Presentation on theme: "Close Reading. The beginner’s guide to close reading: 1. choose a passage that is representative of the author’s style and theme 2. number the sentences."— Presentation transcript:
The beginner’s guide to close reading: 1. choose a passage that is representative of the author’s style and theme 2. number the sentences in the passage 3. identify and evaluate elements of prose style, like sentence structure, syntax, punctuation, rhythm, and sound 4. identify and evaluate word choice in terms of diction, connotation, and tone 5. identify and evaluate use of imagery, figurative language, and literary devices
From Jude The Obscure by Thomas Hardy (1) Jude was exasperated and went out to drag her in by main force. (2) Then he suddenly lost his heat. (3) Illuminated with the sense that all was over between them, and that it mattered not what she did, or he, her husband stood still, regarding her. (4) Their lives were ruined, he thought; ruined by the fundamental error of their matrimonial union: that of having based a permanent contract on a temporary feeling which had no necessary connection with affinities that alone render a lifelong comradeship tolerable.
Analysis: Hardy’s use of diction in this passage is both effective and appropriate. The first two sentences are a narration of the action leading to the third and fourth sentences, which detail Jude’s sudden realization. These first two sentences indicate an emotionally physical action. Jude is running into the road to retrieve his screaming wife. Compared to the second two, they are simple in structure. Hardy uses clear, concise phrases to create a picture of Jude’s movements: “was exasperated,” “went out,” “to drag,” “suddenly lost.” The specific and direct nature of Hardy’s diction is further illustrated in his word choices. Among the nineteen words in the first two sentences, seventeen of them contain only one syllable. The remaining two, “exasperated” and “suddenly,” are therefore emphasized by their length. Considering the content of the text, the choice of these two words becomes extremely appropriate and they serve to embody the intent of the first two sentences, in which an emotional scene is cut off by a sudden realization.
Likewise, in the last two sentences the words, phrases and sentences take on a longer, more descriptive and more difficult form. Sentences three and four convey Jude’s thoughts. The reader’s knowledge of Jude as an intellectual character makes the articulate and complex structure of these sentences a logical response. The third sentence contains a transitory phrase, “stood still,” connecting the first two sentences to the third and fourth. This is a stop in the action of sentences one and two and a transfer to the intellectual from the physical. Jude has become “[i]lluminated;” he is no longer “exasperated.”
The diction becomes more thoughtful and more complicated in these two sentences. Out of the sixty-six words, eleven of them have three or more syllables, a significant contrast to the monosyllabic nature of the first two sentences. Likewise, these two sentences suggest abstract, timeless thoughts with words like: “fundamental,” “feeling,” “render,” “tolerable,” and “lifelong.” These are not concrete words. They do not produce an image of action. They are, instead, thoughts. It is this contrast that illustrates Hardy’s great control over diction and his effectiveness in this passage.
Hardy’s word choices at this point are appropriate as well. Jude is feeling empty at the recognition of his mistake and the fact that he can clearly see the untaken path that would have led him to happiness. He regrets having chosen the wrong course and, almost contemptuously, compares the two. The opposing phrases “permanent contract,” and “temporary feeling,” embody this emotion. Likewise, Hardy could have left out the word “necessary,” but its addition adds a bittersweet poignancy to the meaning of the sentence. Hardy could have written it as: He realized that it was over for them. Their lives were ruined because it had been a mistake to get married out of lust and infatuation and not love and friendship. This would have stated his meaning, but would not have been nearly as appropriate or evocative. Moreover, Jude’s background and education render such terms as “permanent contract,” “tolerable,” “affinities,” “lifelong comradeship,” and “matrimonial union” effective reminders of Jude’s character.