Imagery in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Imagery in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

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Imagery in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

One of the most stunningly powerful features of John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is the vivid imagery used hroughout the book. Berendt has a way of making everything he writes about come to life. The reader doesn't merely read about Savannah, he lives it. The characters that are represented in the book come to life as the book progresses. Their actions take form before the audience's eyes. The characters are not, however, the only things brought to life by Berendt's vivid style. Savannah itself becomes real to the reader. The detailed settings make the city more than just a background for the story. It is an integral part of the tale. All of these aspects come together to make Midnight less of a book and more of an experience.

The story relayed by Berendt in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is filled to the brim with interesting characters. What makes them even more interesting to the reader is the knowledge that they are, at least for the most part, actually real-life characters. His descriptions of these people and their characteristics are so detailed that after reading only two or three pages about someone, the reader begins to feel as if she knows the person. The vivid descriptions are extremely detailed. "She had both hands on her hips and a sassy half-smile on her face as if she had been waiting for me" (Berendt 96). This is just a small portion of Berendt's opening description of Chablis, the drag queen of the book. Berendt also brings these people to life through their behaviors. A perfect example of this method is the character of Danny Hansford. The descriptions of Danny's behavior are so vivid that it is hard to think of him as a character in a book. Everything from Danny's walk to his violent fits of rage are represented with great detail.

The imagery associated with Savannah itself is nothing short of astounding. The squares that populate Savannah, the houses in the area, and even the town cemetery are presented with wonderful detail. At one point Berendt speaks of James Oglethorpe, the founder of Georgia, and the fact that Oglethorpe had the squares planned before he had set sail from England. The layout was to be "based on the design of a Roman military encampment.

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. . In effect, the city would become a giant parterre garden" (29). The houses are also presented with great appeal. Pages and pages are devoted to giving not only descriptive detail, but also descriptive historical background information. Berendt's description of the Mercer House is the best example of this thoroughness, as he goes into the greatest deal of detail with this account. Even the town cemetery is given great attention. According to the author, the most interesting part of the graveyard is the bench-shaped headstone of Conrad Aiken, on which Mary Harty tricked Berendt into relaxing.

The actions of the characters also add to the effect of the detail presented by Berendt. The people of Savannah are far from the proverbial "norm." They are a strange yet interesting group. Savannah is a very tranquil town that loves visitors as much as it loves parties; but it hates invaders. Many people have tried to come to Savannah and industrialize the city, or make it corporate in one way or another. They have always been immediately, though still politely, turned away. Even the driving in Savannah is kept tranquil. In fact, the citizens of Savannah have no choice about this. Traffic is not allowed in the squares that populate the town. Drivers have no choice but to go around. "So traffic is obliged to flow at a leisurely rate, " says Miss Harty. "The squares are our little oases of tranquillity" (29).

John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is filled with intense imagery from many sources. The characters and setting don't seem to be part of a story. They are real, and therefore they seem real in the book. Berendt gives them a distinctive look and feel that could only come from life. He gives them personality. Savannah itself comes alive. Even the actions of the inhabitants of Savannah are given shape.

 
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