Running in the Family
By Michael Ondaatje
The language used in Running in the Family is descriptive and poetic. The variety forms of figurative languages (especially metaphors and similes), vivid imagery, and unusual sentence structure Ondaatje utilized elaborate the sentences making the novel Running in the Family sounds more of a poem than a novel. For instance, the description of Hetti Corea's voice is written as a poem using simile and imagery: "Your voice sounds like a scorpion being pushed/ through a glass tube/ like someone has just trod on a peacock/like wind howling in a coconut..."(76)
The variety forms of sentence structure that varies from compound, simple to complex sentences, the terse, abrupt phrases and run- on clauses shown in some parts of the novel also reveal the unique characteristics of poetry. Examples can be found in the passages in pages 69 and 72.
" Spray breaking and blazing white.
Mad dog heat" (72)
"Watched leopards sip slowly, watched the crow sitting restless on his branch peering about with his beak open. Have seen the outline of a large fish caught and thrown in the curl of a wave, being where nobody wears socks, where you wash your feet before you go to bed, where I watch my sister who alternatively reminds me of my father, mother and brother." (69)
Structure and Organization
The novel is composed of family snapshots and many mini chapters written in different forms including poems, letters, journals and short stories of the Ondaatje family. Unlike other novels, there is no emphasis on specific characters nor is there a plot that consists of introduction, climax and resolution.
Vividly described or memorable events
The Ondaatje family is unique for the family members' extraordinary characteristics. Among the Ondaatjes, the characters that startled me the most are...