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Improving your critical style / analysis

RESPONDING TO WRITERS’ EFFECTS IMPROVING YOUR CRITICAL STYLE Use a variety of words and phrases to show effects: Austen suggests …, conveys …, implies …, explores …, demonstrates …, signals …, describes how …, shows how …. I/we (as readers) infer …, recognise …, understand …, question …. EXAM FOCUS: For example, look at these two alternative paragraphs by different students about Lady Catherine. Note the difference in the quality of expression: Student A: Austen says that Lady Catherine is really horrible to Lizzie when they talk in, Volume 3 Chapter 14. She says to Lizzie, ‘Do you pay no regard to the wishes of his friends?’. This means that Lizzie has to do what Darcy’s friends want. This means that Lady Catherine is more interested in what people say and not true love. Austen is saying Darcy’s friends will be upset too. Student B: Austen presents Lady Catherine in an unpleasant light when she speaks to Elizabeth in Volume 3, Chapter 14. She demonstrates her snobbish attitude to Elizabeth with the rhetorical question, ‘Do you pay no regard to the wishes of his friends?’ The phrase ‘wishes of his friends’ implies that she places social privilege above personal happiness. Austen also seems to be saying that Elizabeth will upset Darcy’s close circle if she pursues the relationship. RESPONDING TO WRITERS’ EFFECTS ASSESSMENT OBJECTIVE 2 What does it say? What does it mean? Dos and don’ts Analyse the language, form and structure used by the writer to create meanings and effects, using relevant subject terminology where appropriate. ‘Analyse’ – comment in detail on particular aspects of the text or language. ‘Language’ – vocabulary, imagery, variety of sentences, dialogue/speech, etc. ‘Form’ – how the story is told (e.g. first person narrative, letters, diaries, chapter by chapter?) ‘Structure’ – the order in which events are revealed, or in which characters appear, or descriptions are presented ‘Create meaning’ – what can we, as readers, infer from what the writer tells us? What is implied by particular descriptions, or events? ‘Subject terminology’ – words you should use when writing about novels, such as character, protagonist, imagery, setting, etc. Don’t write: The writing is really descriptive in this bit so I get a good picture of Pemberley. Do write: Austen conveys the sense that Pemberley’s setting impresses Elizabeth as she observes the ‘hill, crowned with wood …’ which was ‘a beautiful object’. The metaphorical use of ‘crowned’ implies its, and perhaps Darcy’s, majesty. RESPONDING TO WRITERS’ EFFECTS THE THREE ‘I’S The best analysis focuses on specific ideas, events or uses of language and thinks about what is implied. This means looking beyond the obvious and beginning to draw inferences. On the surface, Elizabeth’s visit to Pemberley tells us how lovely it is, and how rich Darcy must be, but what deeper ideas does it signify about her relationship to Darcy, or about the way settings are linked to character? From the inferences you make across the text as a whole, you can arrive at your own interpretation – a sense of the bigger picture, a wider evaluation of a person, relationship or idea. « PREVIOUS NEXT » USING QUOTATIONS EXAM FOCUS: USING QUOTATIONS Quotations should be used to develop the line of thought in your essay and ‘zoom in’ on key details, such as language choices. The example below shows a clear and effective way of doing this: Austen presents Lydia as someone who is only interested in having fun. She explains that, ‘In Lydia’s imagination, a visit to Brighton comprised every possibility of earthly happiness.’ This suggests that Lydia focuses on immediate pleasure rather than thinking about the long-term consequences. However, really high-level responses will go further. They will make an even more precise point, support it with an even more appropriate quotation, focus on particular words and phrases and explain the effect or what is implied to make a wider point or draw inferences. Here is an example: Austen presents Lydia as a shallow young girl for whom the superficial glamour of Brighton represents ‘every possibility of earthly happiness.’ The use of the adjective ‘every’ implies that Lydia is placing all her hopes on immediate pleasure rather than thinking about the long-term consequences, a perspective that will leave her extremely vulnerable to Wickham as we shall see. « PREVIOUS NEXT » Use the present tense for discussing what the writer does, e.g. Austen presents Elizabeth as an independent young woman not Austen presented Elizabeth as an independent young woman.