“The Ridley Place jutted into a sharp curve beyond our house. Walking south, one faced its porch; the sidewalk turned and ran beside the lot. The house was low, was once white with a deep front porch and green shutters, but had long ago darkened to the colour of the slate-grey yard around it. Rain-rotted shingles* dropped over the eaves of the verandah; oak trees kept the sun away. The remains of a picket drunkenly guarded the front yard- a “swept” yard that was never swept – where Johnson grass and rabbit –tobacco grew in abundance.”

excerpted from “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee” 

shingles- wood pieces on roof

slate - dark grey rock

picket – fence made of pointed wooden sticks

Questions:

What is your impression of the Ridley Place?

  • Elegant
  • Grand
  • Run-down (dilapidated)
  • Modern

What is the mood of the Ridley Place?

  • Bright and cheery
  • Depressing
  • Threatening
  • Romantic

Underline the details which led to your conclusion in Qn 1 & 2

If you have thought that the Ridley Place is in a state of disrepair (dilapidated) with a depressing mood then you have followed the description of the picture. Some details which have conjured the impression and the mood include:

  • “once white… but now darkened into the colour of …”
  • rain-rotted shingles dropped over”
  • “oak tree kept the sun away”
  • remains of a picket drunkenly guarded
  • ” a swept yard that was never swept
  • “where johnson grass and rabbit-tobacco grew in abundance”
    (referring to some wild grass growing unchecked)

Return to the excerpt and you would notice that the author

  1. states in the first sentence what is to be described
  2. gives a number of concrete details
  3. organises the details

Vocabulary

Notice the use of vivid adjectives, strong verbs and adverbs: not just shingles but “rain-rotted shingles”; not “lay” but “drooped”; not “picket guarded” but “picket drunkenly guarded. The last description conjures up, metaphorically, the image of a sloppy, slouching soldier untidily attired who could barely stand upright for his duty.