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RUSSELL’S PROSE STYLE

Russell is one of the greatest masters of English prose. He revolutionized not only the
subject matter but also the mode of expression. He has in him a happy blend of a great
philosopher and a great writer. His encyclopedic range of subjects brought him high
laurels and he was awarded Nobel Prize for literature in 1950. The subject may be very
difficult but his manner of expression is so lucid and simple that even a lay man can
understand him without any special difficulty. It is a rare privilege which only a few prose
masters enjoy; otherwise writers like Lamb and Ruskin remain incomprehensible to a vast
majority of readers.

Lucidity

The first salient feature of Russell’s style is its lucidity. The author is direct, simple
and clear. He opens even a most complex issue with clarity. He is a reformer thinker and so
clarity pays him most. Complexity of expression leads to ambiguity and that defects the
very aim of a writer like him.

Russell’s aim was to create a public opinion for breaking the demoniac designs of
ambitious men in political, economic and social spheres, so he presented his ideas with
brilliant clarity. He recorded his reactions and opinions without attempting literary
flourishes.

Terseness

The next trait of Russell’s style is its Baconian terseness. Many sentences read like
epigrams and proverbs full of deep meanings. Russell’s sentences are pregnant with
thoughts like those of Bacon. Russell has one advantage over Bacon. The sentences of
Bacon are small epigrams and as such they have no link with each other. They suffer from
abruptness and discontinuity of thought. But Russell’s essays are well-knit and systematic.
They have a continuity of thought.

Allusiveness

Another remarkable feature of Russell’s prose is its allusiveness. He quotes from


the Bible, Shakespeare, Roman and Greek writers. This he does to make his ironical
overwhelming force more effective. His quotations are harmoniously woven into the
texture of his thoughts. The Biblical phrases and quotations lend sublimity to his prose and
make his style scholarly.

Irony and Sarcasm

Russell makes frequent uses of wit and humour. It may be remembered that
Russell’s humour is generally not pure fun. It is ironical. Irony is a principal instrument of
his style. He ironises the so-called modern-minded people in “The belief that fashion alone
should dominate opinion has great advantages. It makes thought unnecessary and puts the
highest intelligence within the reach of every one.”

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Analytical and Rational

Russell was a profound thinker. His style is chiefly governed by his sense of reason
and not by his sense of emotions. This is precisely the reason that his prose resembles that
of Bacon, Dryden or Aldus Huxley and E.M. Forster. He never grows poetic like Milton. It is
never ornamental like Ruskin’s prose. His chief concern is to convey his ideas to his
readers. That is why his prose style exhibits his balanced personality. He writes chaste
prose and there is a rationalistic approach to life.

Long sentences

Like Ruskin, Russell also frames long sentences, but there is great difference in their
approaches. In Russell, the analytical effect is more pronounced. He thinks deeply and
expresses the matter in a logical manner. This tendency to be rational towards a problem is
the cause of the formation of a sentence running into many lines.

Use of Rhetoric, Metaphors and Similes

Russell makes a great use of the art of rhetoric to emphasize his point, but he differs from
Burke or Carlyle in this respect. He does not make his rhetoric pompous and exaggerated.
He is up to the point and very subtle. He predicts the fate of mankind in the event of a
Third World War.

C.E.M. Joad writes Russell’s prose has “Clarity, grace, poise, lucidity; the pleasure of
watching the operation of mind so completely master of its subject that it can afford to be
at play with it.

Written and Composed By:


Prof. A. R. Somroo
M.A. English, M.A. Education
Cell: 03339971417