Sentence of the fortnight

Sentence of the fortnight

"Unfortunately, their great, golden-haired patriot, President Donald Trump, cannot resolve this problem because he is too busy combing his ‘hair’, tanning his skin and pretending he knows what he’s doing..."

This Lower Fourth Sidcot student is discussing and presenting arguments in response to the opinion that prisons should be made harsher. Their lessons preceding this work involved different ways of shaping arguments for effect and impact, using a range of persuasive techniques and structures in their writing and judging when to use humour and satire to engage their audience.

The sentence begins with some wry understatement, “unfortunately”, lamenting President Trump’s lack of progress and fruitful policy in this area. It is suspected that the writer’s true feelings may be stronger than “unfortunately”. (Apologies to any Trump supporters, the sentence has been selected more on its technical merit than for any political reason.) The sentence is clearly critical of the President and the writer’s scorn is deepened by a technique known as ‘mock encomium’, or false praise. Whilst “great, golden-haired patriot” may initially sound positive, it is actually dripping in sarcasm. Cartoonists, caricaturists and comedians are having a field day with Trump’s appearance at the moment and that hair is a commonly derided feature of the beleaguered President. The inverted commas around “’hair’” indicate some doubt as to whether it actually constitutes hair, or if it’s hair… as we know it.
Further bite is added with a salvo of plosives (p,b,t,d,g,c) in the alliterated “great, golden-haired”; “patriot”, “President”, “problem”, “pretending”; “Donald Trump”, “cannot”, “combing”… you get the idea. Plosives are frequently used to create or show an angry or scornful tone, or to at least suggest conflict.
The sentence builds to its climax with a stinging tricolon, three actions that suggest President Trump is a ‘fake’ leader: “combing”, “tanning” and “pretending”, all seemingly trivial, ‘surface’ activities concerning appearance rather than the weighty and serious statesmanship expected of his high office. The fact that these verbs are present participles implies that Trump isn’t about to focus on the problem of the U.S.A.’s prison system any time soon. The ordering of the verbs is also carefully done. “Combing” and “tanning” are two examples in a build up to the punchline “pretending”, which is essentially the charge against him; it should be the last verb as it reveals in conclusion what Trump really is all about in this Year 8’s opinion.

Nice work.

Jake Resuggan
Teacher of English

Photo courtesy of trumpshair.com 

Independent day and boarding school for boys and girls aged 3 - 18 in Somerset