Topic: 2 page close reading on Tell Me How It Ends by luiselli

Topic: 2 page close reading on Tell Me How It Ends by luiselli

Topic: 2 page close reading on Tell Me How It Ends by luiselli


2 page close reading on Tell Me How It Ends by luiselli

On Close Reading

Close Reading isn’t holding the book an inch and a half from your eyes -it’s a method of paying close attention to details in a piece of literature, and systematically explaining what you find. Literature is made out of words; close reading is careful analysis of this construction. Close reading connects the ideas of a literary text with the literary devices and formal techniques that compose and convey those ideas. A really good close reading ought to be able to account for the contribution of every line of a passage, and perhaps even every word. Close reading is the opposite of paraphrase: once you’ve figured out the literal meaning of a passage, your job is to decode how the passage conveys that meaning. What makes the poem or novel or play so much more effective than a summary of its plot or contents would be?

* Choose a passage that strikes you as particularly beautiful, weird, ambiguous, surprising, or exemplary of the author’s style. Avoid passages of dialogue in favor of narration or poetic lines.

*Start by asking some very basic questions:

What verb tense is used in the passage? What person? What is the Topic: 2 page close reading on Tell Me How It Ends by luiselli

context? What is the progression of ideas in the passage? Are there

repetitions? What kind of text is this? How does genre (ode, lyric, etc) shape the passage?

Examine the diction of the passage. Are there words unfamiliar to you? Look them up! Think about the straightforward denotations, and consult the Oxford English Dictionary to help uncover the connotations. Pay attention to connections among roots of words, or to words whose connotations repeat or oppose other words in the passage.

Study the syntax and the rhythm of sentences, as well as their length, caesuras, run-ons, etc. Does punctuation affect meaning?

Think about wordplay, irony, humor.

Look for imagery and figurative language, and pay attention to musical devices like rhyme, internal rhyme, and alliteration.

*For every aspect of the passage that you notice, ask yourself:

How does it work? How does it contribute to the meaning of the passage? How does it reinforce the effect of other aspects of the passage, or work against other aspects of the passage? Can you form groups or clusters of images and stylistic choices according to likenesses, differences, and their significance?


— are the words chosen short or long, monosyllabic or polysyllabic?

— simple or complex?

— from Anglo-Saxon (ask, kingly), French (question, royal) or Latin

(interrogate, regal)?

— concrete or abstract?

— particular or general?

— in common use or from a specialized subculture?

— being used literally or figuratively?

— context-sensitive (e.g., “here,” “now,” “I,” “you”) or context-



— how are words grouped? into familiar phrases or new

juxtapositions? into long or short sentences? complex (many subordinate clauses) or simple? Topic: 2 page close reading on Tell Me How It Ends by luiselli

— What parts of speech are used most heavily (e.g. adjectives, nouns,


— Are the verbs active or passive?

— What verbal modes predominate: stating, questioning, exclaiming,


— How many voices can you distinguish in the passage?

— Is speech quoted (directly or indirectly, freely or precisely)?


— How does the passage begin, and where does it end up?

— Which words or ideas are repeated? Does the passage progress in a

linear fashion or circle back upon itself?

— What moments of transition can you identify in the passage? Does

one statement flow smoothly into the next, or is the passage structured by abrupt juxtapositions?

— Are there parts of the passage that don’t seem to fit with the rest? If

so, can you explain both what sets them apart and what they contribute to the passage?

— Are there moments where the logical or narrative structure gets

interrupted or breaks down? (You can also ask these questions of individual phrases and sentences.)

Think about the text as whole before you begin, and again after you’ve finished a draft. As you make individual observations, keep your larger point in mind. Try to integrate quotations with analysis, instead of alternating long block quotations with long generalizations. You do not have to comment on every word, but a thorough close reading should have something to say about most every line or sentence. If a line or an aspect of the text puzzles you at first, don’t simply gloss over it, even if successive readings clear up the problem: the initial ambiguity is worth noticing and explaining. The fact that a close reading pays special attention to detail does not preclude a general argument; it does mean that you should support that argument as precisely as possible.

