I’m studying for my Writing class and need an explanation.
Close Reading Assignment Overview:
The foundation of any good literary analysis is close reading. When doing a close reading, we examine the specific language of a small portion—a passage—of a story to determine how the author’s language and use of other literary elements create meaning. We want to pick apart every detail of the passage that we can. We want to, figuratively speaking, put the passage under a microscope to better understand why an author made the choices they did when composing the passage. Then, we use what we find significant about the passage as evidence to support a larger point about the story as a whole. When using a passage as evidence, you want to quote specific examples from it and then tell your reader how it supports the larger point you are making. You must explain not simply what the passage says but how it says it (think about the author’s use of literary elements for this part). Then, you need to describe how your close reading of the small passage helps us better understand the entire story.
For the purposes of this assignment and for practicing this process, I have broken it up into steps. 100 total points possible:
1. What story is the passage from? Be sure to accurately use the story’s title and author. (5 pts possible)
2. Which of the author’s words and/or phrases in the passage seem especially significant? Why? Think about diction here. (35 pts possible)
3. What does this passage tell us about the characters in the story? For example, does something happen in this passage that helps to make them dynamic? Or do they remain static characters? (30 pts possible)
4. How does this passage fit into the larger story? How is it significant for our understanding of the story as a whole? (30 pts possible)
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s, “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”
When the child began school it had been some time since the sun and rain had caused the collapse of the chicken coop. The angel went dragging himself about here and there like a stray dying man. They would drive him out of the bedroom with a broom and a moment later find him in the kitchen. He seemed to be in so many places at the same time that they grew to think that he’d been duplicated, that he was reproducing himself all through the house, and the exasperated and unhinged Elisenda shouted that it was awful living in that hell full of angels.
Passage sourced from Literature: A Portable Anthology, 4th ed., edited by Janet E. Gardner, et al., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017.
I am attaching the short story but the assignment is on the passage above.
P.S. This is the comment my instructor made on last close reading we did on Kafka’s Metamorphosis: this is a great practice close reading. You do a good job of choosing a literary element (diction), then making claims about the use of this element in the passage. And you support your claims with textual evidence.
What other literary elements might you discuss? Character? Symbolism? Setting?
Don’t worry about providing too much background information in a close reading (your paragraph 1). Assume we’ve all read the story, then get right into your personal interpretation of a given passage.
In future close readings, you’ll want to push your claims further. What I mean is this: right now, your post is very descriptive–you tell your reader what is happening in the scene and provide some analysis. You want your claims to be more interpretive–not just telling what is happening in the passage, but why–in your view–what is happening in the passage is significant. And, then, how does your interpretation help us to understand the story as whole? You certainly already do some of this, which is excellent, but keep working to improve this skill and deepen your analysis.
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