Mersaille and Stamps

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Marseille and Stamps
One of the most tantalizing things about writing is that most people who do it, whether or not they know much about what they are describing or the language they are using, write very similar things. Often one may come across two seemingly unrelated pieces of writing, and be surprised to find that they are overwhelmingly alike. Such is so in the case of M.F.K. Fisher's commentary on the French port of Marseille, and Maya Angelou's description of the small town of Stamps, Arkansas; both passages are extremely similar in their effect of wholly enveloping the reader in the descriptions of the towns, through the respective authors' handling of the resources of language. By using imagery, anecdotes, tone, and other stylistic devices, Fisher and Angelou adeptly convey their collective purpose: to describe their own town in such a way as to make the reader feel, taste and smell all that defines it. Both Fisher's narrative on the reality and myth of the French port of Marseille, and Angelou's recollection of her hometown Stamps, Arkansas effectively absorb the reader into the towns that they describe, through the authors' rich use of imagery. Fisher describes Marseille as "the world's wickedest port", by painting a picture for his audience: "thieves, cutthroats, and other undesirables throng the narrow alleys, and sisters of scarlet sit in the doorways of their places of business, catching you by the sleeve as you pass by. The dregs of the world are here, unsifted". In a comparable style, Angelou recalls her hometown as being a place of "light, shadow, sounds, and entrancing odors…the earth smell was pungent, spiced with the odor of cattle manure, the yellowish acid of ponds and rivers, and deep pots of greens and beans cooking for hours with smoked or cured pork…" These adept and fascinating descriptions not only grab onto the reader, but also manage to figuratively transport him or her into the towns of subject. In further similarity, both fisher...
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