The House of the Scorpion
by Nancy Farmer
Analysis: Writing Style
Descriptive, Emotional, Detailed
Describing the Imaginary
Farmer's style is very imaginative, and why wouldn't it be? It is sci-fi, after all. The House of the Scorpion is loaded with awesome details and powerful images. The novel's descriptive style allows us to fully imagine the settings, characters, and events. Plus, we learn much more about what's going on from particularly vivid descriptions, like this one, when Matt first meets El Patrón:
There was something so right about the way the old man looked. His eyes were a good color. Matt didn't know why it was good, only that it was. El Patrón's face seemed oddly familiar, and his hands – thin and blue-veined – had a shape that appealed to Matt in some deep way. (6.42)
Through Matt's eyes, we can see El Patrón's thin, veined hands, his good-colored eyes. Immediately, we understand not only that El Patrón is old, but that Matt is drawn to him.
Bring on the Drama
Farmer isn't afraid to be a wee bit of a drama queen, either. She's cool with delving deep into her characters' emotions, and really letting them loose on the page, as she does here, when Matt experiences a moment of frustration in his lessons:
"I'm a bad clone! And I hate counting and I hate you!" He grabbed Teacher's carefully arranged apples and hurled them every which way. He threw the crayons on the floor, and when she tried to pick them up, he shoved her as hard as he could. Then he sat on the floor and burst into tears. (7.68)
Matt, buddy, you're being a little intense, don't you think? Precisely the point. We know exactly just how angry Matt is because Farmer won't let us ignore it. She gives us a lengthy play-by-play of exactly how he reacts in this moment, and while we think he's being a tad melodramatic, we'll cut him some slack because we're too busy enjoying the details.
The Drama's in the Details
And it's this attention to detail that also gives this novel its suspense. Farmer is sure to include tiny details here and there that give us a hint about what's really going down. But she doesn't draw back the curtain all the way until we, and Matt are ready. The novel's structure is meant to keep us in the dark – like when Matt becomes ill in Chapter 20. We know something's up, but we're not quite sure what – until the moment is right. These tiny, mysterious details certainly kept us turning the page. Did they have the same effect on you?