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THE NATURE OF PROOF IN THE INTERPRETATION OF POETRY
GOOD READERS AND GOOD WRITERS
FOUR AP POEMS FOR STUDY
SAMPLE AP LIT AND COMP ESSAYS
SAMPLE AP LANG AND COMP ESSAYS
NOTES FOR AP PREP TAPE / Cathy D’Agostino & Mike Rychlewski
EXTENDED DEFINITION OF EVIL / THE THIRD MAN AND THE JUNGLE
BOOKS TO BUY IF YOU WANT TO BE AN ESSAYIST
THE NATURE OF PROOF IN THE INTERPRETATION OF POETRY
To what extent can teachers demand “correct” interpretations of poetry? Are there no incorrect readings? Professor Perrine, Southern Methodist University, presents well-illustrated answers to these crucial questions.
That a poem may have varying interpretations is a critical commonplace. That all interpretations of a poem are equally valid is a critical heresy, but one which perennially makes its reappearance in the classroom. “Why can’t a poem mean anything that a reader sees in it?” asks the student. “Why isn’t one person interpretation of a poem as good as anyone else’s?” According to his theory a poem is like an ink blot in a Rorschach personality test. There are no correct or incorrect readings: there are only readings which differ more or less widely from a statistical norm.
This theory is one that poets themselves have sometimes seemed to lend support to. T. S. Eliot, in response to conjectures about the meanings of his poems, has replied, ”If it suits you that way, then that is all right with me.” Yeats once wrote to a friend: “I shall not trouble to make the meaning clear—a clear vivid story of a strange sort is enough. The meaning may be different with everyone.” But one is not really quarrelling with Eliot or Yeats in challenging this point of view. Eliot, as a critic dealing with the poetry of others, has been constantly concerned with determining precise meanings. No poet, however, likes to be caught in a predicament of having to explain his own poems. He cannot say, “What I really meant was…” without admitting failure or without saying something different (and usually much less) than what his poem said. And in doing so, he gives this diminished reading the stamp of his own authority. “A writer,” E. A. Robinson once told an interviewer, “should not be his own interpreter.” It is significant that Yeats was quite willing to write, for an anthology, a comment on one of his poems so long as the comment did not appear over his own name. “If an author interprets a poem of his own,” he explained to the editor, “he limits its suggestibility.” The poet is eager to be understood. But whereas the comments of a critic may raise the curtain on a reader’s understanding of a poem, the poet’s own comments drop the curtain. We must therefore not mistake the defensive gestures of a poet like Yeats or Eliot for a declaration of his critical theory.
In this paper, accordingly, I wish, not to advance any new proposition, but only to re-assert the accepted critical principal that for any given poem there are correct and incorrect readings, and to illustrate the process by which the correctness of a reading may be proved or disproved. For logical proof, though not experimental proof, is at least as possible in the interpretation of poetry as it is, say, in a court of law.
The criteria used for judging any interpretation of a poem are two: (1) A correct interpretation, if the poem is a successful one, must be able to account satisfactorily for any detail of the poem. If it is contradicted by any detail it is wrong. Of several interpretations, the best is that which most fully explains the details of the poem without itself being contradicted by any detail. (2) If more than one interpretation satisfactorily accounts for all the details of the poem, the best is that which is most economical, i.e., which relies on the fewest assumptions not grounded in the poem itself. Thomas Huxley illustrates this principle of judgment in a different area in one of his essays. If, he says, on coming downstairs in the morning we find out silverware missing, the window open, the mark of a dirty hand on the window frame, and the impress of a hobnailed boot on the gravel outside, we logically concluded that the silverware has been stolen by a human thief. It is possible, of course, that the silverware was taken by a monkey and that a man with dirty hands and hobnailed boots looked in the window afterwards; but this explanation is far less probable, for, though it too accounts for all the facts, it rests on too many additional assumptions. It is, as we would day, too “far-fetched.”
These two criteria I ask you to notice, are not different from those we bring to the judgment of a new scientific hypothesis. Of such we ask (1) that it satisfactorily account for as many as possible of the known facts without being contradicted by any fact, (2) that it be the simplest or most economical of alternative ways of accounting for these facts.
Let me illustrate by presenting two problems in interpretation. The first is an untitled poem by Emily Dickinson:
Where ships of purple gently toss
On seas of daffodil,
Fantastic sailors mingle,
And then—the wharf is still.
The second consists of a pair of poems, one by Walt Whitman, the other by Herman Melville. The poem by Whitman appeared in his volume of Civil War poems, Drum-Taps. Melville, who was Whitman’s almost exact contemporary, also published a book of war poems (Battle-Pieces), though the following poem did not appear in it. I ask you with the Dickinson poem merely to decide what it is about; with the Whitman and Melville poems to determine the principle difference between them.
Several years ago I presented the Emily Dickinson poem to a number of students and colleagues and discovered that not one of them interpreted the poem as I did. Almost universally they read the poem as being descriptive of a scene in a garden or a meadow. A consensus of their interpretations runs as follows:
Tall purple flowers (iris?) stand above
The daffodils and are tossed in the
Breeze. Bee and butterflies (fantastic
sailors”) mingle with the flowers. The
wind stops, and then the garden is still.
Beside this let me place the interpretation which I hope to prove the correct one:
The poems is a description of a sunset.
The ‘ships of purple” are clouds. The
“seas of daffodil” are skies colored
golden by the setting sun. The “fantastic
sailors” are the shifting colors of the
sunset, like old-fashioned seamen
dressed in gorgeous garments of many
colors brought from exotic lands. The
sun sinks and wharf (the earth where
the sun set—the scene of this colorful
activity) is still.
How do we demonstrate the “sunset” reading to be correct and the “garden” reading to be incorrect? By some such argument as this:
“Ships of Purple” is a more apt metaphor for clouds then for flowers, both as to size and to motion (we often speak of clouds as “sailing”). “Daffodil” would normally be in the plural if it referred to flowers rather than to color: why would not the poet say “on a sea of daffodils”? “Mingle” fits better the entwining colors of the sunset than it does the behavior of bees, which mingle with flowers perhaps but not, except in the hive, with each other (and the flowers here are “seas’). The “garden” reading provides no literal meaning for “wharf.” The “garden” reading, to explain why a wharf becomes still, demands the additional assumption that the wind stops (why should it?—and would the bees and butterflies stop their activity if it did?); the disappearance of the sun, in contrast, is inevitable and implicit in the sunset image. Finally, the luxuriance of imagination manifested in the poem is the more natural consequence of looking at clouds and sunset sky than at flowers. We look at clouds and see all sorts of things—ships, castles, animals, landscape—but, it takes some straining to conjure up a scene such as this one from a garden.
The “garden” reading is therefore incorrect because it fails to account for some details in the poem (the wharf), because it is contradicted by some details (the singular use of “daffodil”), because it explains some details less satisfactorily than the “sunset” reading (“ships of purple,” “mingle”), and finally because it rests on assumptions not grounded in the poem itself (the wind stops). The “sunset” reading explains all these details satisfactorily.
Ordinarily we only have the internal evidence of the poem itself on which to rest an interpretation. In this instance, as I discovered some time after the incident related, there is external proof also of the “sunset” reading. The poem was first published in 1891 under the title “Sunset.” Though this title was editorially supplied by T. W. Higghenson after Emily’s death, its correctness is established by two other poems on which the poet uses substantially the same imagery (yellow and purple, sea and ships). One poem itself contains the word “sunset”; the other was entitled “Sunset” by the poet in a letter to a friend.
By Walt Whitman
With its cloud of skirmishers in advance,
With now the sound of a single shot, snapping like a whip, and now an irregular volley, The swarming ranks press on and on, the dense brigades press on;
Glittering dimly, toiling under the sun—the dust-cover’d men,
In columns rise and fall to the undulations of the ground,
With artillery interspers’d—the wheels rumble, the horses sweat,
As the army corps advances.
By Herman Melville
With banners furled and clarions mute,
An army passes in the night;
And beaming spears and helms salute
The dark with bright.
In silence deep the legions stream,
With open ranks, in order true;
Over boundless plains they stream and gleam--
No chief in view!
Afar, in twinkling distance lost,
(So legends tell) he lonely wends
And back through all that shining host
His mandate sends.
