Expressive Syntactic Patterns in Sologub’s Story “V Tolpe”

Karina Ross, Ohio Wesleyan University

The proposed paper focuses on the expressive abilities of syntactic iconicity as they assist the author in conveying the primary theme of a literary piece. Sologub’s story “V tolpe” depicts the escalating fierceness of a crowd surrounding three children who venture to a local festivity. Depicted through the eyes of the children, the people surrounding them gradually develop into an amorphous death-defying mass that begins to pose grave danger for them. Eventually the crowd and its dynamic become the focus of Sologub’s story. Simultaneously, the author shows the three young protagonists losing control over their surroundings and becoming increasingly vulnerable amidst the destructive multitude of people. The crowd becomes a character in its own right, which also possesses a spirit of its own, distinguished by blind viciousness and indifference to the sufferings it inflicts. The increasing chaos is mirrored in the impressionistic nature of Sologub’s style, which is partially based on the story’s unconventional and often idiosyncratic syntactic structure. The dynamic of the crowd is characterized by erratic motion within it, loss of control in the face of the unleashed destructive forces, and the atmosphere of violence spreading uncontrollably due to suppressed individual responsibility.

These characteristics are iconically mirrored in the syntax through verbal series and repetitions. The emphasis on verbal sequences, along with the omission of subjects in elliptical sentences, expresses the prominence of motion and the loss of consciousness within the crowd. This device is frequently combined with syntactic severance suggesting the impossibility of an analysis or comprehension of the unraveling events.

Repetitions of separate words, as well as partial sentence elements, serve to convey the spread of moods and emotions passing through the crowd. Turmoil and madness envelop everybody in the crowd passing from person to person and fusing them into one mass. Like verbal series, the effect produced by repetitions is reinforced by the employment of subjectless sentences designed to reinforce the impression of the crowd as a faceless entity, fully dominated by chaos.