When I finished Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle, I lost a dear, and intimate friend. There wasn’t a told thing throughout the book. It was all image, even though it seemed like the easy and confessional writing of a fresh seventeen year old’s journal. Not even “a” seventeen year old. More like a seventeen year old sister.
In this passage, she doesn’t tell us what kind of man her father is. Instead she shows us in scene:
It was spring when we moved in. I particularly remember the afternoon we first got the drawing room straight. Everything was fresh – the flowered chintz curtains, the beautiful shining old furniture, the white paneling – it had had to be painted because it was in such poor condition. I was fascinated by a great jar of young green beech leaves; I sat on the floor staring at them while Rose played her piece ‘To a Water Lily’ on mother’s old grand piano. Suddenly, Father came in, in a very exulting mood, to tell us that there was a surprise for us outside the window. He flung the mullioned windows open wide and there on the moat were two swans, sailing sedately. We leaned out to feed them with bread and all the time spring air blew in and stirred the beech leaves.
Not only does this passage show what her father concentrates his life around, but also how connected to him she is through nature, as well, with the image of the beech leaves. There are more passages that reveal character through images using lighting, and space, costume and even class distinction when they go to sell some fur coats.
If you haven’t heard of this book, read it slowly because you will miss Smith’s language in your ear and the intimacy that she creates through her sharing voice and “journaling” form. Watch the movie after. It’s also very good.