The Whitman-Melville problems I presented more recently as a theme assignment to an Honor section in freshman English. Again I received not a single correct solution. I should confess at the outset, however, that I am guilty of having planted a false clue. The false clue lies in the information that Melville wrote a book of poems about the Civil War—perfectly true, of course, but totally irrelevant . This poem is not about the Civil War, as is manifest from “spears and helms”—items not stocked by Civil War quartermasters. More important, this poem is not about war at all. The main difference between this poem and Whitman’s is that Whitman’s is literal, Melville’s metaphorical. Whitman’s is about an army corps on the march. Melville’s a about the stars.
My freshmen immediately identified the subject matter when I wrote the Melville poem on the board and circled five words: “beaming,” “bright,” “gleam, “twinkling,” “shining.” The five words together form a constellation whose reference, once the pattern is recognized, is almost immediately clear. That “twinkling” modifies “distance” and that “shining” modifies “host” provides additional confirmation. The phrase “host of heaven” is use extensively for stars in the Bible.
From the starting point the proof proceeds with logical rigor: (1) The close repetition of “beaming,” “bright,” “gleam,” “twinkling” and “shining” immediately suggests stars. (2) The setting is night. (3) The poem emphasizes the silence of the processions, which moves “in silence deep” and “with clarions mute.” (No actual army, of course, no matter how secret its movements, is ever quite so stealthy. In Whitman’s poem “the wheels rumble,” as indeed wheels do.) (4) The poem also emphasizes the idea of infinite space: The army marches “over boundless plains”; its leader is “Afar, in twinkling distance lost.” (5) The army marches “With open ranks, in order true”—a formation more star-like than military. No actual legions ever “stream” in perfect order; but the stars keep an eternally fixed but open relation to each other. (6) Finally, no commander of this army is in view—a situation especially unusual in an army proceeding in perfect order. Indeed, the “army” interpretation cannot explain this detail without assumptions grounded outside the poem.
The real difficulty of interpreting the Melville poem comes, of course, at this point, for the Melville poem is not simply descriptive, as Whitman’s is, but philosophical. As I read it, the poem poses the question of the existence of God. No God is observable in the heavens (which are silent), yet the stars follow “an order true,” and legends (e.g., the Bible) tell us that God orders them. These stories, however, are indeed “legends,” i.e., they are of doubtful authenticity; and even if they be true, the God they speak of is “Afar, in twinkling distance lost,” not in daily confrontation of man or nature. One hundred years earlier a poet writing on this theme would have declared without hesitation that “The heavens declare the glory of God, the firmament showeth his handiwork”; Melville ends his poem with a question or a doubt. In the 19th century this argument from design had been shattered.
If a poem, then, does have a determinable meaning—if, in the interpretation of poetry, we can’t say that “anything goes”—why does the opposite theory so often arise? Is it because of some false analogy drawn with music or abstract art? Perhaps. But, first of all, it arises because, within limits, there is truth in it. A poem—in fact, any pattern of words—defines an area of meaning, no more. Any interpretation is acceptable which lies within that area. The word “horse” may justifiably call up in a reader’s mind the image of a black, a roan, or a white horse; a stallion, a mare, or a gelding; even a wooden saw horse, a human “work horse,” or a female “clothes horse.” But as soon as the word is combined with another, say “roan,” the area of meaning is drastically reduced. It can still be stallion, mare, or gelding; but it cannot be a white or a black horse, a saw horse, “work horse,” or a “clothes horse.” Further expansions of the context limit the meanings still further, but even without context the word cannot mean cow.
In poetry, context may function to expand meaning as well as to limit it. Words in poetry thus have richer meanings than in prose—they may exhibit purposeful ambiguities—but the meanings are still confined to a certain area. With a poem like Whitman’s that area’s fairly narrowly circumscribed. The reader may legitimately see a northern or southern army (if he knows nothing of Whitman’s life); in fact, if the poem is removed from its context in Drum-Taps he may legitimately see a revolutionary war army; but in no case may he interpret the poem as being about stars.
The areas of greatest meaning are created by symbolical poems. “A symbol,” writes John Ciardi, “is like a rock dropped into a pool: it sends out ripples in all directions, and the ripples are in motion. Who can say where the last ripple disappears?” True. But even a symbol does not have unlimited meaning. The pool in which the rock is dropped has borders. A symbol in literature is made up of words, which by the way they are used, have acquired a sometimes tremendously increased area of meaning. To switch from Ciardi’s figure, we may envision such a symbol as a powerful beam of light flashed out into the darkness by a searchlight from a point on earth. The cone of light is the area of meaning. Its point is precise and easily located. But its base fades out into the atmosphere. Its meanings are therefore almost infinite. But they are not unlimited. They must be found, at whatever distance from the apex, within the circumference of the cone.
By the very nature of the case the process of proof or demonstration with symbolic literature is more difficult literature is more difficult than with nonsymbolic, just as complex logical problems are more difficult than the simple ones by which logicians demonstrate their principles. Scholars will continue to debate the meanings of the “white whale” in Moby Dick for years to come. Their argument, however, has meaning. Some interpretations do make more sense than others. More than one meaning may be valid, but not just any meaning can be. The white whale is not an ink blot, not even a white ink blot.
Let me illustrate with a poem by William Blake:
THE SICK ROSE
By William Blake
O Rose, thou art sick
The invisible worm
That flies in the night
In the howling storm,
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy,
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.
The essential difference between a metaphor and a literary symbol is that a metaphor means something else than what it is, a literary symbol means something more than what it is. In the words of Robert Penn Warren, a symbol “partakes of the reality which it renders intelligible”; in the words of E.E. Stoll, a symbol “means what it says and another thing besides.” If we use I.A. Richards’ terms vehicle and tenor for the two things equated by a metaphor, we must say that with a symbol the vehicle is part of the tenor. The vehicle in this case is not like one of those big long trucks we see on the highways carrying automobiles from manufacturer to dealer; it is more like a new automobile filled with presents at Christmas time in which the automobile is part of the gift. Melville’s “Night March” is not really about an army at all. Blake’s poem is about a rose and cankerworm.
But Blake’s poem is so richly organized that the rose and the worm refuse to remain a rose and a worm. The phrase “dark secret love” is too strong to be confined to the feeding of the worm on the rose; “thy bed of crimson joy” suggests much more than the rose bed which it literally denotes. The powerful connotations of these phrases, added to those of “sick,” “invisible,” “night,” and “howling storm” and combined with the capitalization of Rose and the personification of the flower, force the reader to seek for additional meanings. Almost immediately, the rose suggests a maiden and the worm her secret lover; but these meanings in turn suggest still broader meanings as the cone of light broadens. The poem has been read by different readers as referring to the destruction of joyous physical love by jealousy, deceit, concealment, or the possessive instinct; of innocence by experience; of humanity by satan; of imagination and joy by analytic reason; of life by death. Some of these meanings are suggested entirely by the poem itself, some by a knowledge also of Blake’s other writings.
It is not my purpose here to make a detailed examination of these interpretations in the light of my two criteria. My belief is that a case can be made for all of them; that the symbols allow them all; that we are not forced to choose between them, as we are forced to choose between the two interpretations of the Dickinson poem or the one by Melville. But if the rose can mean love, innocence, humanity, imagination, and life; and if the worm can mean the flesh, jealousy, deceit, concealment, possessiveness, experience, satan, rationalism, death (and more), can the two symbols therefore mean just anything? The answer is No. The rose must always represent something beautiful, desirable, or good. The worm must always be some kind of corrupting agent. Both symbols define an area of meaning, and a viable interpretation must fall within that area. Blake’s poem is not about the elimination of social injustice by an enlightened society; it is not about the eradication of sin by God; it is not about the triumph of freedom over tyranny. Any correct interpretation must satisfactorily explain the details of the poem without being contradicted by any detail; the best interpretations will rely on the fewest assumptions not grounded in the poem itself.
A rose is a rose is a rose, and is more than a rose. But a rose is not an ink blot. Nor is a poem.
GOOD READERS AND GOOD WRITERS
My course, among other things, is a kind of detective investigation of the mystery of literary structures.
"How to be a Good Reader" or "Kindness to Authors"—something of that sort might serve to provide a subtitle for these various discussions of various authors, for my plan is to deal lovingly, in loving and lingering detail, with several European Masterpieces. A hundred years ago, Flaubert in a letter to his mistress made the following remark: Commel'on serait savant si l’on connaissait bien seulement cinq a six livres: "What a scholar one might be if one knew well only some half a dozen books."