*What patterns can you discern among the dynamics you’ve identified? Are there repetitions, contradictions, similarities, differences, negations, reinforcements? Patterns are crucial evidence for what a passage is thinking about, grappling with, representing, activating. A good thesis statement for a close reading focuses on a pattern, and may also bridge the meaning of a passage to the broad themes of a whole text. I.e.: “Through punctuation, imagery, rhythm, and syntax, this passage highlights the tension between progress and erosion that preoccupies this novel.”

here is the sample

I lingered at the gates; I lingered on the lawn; I paced backwards and forwards on the pavement: the shutters of the glass door were closed; I could not see into the interior; and both my eyes and spirit seemed drawn from the gloomy house—from the gray hollow filled with rayless cells, as it appeared to me—to that sky expanded before me—a blue sea absolved from taint of cloud; the moon ascending it in solemn march…and for those trembling stars that followed her course; they made my heart tremble, my veins glow when I viewed them. Little things recall us to earth: the clock struck in the hall; that sufficed. I turned from moon and stars, opened a side-door, and went in (Bronte 137). In Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre the protagonist Jane Eyre is usually upheld as a figure of feminism, but it will be argued that Miss Eyre is no more a feminist than Mr. Brocklehurst is an upstanding Christian. Instead, to borrow a few terms from Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, Jane Eyre is a “delinquent” within an enormous system of “hierarchical observation, normalizing judgment…[and] examination” (188); and, it is because of this system of training and imprisonment that Jane Eyre is reduced to a “cog” that only perpetuates the system of the “political technology of the body” (173). In the above passage, Jane Eyre has just come back from Hay after both encountering Mr. Rochester’s fall and depositing a letter for Mrs. Fairfax, and is now “lingering” outside the home. In fact, the word “lingered” is used twice with each use placing Jane closer and closer to Thornfield Hall: she is first lingering “at the gate” and later is “linger[ing] on the lawn”. The word itself indicates that there is some sort of apprehension, a trepidation, yet with each use of the word there is a quick succession of movement inwards towards the home; followed by the phrase “I paced backwards and forwards on the pavement”, which further displays the ironic rapid movement outside inside: from the gates, to the lawn, and now the pavement that borders Rico 2 Thornfield Hall. There is also a transition from the verb “linger” to the verb “pace”: a pacing of backwards and forwards, which indicates a sense of nervousness. So, there is a transition of movement from outside inside, and a transition of emotion from being afraid to being nervous; and, to be fair of the critique of feminism (or its variant forms), these transitions do suggest a stubbornness, an inward rebellion against an establishment, as she checks to see whether “the shutters of the glass door were closed” to verify her privacy; however, this privacy, this rebellion, is undermined by the following portion of the sentence that relates she “could not see into the interior”. With her inability to see inside, there is no guarantee that her movement is not being observed through the glass door from underneath the shutter, no guarantee that she is not caught within “a prison-machine with a cell of visibility in which the inmate will find himself [or herself] caught as ‘in the glass house of the Greek philosopher’” (217). Interestingly enough, Jane herself admits that Thornfield Hall is a “gray hollow filled with rayless cells” as she stares up into the night sky: the cells, requiring no light to see, utilizes the darkness as “a central point from which a permanent gaze may control prisoners and staff” (217). This movement of the “eyes and spirit…drawn from the gloomy house…to that sky…a blue sea absolved from taint of cloud; the moon ascending it in solemn march” is indeed a desire, a feministic/rebellious desire, to escape, to transcend the limits imposed by the system as denoted by the phrase: “a blue sea absolved from taint of cloud”. The blue sea is the desire, the want, to flee, to sail away from the cloudedness taint of Thornfield Hall, or any form of “tyranny” that prescribes boundary; unfortunately, this daydream, for this is what it is, is muddled by the inescapable moon (Thornfield) in its “ascending…solemn march”. The moon, in its militaristic demeanor, marches over the blue sea sky where it places itself at the zenith and, in a manner of speaking, becomes the most tainted, persistent, white cloud to exist (a cloud that can never be Rico 3 effaced by the forces of earth’s nature because it lies outside that space). Moreover, Jane Eyre is unaware of the imposition that is steadily creeping into her daydream for she is too busy admiring “those trembling stars that followed [the moon’s] course, and that are