Annotated Paragraph

September 14th, 2011

I now offer you, gentlemen, these magnificent lots, delightfully situated on Long Island, with valuable water privileges. Property in feefor title indisputableterms of sale, cashdeeds ready for delivery immediately after the sale. How much for them? I give them a start at something. How much?” The auctioneer looked around; there were no bidders. At last he caught the eye of Monsieur Poopoo. “Did you say one hundred, sir? Beautiful lotsI valuable water privilegesshall I say one hundred for you?”


After a close reading of a selected paragraph from the nineteenth century short story The Little Frenchman and his Water Lots, I discovered an interesting point of view from the author George Pope Morris. Morris used paradigmatic and syntagmatic word selections to convey a latent literary meaning. A meaning that exposes the attitudes he believed Americans had toward the French. He does this through haughty humor of an assumed American narrator and literary subtle ambiguities.


The author instills foreshadowing in the title of the story by implementing ambiguous words. The word lot has two meanings. The first definition is a number of people or things, the second definition is one’s fortune in life; fate. This title implies that the main character, the Frenchman, is destined encounter a future with water. The second definition contributes to predicting his misfortune with water as one of many. This play on words is also known as the rhetorical device called the pun. A pun is a type of humorous approach that is found through out the story.


Another technique used in the story is irony. Irony is the use of words to convey the opposite of the literal meaning. In the story, as the auctioneer began to sell pieces of real estate he described them as having “valuable water privileges”. In actuality, the pieces of land that he was selling actually flooded at high tide. He characterized his lands as valuable and highly profitable when actually the were unusable. The special immunity that he preached was actually a large burden and dilemma for anyone who would try to inhabit the land.


In a paradigmatic lens, the author chose his words carefully. In addition to the aforementioned word “lot” and its ambiguity, the author also valued and capitalized on the connotation of the word “little”. A literal interpretation of the word would denote the Frenchman to be small in stature. However, the connotation of this word depicts him as silly and unimportant. The narrator goes on to justify berating the Frenchman because of him being little and weak minded. He goes on to rename the Frenchman as “Monsieur Poopoo”. This action exposed the auctioneer as being a bigot and exhibits the lack of respect the auctioneer reserves for him. When the Frenchman confronted the auctioneer to explain his coveted land the auctioneer dismisses him without taking accountability for his actions. American arrogance is combated when the Frenchman introducing another stereotypical slur  “Yankee doodle”. As the protagonist and the antagonist begin mocking each other, they represent the historical conflict between the United States and France.


The short story has a mimetic element because it is similar to a copy of the outside world. The Little Frenchman and his Water Lots is a mirror of the views that Americans and French people have toward each other. In addition to the author word choices, this theme gives the story a deeper and hidden literary meaning.

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