In reading, one should notice and fondle details. There is nothing wrong about the moonshine of generalization when it comes after the sunny trifles of the book have been lovingly collected. If one begins with a readymade generalization, one begins at the wrong end and travels away from the book before one has started to understand it. Nothing is more boring or more unfair to the author than starting to read, say, Madame Bovary, with the preconceived notion that it is a denunciation of the bourgeoisie. We should always remember that the work of art is invariably the creation of a new world, so that the first thing we should do is to study that new world as closely as possible, approaching it as something brand new, having no obvious connection with the worlds we already know. When this new world has been closely studied, then and only then let us examine its links with other worlds, other branches of knowledge.
Another question: Can we expect to glean information about places and times from a novel? Can anybody be so naive as to think he or she can learn anything about the past from those buxom best-sellers that are hawked around by book clubs under the heading of historical novels? But what about the masterpieces? Can we rely on Jane Austen’s picture of landowning England with baronets and landscaped grounds when all she knew was a clergyman’s parlor? And Bleak House, that fantastic romance within a fantastic London, can we call it a study of London a hundred years ago? Certainly not. And the same holds for other such novels in this series. The truth is that great novels are great fairy tales—and the novels in this series are supreme fairy tales.
Time and space, the colors of the seasons, the movements of muscles and minds, all these are for writers of genius (as far as we can guess and I trust we guess right) not traditional notions which may be borrowed from the circulating library of public truths but a series of unique surprises which master artists have learned to express in their own unique way. To minor authors is left the ornamentation of the commonplace: these do not bother about any reinventing of the world; they merely try to squeeze the best they can out of a given order of things, out of traditional patterns of fiction. The various combinations these minor authors are able to produce within these set limits may be quite amusing in a mild ephemeral way because minor readers like to recognize their own ideas in a pleasing disguise. But the real writer, the fellow who sends planets spinning and models a man asleep and eagerly tampers with the sleeper’s rib, that kind of author has no given values at his disposal: he must create them himself. The art of writing is a very futile business if it does not imply first of all the art of seeing the world as the potentiality of fiction. The material of this world may be real enough (as far as reality goes) but does not exist at all as an accepted entirety: it is chaos, and to this chaos the author says "go!" allowing the world to flicker and to fuse. It is now recombined in its very atoms, not merely in its visible and superficial parts. The writer is the first man to mop it and to form the natural objects it contains. Those berries there are edible. That speckled creature that bolted across my path might be tamed. That lake between those trees will be called Lake Opal or, more artistically, Dishwater Lake. That mist is a mountain—and that mountain must be conquered. Up a trackless slope climbs the master artist, and at the top, on a windy ridge, whom do you think he meets? The panting and happy reader, and there they spontaneously embrace and are linked forever if the book lasts forever.
One evening at a remote provincial college through which I happened to be jogging on a protracted lecture tour, I suggested a little quiz—ten definitions of a reader, and from these ten the students had to choose four definitions that would combine to make a good reader. I have mislaid the list, but as far as I remember the definitions went something like this. Select four answers to the question what should a reader be to be a good reader:
1. The reader should belong to a book club.
2. The reader should identify himself or herself with the hero or heroine.
3. The reader should concentrate on the social-economic angle.
4. The reader should prefer a story with action and dialogue to one with none.
5. The reader should have seen the book in a movie.
6. The reader should be a budding author.
7. The reader should have imagination.
8. The reader should have memory.
9. The reader should have a dictionary.
10. The reader should have some artistic sense.
The students leaned heavily on emotional identification, action, and the social-economic or historical angle. Of course, as you have guessed, the good reader is one who has imagination, memory, a dictionary, and some artistic sense--which sense I propose to develop in myself and in others whenever I have the chance.
Incidentally, I use the word reader very loosely. Curiously enough, one cannot read a book: one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader. And I shall tell you why. When we read a book for the first time the very process of laboriously moving our eyes from left to right, line after line, page after page, this complicated physical work upon the book, the very process of learning in terms of space and time what the book is about, this stands between us and artistic appreciation. When we look at a painting we do not have to move our eyes in a special way even if, as in a book, the picture contains elements of depth and development. The element of time does not really enter in a first contact with a painting. In reading a book, we must have time to acquaint ourselves with it. We have no physical organ (as we have the eye in regard to a painting) that takes in the whole picture and then can enjoy its details. But at a second, or third, or fourth reading we do, in a sense, behave towards a book as we do towards a painting. However, let us not confuse the physical eye, that monstrous masterpiece of evolution, with the mind, an even more monstrous achievement. A book, no matter what it is—a work of fiction or a work of science (the boundary line between the two is not as clear as is generally believed)—a book of fiction appeals first of all to the mind. The mind, the brain, the top of the tingling spine, is, or should be, the only instrument used upon a book.
Now, this being so, we should ponder the question how does the mind work when the sullen reader is confronted by the sunny book. First, the sullen mood melts away, and for better or worse the reader enters into the spirit of the game. The effort to begin a book, especially if it is praised by people whom the young reader secretly deems to be too old-fashioned or too serious, this effort is often difficult to make; but once it is made, rewards are various and abundant. Since the master artist used his imagination in creating his book, it is natural and fair that the consumer of a book should use his imagination too.
There are, however, at least two varieties of imagination in the reader’s case. So let us see which one of the two is the right one to use in reading a book. First, there is the comparatively lowly kind which turns for support to the simple emotions and is of a definitely personal nature. (There are various subvarieties here, in this first section of emotional reading.) A situation in a book is intensely felt because it reminds us of something that happened to us or to someone we know or knew. Or, again, a reader treasures a book mainly because it evokes a country, a landscape, a mode of living which he nostalgically recalls as part of his own past. Or, and this is the worst thing a reader can do, he identifies himself with a character in the book. This lowly variety is not the kind of imagination I would like readers to use.
So what is the authentic instrument to be used by the reader? It is impersonal imagination and artistic delight. What should be established, I think, is an artistic harmonious balance between the reader’s mind and the author’s mind. We ought to remain a little aloof and take pleasure in this aloofness while at the same time we keenly enjoy—passionately enjoy, enjoy with tears and shivers—the inner weave of a given masterpiece. To be quite objective in these matters is of course impossible. Everything that is worthwhile is to some extent subjective. For instance, you sitting there may be merely my dream, and I may be your nightmare. But what I mean is that the reader must know when and where to curb his imagination and this he does by trying to get clear the specific world the author places at his disposal. We must see things and hear things, we must visualize the rooms, the clothes, the manners of an author’s people. The color of Fanny Price’s eyes in Mansfield Park and the furnishing of her cold little room are important.
We all have different temperaments, and I can tell you right now that the best temperament for a reader to have, or to develop, is a combination of the artistic and the scientific one. The enthusiastic artist alone is apt to be too subjective in his attitude towards a book, and so a scientific coolness of judgment will temper the intuitive heat. If, however, a would-be reader is utterly devoid of passion and patience—of an artist’s passion and a scientist’s patience—he will hardly enjoy great literature.
Literature was born not the day when a boy crying wolf, wolf came running out of the Neanderthal valley with a big gray wolf at his heels: literature was born on the day when a boy came crying wolf, wolf and there was no wolf behind him. That the poor little fellow because he lied too often was finally eaten up by a real beast is quite incidental. But here is what is important. Between the wolf in the tall grass and the wolf in the tall story there is a shimmering go-between. That go-between, that prism, is the art of literature.
Literature is invention. Fiction is fiction. To call a story a true story is an insult to both art and truth. Every great writer is a great deceiver, but so is that arch-cheat Nature. Nature always deceives. From the simple deception of propagation to the prodigiously sophisticated illusion of protective colors in butterflies or birds, there is in Nature a marvelous system of spells and wiles. The writer of fiction only follows Nature’s lead.
Going back for a moment to our wolf-crying woodland little woolly fellow, we may put it this way: the magic of art was in the shadow of the wolf that he deliberately invented, his dream of the wolf; then the story of his tricks made a good story. When he perished at last, the story told about him acquired a good lesson in the dark around the campfire. But he was the little magician. He was the inventor.
