The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris

Summer Pearce
Note by Summer Pearce, updated 6 months ago More Less
Summer Pearce
Created by Summer Pearce over 2 years ago


Analysis of the extract of John Baxter's writing, as part of the AQA A-level English Language and Literature 2015 specification (7706/7707) Paris Anthology

Resource summary

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Charles Gros' philosophy is that walking is the best way of slow travel, because of its ease. Walking is effortless, with no rules or techniques that are significant; as the view around you is the most meaningful part of the journey. Mode multi-modal - the text is an extract from an autobiographical novel mainly written mode, with complex, full grammatical sentences some examples of spoken mode; 'Excusez-moi, monsieur, mais... parlez-vous anglais?' Genre mixture between novel and travel-writing Novel features: complex sentence structure, organised in chapters, sometimes based on real life events, narrated by protagonist, self-contained Travel writing features - non-fiction, account of travels of the author (Australian author who lives in Paris), opinion based, personal, descriptive Audience people who have been to Paris before, and seen all of the tourist sights before, perhaps going to Paris for leisure or planning to move there; highlights the authentic Paris; 'They make abrupt turns into alleys, at the foot of which one glimpses the most interesting-looking little market.' people who live in Paris - involves making fun of tourists people who like reading about places abroad or travel (entertainment value) Purpose to entertain; joking language: 'They may read Metropolitain, but they see what Dante saw over the gate to hell; "Abandon hope all ye who enter here."' to inform; about the authentic Paris immortalise Baxter's experiences through travel writing

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Presentation of Paris and Parisians

The WalkersThe walkers are tourists who are new to the city. They are disorientated by the business and unfamiliarity of Paris. The author describes them as having a sort of uniform; 'beige raincoat or jacket, cotton or corduroy trousers, and sensible shoes.' This makes them seem like a homogeneous group. The writer mentions that the tourists are continually consulting their maps and frantically looking around them.This contrasts with the second group of walkers described in this passage; Parisian pedestrians who are well-acquainted with Paris. The author describes their confidence walking around the city; 'They know exactly when to pause as a bus roars by on what appears to be the wrong side of the road. They make abrupt turns into alleys, at foot of which one glimpses the most interesting-looking little market.'The walkers are portrayed as uncertain of themselves as they 'look up and around every few seconds, hopeful that the street signs and architecture will have transformed themselves into something more like Brooklyn, Brentwood or Birmingham.' These places are more familiar to the walkers as the street signs are likely to be in their language, and similar to their original home town.

TenseThe predominant tense of this passage is the present tense. This makes the writing seem current, as if the writer knows a lot about Paris. It also provides a sense of immediacy, as if the reader is there themselves. The reader can imagine what the Baxter is describing, almost journeying with him through Paris. Informal writing 'our street' - possessive pronouns are uncommon in formal writing abbreviation; 'couples, usually' should be 'usually they are couples that are'... contractions: 'they're' instead of 'they are' dash after 'uniform -' Verbs 'loiter' - trying to look casual despite being lost 'huddling' - being closer together; comfort among strangers, trying not to get lost? 'look' - taking everything in, not 'glance' 'transformed' - changing rapidly, magically; wishful thinking Nouns 'foot' 'couples' 'street' lexical field of travelling and sightseeing; 'Seine,' 'corner of boulevard Saint-Germain,' 'architecture,' 'map or guidebook,' 'street signs,' Brooklyn or Brentwood or Birmingham,' lexical field of clothes; 'raincoat or jacket,' 'uniform,' 'trousers,' 'shoes,' Nouns associated with the tourists seem dull (e.g. 'raincoat,' 'shoes,') compared with the nouns associated with the city (e.g. 'architecture'). The triadic structure of the three cities listed on line 25 ('Brooklyn or Brentwood or Birmingham') are all in America or England, which emphasises the sort of familiarity the English-speaking tourists are used to. Also, all three cities begin with the letter 'b,' and creates a monotonous rhythm, which represents the dullness and monotony of life for these tourists compared with the business and excitement of Paris. This shows Paris to be vastly different than England or America.Adjectives 'uncertain' 'busiest' 'beige' 'seasonal variation' 'cotton or corduroy' 'sensible' 'folded' 'hopeful' Most of these adjectives refer to a noun associated with the tourists. They are defined as dull and uninteresting, as the adjectives used are fairly commonplace and overused. use of contrasting adjectives such as 'fascinating and deceptive' inform the reader that Paris is multi-dimensional 'adrift' - floating in water; free of any ties or guidance - emphasises vulnerability of tourists 'cast-iron' - association with prison bars, windows or gates

