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Los Angeles Notebook Analysis

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In the beginning of her essay, “Los Angeles Notebook,” Joan Didion describes the Santa Ana winds as a formidable and omnipresent force. She presents her views using many different stylistic elements of writing, including diction, imagery, tone, syntax, and selection of detail.

Didion starts her essay with an expert use diction that sets the tone for the rest of the essay. Words like uneasy, unnatural, and tension, give the reader a feeling that something isn’t quite right. In combination with short, truncated sentences that add emphasis to the overall feeling of dread, a foreboding tone is clearly present.

Didion continues to personify the Santa Ana winds as a sort of behaviour-changing bully with bone-chilling imagery in the second paragraph. She explains that during a Santa Ana period, one would wake up in the night troubled not only by the “peacocks screaming” but by the “eerie absence of surf.” Didion then goes on to describe her neighbor’s paranoid behavior in great detail, adding yet another layer to her view of the Santa Ana winds.

She begins her third paragraph with a quote from Raymond Chandler, describing the winds, “On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks.” This quote describes very well how the Santa Ana winds affect human behavior and gives more credibility to the phenomenon by including the thoughts of Chandler.

It is clear that the Santa Ana winds are not a force to be reckoned with by the end of the third paragraph, and it is thanks to Didion’s masterful use of the elements of writing, like syntax, imagery, tone and more.

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