There are three points of view from which a writer can be considered: he may be considered as a storyteller, as a teacher, and as an enchanter. A major writer combines these three—storyteller, teacher, enchanter—but it is the enchanter in him that predominates and makes him a major writer.
To the storyteller we turn for entertainment, for mental excitement of the simplest kind, for emotional participation, for the pleasure of traveling in some remote region in space or time. A slightly different though not necessarily higher mind looks for the teacher in the writer. Propagandist, moralist, prophet—this is the rising sequence. We may go to the teacher not only for moral education but also for direct knowledge, for simple facts. Alas, I have known people whose purpose in reading the French and Russian novelists was to learn something about life in gay Paree or in sad Russia. Finally, and above all, a great writer is always a great enchanter, and it is here that we come to the really exciting part when we try to grasp the individual magic of his genius and to study the style, the imagery, the pattern of his novels or poems.
The three facets of the great writer—magic, story, lesson—are prone to blend in one impression of unified and unique radiance, since the magic of art may be present in the very bones of the story, in the very marrow of thought. There are masterpieces of dry, limpid, organized thought which provoke in us an artistic quiver quite as strongly as a novel like Mansfield Park does or as any rich flow of Dickensian sensual imagery. It seems to me that a good formula to test the quality of a novel is, in the long run, a merging of the precision of poetry and the intuition of science. In order to bask in that magic a wise reader reads the book of genius not with his heart, not so much with his brain, but with his spine. It is there that occurs the telltale tingle even though we must keep a little aloof, a little detached when reading. Then with a pleasure which is both sensual and intellectual we shall watch the artist build his castle of cards and watch the castle of cards become a castle of beautiful steel and glass. (@1948)
FOUR AP POEMS FOR STUDY
By Jacques Prévert (1900-1977)
It rained all day on Brest that day
And you walked smiling
Flushed enraptured streaming-wet
In the rain
It rained all day on Brest that day
And I ran into you on Siam Street
You were smiling
And I smiled too
Who whom I didn’t know
You who didn’t know me
Remember that day still
A man was taking cover on a porch
And he cried
And you ran to him in the rain
Streaming-wet enraptured flushed
And you threw yourself in his arms
Remember that Barbara
And don’t be mad if I speak familiarly
I speak familiarly to everyone I love
Even if I’ve seen them only once
I speak familiarly to all who are in love
Even if I don’t know them
That good and happy rain
On your happy face
On that happy town
That rain upon the sea
Upon the arsenal
Upon the Ushant boat
What shit stupidity the war
Now what’s become of you
Under this iron rain
Of fire and steel and blood
And he who held you in his arms
Is he dead and gone or still so much alive
It’s rained all day on Brest today
As it was raining before
But it isn’t the same anymore
And everything is wrecked
It’s a rain of mourning terrible and desolate
Nor is it still a storm
Of iron and steel and blood
But simply clouds
That die like dogs
Dogs that disappear
In the downpour drowning Brest
And float away to rot
A long way off
A long way off from Brest
Of which there’s nothing left.
DADDY Sylvia Plath # 16
You do not do, you do not do
I have always been scared of you,
There's a stake in your fat black heart
MY MOTHER WOULD BE A
FALCONRESS Robert Duncan
My mother would be a falconress,
Yet it would have been beautiful, if she would have carried me,
ELSA AT THE MIRROR
It was in the very middle of our tragedy
And during a long day sitting at her mirror
She combed her golden hair I thought I saw
Her patient hands calming a great fire
It was in the very middle of our tragedy
And during the long day sitting at her mirror
She combed her golden hair and I would have said
It was in the very middle of our tragedy
That she was playing a tune for the harp unthinkingly
During all that long day sitting at her mirror
She combed her golden hair and I would have said
That she was wantonly torturing her memory
During all that long day sitting at her mirror
Rekindling the endless flowers of the great fire
Without saying what another in her place would have said
She was wantonly torturing her memory
It was in the very middle of our tragedy
The world was like that wretched mirror
That comb parted the fires of that shimmering silk
And those fires lit up the corners of my memory
It was in the very middle of our tragedy
As Thursday sits in the middle of the week
And during that long say sitting at her memory
From a distance she saw dying in her mirror
One by one the actors in our tragedy
Who are the best in the wretched world
And you their names without my telling
And the significance of the evening’s flames
And of her gilded hair when she comes to sit down
And comb without words a great fires reflection
SAMPLE AP LIT AND COMP ESSAYS
The author of this poem starts with the phrase “from plane of light to plane” the “plane of light” creates an image of a mysterious and glorious realm filled with golden light, from where the hawk flies to another plane, which makes the Evening Hawk godlike. From line 3 to line 5 we get the image of the Evening Hawk gliding, “riding the peak’s shadow” and the “last tumultuous avalanche of light,” over the vast forests and rivers below. This image makes us feel the hawks unnatural grace and superiority over everything else.
Next, we learn about his wing, which “scythes down another day, his motion is that of honed steel edge,” this makes the evening hawk not only graceful, but also very agile.
In line 11, as the hawk is “climbing the last light,” we are reminded of he word “sunset” in line 2. And now we see the hawk flying into the setting sun. And as it leaves us, its eye is “unforgiving” and our world is “unforgiven,” which creates a sense of the Evening Hawks importance and the worthlessness of everything else in the world.
The hawk is gone, and now the “last bat” flies through the still night. The stars move steadily over the mountains as they always have “and the night is so still and lifeless its as if we could hear the earth grind on its axis.” This image the last two stanzas creates sharply contrasts that of the rest of the poem, as the glorious hawk glides through the light filled air in the sunset.
The phrases “the crashless fall of stalks of Time” in line 9, “who knows neither Time nor error” in line 12, concluded by “history drip in darkness like a leaking pipe in the cellar” emphasizes the Evening Hawk’s divinity, immortality, and timelessness.
Writers often express their views of society through comparison with seemingly different ideas. Such as parallelism helps readers better grasp authors’ intent in a literary piece. In the poem “Evening Hawk,” author Robert Penn Warren uses powerful imagery and highly connotative diction to contrast the wisdom of nature with the sin of mankind.
The piece opens with very strong visual imagery, “wings dipping through” (1) the evening sky’s “black angularity of shadow” (3). The alliteration of “guttural gorge” 95) emphasizes the scene by forcing readers to slow down as they read the line.
This very dark, heavy imagery serves as a sharp and ironic contrast with the introduction of “Time” (9) as “heavy with the gold of our error.” (10). The “unforgiven” (13) world is ominously presented as coming to “drip in darkness like a leaking pipe in the cellar” (21). Through this striking visual imagery, the speaker presents his prediction to the human race.
Connotative language also significantly contributes to the strength and meaning of the poem. The wing of the hawk metaphorically “scythes” (7) the evening sky, a “honed steel-edge” (8). This implies power and precision. The natural world symbolized by the hawk, “knows neither time nor error” (12) and is “unforgiving”(13): nature is above “our error” (10).
At the same time, the poem’s diction evokes a very ominous sense of an imminent doom of the human world. As the hawk is “unforgiving” (13), so does the “world, unforgiven, [swing]/into shadow”(13-14). Nature is presented as “ancient…immense”(17), “steady” (18), wise. Human “history”(20) is meanwhile doomed in evil to “grind” (20) wretchedly in “shadow” (14) and “darkness” (21).
Authors frequently use extended metaphor to more clearly convey their ideas and views. Robert Penn Warren in “Evening Hawk” uses imagery to express his prediction for the fate of the human race through its contrast with the steadfastness of nature.
The complimentary tones of excitement and anticipation help create the mood. Tones of excitement create a sense of suspense. Anticipation creates a sense of uncertain urgency.
Mr. Warren’s use of imagery helps enlighten the reader to his works meaning. In the beginning of the poem Mr. Warren speaks of an incoming plane that we eventually learn is a hawk. The hawk is a force of nature as it sweeps over the mountains with the ending of the light. Warren does this to create a near mystical quality about the bird and further create a feeling of anticipation. In the middle of the poem Mr. Warren speaks of the hawks nature. Warren does this to show that the hawk is a wild animal, and by being one, its life is a struggle to survive enchanting the mood of urgency. In the end of the poem Mr. Warren shows the hawk in a new light as a natural force of the world when day turns to night. Warren shows that nature is steady and never changing with the mark of time finally building up to a crescendo leaving the reader with a feeling of both excitement and the anticipation of what could be coming next.
