edgar rice burroughs' sentence-structure

This is an odd-one-out among all the pages on the site.  It is virtually nothing more than a collection of quotations, all making the same point.  Perhaps it is a point of limited technical interest, but I believe it does have its importance.  The world-building achievement of Edgar Rice Burroughs lies, I contend, in his style as much as his imagination - if not more so.

Stid:  And you think this is insufficiently recognized?  Well, for once I agree.  But you have made the point elsewhere, I think.

Zendexor:  I haven't illustrated it yet as well as I am about to do now.  Stand by to be carpet-bombed with quotations, all of which have been selected to show the following structure of ERB's speciality - the long sentence, with build-up, climax and build-down.  A kind of scarp slope seen in profile.

For convenience I have taken all the excerpts from one book, Tanar of Pellucidar.

In each case, I have marked the climaxes in bold.  To the left of the bold you see the gentle scarp slope; to the right, the more precipitous post-climacteric cadence.

If this page plays its part in convincing anyone that a pulp writer can be a great writer, it'll have proved its worth.

the examples

At the instant that the mighty comber engulfed the ship the angry hurricane struck suddenly with renewed fury - struck at a new angle - and the masts, already straining even to the minimum of canvas that had been necessary to give the ship headway and keep its nose into the storm, snapped like dry bones and crashed by the board in a tangle of cordage.

- page 36

Once more they took up their flight among the branches and just as they were commencing to feel the urge to sleep Tanar discovered a small deer in a game trail beneath them, and making his kill the two satisfied their hunger, and then with small branches and great leaves Tanar constructed a platform in a tree - a narrow couch, where Stellara lay down to sleep while he stood guard, and after she had slept he slept, and then once more they resumed their flight.

- page 69

The Sarian walked back to the opening through which the little stream had borne him into the grotto, but a careful investigation revealed no avenue of escape in this direction, although he re-entered the stream and swam into the bottom of the well where he found the walls worn so smooth by the long continued action of falling water that they gave no slightest indication of handhold or foothold.

- page 90

From the moment that he had been so unexpectedly precipitated into the underground world of the Buried People, his dominant thought, of course, had been that of escape; but the further into the bowels of the earth he was carried the more hopeless appeared the outcome of any venture in this direction, yet he never for once abandoned it though he realized that he must wait until they had reached the place of his final confinement before he could intelligently consider any plan at all.

- page 94

She heard the sound of his advance as he crashed through the underbrush and she knew that he was gaining rapidly upon her, but this did not unnerve her since she was confident that he could have no suspicion that she was in the branches of the trees and just so long as she kept among thick foliage he might pass directly beneath her without being aware of her close presence, and that is precisely what he did, cursing and puffing as he made his bull-like way up the steep slope of the hillside.

- page 111

To one accustomed to the daily recurrence of the darkness of night, following the setting of the sun, escape from such a dilemma as that in which Tanar found himself would have seemed merely a matter of waiting for the coming of night, but where the sun does not set and there is no night, and time is immeasurable and unmeasured, and where one may not know whether a lifetime or a second has been encompassed by the duration of such an event, the enforced idleness and delay are maddening.

But in spite of these conditions, or perhaps because of them, the Sarian possessed a certain philosophic outlook upon life that permitted him to accept his fate with marked stoicism and to take advantage of the enforced delay by fashioning a bow, arrows and a spear from the material afforded by the tree in which he was confined.

The tree gave him everything that he needed except the cord for his bow, and this he cut from the rawhide belt that supported his loin cloth - a long, slender strip of rawhide which he inserted in his mouth and chewed thoroughly until it was entirely impregnated with saliva.

- page 126

They had long since abandoned any apprehension of pursuit or capture by the Korsars and while they had skirted the distant hinterland claimed by Korsar and had encountered some of the natives upon one or two occasions, they had seen no member of the ruling class with the result that for the first time since they had fallen into the clutches of the enemy they felt a sense of unquestioned freedom.

- page 186

Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tanar of Pellucidar (1929)

For an analysis of a successful sentence from A Fighting Man of Mars, see the OSS Diary for 31st December 2016.

See also The weaving flow of ERB's prose.