For my Machine Reading of Mark Z. Danielewski’s Only Revolutions, I chose to analyze the use of pronouns in the novel using Sam’s and Hailey’s individual narratives.
What I am analyzing:
In the beginning of the novel, Sam and Hailey are both self-absorbed, ego driven sixteen year olds. Ego means “self,” and there are many pronouns in the English language that can be used for referring to the self. Each narrator uses pronouns to talk about his or herself frequently, and they never once mention their own name in their own narrative. There are also many inclusive pronouns used in the novel such as ours and we, and the usage of US in particular increases as the characters’ infatuation with each other grows.
In the middle of the book, Sam’s and Hailey’s love peaks, as is represented by the joining of the narratives with the green and gold o’s seen together. It is also near the middle of the book when the characters begin to care less for their own ego and more about the other person. As the reader approaches the end of the novel, the love each narrator has for the other is very high and their ego is very low. While usually a reader would not give common noise words like pronouns in novels much thought, I decided to use them to show how important the use of pronouns is in establishing the connection between the characters’ diminishing egos and their growing love for one another.
I needed to connect the “I” and “he/she” pronouns and the “our/US/we” pronouns on my visualization with a word the computer program would recognize as a common juxtaposition for all three. Leftwrist was the data point that was able to connect all three different types of pronouns on my visualizations, since the word is seen written with many different pronouns. At the beginning of the novel, when their own egos are highest, both characters mention “Leftwrist Bracelet—Priceless,” (p. H52, S52). They each see themselves as strong, independent of time, and priceless, so when they first reference the other’s bracelet, its value is shit or scat compared to their own. It is not until the middle of the novel that “Our Leftwrist Twists of Gold” is finally mentioned by the narrators (p. H180, S181). When their love peaks in the middle chapter and the narratives are intertwined with each other to represent their bond, they use the pronoun “our” with leftwrist twist instead of “my” or his or her. At the end of the novel, the characters’ strong egos have diminished and they are in love, so they each have a “Leftwrist Twist of Forever” (p. H309, S309). While reading, I discovered that as the story progresses, the value of the narrator’s own leftwrist twist decreases and they attribute more value to the other’s leftwrist twist. As ego decreases for the narrator, so does the value of the metal of their own leftwrist twist, and as the narrator falls more in love with the other, the value they attribute to their lover’s leftwrist twist grows. The Voyeur computer program was able to recognize the connection between the singular pronouns and “our/we” pronouns.
How I created my visualizations:
First, I took the full text of both Sam and Hailey’s narratives together and dumped it into Voyeur. Voyeur was able to take the data (every single word in the novel) and sort it by frequency. The top ten words used in the narrative section of the novel are and, the, to, I, of, a, my, for, with, and me. This collection of pronouns and articles is seemingly irrelevant to an analysis, but they are still a part of the data. These words can be considered noise. To represent the ginormous frequency chart of 12707 unique items that cannot realistically be created, I used the Word Cloud generated by Voyeur. I decided to include the noise words in the cloud because they represent how the data set was arguably dominated by noise and that the reader must sometimes (literally) flip their perspective and read between the lines to make connections, find plot details, or understand the novel’s themes.
I decided to use the Voyeur Links tool to create my visualizations. This tool lets you type in any word that appears in the text and it will form links based on juxtaposition to other words, eventually creating a large web. The frequency of the word is indicated by the size of the font of each term. This is a type of force directed graph, since the reader’s eyes are naturally drawn across the lines connecting one term to another. I quickly realized that when you entered nouns or verbs, they would be connected using the articles or pronouns that I had deemed noise. Noise words could not be excluded from the visualization without breaking the connections between each important term. With this in mind, I decided I wanted to analyze the connection between pronouns and the overall theme of the novel. Words that I had originally discarded as noise suddenly became the focus of my dataset.
I split up Hailey’s and Sam’s narratives and plugged each into Voyeur separately. For each narrative, I made the link graph using the name of the opposing narrator, him, he, his, me, my, I, I’m, I’ll, mine, she, and her. I watched as my web grew and crisscrossed when the tool reorganized the visualization as I added each word. When I was finished, I deleted some of the words that were only connected to one term that I didn’t think were important to my analysis so that the graphs looked slightly less crowded. My visualizations clearly showed the connections between the pronouns, but I was shocked to notice that the “our/we/us/etc.” pronouns were not connected to the “hailey/sam/me/my/she/he/etc.” I decided I needed to unify these terms using a word that was significant to the novel, and sure enough, “leftwrist” completed the connection of the web. I then downloaded the two graphs and used Paint to highlight the pronouns and the links between leftwrist and the pronouns.