Powerful and solitary, the hawk appears often in literature as a symbol of magnificence- of simplicity, of glory, and of the steady march of life. Robert Penn Warren uses the hawk to convey the latter, painting a breathtaking picture of a beautiful bird flying in the sunset—a scene representing the inexorable fading of a long day. With strong imagery to settle stage, diction to create a dark mood, and comparative devices to convey meaning, Warren effectively utilizes language to portray the striking power of a hawk soaring at sunset.
Warren’s imagery evokes a scene of golden afternoon light fading into gray-blue dusk and finally to the blackness of night—all with a bird of prey soaring in the foreground. The strong verbs and nouns—“dipping,” “geometries,” and “orchids”—fill out the imagery with visual cues, creating a complete snapshot in time in the phrase “wings dipping through/Geometries and orchid that the sun builds.” Similarly, the feel of the hawks graceful movements are clearly shown as if “climb[s] the last light”—a description not only for the visual sense, but also striking the kinesthetic. This kinesthetic description is shown the strong imagery of the second to last stanza as the “last thrush is still, the last bat/Now cruises,” where once again language and imagery, facilitated by the verb “cruises,” create a detailed description of the creative movements in the night.
Imagery gives way to mood as diction creates a dark, powerful, feeling of inevitability. While the hawk soars, the light underneath him fades, and Time remains “unforgiving” and “swing give a sense of power to Time while the word “shadow” give a sense of darkness and powerlessness to the reader—effectively building the feel of wide blackness and inevitability. Similarly, the words, “ancient,” “immense,” and “drip in darkness” create a wideness and infinite blackness that contribute greatly to the mood of the poem—dark, infinite, unstoppable.
Time, shown by the hawk, is unstoppably—like the hawk at sunset. With metaphors and simile, this central idea of the poem is established clearly. The comparison of the sunset to “the last tumultuous avalanche of/Light” shows the slow and steady march that time takes—a march that is inevitable and unstoppable like an avalanche. Similarly, the description of the hawk as a reaper, with it’s wings as “scythes” cutting down with “honed steel-edge” the “stalks of time” place the hawk as a precursor and cause of Time’s march. The hawk’s flight, thus represents the ending of the day, as inevitable and woven into life as flying is woven into a hawk’s instincts.
The description of a hawk flying in sunset reaches for past the simple visual scene. It reaches down into the depths of mood and meaning to create a representation of time passing, of a long day ending. Warrens use of language conveys this perfectly,, slowing the dark and unmovable time following where the hawk flies. Thus the evening hawk is truly a symbol of the sunset and the end of day.
In his poem “Evening Hawk,” Robert Penn Warren uses a mixture of concrete and abstract diction along with evocative visual imagery to convey the minute significance of mankind in comparison to nature. Warren depicts a hawk soaring across the evening sky to emphasize the passage and detached disposition of time. His tone is full of reverence while he expresses the attitude that humans belong to only a small part of the world’s history.
Warren’s diction is mostly polysyllabic and concrete when describing the hawk’s flight and the sun’s path. In stanza one he entwines mathematical references while portraying the “Geometries and orchids that the sunset builds” and “the peak’s black angularity of shadow.” Later he mentions “the gold of our error” regarding mankind’s failures in the past. The sun, “who knows neither time nor error,” will continue its cyclic existence whether or not humans survive.
Much of the imagery is visual except for Warren’s last stanza in which we are to “hear/the earth grind on its axis, or history/ Drip in darkness like a leaking pipe in the cellar.” If human history is but a few drops sprung from a leak in a basement, the world’s history, as well as nature’s, constitutes for the supply of water flowing through every house. The water represents history and the unpredictable, capricious nature of history. Warren portrays the hawk as a powerful field worker who “scythes down another day” as if every day is just one stalk in a bountiful field. The oxymoron of Time’s “crashless fall” emphasizes both nature’s disregard for time and the many stumbles humans have faced.
Warren stresses the ancient power of nature when compared to mankind’s fragile existence. Humans are only a drop of water falling from a leak. Time is fleeting, but nature is eternal; therefore, it deserves respect.
SAMPLE AP LANG AND COMP ESSAYS
Scott Russell Sanders Passage Question 2 2007
In the passage, Scott Russell Sanders explains why he thinks moving, migration, is not necessary. I feel, that in this passage, he’s saying that the promise land that you’re looking for is right in front of you so why search for a “better” place. Moving only causes more trouble.
In lines 6-8, he states, “our Promised Land has always been over the next ridge, or at the end of the trail, never under our feet.” Its like we are where we need to be, and we wont except it. He’s saying that we don’t need to search anymore, make the best out of what you have.
He also says in the passage that no matter where you move you’ll face the same problems. “To be a migrant is, perhaps, to be the only species of human being free of the shackles of nationalism. (To say nothing of it’s ugly sister patriotism.),” lines 34-37. Whether we go to Texas or Florida, we are being followed by all the negative effects of freedom.
“People who root themselves in places are likelier to know and care for those places than are people who root themselves in ideas,” (lines 73-75). To me this line sums up the whole passage by saying, stop looking and dreaming about a better place, use what you have.
Scott Russell Sanders firmly states his argument against mass migration using convincing stylistic techniques that appeal to the reader’s emotions, particularly guilt. By opening with a cynical view of long-lived American values, developing with specific examples of negative effects of migration, and concluding with the upsides of the alternative, Sanders captures the attention of his reader and effectively presents his counterpoint to Salman Rushdie’s argument.
“Our Promised Land has always been over the next ridge or at the end of the trail, never under our feet,” Sanders explains. “One hundred years after the official closing of the frontier, we still have not shaken off the romance of unlimited space.” In modern-day society, satisfaction is hard to come by. One always searches for a better job, a bigger home, a larger T.V. Sanders’s explanation of the New Frontier, a famous image in the minds of Americans, correlates to present day unrest. Sanders reminds the reader that this unrest has persisted for hundreds of years, that we have never been content with where we are or what we have. He leaves his reader to wander, what do we want? What is wrong with what we have? Sanders’s final sentence of the first paragraph most forcefully evokes guilt from the reader: “Only a populous drunk on driving…could hear such a proposal without hurting.” Drunk driving is a major societal faux pas; it is taboo. By incorporating the idea of drunk driving into his pun “drunk on driving,” Sanders shows the reader the absurdity and the carelessness of venturing forth again and again on the “open road.”
Sanders transitions into the development of his argument with a rhetorical question to disprove Rushdie’s central argument: but who would pretend that a history of migration has immunized the United States against bigotry? And even if, “by uprooting ourselves, we shed our chauvinism,” he continues, “is that all we lose?” Sanders moves directly from these questions, while they linger in the mind of the reader, into a specific and direct explanation of exactly what we lose. “In this hemisphere, many of the worst abuses—of land, forest, animals, and communities—have been carried out by ‘people who root themselves in ideas rather than places,’” Sanders asserts, continuing to describe the destructive damages of famous American events such as the Spanish invasion of Central and South America, the spread of the small pox virus and the plague to North America, and the destruction of the Dust Bowl. These well-known tragedies not only cause the reader to consider the consequences of his actions, but they also tie in to Sanders’s opening about our past, the roots of our uprooting, the stubborn longevity of our American values. Sanders lands a final blow with his argument by comparing the “mind” to a “cookie cutter” and the “land” to “dough.” The absurd simplification of ideas and the dramatic understatement of the issue provoke further feelings of guilt from the reader. In his concluding paragraph, Sanders offers a sense of empowerment to the convinced reader “people who root themselves in places are likelier to know and care for those places than are people who root themselves in ideas,” he argues, specifically modifying Rushdie’s own words, “people who root themselves in ideas rather than places.” This change in word order signals a change of action. Sanders finally states his proposal, after thoroughly attacking and nearly discrediting Rushdie’s. Sanders appeals to the emotion of the reader once more in his concluding sentences, saying, “by settling in, we have a chance of making a durable home for ourselves, our fellow creatures, and our descendents.” We can, Sanders implies, make it right, and this, he explains, is how.
In “staying put: making a home in a restless world,” Sanders disagrees with Rushdie’s beliefs about the positive effects of “the creation of radically new types of human beings: people who root themselves in ideas rather than places.” Sanders addresses the problems inherent in Rushdie’s argument, as well as the benefits of creating a home in the chaotic world of today. Through his use of diction, examples, and compare and contrast, Sanders creates an argument highlighting the problems that arise through constant migration and the necessity for an element of constancy in a person’s life.
