Thomas Merton Writing Styles in The Seven Storey Mountain

This Study Guide consists of approximately 29 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Seven Storey Mountain.
This section contains 385 words
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Perspective

The book is written in first person from the author's memory. His pace and delivery is personal and accessible, as if he's relating a story to a friend. But Merton is an educated man and a thoughtful writer, so his vocabulary and structure is meaningful and sometimes ornate. His writing doesn't convey great strength but rather great accuracy and imagination. He also shows that accuracy in memory, recounting many scenes, stories, and conversations with vivid detail.

In actuality, the book is populated with relatively few events. Those events that are included seem mundane—vacations and visits to church and conversations with friends and book purchases. But they affect Merton deeply and the reader comes to understand that it is not the tactile but the internal, mental, and emotional events of Merton's life about which he feels strongest.

Tone

The book's setting shifts almost constantly. In fact, it is sometimes difficult to keep up with what school or what church on what continent Merton is talking about. Plus, the book covers several major events in the twentieth century—World War I, the American Great Depression, with World War II being the largest. Though the book, and to some extent Merton's thoughts, are informed by his surroundings, for the most part the story seems one that could take place in any century. Merton mentions historical events and even seems concerned about them but also seems detached. Again, his story is an inward one.

Merton offers eloquent prose and even a little verse in his book, but for a non-Catholic the most difficult language may be that of the Church. Merton speaks of scapulars and novitiates and the wee hours without explanation.

Structure

The book is broken into three parts. Part one: Merton's childhood and adolescence up to the point of his grandparents' death. Part two: Merton's university years, friendships, and associations with various philosophies and political systems including his advances toward Catholocism and eventual conversion. Part three: his pursuit of priesthood. Within each part, there are chapters and each chapter is divided by nameless, numbered subsections.

The book seldom departs from the chronology of the actual events of Merton's life. The first sentence describes his birth. The last page (before the Epilogue) describes the death of his brother. It is a life story.

This section contains 385 words
(approx. 1 page at 400 words per page)
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