In Richard Selzer's excerpt "The Knife", he uses varying syntactical structures and lengths in order to show that surgery is an art form that the surgeon respects deeply. An example of when Selzer uses the length of the words within the sentence to influence how the reader feels about the piece is when he says "strange flowers whose looped handles fall to the sides in steely array." and then quickly transitions to "There is sound, the tight click". By moving quickly from the longer and more abstractly descriptive words in the first sentence to the much shorter and simpler ones in the second sentence, he makes the makes the reader feel as though they are being abruptly drawn into something, much like being quickly woken from sleep. This shift also shows that before the quick metallic clicks focused the surgeon, he was lost in the beauty of the art that the surgery is creating. An excellent example of how Richard Selzer uses sentence length in addition to word choice to control the speed at which the audience reads the piece and to create emotions such as anxiety and suspense is at the end of the piece, when he says "Tumor in the sigmoid colon, wrapped all around it, pretty tight. We'll take out a sleeve of the bowel. No colostomy. Not that, anyway. But, God, there's a lot of it down there. Here, you take a feel. Yow step back from the table and lead into a sterile basin of water ..." By utilizing increasingly shorter sentences, quickly followed by a long, compound sentence, Selzer mimics the sound a heart monitor makes when a victim flatlines. By using this structure, Selzer creates a feeling of suspense in the reader, but also show the stress and sadness that can take place in a surgery operation and he also then shows that the surgeon does, in fact, respect the art and feel sadness and sorrow for patients in threatening situations.
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