Annotated Excerpt

An Excerpt from Howl’s Moving Castle

  “That night, as she sewed, Sophie admitted to herself that her life was rather dull. Instead of talking to the hats, she tried each one on as she finished it and looked in the mirror. This was a mistake. The staid grey dress did not suit Sophie, particularly when her eyes were red-trimmed with sewing, and, since her hair was a reddish straw color, neither did caterpillar green nor pink. The one with mushroom pleats simply made her look dreary. Like an old maid! said Sophie. Not that she wanted to race off with counts, like Jane Farrier, or even fancied half the town offering her marriage, like Lettie. But she wanted to do something – she was not sure what – that had a bit more interest to it than trimming hats.(Jones, 15)”

Hover over the colors!


The passing of these events is a particularly significant moment present within the early portion of the text, and as such it is important to observe each of the mechanics the excerpt invokes to draw up their greater role to the text as a whole. Even with the novel being, in my opinion, incredibly approachable and reader friendly there is a level of depth present that may not be observed in the first reading. This excerpt in particular has the protagonist Sophie explicitly stating her ultimate transformative fate, while also imbuing the attire she would later become cursed over. The passing of these events is mentioned in her later being cursed by (antagonist) the Witch of the Waste, but at this first mention it is even pointed out; “This was a mistake.(Jones)” A first time reader may or may not take note of these details, granting a significance and power to the idea of repetition gained ‘tangibly’ in the act of a reader reading again, outside of the actual repeated content read/absorbed within the text.

The language of this passage manages to bare much of the text’s fantasy genre to the reader. It is prim and proper narrative, friendly even and incredibly English. Life was not just dull, it was rather dull; the colors are not simple, even when they are meant to be bland like grey, they are staid or caterpillar or straw-like. The narrative goes as far as kindly assuring it’s readers that the focus has crossed into the not-ok zone, reading like a hindsight, after-the-fact, wise quip. The narrative making detailed note of the in-progress stories of Jane Farrier and Lettie invokes the didactic web of concerns which influence a fantasy protagonist’s actions. Even without direct mention of magic or anything blatantly ‘fantasy’ in this small excerpt, the narrative manages to well represent the genre in its focus on the potential for something more. Sophie seeks something greater, unlike the paths that surround her, something foreign and unknown.

Jones, Diana Wynne. Howl’s Moving Castle. New York: Harper Collins, 2008. 15. Print.

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