Anaphoric reference 'They look up' - 'they' refers to the tourists Anaphoric references are a useful way of categorising language in terms of sophistication, as lack of anaphoric references show a lack of sophistication. The use of anaphoric reference in this case is useful for 'othering' the tourists and creating a clear divide between the Parisian pedestrians and the sightseers on foot. Deixis 'this side of the Seine' 'our street'

Literary Credentials of the StreetThe writer shows the literary credentials of the street by comparing its importance to literature to that of 'what Yankee Stadium is to baseball and Lord's is to cricket.' Because these sports venues are world-famous, this makes this street in Paris seem of utmost importance. Additionally, baseball is popular in America, as cricket is popular in England, which appeals to even the English-speakers who read Baxter's text. Also, the writer mentions the various names of people who are famous in literature, such as Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas and Ernest Hemingway who are all connected with Paris on this street in particular. The mention of the names makes a subtle point that these literary celebrities recognised the importance of this street, meaning that the reader should also. Thirldy, it is the place where James Joyce's Ulysses was published, which further enforces its historical importance.Presentation of a 'typical day' present tense used for habitual actions (things you always do) 'most days' 'when I step out of the building' - predictable action 'any one of a dozen languages about the history of our street' - predictable based off experience 'often'

Use of questions 'What if they did pause - to browse that basket of books outside une librairie or take a closer look at the dress in the window of a boutique?' - rhetorical, to make the reader consider the endless possibilities of what could happen on their travels to Paris 'Excusez-moi, monsieur, mais... parlez-vous anglais?' - helps reader imagine sound of tourist's voice; sensory/auditory experience

Use of French language 'une librairie' 'le metro' 'Metropolitain' The above examples are all nouns, which emphasises that all the surroundings are French, not English or American, and this helps to immerse the presumably English-speaking reader in the setting.The tourist's question, 'Excusez-moi, monsieur, mais... parlez-vous anglais?' also conveys their sense of confusion and how out of their comfort zone they are - asking if a local speaks English.

Value of Literary Reference Baxter refers to Hell in Dante's Inferno on lines 59-60. Inferno was a medieval text describing the Seven Levels of Hell. The reference serves as an informal joke to entertain the reader, but also to prove the point that tourists are afraid of the unfamiliarity of the Metro. This could be because of the volume of people using the Metropolitain, or it is difficult to make sense of for English speakers, or they feel vulnerable because of the previous reasons. Additionally, this reference is an indication of Baxter's education, and his assumption that his readership have the same level of education.

Use of pronouns 'their hesitation' - hesitation only belongs to the tourists 'they' refers to locals as a homogeneous group, as all of them are casual and confident Use of imagery'careless as birds in a tree' - locals are familiar with busy atmosphere of Paris and are comfortable travelling around in it; trees are home to birds, they know nothing different. Birds can also represent freedom because of their ability to fly.

Descriptions of the locals 'that's how Parisians regard the city - as an extension of their own homes' - shows their confidence, possessiveness and comfort with their surroundings 'their quartier' - repeated use of this pronoun shows how personal their view of Paris is, also shows possessiveness 'No Parisian drives in Paris' - contrary to culture of England and America; stress-free because of no rush-hour traffic?

How Paris is personalised 'discovers his or her own "most beautiful walk"' - each person has their own experience of Paris, unique to the individual 'illuminate a lifetime' 'no guidebook or tour guide tells you that' 'but why not just buy a postcard?' - encourages reader to find own unique part of Paris, instead of just reliving the same holidays that every other tourist has had in Paris

Long and short sentences are used in line 99-108. The long sentences follow the introductory sentences and elaborate on points, whilst shorter sentences stimulate the reader's curiosity. This combination is used to grab the reader's attention and inform them, whilst also leaving some details to the imagination. Short sentences tend to be blunt and give minimal detail, allowing the reader to fill in the gaps. However, longer sentences elaborate and provide the reader with enough information to keep them engaged.Each author mentioned in line 109-114 all have their own individual Paris. This emphasises that Paris is whatever you make it, as everybody's experience of Paris is different. All Parisians have different walks like each writer will describe their own versions of Paris.The short sentence, 'walk with me' leaves finer details to the imagination as the reader has to guess what is to follow. As the end of the first chapter, it builds up a sense of anticipation, which makes the reader want to continue. The lack of detail in the sentence leaves them asking questions like 'What will be on the walk?' and 'Where do we start?' The direct address of this sentence also adds a personal tone to the text, as if Baxter is speaking directly to individuals reading his book.

Intensifers 'a lot of these' - emphasises crowdedness of the streets 'or worse' - emphasis on immense fear and confusion the Metro causes tourists 'most frustrates' - most noticeable and important thing about Paris is... 'exactly when to pause' - emphasis on precision of Parisians

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