Language

Style of writing

The language of the short story “Braces” by Nick Werber is generally easy to follow and understand. The author uses contractions both in the dialogue and the narration: “ ‘It’s OK,’ I say. ‘I don’t mind.’ ”; “Then I wonder how many people are standing on beaches around the world right now and how different they’re all feeling.”.

However, contractions are less frequently encountered in the narration, which helps the author distinguish between the narration and the dialogue and conveys the informal tone of the dialogue.

The author also uses capital letters to underline the central idea in the grandfather’s life philosophy – the importance of having a profession. Nick’s father mocks this idea; however, his tone suggests that, although he is uncomfortable in admitting it, he agrees that having a steady profession makes life easier: “‘Life’s not easy, you know. THAT IS WHY YOU MUST HAVE A PROFESSION.’ This last bit he says in a robot voice.”.

Imagery

We encounter imagery from the beginning of the story, as Nick’s grandfather checks Nick’s teeth. The grandfather “pushes a thick finger” into his mouth, pulls on his cheek “like a fish on a hook” and “proceeds to prod at my teeth with a cold metal prong.”.

Imagery is also created by Nick’s description of the anatomical model of a skeleton that sits in the surgery office. The skeleton is “dangling in the corner” , a metal rod “sprouting out of his skull”, and his arms “hang loose by his sides.” . Nick’s observations suggest that he might identify with the skeleton and especially with its passive and powerless appearance.

Imagery is also created through Nick’s description of the living room decorations. The statue of a boxer stands out; its inscription suggests that Nick’s grandfather might have been a boxer, helping with his characterisation. To further help with the grandfather’s characterisation, the author creates imagery which suggests that he is an authoritative man. For example, as he brings the food he stops and glares at Nick and his father to indicate that they are expected at the table. Later, as he says goodbye to Nick, he gives him “a vice-like handshake” and grabs him by the neck to lead him to his father’s car: “then uses the claw on my neck as he leads me out”.

Imagery is also used to suggest the heavy, tense atmosphere between the three characters, especially between Nick’s father and grandfather. This is achieved, for example, through a description of how the characters are “crammed around the end of a long table” and “flanked by dark old paintings”, or through their silence while they eat. The emotional distance between the characters is also conveyed through their silence: “For a while there is just the sound of cutlery clacking onto plates and the cement mixer noises of Dad and Grandpa churning ham around in their mouths.”

In the car, the father has an uncomfortable talk with his son about his educati...

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