Sander’s use of diction creates a tone of negativity towards Rushdie’s argument while it serves to improve his own argument. Sanders thinks that “claims for the virtues of shifting ground are familiar and seductive to Americans, this nation of restless movers.” Through his use of the word “seductive” when describing an American’s urge to move, he creates the image of a negative force constantly pulling people out of their homes. Once the person has given into this seduction, he follows “the habit of our industry and commerce [which] has been to force identical schemes onto different locals as though the mind were a cookie-cutter and the land were dough.” The diction he employs to describe the consequences of this mass migration causes the event to seem forceful and unnatural. Throughout the passage, Sander uses diction to subtly imply the negative effects of migration, while he uses more concrete evidence in the form of examples.
Through his examples, Sanders presents concrete, logical evidence against Rushdie’s argument that “hybridity, impurity, intermingling…comes of new and unexpected combinations of human beings.” Sanders uses several historic examples such as when “the Spaniards devastated Central and South America by impressing on this new world the religion economics and politics of the old.” All the examples he uses, from “colonists [who] brought slavery” to “the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s,” proves his point of the negative effects of migration. They show that trying to bring all of ones cultures traditions and beliefs to another place, only results in conflict and the loss of many valuable beliefs.
By contrasting mass migration with simply remaining in one place, Sanders illustrates the benefits of staying at home rather than “to be a migrant is, perhaps, to be the only species of human being free of the shackles of nationalism as Rushdie firmly believes. In the final paragraph of the passage, Sanders presents a list of Rushdie’s beliefs, while saying that he believes just the opposite of “The belief that movement is inherently good, staying put is bad.” Sanders claims that “people who root themselves in places are likely to know and care for those places than are people who root themselves in ideas”, a clear contradiction to Rushdie’s beliefs. When Sanders places his ideas next to Rushdie’s, he logically shows that his argument successfully addresses all of Rushdie’s major points. He reminds Rushdie that “we should not suppose that [hold dis-placement] occurs without disastrous consequences for the earth and for ourselves.”
Sanders clearly establishes his argument through his use of diction, examples, and contrast as he attempts to disprove Rushdie’s argument favoring migration over constancy. Sanders shows Rushdie the holes in his argument while presenting his opinion against everything Rushdie claimed. Sanders clearly advocated for the somewhat cheesy line from The Wizard of Oz, “there’s no place like home”, creating a succinct, logical argument using various rhetorical strategies.
In this passage from Scott Russell Sanders one can clearly see how he feels about moving. He uses strategies including sarcasm, his word choice, and repetition to show people that he disagrees with Rushdie and wants people not to be so concerned with moving. Even his title, “Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless World,” gives readers good indication of how he feels.
In his first paragraph Sanders uses sarcasm many times. When talking about highways he says “we should triple it in size, and all without raising our taxes a nickel.” Here one can see that he is saying this because he knows it could never happen. He goes on to say that “only a populous drunk on driving, a populous infatuated with the myth of the open road, could hear such a proposal without hooting.” He’s obviously not one of those people, but feels many Americans are.
Sanders choice of words also helps develop his negative perspective on moving. In line 54 he uses the world “drunk.” This is a word most people feel negatively about. Also, in the first sentence of paragraph three he says “worst abuses.” These two statements alone make the readers think about the bad effects of drinking and abuse even though the passage isn’t really about either of those. He chooses to use words that are harsh and trigger certain emotions in the reader. “Snobbery” and “immunized” are two other words he uses in paragraph two. He is using subtle words to make the reader think and relate to past experiences.
Another strategy that Saunders uses is repetition. The last sentence of paragraph one uses “a populous” two times. Sanders wants to make sure the reader gets what he’s saying. In lines 36-38 he uses repetition again at the beginning of clauses by saying, “to be…is, perhaps, to be…” and “to say nothing of its ugly sister…to say nothing of its ugly siblings.” This form of repetition, alliteration, is a very persuasive technique. He wants people to think like he does and alliteration helps get peoples minds going. In the last paragraph he takes the last stab at alliteration by using the word “that” along with words such as “movement,” “uprooting,” “imaginary homelands,” and “to be modern.”
Saunders does a wonderful job of showing his readers how he feels about moving. He uses simple, harsh words that he knows will paint an evil picture in the minds of his readers. He uses a slight hint of sarcasm to appeal to more people. He uses alliteration to reinforce his ideas. He uses a statement saying “I quarrel with Rushdie” when Rushdie clearly is for moving. Theres absolutely no way a reader could mistake Saunders feelings about moving, the way his article is written. His strategies visibly show his negative opinion.
“Our promised land has always been over the next ridge or at the end of the trail, never under our feet.” Sanders’ words could not be closer to the truth. We are a nation of wandering mongrels; our mixed heritage makes us strong, but Sanders makes a convincing argument against Rushdie’s belief that migration encourages the growth of “people who root them selves in ideas rather than places.” With a compromising tone, nostalgic appeal, and use of historical allusions, Sanders develops a convincing perspective on moving.
In maintaining a highly readable conversation with his reader, Sanders is able to assume a compromising tone throughout his argument that adds to the believability of his claims. Sanders qualifies Rushdie’s “enthusiasm for migration” using his own observations and experiences. He writes, “this nation of restless movers” when referencing America in his opening sentence. And Sanders bolsters his concurrence with Rushdie in the subsequent paragraph, noting the strength of mixed cultures and ideas. “Everything about us is mongrel, from race to language, and we are stronger for it”. By first raising the points he agrees with Rushdie on, Sanders is effectively able to draw the readers attention to the issues he does not share the same viewpoint with Rushdie. Sanders carefully words his challenge to Rushdie that moving reduces bigotry: “Yet we might respond more skeptically when Rushdie says.” Rather than making a blunt, imperative statement, Sanders waffles a bit, leaving the reader enough space to agree or disagree with Sanders. The fact that the reader has this choice built into Sanders very wording serves to forge a trust between the reader and the challenger of Rushie.
Perhaps Sanders most noticeable strategy is that of his nostalgic appeal in his opening paragraph. “We have still not shaken off the romance of unlimited space,” writes Sanders. In drawing from a bank of knowledge and awareness that we all have of our nations history of movement, Sanders sets up an intimate dialogue with the reader on a widely identifiable basis. “In our national mythology, the worst fate is to be trapped on a farm,…in some dead end job or unglamorous marriage.” Sanders’ use of this truism serves to increase his credibility from the get go because we all have known through our own or others experiences of the “grass is greener on the other side” effect. And we all know the pleasure and appeal of the open roads and avenues of life. Sanders further increases credibility in his overall argument by making use of ample and appropriate historical allusions. In congruence with a metaphor of “baggage,” including the physical and mental articles, Sanders touches on instances were migrants have failed to take root in ideas, and thus wreaked havoc. Failing to “take route” in Central America, the Spaniards insolently and ruthlessly imposed themselves upon the natives, destroying a once prospering culture. The same was true with regard to the Great Plains settlers and the land. Wreckless farming habits cost the soils health and led to the disastrous Dust Bowl. Sanders is wise to draw upon two widely known historical scene, such as these, in insuring widespread familiarity among his audience.
The hallmark of Sanders’ piece is the balance with which he both qualifies and challenges Rushdie’s beliefs. Sanders’ ability to know when to lead with his ideas and to know when to follow his adversary’s ideas are admirable and enhance the readers concurrence with Sanders’ perspective.
Sanders is saying that the more mass immigration that’s coming in is sort of causing a problem it is costing some people to lose jobs its causing unnecessary amount of roads and other things to be repaired. Then he says that the reason for these moves is because of their homeland the abuses of land, forest, animals and communities. Rushdie says that migrants must move to find a better life because of the loss of their habitats. Migrants pack up their baggage in hopes of finding a better but at the same time unknowing they bring decase and other unwanted things.
In Staying put: Making a Home in a Restless World, Scott Russell Sanders uses a myraid of rhetorical strategies. Ranging from Biblical to sarcasm to simple syntax he effectively conveys his opinions of migration of human beings. Scott Sanders uses a Biblical refference to the promised land of Cannan in the bible. He compairs North Americas fronteir land and “unlimited space” to the Promise land. His undertone of sarcasm is present in this comparison but not yet blatently obvious as it is in lines 20-26 “in the newspapers…without hooting.” Here the author states that only the population can listen to this proposal by the president without laughing. This and other such uses of sarcasm are very effective in is pursuasive argument because humor is easier to remember. Using humor in an argument exsentuats the absurdity of said argument.
