1 Close Reading - 10H Summer Reading Assignment DUE DATE: Individual responses should be typed, printed and ready to be turned in at the start of class on August 1, DESCRIPTION: For every close reading, all bolded (A-F) categories that follow the DIRECTIONS must be included. You may occasionally find that the passage offers great material for 1-2 categories, much less for others. If you discover that there are no examples for a given passage, you should a) double check and if so, discuss the lack of that material in the appropriate category. (i.e. Why is there no figurative language in this particular passage? What is the effect of this absence?) Thorough close readings are usually several pages long. Close readings do not require a thesis. They are intentionally exploratory rather than argumentative. It is perfectly fine if you find yourself developing an argument along the way. Remember, that what matters most in the close reading is your willingness to think creatively and experimentally about the passage at hand. a. The close reading should not be limited to stating what is already obvious. b. Try going out on intellectual, interpretive (meaning-making) limbs. c. Experimental thinking is most important in these exercises, which are designed to focus your attention on odd details, secondary or multiple meanings, and tentative conclusions that could be made. DIRECTIONS (see Sample Close Reading- Franny and Zooey that follows to use as a model): 1. Carefully and slowly read and annotate the short story An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce. 2. Choose an important passage of lines, or one short paragraph in the story. A passage might be important because of any one of the following criteria: it reveals something new or meaningful about character(s); it announces a theme or comments on something universal about the human experience; it represents a significant event or moment in the plot of the story; it presents a major tension or conflict in the story; it s an example of a recurrence of an established pattern of some kind, i.e. ideas, words, images or actions; it evokes a particularly strong or possibly symbolic image; it stands out because it seems weird or perplexing; it provokes pause and reflection in the reader for any reason. 3. Copy the passage on the top of the page. Remember to include the author s name, title, date of publication, and page number. 4. Complete each BOLDED section below (A-F). Use direct quotations and appropriate citations when necessary. For each bolded section, write two to three paragraphs in response. Don t feel like you must address every single bullet point in every single BOLDED section, but do intentionally demonstrate that you have given serious consideration and thought to the overall intent of the questions in each section.
2 A. Literal Meaning Give a basic explanation of what is happening in the passage. Who are the characters? Where and when is the passage set? Where does it occur in the larger text? From what point of view was it written? This category asks for basic description, not analysis or interpretation. B. Key Terms and Diction First, look up any words you don t know. Does the author create any new words? Use colloquial language or formal language? Choose 5-6 words from the passage that seem ordinary or familiar, list 2-4 definitions for each word, and reflect on the significance of those choices of words. Avoid abstract language or complex words ( love, freedom, good, bad ) Reflect on current and past meanings. With these definitions, think about the subtle, strange, and unexpected conditions. Do they have double meanings? How do these new connotations complicate the passage? How do they relate to other words in the passage? How do they relate to the larger text? C. Grammatical and Formal Structures What grammatical and formal structures seem relevant? Why might they be significant in this passage? Punctuation (questions, exclamation marks, dialogue, quotation or lack thereof) Organization (climaxes, turning points, anticlimaxes, examples of cause and effect) Syntax (the arrangement of words in the sentences) Are the sentences simple or complex? What is the rhythm of the sentences? Are there interesting suspensions, inversions, parallels, oppositions? Does the syntax allow for ambiguity? To what purpose does the story make use of figures of speech such as alliteration, anaphora, assonance, euphemism, metaphor, repetition, or personification? D. Images, Themes, and Motifs Imagery involves one or more of your five senses (hearing, taste, touch, smell, sight). An author uses a word or phrase to stimulate your memory of those senses. What sort of imagery does the story contain? Or, does the story clearly lack imagery? If so, why? What does the story want us to hear, taste, smell, or see? To imagine? How does the imagery here reflect the larger text? How does the story develop or complicate that imagery? Themes The theme is statement(s), expressed or implied, that a text seems to be making about its subject. What are the secondary ideas that the text is sending? Motif A motif is a recurring, unifying element in an artistic work, such as an image, symbol, character type, action, idea, object, or phrase. How does the motif inform or cast a revealing light on the theme? E. Context
