Monday Night Special #7: Delving in with Diagrams (to Battlestar Galactica)

2 Oct

Sentence diagramming was created by man.  It evolved.  It rebelled.  And it has a plan to take over our Monday nights.

Arbitrarily Picked Work of Fiction:

Battlestar Galacticaum, spoiler alert through season 4 except for the final three episodes, which I haven’t watched yet

Quick Synopsis:

Humanity lives on 12 planet colonies in the far reaches of the galaxy.  They have created sentient robots–Cylons–who have rebelled.  After 40 years of peace, the Cylons re-emerge sporting human-like bodies and nuclear weapons.  They bomb humanity, and a very small space-faring group of people on several spaceships survive and run, trying to find Earth, which is the fabled location of the 13th colony of man.

A bunch of other drama happens–including an alliance with a rebel faction of Cylons–by the time we get to season 4’s “Blood on the Scales,” in which Vice President Tom Zarek–an ex-con and idealistic-ish manipulative scumbag–has engineered a mutiny.  He’s killed all the members of the democratic governing body except for the president and her aide, and he has plenty of the soldiers on Galactica as well as a bunch of the rest of the fleet on his side.

He’s forced President Laura Roslin–who has never been elected president, only appointed a million times because she’s ruthless yet the best person for the job–into hiding aboard the Cylon baseship, and they are about to blow each other up.  Laura Roslin then says

Important Quotation:

I will use every cannon, every bomb, every bullet, every weapon I have down to my own eyeteeth to end you.

Oh, Laura Roslin, you saucy minx!  By this point in the show, her cancer–which had convinced her she was the “dying leader” of prophecy in season one and had gone into remission in season 2–has come back with a vengeance.  Add to that that she’s been forced to make a pact with machines who have killed most of her people and whom she’s been fighting with all her life breath for years and that they’ve found Earth to be a nuked wasteland that had been populated by ancient Cylons.

She ain’t happy.  And when President Laura Roslin ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

She’s been deeply depressed and hiding out in Admiral Adama’s cabin (dawwww!) for the last couple episodes.  This mutiny revitalizes her and gives her new purpose.  It taps into her deep, deep anger about all the circumstances in her life, and she lets out her ever-growing rage in this speech.

She has never fully trusted Tom Zarek, and now she has concrete proof that he’s doing what she always suspected he would do.

This quotation shows the flintiness of her character, which has been growing flintier and flintier since her introduction as the unassuming, naive-to-military-things Secretary of Education.  It shows how she takes command, how she’s unafraid of blowing everyone to smithereens to take this awful man out, how she counts her own body as part of her arsenal of weapons because her life means nothing if this mutiny continues, how she has commandeered the Cylon baseship and counts them as her allies, how she believes the Cylons will accept her command of their baseship, how, even if they don’t accept her command, she is willing to put on an environmental suit and punch somebody, if that’s what it takes.

This is the Laura Roslin we’ve come to love.  This is the Laura Roslin we’ve been missing.  This is the Laura Roslin whose favorite thing is airlocking villains.  This is the Laura Roslin who does not believe in democracy because democracy means idiots like Baltar and d-bags like Zarek get to rule.  This is the Laura Roslin who is the benevolent but ruthless Queen of the Stars.


Thoughts on Structure:

Two clauses make up this sentence:  The first is the independent clause, which is made up of the subject, the future-tense verb, and a whole slew of direct objects.  The last in the slew of direct objects has an adjective clause modifying it.

First, let’s talk about that future-tense verb, which is “will use.”  In very traditional English grammar, the future-making auxiliaries will and shall have different uses.  For first person (I, we), if we’re just talking about the future, we use shall.  If we’re talking about something that definitely, absolutely, commandingly is going to happen, we use will.  Here, we see that President Roslin means BIDNESS with her proper use of will.  Of course, we knew that because President Roslin always means bidness, and she talks real good cuz she was a teacher.

Then, we come to that slew of direct objects.  Note that they stand in descending order.  She begins with large weapons and moves down to her own eyeteeth.  This reiterates that she means bidness and that she will use not only regular military stuff but also anything, literally anything, at her disposal.

Note also that each noun is modified by “every” and that no conjunctions separate any of these nouns, only commas.  When we have no conjunctions comme ça, it is a rhetorical device known as asyndeton.  Both the parallelness of the everies and the asyndeton of the direct objects add to the mounting feeling of her aggressive words.  All this momentum propels her to the last thing in her list, something personal, something in her own mouth.  She’s that invested.  Additionally, this type of momentum keeps a sentence flowing, but it also leaves the audience hanging, waiting for the “and” that they’re expecting.  When we get no and, we kind of get the feeling that there’s more lurking around the corner, so there’s even more menace.  And this also fits with the cyclical theme of the show:  Everything has happened before, and everything will happen again.  We’re waiting on the edges of our respective seats for that before stuff to be revealed and then see the rest unfold.

Finally, closing the sentence, we have an infinitive phrase used as an adverb: to end you.  She could’ve used any number of verbs–destroy, kill, etc.  She chose end, probably because it conveys both menace and finality.  In a world in which everything has happened before and everything will happen again, she promises to kill this dude so well that he won’t be back for the next cycle.

Final Thoughts:

Roslin/Adama 2012!  So say we all!

4 Responses to “Monday Night Special #7: Delving in with Diagrams (to Battlestar Galactica)”

  1. linguischtick 3 October 2012 at 10:43 PM #

    Any way we can get a bigger picture? It’s hard to see some of the details on there.

  2. TheBestofAlexandra 3 October 2012 at 11:16 PM #

    Thanks for alerting me. I’ve updated the picture. I wish I could use some computer wizardry to do my diagrams, but everything I have is so tedious.

    • linguischtick 4 October 2012 at 2:27 AM #

      Thanks, that’s much easier to read! What the do ‘x’ symbols mean? I thought it had to do with conjunction, but then I saw the same thing following have in the lower clause.

      And consider me out-jargoned on “asyndeton”. That’s a fantastic word.

      • TheBestofAlexandra 4 October 2012 at 1:26 PM #

        Xs stand in for anything that’s been omitted. In that adjective clause, the direct object is “weapon” or the relative pronoun that would represent it. Note she could’ve said, “every weapon that I have,” but because she omitted the relative pronoun, we put an x where it would’ve gone.
        And you’re right about the list of weapons: those xs stand in for the conjunctions that could’ve been.
        Thanks for keeping me on my grammatical toes!

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