A Stylistic Analysis of Minfong Ho's Sing To The Dawn: How it Constructs its Fictional World and Positions the Reader

Ang Hui Bing

English Language Honours AE, NIE, 2004


When children read fiction, they are exposed to the fictional world and the social values structuring it. They are also positioned to engage with the fictional world in a particular way. Central to this exposing and positioning of the reader to the fictional world is the role played by language in representing the world and in communicating the various representations, ideas and literary concepts to readers. Up till today, many stylistic studies on the use of language in children's fiction have concentrated on texts written by Western writers. In light of this, this research study has chosen to do a stylistic analysis of a novel written by a Southeast Asian writer. The book under investigation is Minfong Ho's Sing To The Dawn, which is a popular literature text in local schools today. In order to provide an explicit description of how language is patterned to articulate the thematic meanings of the novel, the analysis is carried out using Halliday's Systemic Functional Grammar.

The stylistic analysis sets out to show how the surface meanings of language are exploited to take on deeper meanings, through the foregrounding of various linguistic devices. In the first part, the analysis shows how the patterning of language in the novel contributes to the construction of the major themes in its fictional world, namely the portrayal of the rural landscape, the social attitudes towards socio-economic inequalities, and the social attitudes towards gender discrimination. In the second part, the focus of the analysis is on how language can position readers in relation to that fictional world and lead them to evaluate events and characters in a particular manner. In all, this study aims to demonstrate how a stylistic approach to a novel can contribute to a more thorough understanding and appreciation of the discursive construction of the novel's meanings and effects.