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Russell is one of the greatest masters of English prose. He revolutionized not only the subject matter but also the mode of expression. He has in him a happy blend of a great philosopher and a great writer. His encyclopedic range of subjects brought him high laurels and he was awarded Nobel Prize for literature in 1950. The subject may be very difficult but his manner of expression is so lucid and simple that even a lay man can understand him without any special difficulty. It is a rare privilege which only a few prose masters enjoy; otherwise writers like Lamb and Ruskin remain incomprehensible to a vast majority of readers. Lucidity The first salient feature of Russell’s style is its lucidity. The author is direct, simple and clear. He opens even a most complex issue with clarity. He is a reformer thinker and so clarity pays him most. Complexity of expression leads to ambiguity and that defects the very aim of a writer like him. Russell’s aim was to create a public opinion for breaking the demoniac designs of ambitious men in political, economic and social spheres, so he presented his ideas with brilliant clarity. He recorded his reactions and opinions without attempting literary flourishes. Terseness The next trait of Russell’s style is its Baconian terseness. Many sentences read like epigrams and proverbs full of deep meanings. Russell’s sentences are pregnant with thoughts like those of Bacon. Russell has one advantage over Bacon. The sentences of Bacon are small epigrams and as such they have no link with each other. They suffer from abruptness and discontinuity of thought. But Russell’s essays are well-knit and systematic. They have a continuity of thought. Allusiveness Another remarkable feature of Russell’s prose is its allusiveness. He quotes from the Bible, Shakespeare, Roman and Greek writers. This he does to make his ironical overwhelming force more effective. His quotations are harmoniously woven into the texture of his thoughts. The Biblical phrases and quotations lend sublimity to his prose and make his style scholarly. Irony and Sarcasm Russell makes frequent uses of wit and humour. It may be remembered that Russell’s humour is generally not pure fun. It is ironical. Irony is a principal instrument of his style. He ironises the so-called modern-minded people in “The belief that fashion alone should dominate opinion has great advantages. It makes thought unnecessary and puts the highest intelligence within the reach of every one.”
Analytical and Rational Russell was a profound thinker. His style is chiefly governed by his sense of reason and not by his sense of emotions. This is precisely the reason that his prose resembles that of Bacon, Dryden or Aldus Huxley and E.M. Forster. He never grows poetic like Milton. It is never ornamental like Ruskin’s prose. His chief concern is to convey his ideas to his readers. That is why his prose style exhibits his balanced personality. He writes chaste prose and there is a rationalistic approach to life. Long sentences Like Ruskin, Russell also frames long sentences, but there is great difference in their approaches. In Russell, the analytical effect is more pronounced. He thinks deeply and expresses the matter in a logical manner. This tendency to be rational towards a problem is the cause of the formation of a sentence running into many lines. Use of Rhetoric, Metaphors and Similes Russell makes a great use of the art of rhetoric to emphasize his point, but he differs from Burke or Carlyle in this respect. He does not make his rhetoric pompous and exaggerated. He is up to the point and very subtle. He predicts the fate of mankind in the event of a Third World War. C.E.M. Joad writes Russell’s prose has “Clarity, grace, poise, lucidity; the pleasure of watching the operation of mind so completely master of its subject that it can afford to be at play with it.
Written and Composed By: Prof. A. R. Somroo M.A. English, M.A. Education Cell: 03339971417