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The article by Mark Bowden presents a detailed account of the murder of an oil and gas businessman Greg Fleniken and a subsequent investigation of the event. The story belongs to a genre of true crime, which deals with real-life cases in the most engaging manner possible. However, in this case, the story is perplexing to the level that is unusual even by the standards of the genre. The confusing details of the murder and the numerous leads pursued by the investigators resemble the fictional story more than the one which may have happened in a regular hotel in 2013. While the actual complexity of the events is without a doubt one of the reasons behind this effect, the rhetorical devices and literary techniques used by the author enhanced it dramatically. The following essay aims at analyzing the article to determine the key features responsible for the produced effect on the readers.
In order to understand the goals set by the author, it is important to first identify the intended audience of the text. In the case of an article, it can be derived from the source of the publication. The article was published in Vanity Fair, an online version of a popular magazine. The most common topics covered in the magazine include fashion, popular culture, and various intriguing details of the lives of celebrity figures. In other words, the magazine is clearly oriented at entertaining its readers in the most engaging ways. Therefore, it would be reasonable to expect the murder case to be described in the most approachable and at the same time engaging manner, capitalizing on the mystery, building up the suspense, and otherwise ensuring the attention of the readers. In other words, the article is expected to be written using the style common for fictional works.
First of all, it should be noted that the article uses the third-person perspective as a primary point of view. Roughly from the second quarter, when the key characters are introduced to the readers, the author starts including dialogs that use the first-person perspective. However, all of the dialogs are quoted, while the third person point of view is retained for the majority of the article (Bowden, 2013). Essentially, the author fulfills the role of a narrator by providing the necessary information on the case and clarifying the obscure details of the case. Such a position allows him to familiarize the readers with the setting without referring to cumbersome reports. Perhaps even more importantly, it provides him with the opportunity of directing their perception in the intended direction and thus achieving the planned emotional and cognitive effect (Levine, 2015). Such a move is commonly used by the writers of fiction, which confirms our initial suggestion.
It is also worth acknowledging that the author uses a specific pattern of organization that is common for fictional narratives of the detective genre. The article is broken up into several chapters, with each serving its distinct purpose. The first and the second chapters are intended for setting the scene and are descriptive in structure. However, starting from the fifth chapter, with the emergence of key players in the story, the structure becomes rich with dialogue and presents the interactions of the characters in the greatest detail possible. Such a structure is maintained until the end of the article, with extensive use of the dialogs in the final scene (Bowden, 2013). In this way, the author provides the readers with an opportunity to view the events through the prism of characters’ perception, and thus increase the immersion (Levine, 2015). The fact that such a structure is more common for fictional accounts than for the news reports is also consistent with the initial suggestion regarding the intentions of the author.
To further capitalize on the selected structure, Bowden (2013) utilizes a distinct rhythm of the narration. The introductory chapters are deliberately slow-paced and contain methodical reports of the details of the murder as well as the preceding events. Next, once the narrative passes a certain point (the entry of an investigator), the rhythm becomes more dynamic. However, the rhythm does not necessarily coincide with the highlighted time frame. For example, the most event-rich segments may take up one or several days of the real-world time while being more voluminous than the relatively dry introductory paragraphs that describe the events occurring for several weeks. Therefore, while the narrative is mostly chronological, it is driven predominantly by the events. Besides, the emotional and psychological aspect of the stakeholders plays a significant role in determining the rhythm, with passages describing the reaction of the characters being prominent throughout the text. Thus, the rhythm contributes to the artistic value of the article rather than the accuracy of the report, which aligns with the initial suggestion.
To further strengthen the entertainment aspect of the article, the author uses several rhetorical devices. First, as was mentioned above, he makes extensive use of the perspective, incorporating numerous dialogs into the narrative. These passages are usually deliberately informal and contain numerous colloquialisms and distorted sentence structures to emphasize the speakers’ traits (Loxley, Keown, Gillis, Cavanagh, & Stevenson, 2014). Next, the delayed sentences such as “At some point during the loud, computer-generated showdown at the end of the film, amid all the fake violence, Greg was struck from nowhere with a very real and shattering blow” are used extensively throughout the article (Bowden, 2013, para. 5). Their main purpose is to build up the tension and emphasize the vibe of mystery (). Finally, the text is rich in analogies such as “unsolved mystery is like a stone in your shoe” (Bowden, 2013, para. 34). Such a device mostly enhances the artistic qualities of the text and improves its readability for the general audience.
Most notably, the word choices made by the author add to the fictionalized perception of the account. Two distinct diction strategies can be identified in the text. First, the article is rich in basic criminology terms such as “entry wound” and “blunt-force trauma” (Bowden, 2013, para. 46). These words sound add credibility to the text without raising the accessibility bar. Second, the characters often use profanities and jargon in speech (). This is likely intended to strengthen the impression of the real, fleshed-out world necessary for the true crime genre.
Overall, the article is consistent in reaching the identified goals. The structure, perspective, rhythm, and rhetorical devices contribute to the artistic qualities of the text. The resulting article is engaging and vibrant enough to grab the attention of the audience. Admittedly, such a structure often requires sacrificing the accuracy of the account. However, the article is intended for entertainment rather than evidence-based reporting, so much compromise is acceptable. Thus, the analysis suggests that the identified decisions made by the author are successful and collectively contribute to the text’s artistic value.
Bowden, M. (2013, April 11). The body in room 348. Vanity Fair. Web.
Levine, C. (2015). Forms: Whole, rhythm, hierarchy, network. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Loxley, J., Keown, M., Gillis, A. A., Cavanagh, D., & Stevenson, R. (Eds.). (2014). The Edinburgh introduction to studying English literature (2nd ed.). Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press.
Toner, A. (2015). Ellipsis in English literature. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.