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A Wizard of Earthsea

A Wizard of Earthsea

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Analysis: Style

Old-School Fairy Tale-ish

If you've ever written a story for class, you probably had a teacher tell you, "Show, don't tell." Like, if you want to write about a young boy who is wild, you should give examples of how that boy is wild – you shouldn't just say, "He's so wild." (Or even worse: "He's wild!" Exclamation points kill everything. We mean, "Exclamation points kill everything!") Well, here's how Ursula K. Le Guin does it:

He grew wild, a thriving weed, a tall, quick boy, loud and proud and full of temper. (1.3)

Hey, Ursula, that's a lot of telling and not a whole lot of showing.

Later, Le Guin will do a bunch of showing as well, giving a few examples of Ged being proud and angry. But notice that she's not afraid to do some telling as well. This isn't an accident on her part – she wants to do some telling in addition to showing. Why? Because that's how a lot of old stories were told (think: fairytales and oral folklore). Although she's writing a modern book, Le Guin wants it to have the feeling of some early stories too. (Check out Le Guin's other books if you want to see how great she is at adjusting her style to the content.)

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