making her “heart tremble, [her] veins glow”. In the process of dreaming freedom, Jane Eyre, ironically, succumbs to the forces of the “political technology of the body” that she is trying hard to escape, and, at the same time, becoming one of those very same stars, as signified by her glowing veins, that follow the moon with its “solemn march”. It is in this sense then that Jane cannot escape the “policy of coercions” that is embedded within the sound of a ubiquitous bell that is illustrated at the bottom of the passage (Foucault 182): “the clock struck in the hall; that sufficed. I turned from moon and stars, opened a sidedoor, and went in”. The sound of the clock in the hall, the sound of a bell, controls Jane; it has conditioned her into a “military dream of society” and into a habit of “automatic docility” (Foucault 186). The semicolon emphasizes the sudden shift from the sound of the clock to realizing that enough time of daydreaming has elapsed (as indicated by the word “sufficed”), and that she must quit both moon and stars to resume her position finally within doors. The most interesting part, however, of this bell is that it is not solely confined to this small passage, but exists throughout the entire novel. At the beginning of Jane Eyre Jane is called to meet Mr. Brocklehurst by a ringing of a bell: “the breakfast-room bell decided me; I must enter” (again the sudden shift induced by the semicolon) (my emphasis added 38). Again, later at Lowood School when Jane is in the process of introspection as to how to elude the clutches of her institution “here a bell, [rings] the hour of supper” (102). This bell is the very same bell from the passage above, and the very same bell that transforms into Rochester’s disembodied voice that calls out Rico 4 Jane’s name: “I had heard it…and it was the voice of a human being—a known, loved, wellremembered voice—that of Edward Fairfax Rochester” (483). This bell is the source of Jane Eyre’s delinquency. She has time and time again been offered liberation in the form of death. First, she could have chosen to surrender herself over to the red-room and succumbed to deathly shock; she then could have voluntarily contracted typhus (or tuberculosis from Helen) at Lowood School (note: there are, perhaps, other instances where she could of died, but these were in her power and could have changed the course of the novel). Instead, Jane has decided to follow the sound of the bell into every form of tyranny that comes across her path. Furthermore, the repeated adjectives used to describe Brocklehurst, Rochester, and St. John (the aforementioned forms of tyranny) are: “erect” and “statue-like”; these descriptions give the sense that they are made of either stone or rock, and the most interesting aspects of this perception are the properties of stone: sound, in this particular case the ringing of a bell, is not absorbed by stone (at least only partially) and is deflected and redirected off it— aimed, in all likelihood, at Jane who is like a small bird easily affected by the large commercial sounds that are produced by big business (or society). As Foucault writes in his Discipline and Punish, “it is said that the prison fabricated delinquents; it is true that it brings back, almost inevitably, before the courts those who have been sent there. But it also fabricates them in the sense that it has introduced…has caught them in the same trap” (222-223). Jane keeps on falling into the same trap over and over again, and it is not because she is naïve, but because, being a prisoner of a system that thrives on “small-scale models of power” (no pun intended), she has become a delinquent of the “political technology of the body”, of the socio-economic system of her society, of the ringing of a bell deflected off stone. The individuals who, of course, are Rico 5 wielding this power are the rich and wealthy: the small group of people who have land, a source of income (either old or new), and slaves: a Brocklehurst, a Rochester and a St. John. Spivak is indeed correct in saying in her article Three Women’s Text and a Critique of Imperialism that Jane has “moved from the place of the counter-family to the family-in-law” as was shown in the above passage: her moving outside in (247). However, it will be stated that Jane Eyre is not a figure of feminism (Feminism or feminist individualism) because of her delinquency, and the only possible way that the protagonist could ever have achieved the status of Feminist is if she had somehow died on her way to Thornfield Hall—the apex of her ambitious endeavors, the apex of her growing identity. To speak tangentially, the paper is in no manner arguing that the characters of the novel are themselves alive, or that they are capable of changing the course of their “destiny”; but is arguing that the novel Jane Eyre had the potential to be much more than it is—Jane Eyre could have been, and should have been, a story of a Becky Sharp.

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2 page close reading on Tell Me How It Ends by luiselli

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