Monday Night Special #12: Delving in with Diagrams (to El Paso)

10 Dec

And we’re back from our November hiatus.  Put on your white sport coat (pink carnation optional), strap a big iron to your hip, and drag along Maybellene and your woman, your woman, your wife if you feel like it.  And hopefully the following will not leave you singin’ the blues.

Arbitrarily Picked Work of Fiction:

El Paso” by Marty Robbins
This feature is kind of turning into “Al Talks about Classic Country Songs.”  No regrets.

Quick Synopsis:

Out in the West Texas town of El Paso, our narrator falls in love with a Mexican girl named Felina, who is implied to be either loose or a straight up hooker.  A handsome stranger come in to Rose’s Cantina, where Felina dances, and the narrator suspects this dude will capture Felina’s love.  So, naturally, our narrator challenges the dude to a duel and kills him.

Our narrator, fearing he will be killed for his “foul evil deed,” retreats to the bad lands of New Mexico to hide out, but he loves Felina too much to stay away.  So he goes back to El Paso, where the law/a vigilante posse catches up with him and shoots him.  He dies in Felina’s arms.

Important Quotation:

My love is stronger than my fear of death.

I chose this song because it’s the “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” of country western songs.  That is, the song serves as a moment-of-death reflection for the narrator.

This quotation comes near the middle of the song.  The narrator is in New Mexico at this point and deciding he needs to see his lady again, no matter the cost, and it gives us the first indication that some of the song’s events are currently occurring:  This is our first shift in tense.  Previous verses have been in past tense, but this one is partially present tense.  It switches back to past right after this to chronicle events leading up to his shooting and then ends in present tense as he dies.

This is a turning point in the song:  His decision to go back to El Paso precipitates his imminent death.  His love is stronger than his fear of death.  It was stronger at the time of his decision, and it still is as he’s dying.

Diagram:

 image

Thoughts on Structure:

Pretty boring structurally.  The main clause has a predicate adjective, and the dependent clause is an elliptical adverb clause missing its verb and predicate adjective.  The full version of the dependent clause would read “my fear of death is strong.”

I suppose I could stretch it and say that the ellipsis here fits with the theme of love being stronger than anything else because the independent clause overshadows its dependent clause, effectively overpowering it and making it into a submissive dangler that wouldn’t make any sense without its independent clause.  But I don’t think I will.

I think I’ll just go ahead and say that this sentence is yet another shining example of one of the complexities of colloquial speech: that we can take out integral parts of a clause and still understand what it’s saying, just as a man can be gone from his love for who knows how long in the bad lands of New Mexico and still understand that his love for her cannot be quelled by bullets.

Final Thoughts:

There’s some stuff going on on the feminist rant front of this song, as well:  Our narrator constantly reminds us that he doesn’t trust Felina, calling her eyes “wicked and evil” and mentioning that “I was in love, but in vain I could tell.”  His distrust of the woman spurs him on to kill his perceived love rival and to return to El Paso–to his death.  Now, if all this evil woman stuff were true about Felina, why is she “kissing my cheek as she kneels by my side,” and why does he die “cradled in two loving arms”?  It seems our narrator is just a silly, jealous dude?

Anyway, an intriguing and very prettily sung song.  I could listen to Marty Robbins’s silky tones all day!

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