4/07/06
The KISS Printable Books Back to Level Three Instructional Materials

A Study in Parallel Subordinate Clause Fragments

No. 1.
From Classic Americans: A Study of Eminent American Writers from Irving to Whitman, by Henry Seidel Canby, N.Y.: Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1931. 193-194.

Henry Seidel Canby, author of several books on American literature and culture,  was editor of The Saturday Review of Literature and a member of the English Department of Yale University. 
     If students are still learning to identify grammatical constructions, you may want to have them do the typical KISS identification version of this exercise. The punctuation version, however, is an excellent exercise for the application of what students have been learning in the KISS Approach. 
     Suggestion: Give each student a copy of the punctuation version, and give the class five to ten minutes to do it. Then put an overhead of it on the board and have the students explain and discuss what they did. End the class by showing them Canby's version and briefly discussing it.

Analysis Key

     There are two Thoreaus (PN), the Thoreau [#1] {of want} and the Thoreau [#1]

{of ought}. | [Subj. of "was" What (DO of "wanted") he consistently wanted], was to

follow his own bent and belief [#2] and live [#2] {in terms} {of closest intimacy} {with wild

nature}. | Not [ [#3] because nature contained implications (DO) {of the Deity and

ultimate truth}], [ [#4] although this (DO) he believed]. | Not [ [#3] because he was

a Transcendentalist (PN)], [ [#5] although he observed transcendentally]. | But 

[ [#3] because to live [#6] {in such intimacy} was [PN what (DO) he instinctively loved]

[  [#7] ("There is (in my nature), methinks [#8], a singular yearning (PN) {toward all

wildness}")]] and, still more, [ [#3] because, {in the Emersonian sense}, he felt himself

(DO) {in tune} {with the universe} [Adv. to "felt" when he was {in the fields and the

woods}]]. |


Notes
1. Appositive to "Thoreaus"
2. "Bent" and "belief" are direct objects of the infinitive "to follow." The infinitive phrases based on "to follow" and "live" function as predicate nouns after "was."
3. Even though this clause is not attached to the preceding sentence, it clearly modifies the two infinitive phrases ("to follow ... and live") in the preceding sentence. And since those two infinitives function as predicate nouns, these clauses also go back to the subject of that sentence, What he consistently wanted."
4. The fragment means "Although he believed this (the content of the "because" clause), it was not the reason." Thus the "although" clause modifies the "not" which modifies the "because" clause.
5. This "although" clause also modifies the preceding "not."
6. The infinitive "to live" functions as the subject of "was."
7. Technically, this is a parenthetical insertion, a type of interjection. It would be unusual in most writing, but is more common in literary criticism. In effect, Canby has inserted a quotation from Thoreau to support the preceding "because" clause.
8. I doubt that you will find this one in any grammar textbook. "Methinks" can be explained as an interjection, but note how close it is to the subordinate clause "I think" that KISS would likewise consider an interjection in this position.

Comments on the Fragments

    If we replace the periods that create the fragments with commas (and change the capitalization), we would have one 96-word main clause. That is a large chunk of words to process. The fragments themselves essentially consist of four "because" clauses. Ordinarily, a period and capital letter suggests that a main clause has ended and short-term memory should be cleared for a new sentence. (See the KISS psycholinguistic model.) Thus we would read that first "because" clause with the expectation that it will chunk to a main S/V/C pattern that follows it.
     In this case, however, the italicized "Not" may perform an interesting function. The preceding main clause tells readers what Thoreau wanted. An obvious question regarding wants is "Why? "Because" would answer that question, and the italicized "Not" may lead the reader to connect this clause, in terms of meaning, to the preceding sentence. Thus most readers are probably not surprised, or confused to find the period at the end of this fragment (after "believed"). The syntactic rule is broken, but the meaning is clear. This is reinforced by a repetition of "Not because..." in the second fragment, which also clearly makes sense as an explanation of "What he wanted." The parallel construction of the two "Not because" clauses also prepares the way for the last fragment which begins with "But because."