May 8, 2007

A mood of mystery

Continuing with Best American Essays 2006, I finished reading the essay, Grammar Lessons: The Subjunctive Mood by Michele Morano, which first appeared in the Crab Orchard Review. It is written with a very creative structure interweaving a grammar lesson about the subjunctive mood with a poignant story of a failed relationship with a suicidal boyfriend! You can read an excerpt at the author's page but the last few sentences of the essay are lovely and reproduced here..
The subjunctive is the mood of mystery. Of luck. Of faither interwoven with doubt. It's a held breath, a hand reaching out, carefully touching wood. It's humility, deference, the opposite of hubris. And it's going to take a long time to master.

But at least the final rule of usage is simple, self-contained, one you can commit to memory: Certain independent clauses exist only in the subjunctive mood, lacing optimism with resignation, hope with heartache. Be that as it may, for example. Or the phrase one says at parting, eyes closed as if in prayer: May all go well with you.
Also, earlier in the essay:

In language, as in life, moods are complicated, but at least in language there are only two. The indicative mood is for knowledge, facts, absolutes, for describing what’s real or definite. .....

.... The indicative helps you tell what happened or is happening or will happen in the future (when you believe you know for sure what the future will bring).The subjunctive mood, on the other hand, is uncertain. It helps you tell what you could have been or might be or what you want but may not get.

1 comment:

britpaige said...

what would you say the tone of this essay is?

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