Sanders also utilizes an effective use of syntax. His choice of words and sentence structure makes it not only a response to Salman Rushdie’s essay, but also a work of literature that everyone could read. It is simple and convincing. Sanders lists “our heroes” to prove that we love those folks who are not stationary. When he describes Rushdie’s belief he uses extreems that no one can relate to, “inherently,” “breeds intolerance,” “inevitable.” These words and phrases are generally not liked or enjoyed which shows Sanders understanding of how to persuade an audience.
Scott Russell Sanders’ use of rhetorical strategies is not only effective but also fun and persuasive. It is easy to read a work of liturature when it makes jokes and is in a language that is easy to understand. His use of pathos and ethos is so copelling it is hard to argue. His position and credibility as an author is strong, yet he can also spark emotion in his readers with only a few words. When he is finished the reader is left with a clear understanding of his argument, and whole heartedly agrees with him.
Scott Russell Sanders clearly articulates his view that mass migrations ultimately led to the devastation of local environment and creates intolerance in new communities through the structure of his analysis and argument against Rushdie’s view. Sanders first characterizes Americans in order to show why they agree with Rushdie, he then uses quotations from Rushdie’s work and systematically debunks them, and he concludes his argument by laying out his qualms with Rushdie’s view in order to show the validity in his views over Rushdie’s.
Sanders first uses catalogue and historical allusion in order to reveal the migratory spirit of the American psyche so that the reader will understand why they agree with Rushdie and so that Sanders may counteract the reader’s bias by pointing it out to them. Sanders first identifies the American hero through a catalogue of “…sailors, explorers, cowboys, prospectors, speculators, backwoods ramblers, rainbow chasers, vagabonds of every stripe.” Sanders uses stereotypical childhood heroes reminiscent of the heroes of Tom in Tom Sawyer to show that the migratory dreams of Americans are rather juvenile and that readers must move past the grandiose images of migration they hold in their mind. Sanders casts these images stereotypically so that the reader can see the heroic depictions in their mind and understand their own bias. Sanders also uses a historical allusion of manifest destiny and the frontier in order to show readers that by continuing to revere migration they are digging to the past. Sanders points out that even a hundred years after the frontier era, we have “…not shaken off the romance of unlimited space.” Sanders believes in order to progress the romance and perspective of the past must be done away with. Sanders effectively lays out some of American bias so that he may debunk Rushdie’s opinion without objection from his reader.
Next, Sanders quotes Rushdie in order to systematically disprove Rushdie’s view while promoting his own. For example, Sanders uses the same strategy as Rushdie in personifying nationalism in it’s “…ugly siblings, racism, religion sectarianism, or class snobbery.” Rushdie believed that migration allowed the removal of these all too real entities. But Sanders clearly shows that mass migration has not “…immunized the United States against bigotry.” Instead nationalism and its off shoots have only grown to adulthood with the United States. Sanders also uses many illustrative examples in order to disagree with Rushdie’s view that migration will force new relationships with environment. Sanders clearly shows through concrete example that people often transfer their own knowledge to a region and devastate it. Sanders systematic debunking of Rushdie causes the readers to doubt Rushdie’s opinion and allows Sanders to show now his superior viewpoint to the reader.
Sanders final paragraph is used to lay out Rushdie’s opinion and assert the superiority of his own. Sanders first enumerates Rushdie’s view in a catalogue: “The belief that…displaced.” Sanders has already weakened Rushdie’s argument and by listing it in such brevity, he further weakens it against his view which he clearly articulates. In the following sentences, Sanders lays out his argument in parallel with Rushdie’s, but rather than cataloguing them, he finally enumerates and details each argument, strengthening his argument against Rushdie’s seemingly insignificant one. Ultimately, Sanders perspective is the opposite of Rushdie’s in that he believes it is not conducive to the environment or tolerant to migrate. The passage is dedicated to asserting Sanders’ views over Rushdie’s and Sanders achieves this by constantly weakening Rushdie’s argument while strengthening his own.
In his essay, Scott Russell Sanders tries to persuade the reader of his personal opinion of moving, which disagrees with that of Salman Rushdie. Saunders constructs his argument generally logically and with calmly assertive tone. Some of his most effective techniques in this essay are its structure and its use of historical examples and parallelism.
The overall structure of the essay is particularly effective in developing Sanders perspectives. He begins with a long, profound paragraph paragraph that seems almost to agree with Rushdie’s opinion. Sanders does not mention Rushdie, however, until the second paragraph, in which he evaluates direct quotations from his opponents writing. He continues his development in the next paragraph which exhibits Sanders’ official disagreement with Rushdie. In the final paragraph, Sanders focuses on displaying more of his own perspective on moving and influencing the reader to agree. The progression from tipping towards one side of an argument to standing firmly on the opposite is especially effective in Sanders making his point.
Sanders also employs historical allusions and examples effectively in his essay. The first paragraph’s generalization of American’s traditional restiveness strongly establishes the subject of the essay, and the many historical examples in the third paragraph help to disprove claims made by Rushdie as well as to demonstrate Saunders own negative opinion of movement. Sanders uses parallelism very effectively as well, such as with lines 15-17. The repetition of prepositional phrases is useful in demonstrating the restless mentality, to Americans. In another example, lines 65-70, Sanders uses a series of adjective clauses describing a belief that Rushdie and others hold and with which Sanders disagrees. Sanders use of both history and parallelism serve well in enforcing his perspectives.
Sanders essay is effective for its use of the many various resources of writing, the most important of which are its overall structure, historical examples, and parallelism. The essay moves logically and creatively in one direction to develop his perspective on human movement.
Focus on the skills necessary to pass the test, not on the test itself.
Vertical teams are critical to success because the skills can be taught at all levels.
Take an organic approach to writing.
On the test the students should be able to:
1) Create a cogent essay
2) Develop an original argument
3) Provide ample evidence
4) Use appropriate tone
5) Answer the question asked
Students won’t be penalized for a 5-paragraph essay but they should move beyond that. As they begin to write they should ask themselves:
1) Who is the audience?
2) What is the task?
3) What do I know about the subject?
Teachers should make a variety of writing methods available to students. Remember—the organic approach means respecting individuality. Building a foundation should be about developing an original argument. Let them take risks and try again.
The Kinneavy Papers: Theory and the Study of
Discourse Edited by Warsham, Dobrin, Olson
Language and Learning by James Britton
Active Voice by James Moffitt
Help students develop their voice. Have them work with many rhetorical modes. Have them practice creating mood via word choices.
Build skills with a variety of methods:
1) free writing
Organic means to emphasize process over grade.
Therefore, multiple drafts are essential.
A big problem: how to accommodate coverage and depth, teacher autonomy vs. the state curriculum.
Initial Prep thoughts:
1) Internalize the skills and compress them
2) Create an internal clock
3) Prepare for the test physically
4) Remember: pre-writing, writing and revision all
happen during the test.
Some key elements to good writing:
4) use of detail
5) developing a voice
6) proper introductions and conclusions
Teachers should use an old multiple choice AP exam early in the year to check for reading skills and then construct their course according to the development of those reading skills. Close reading skills are essential.
Writing the Natural Way by Gabriel Rice
Think precise. Target particular reading skills at all levels and set up your courses by building on those skills. There is no need for a student to write about everything in a text. Avoid laundry lists of literary devices--diction, imagery, metaphor, syntax. Instead deal with the effects of a particular device.
Remember: the free response question is a reading question as well as a writing question.
Have students create critical reading journals, not affective reading journals. In this journal they should address various strategies—tone, use of details, rhythm, organization. You can teach these particular skills via many texts—AP tests, Op-Eds, passages from novels you’re teaching, short stories, poetry, non-fiction.
Op-Eds are very good for building skills and they move the students away from the formulaic approaches to writing. Possible Op-Ed questions:
1) What is the method of introduction?
2) How is the introduction intimately connected to the argument
3) Is the thesis statement explicit or implicit?
4) If it’s explicit, where is it?
5) What is the method of development?
