main moments of communicative connectedness of a text.

Alongside with main lines each sentence also contains numerous references to the elements presented in the preceding context, which, in turn, contributes to the strengthening of the communicative integrity of a text.