The visual aspect of the composition and its effects can be analyzed with respect to shifts in scale, as is sometimes done in the case of the visual media of moving pictures. In the case of a literary text, however, one will have to add an extra level besides the purely visual: abstract (and not primarily figurative) meaning. To cover the difference in scale we need five levels of focus effecting different degrees of intimacy: body part sized (the close-up); body sized; interior – the size of a room; exterior – larger than the confined space of a room; and abstract meaning (no size, or: ‘larger than life’). Scale: Abstract Exterior Interior Body Body part The Olympus has its general focus at the body part scale – descriptions of touching involving hair, hands and faces signifying the (not purely physical) 70
This rule is broken on three occasions. In the very first sentence, there is a shift in scale from the body part sized “hair” that is being touched to an exterior view of the location. This perspective helps establish the distinction between the HeC space and the HoC space: the locative space-builder “by the river” sets up a space that is distinguished from the space introduced in the next sentence by the space-builder “in our apartment”. Extreme shifts like these effect hightened attention. In the seventh paragraph, there is a sequence of dramatic shifts: the olympic viewpoint (OV) moves from body sized scale (lingering from the fifth paragraph) to an exterior view with abstract meaning (the geese by the river), down to body part scale again (hands), up to the interior (C’s apartment), and zooms in, first on the bodies lying there (body size) and then the cigarettes (body part size).
The zoom effect has an emotional effect as well, as we go from the (detached) full-frame interior to the intimate detail. The focus of the narrator-agent viewpoint (NAV) starts with an interior view of the apartment, and moves to a body sized view in the second paragraph. Following immediately after the olympic peak from body part scale to abstract meaning, NAV zooms in on the keys that happen to be key to the story. The two viewpoints thus move in the opposite direction. When OV is back at the body part scale (sentence 7), NAV moves to a new setting, marked by first the body walking (body scale), then an exterior view (sentence 8). In sentence 6 we are told that the keys were given to A for a specific reason (so that she could water his plants), creating an expectation that this is going to somehow be relevant.
In the next paragraph, A walks over to C’s apartment, and it is sound for the reader to assume she goes there with the purpose of watering his plants. Contrary to expectation, there is no mention of any such activity. The scale shifts in the sixth and seventh paragraph, similar in their focal motion (mental zooming, if you will) from exterior to interior, to body, to body part scale, are a factor in guiding the reader’s attention. From a compositional point of view, the juxtaposition and structural similarity of the two sequences signal the concatenation of events: first our attention is directed towards A’s turning on the gas, and in the next sequence we get a sneak preview of B and C readying cigarettes.