6) Where are the transitions and what kinds are used.
7) What is the relation of the part to the whole?
Studying Op-Eds helps towards understand tone and voice. See New York Times’ Op-Ed writers such as Maureen Dowd, Thomas Friedman, and Bob Herbert. Experience in this type of contemporary language means they will be utilizing skills that are transferable to fiction and poetry.
Consider the rhetorical appeals in Op-Eds and in non-fiction selections.
1. Ethos (trust)
2. Logos (logic)
3. Pathos (emotion)
Everything is An Argument by Lunsford, Walters,
The Craft of Revision by Donald Murray
Poems, Poets, Poetry by Helen Vendler
Understanding Poetry by Cleanth Brooks
Think process when you analyze poetry. Remember: if everything is an argument, then poetry is an argument too.
PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS ON TEST DAY
Teachers should give a MC test at the beginning of the year as a diagnostic tool and portions of MC exams during the year to further sharpen skills.
Use disposable copies of the MC test whenever possible so students can mark it up. Students should also make a list of vocabulary words from the MC test that they don’t know and look them up.
Sometimes MC questions are not focused on the larger thematic meaning of the poem or passage but rather on making meaning of particular moments in the poem or passage. Students should then focus on understanding grammar questions and particulars of language—What does a word mean in a sentence? What is the grammatical purpose for an inversion? Why is a particular word missing? Are there interior allusions? Meaning is created this way too.
Do poetry first. If they can read poetry, they can read anything. It’s the key to teaching reading.
Focus early on the MC as a timed test. Have them monitor development and track improvement. Do they see themselves building critical abilities? Can they recognize tone? Inference?
Divide students into small groups to focus on the particular skills they lack.
Do older readings with long sentences and lots of semi-colons. Time these abstract and philosophical pieces so they know how long it takes to solve them. Remember: organic means each individual will have their own speed, their own weaknesses.
To triage or not to triage? If they’ve learned well,
they should read and answer in order.
Read the passage first, not the question.
Teach vocabulary first, then application. Not only in the AP class but in the vertical teams as well.
Tone exercise # 1: Have students write three letters to three different audiences describing a speeding ticket. The idea is if you give students a variety of essays for different audiences with different purposes, tone will develop organically.
Tone exercise # 2: Have students create a paragraph with just one tone in it. Have other students try to determine the tone from a short list of tone words. Remember: language is about play. Organic means students show their personalities in the writing.
When you take an organic approach prepare for things to get messy. Each student will branch into their own direction, looking for their own voice. In the long run, though, the writing will be authentic.
Remind students: They are being asked to write an argument, to come up with an idea and prove it. The devices of language (syntax, diction) should NOT be the markers that drive the essay. The two parts of the question should drive the essay—the frame and the filler.
CONCETE READING AND WRITING EXAMPLES FROM THE 2001 AP EXAM:
1) “In each of the following poems, the speaker responds to the condition of a particular place and time—England in 1802 in the first poem, the United States about 100 years later in the second. Read each poem carefully. Then write an essay in which you compare and contrast the two poems and analyze the relationship between them.” (What is it that I want to say and what is going to be my foundation?)
2) “The passage below is taken from the novel Tom Jones (1749) by the English novelist and playwright Henry Fielding. In this scene, which occurs early in the novel, Squire Allworthy discovers an infant in his bed. Read the passage carefully. Then, in a well organized essay, analyze the techniques that Fielding employs in this scene to characterize Mr. Allworth and Mrs. Deborah Wilkens.” (The techniques should direct the reader to the adjectives that describe the characters. Dialogue = generous)
FINAL THOUGHT FROM ROBERT FROST:
Teaching writing = teaching people how to think.
EXTENDED DEFINITION OF EVIL / THE THIRD MAN AND THE JUNGLE
The following quote is from the essay Martin Buber: The Life of Dialogue by Maurice S. Friedman. It might give you a handle on what to write about when you tackle these two texts. It might work especially well for The Third Man. I can see the struggle below in both Holly Martins and in Harry Lime.
"The clearest illustration of the ultimate identity, for Buber, of evil as absence of direction and evil as absence of relation is his treatment of ‘conscience.’ Conscience, to him, is the voice which calls a man to fulfill the personal intention of being for which he was created. It is ‘the individual’s awareness of what he "really" is, of what in his unique and non-repeatable created existence he is intended to be.’ Hence it implies both dialogue and direction -- the dialogue of the person with an ‘other’ than he now is which gives him an intimation of the direction he is meant to take. This presentiment of purpose is ‘inherent in all men though in the most varied strengths and degrees of consciousness and for the most part stifled by them.’ When it is not stifled, it compares what one is with what one is called to become and thereby distinguishes and decides between right and wrong. Through this comparison, also, one comes to feel guilt.”
Here is the web site where the whole essay may be found. Check it out. It’s in chapter 15.
Below is a little background on Martin Buber
Martin Buber (1878-1965) - philosopher, story teller, pedagogue - was born in Vienna. Descending from a family line of brilliant scholars - his grandfather, Solomon Buber, wrote many critical editions of midrashic literature - Buber studied at universities in Vienna, Leipzig, Zurich, and Berlin.
Imbued with the philosophy of Zionism, Buber began to edit the Zionist weekly publication, Die Welt (The World) in 1901. However, his cultural and educational understanding of Zionism conflicted with Theodor Herzl's political Zionism, and Buber eventually resigned his position.
Still in his twenties, Martin Buber became involved with Hasidism. He tried to translate the tales of the renowned Rav Nahman of Bratslav into German, but decided instead to retell them in his own narrative form. The resultant Hasidic Tales earned Buber an excellent literary reputation. He also penned scholarly works on the historical movement of Hasidism, including Hasidism and Modern Man and The Origin and Meaning of Hasidism.
Martin Buber was a remarkable social activist. He helped establish the Jewish National Commission during World War I in order to help better the lives of Eastern European Jews. In 1933, after Hitler's rise to power, he became director of the Central Office for Jewish Adult Education, which became an increasingly significant position after Jews were prohibited from attending public schools. In 1938, he immigrated to Palestine, where he taught social philosophy at the Hebrew University and served as leader of Ihud, a movement which advocated Arab-Jewish cooperation in a bi-national state.
Yet Buber's most lasting achievement was his philosophy of Dialogue, described in I and Thou (1923). In this treatise Buber differentiated between the I-Thou and I-It relationships. The former depicts the relationship between man and the world as one of mutuality, openness, and directness - a true dialogue. The latter - the I-It - is explained as the absence of these I-Thou qualities. The partners are not equal in the I-It relationship. However, the I-It dialogue cannot be discarded because it leads to objective knowledge, and must necessarily interact with I-Thou. Yet the ultimate objective is not only the I-Thou relationship between man and the world, but between man and the eternal source of the world, namely, God. God, Buber maintained, can be known through this subjective view of the universe. One can encounter God in the revelation of everyday existence. Indeed, Buber asserted that the Bible is a record of this dialogue experience between man and God. He stated that the essence of religious life is not the affirmation of religious beliefs but rather the way one meets the challenges of existence.
Martin Buber's influence extended far beyond his age. Contemporary philosophy and theology were influenced by him, including the great Protestant thinkers Paul Tillich and Walter Nigg. The idea of a life of faith as a life of dialogue between man and God has its origin in the Bible, but Martin Buber distilled that concept into a philosophy that has illuminated much of scholarly and religious thought throughout the twentieth century.
BOOKS YOU MIGHT BUY IF YOU WANT TO BE AN ESSAYIST
ANTHOLOGIES OF WRITING
Contemporary Creative Non-Fiction: The Art of Truth / Bill Roorbach
The Fourth Genre: Contemporary Writers of/on Creative Non-Fiction
/ Robert L. Root. Jr. & Michael Steinberg
The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present / Phillip Lopate
Best American Essays of the Century / Edited by Joyce Carol Oates
PHILOSOPHY OF WRITING (WITH NUTS AND BOLTS)
On Writing Well / William Zinsser
Writing with Power / Peter Elbow
Simple and Direct: A Rhetoric for Writers / Jacques Barzun
The Craft of Revision / Donald Murray
Style: Toward Clarity and Grace / Joseph M. Williams
Revising Prose / Richard Lanham
The Elements of Style / Strunk and White
They Say / I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing / Gerald Graft and Cathy Birkenstein