~Discovery Strategies~ 

 

Goal: Devote some time to exploring how your theme, trope / leitmotif, or image functions within a larger field of meaning in the novel.  From identification of the concept’s presence in the text to analysis of significance: the broader “so what.”

 

Step 1: How and where is this image, sign, trope or leitmotif introduced in the novel (what chapter/s)? 

Step 2: Can you locate places in the text where it is repeated, either visually or by reference (in other words, where in the text can you find “echoes” or traces that bear reference to this motif?).  

Step 3: What analytical conclusions can you begin to formulate about how this motif operates in relationship to one of the larger (macro) themes presented in the novel? How, in other words, does your theme or sign generate specific meanings in the text? I caution you against “easy” and “obvious” answers!

 

The Keys to Building Solid Analytical Paragraphs

1. Topic Sentence: an arguable claim

x reflects y
x signifies y
x symbolizes y
x suggests y
x serves as a barometer of . . .
x serves as an indicator of . . .
x connotes y
attests to
testifies to an implicit American belief in . . .
We can draw plausible associations between x and y
x illustrates
x demonstrates the typically American fascination with . . .
x is associated with y in American culture
connects to
has connections to
relates to
marks
is a visible demarcation of economic marginalization

2. Evidence/Example: quote, visual element

 

3. Interpretation of evidence which finally connects evidence to the thesis

------analyze language or visual element

------analyze significance of evidence to paragraph subtopics

------analyze quote in relationship with thesis

 

 


 

Build-A-Paragraph Workshop:

 

Each group is assigned specific quotations from the text. Consider this is the “E” part of the M.E.A.L. plan for paragraph construction: evidence. Your task is to examine the evidence carefully.

1)       Observe the evidence and Identify patterns of meaning / thematic links: Make a list of what thematic ideas and patterns you can glean from the language of the text; list any imagery or words in the quotations that strike you as significant.

2)      Analyze the significance. Construct an arguable claim that would serve as this (hypothetical) paragraph’s mini-assertion. The “M” in the M.E.A.L. plan. What analytical conclusions can you begin to formulate about how this motif operates in relationship to one of the larger (macro) themes presented in the novel? How, in other words, does your theme or recurring image/trope generate specific meanings in the text? I caution you against “easy” and “obvious” answers!

 

 

Group 1:

o   “It looked like something a child might have done, a child who’d witnessed such domesticity only in a movie or a book” (52).

o   “Still asleep, Dena raised an arm across her face as if fending off a blow. He saw again the pink centipede-shaped welt. She had never told him what caused that scar, just as she’d never explained her missing front teeth” (69).

o   “Travis saw the purple scar on her back shoulder and knew that, as with him, someone had taken a knife to her flesh” (137).

o   “I’m worth a few quarters, ain’t I?” (169).

 

 

Group 2:

o   “‘You’d figure she’d have enough sense not to do that after getting boiled the way she did,’ Travis said” (97).

o   “I’m going to hell. I’ve known that since I was seven years old…You learn it early and you ain’t allowed to forget” (136-7).

o   “Dena raised the back of her hand to show a fresh burn mark. ‘Bet Hubert Toomey ten dollars I could do it,’ Dena said. ‘I won. Even got to keep the cigarette” (114).

o   “The covers were off and he [Leonard] could see the pink splotches where her skin had peeled. He’d told her to wear sunscreen, not to stay out so long. She might have just as well lain down in a skillet” (69).

 

Group 3:

o   Leonard’s image in the mirror as “slowly fading” and “receding” (77).

o   Leonard’s description of the trailer on pages 76-77.

o   Travis’s “empty” palm (22-3).

o   Carlton’s “disembodied” eyes (46) and “voice soon lost amid other sounds” (174).

o   The description of the carnival booths as empty, the “now absent crowd” (175).

o   The image of snow making names on the graves “quickly disappear” (208, 261).

o   After Dena leaves, “snow had erased the tire tracks” (208).

o   “Nothing seemed whole” in Lori’s yard (198).

 

 

Group 4:

o   Description of Carlton Toomey’s eyes: “The eyes seemed disembodied, as if they’d slipped free from the face” (46).

o   Dena mounts a carousel horse at the fair, “whose eye had been chipped away” (169).

o   David Shelton’s half-broken eyeglasses from the Civil War era.

 

 

Group 5:

o   “Still asleep, Dena raised an arm across her face as if fending off a blow” (69).

o   “The boy shuddered, pulled his knees close to his chest. Even in sleep trying to protect himself, just as Dena had” (71).

o   “Travis saw the purple scar on her back shoulder and knew that, as with him, someone had taken a knife to her flesh” (137).