3 What role does this passage play in the larger text? Why is the passage situated where it is? What implicitly or explicitly connects the passage to the larger text? Is this a climactic moment? What does it reveal about the characters, settings, or issues of the larger text? What might this passage be significant? What is left out of this passage? What does this passage silence or diverge from? F. Putting it All Together: Tentative Interpretations & Open-Ended Questions Put your findings into some kind of interpretive framework; don t summarize what you ve already presented. Find a coherent, thoughtful way to explain the otherwise miscellaneous list of observations you ve made. What sorts of trends have you discovered? What new things have grown apparent to you once you ve paid close attention to the text? What questions could you ask about your passage that readers would answer in different ways? Sample Close Reading - Franny and Zooey And while they re at dinner, the pilgrim wants to know who all the ladies are that are sitting around the table, and the husband tells him that they re all servants but that they always sit down to eat with him and his wife because they re sisters in Christ. Franny suddenly sat up a trifle straighter in her seat, self-consciously. I mean I loved the pilgrim wanting to know who all the ladies were. She watched Lane butter a piece of bread. Anyway, after that, the pilgrim stays overnight, and he and the husband sit up till late talking about this method of praying without ceasing. The pilgrim tells him how to do it (Salinger 30). A. Literal Meaning: This passage occurs while Lane and Franny are at dinner. Lane had asked about the little book Franny has been carrying around, so she proceeds to tell him the plot and meaning behind it. Franny speaks of this pilgrim who goes on a journey, meeting all types of people, and he tells them how to pray without ceasing. The majority of this passage is made up of Franny speaking to Lane. In the middle there is a break from the dialogue while the third person narrator proceeds to inform the reader of Franny sitting up straighter in her chair and Lane buttering a piece of bread. B. Key Terms: Pilgrim: A person who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons. A member of a group of English Puritans fleeing religious persecution who sailed in the Mayflower and founded the colony of Plymouth, Massachusetts, in A person who travels on long journeys. A person regarded as journeying through life. The passage is clearly talking about someone attached to the first definition of the word pilgrim, but the last definition actually has some impact on our novel. Franny is kind of floating through life, as her own kind of pilgrim. She has received a great shock and her whole life seems to be crumbling before her. Franny most likely sees great parallels between herself and the pilgrim in the book. They are both wandering around to give life meaning. Bread: Food made of flour, water, and yeast or another leavening agent, mixed together and baked. The food that one needs in order to live. The mention of bread in the passage can at first seem trivial, but there may be a stronger purpose for this. The author breaks from telling the pilgrim s story to talk about bread. Lane could have been eating anything, but they chose to make him eat bread. Bread has a strong attachment to Christianity and other religions. The
4 bread seems to be the focus of Franny s attention, most likely bringing up thoughts of religion, tying it to the rest of the novel. Servants: A person who performs duties for others, especially a person employed in a house on domestic duties or as a personal attendant. A devoted and helpful follower or supporter. The servants in the story seem to attend to the family that took the family in. The word servants automatically implies a sort of disconnect between the employer and the employee. The passage follows this word immediately with words showing closeness and love with strong religious ties, which alludes to the second definition of servants. Trifle: A thing of little value or importance. A small amount of something. Treat (someone or something) without seriousness or respect. Waste something, especially time, frivolously. The strange thing about this word is that none of the definitions I could find of this word seemed to apply to this situation. In the context of the passage, it seems to mean a little bit. The author seems to have chosen this word because in relative comparison to the first definition, she seemed to have done it mindlessly and without it being something important for her to do. She seems to have done it as a reaction because she is uncomfortable talking like this to Lane. C. Grammatical and Formal Structures: The most noticeable structure of this passage is its use of dialogue. The majority of it is Franny speaking, but there is a break in the dialogue right in the middle. This break signifies Franny s distracted mind and where her words are leading her. Franny speaks of sitting down for dinner in the story and then self-consciously sits up straighter in her chair. She starts to continue speaking only to be cut off by the distraction of watching Lane butter a piece of bread. The fact that Franny is so easily distracted shows that her mind and heart aren t in line with the story she s telling. The words Franny used to restart her train of thought after the distractions and break of dialogue signify her failed attempt to regain Lane s attention and interest in the story. She starts the sentences off using I mean and Anyway as transitions and to place emphasis on the