[ilds] the hydroplane?

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Sat Jun 16 21:56:25 PDT 2007

Bill asks:
> Have we discussed why the Duck Shoot is written in the present tense?

It's really an odd mixture of verb tenses.  There are some fairly convoluted
conditional past tenses, some peculiar present tenses, and even some future
thrown in to keep the pot warm.  That suggests to me that this had several
trips through the mill, as it were, likely with several variants with
different tenses tried on for size.

Yet, present tense is the norm, and it's not for the rest of the novel, and
certainly not from Darley's island vantage point.  I don't think it carries
any particular narrative or interpretive complexity -- like Samuel
Richardson realised with Pamela's letters (all tucked into various hidden
alcoves on her person), the book's more exciting in the present tense, even
if it doesn't make sense to write it that way...  I suspect Balthazar's
treatise is in the present tense too, just like my students' papers.

The gist -- I think it's in the present in order to promote it as the
climax.  Part IV switches back to past tense in the first sentence and the
preceding III.iii is in past tense too.  That makes the duck shoot the
moment of excitement, both for plot and style.


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