Assignment Essay?

Close Reading Essays

Texts: Things Fall Apart; Selection from Colonial and Postcolonial Short Fiction

To do a close reading, you choose a specific passage and analyze it in fine detail, as if with a magnifying glass. You then comment on points of style and on your reactions as a reader. Close reading is important because it is the building block for larger analysis. Your thoughts evolve not from someone else’s truth about the reading, but from your own observations. The more closely you can observe, the more original and exact your ideas will be. To begin your close reading, ask yourself several specific questions about the passage. The following questions are not a formula, but a starting point for your own thoughts. When you arrive at some answers, you are ready to organize and write. You should organize your close reading like any other kind of essay.

If you need HELP! getting started:

  • Does an image here remind you of an image elsewhere in the book? Where? What’s the connection?
  • How might this image fit into the pattern of the book as a whole?
  • Could this passage symbolize the entire work? Could this passage serve as a microcosm–a little picture–of what’s taking place in the whole work?
  • Are there metaphors (words that represent something else without using like or as)? What kinds?
  • Is there one controlling metaphor? If not, how many different metaphors are there, and in what order do they occur? How might that be significant?
  • How might objects represent something else?
  • Do any of the objects, colors, animals, or plants appearing in the passage have traditional connotations or meaning? What about religious or biblical significance?
  • If there are multiple symbols in the work, could we read the entire passage as having allegorical meaning (deeper moral or spiritual meaning) beyond the literal level?

What to do:

1)     Format your paper according to MLA style guidelines (see if you need help). Please remember to double space and print only in Times New Roman, black ink, 12 point font.

2)     Select a passage no longer than 4 lines to analyze; place this quotation at the top of the page in quotation marks. Please include the page number.

3)     Compose a 2-3 page close reading on your passage using the definition and questions above.

4)     You may use the first person, but only on a limited basis.

5)     Only hard copies in class are acceptable.

6)     No outside resources should be or may be used in your analysis.


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