fact that she s beginning to speak again. She gives Lane opportunities to start listening and interject, yet he continues to choose to remain silent. The dialogue in this passage is full of long, detailed, and complex sentences hinting at the depth of the story and the importance it has to Franny. Generally, people talk more about things that mean something to them and that they truly care about. The more Franny talks about this story, the more we see how much she treasures it. The two sentences that aren t a part of Franny s dialogue are very short and simple. They lack depth and meaning, and they provide a balance and opposition to those in the dialogue. This passage is filled with metaphors and representations. First of all, the pilgrim is who Franny wants to become. She wants to be able to continuously pray the Jesus prayer without ceasing, but lacks the knowledge of how to which is why she s reading the book. Secondly, the fact that the servants eat at the table with the couple, symbolize how labels don t define a person. Franny is trying to stray away from her labels and find herself. Lastly, as Lane butters the bread, he digs himself a deeper hole further away from Franny. The butter symbolizes another layer or mask being added to him persona. He is uninterested in Franny and her story, so he buries himself further away. D. Images, Themes, and Motifs: Images: The dialogue in the passage is very clearly plain, because she is summarizing a book. The only part of the whole passage that has any detail and imagery is when it breaks from the story and talks about distractions. The author suddenly talks about Franny sitting up a little straighter and Lane buttering a piece of bread. These details have no effect on the story long term, but they are still the
5 most detailed parts of the passage. The author is having us imagine these people fidget and move as an insight to the reaction the story is having. Franny values this book and when she fidgets we realize that she may not be comfortable discussing something so close to her with someone who she maybe doesn t value. It shows Franny has a hard time being herself in front of someone she is supposed to love. It is a great indication of the state of their relationship. Lane is buttering his toast showing he couldn t care less about this book and what it s about. It implies that he doesn t really care about Franny either. Themes: Some of the main themes in this passage seem to be Franny and Lane s distant relationship and the book s importance to Franny, as I have previously stated. The passage also shows religion to Franny versus to the rest of the world. Franny grew up living a very different life than most. She seems to have a more complicated relationship with religion and its interpretation. She values religion in a way Lane doesn t seem to. Lane doesn t seem to care at all about religion and the book. It is a good metaphor for religious people vs non-religious people. Motifs: The whole novel, as shown in this passage is full of ties to Jesus and comparisons between Franny and the pilgrim. Whenever they talk of the pilgrim, they seem to make a connection to Franny and vice versa. The novel references to Jesus in very slight nods at a near constant rate, and has very obvious references to him in parts where it is necessary. Because of these religious motifs, they help shape the argument that the author makes in the themes. E. Context: This passage introduces the main plot of the mysterious book Franny carries around throughout the novel. This book and the knowledge, metaphors, and importance that come along with it are present throughout the novel with the main foundation being set in this passage and the surrounding text. This also brings to the surface the shallowness of Franny and Lane s relationship which continues to cause problems throughout the dinner scene and throughout the novel when it comes to affecting Franny s mental state. This passage reveals much of the faulty foundation on which Franny and Lane s relationship is built and how Lane continues to dig himself into a deeper hole. The passage is situated where it is because it s after enough time has passed where the reader doesn t know the significance of the little book, and the reader is still very interested to find out. It s after much suspense and lack of being informed. It s very intriguing to try to understand where Franny is coming from as she reads this and how her interpretation of this book affects her life. This passage leaves out Lane s voice. He chooses to remain silent throughout Franny s recount of the book s plot. This signifies his lack of interest and continuous distractions that continue throughout their dinner scene. He is being disrespectful towards Franny reiterating the fact that he doesn t really want to be with Franny. Lane s silence keeps Franny from getting the attention and respect she desires and deserves which is a triggering factor in her mental breakdown. F. Questions (instead of tentative interpretations): If the pilgrim was so impressed by the whole family, including the servants, why did he only share the prayer technique with the husband? If Lane is supposed to be dating Franny, why isn t he actively engaged in something so important to Franny? Why is Franny self-conscious when she s talking about something she enjoys? Does Lane notice that Franny sits up straighter? Is Franny only staying with Lane for the sake of being in a relationship as Lane is?