The student will use close analysis to support and advance the interpretation of a character or theme.
Literary Analysis Artifact: An early draft of an analytical essay discussing Phillip Pullman’s use of the juxtaposition of the morals of Lee Scoresby and Mrs. Coulter to develop Lyra’s character and the theme of ends justifying the means in his novel The Golden Compass.
This essay is not one that I will ever look back upon fondly, unless it is to remember the good old days when I could still write a terrible paper and get through the day with a smile on my face. Even before I began to write anything, this essay gave me trouble. First I had to decide on which secondary characters to juxtapose—Mrs. Coulter and Lee? Lee and Serafina? Serafina and Mrs. Coulter?—then I had to figure out how they developed Lyra’s character and how that led to the development of a major theme throughout the novel. After quite a lot of indecision I settled on juxtaposing the morals of Mrs. Coulter and Lee Scoresby (who is, by the way, my favorite character in The Golden Compass). And that was only the beginning.
From there, I found quotes supporting my statements about each of secondary character’s morals and wrote five sentence paragraphs analyzing this evidence. I really would prefer not to go into detail about these horrific excuses for analysis. I’ll just say that they completely lacked close analysis, while they employed weak language and thousands of ‘to be’ verbs.
The next step of this rather complicated and confusing process was to develop a theme statement. This remains one of the only parts of my essay that I am proud of; even my abnormally strict teacher liked it! Then from the theme statement I wrote my thesis. People throughout your school career will tell you that your thesis is the backbone of your essay, that it is imperative that it be written well and get your point across, and that usually it is the thing people struggle most with. Well, my poor essay had a very tall, sturdy, and straight backbone perfectly capable of holding its body up, only there was no body. That thesis was literally a hundred times better than any other part of that essay. . . and yet I only spent perhaps a minute writing it and the theme statement.
So apparently I should really stop worrying so much about a good, strong thesis statement; I’ve got it down. What I need to concentrate on is the close analysis of my (thoroughly brilliant) ideas.
I think that anybody who read this draft would think that I had absolutely no grasp of literary analysis, and really, I wouldn’t argue with them. For at the time that I was writing this, I didn’t really have a good idea of what to do; I only hope that I get better at it.
Since I am probably supposed to mention a specific event or part of the essay when asked “What was the most challenging part of this essay?” I will refrain from replying “The entire thing excluding the thesis,” but instead will say: “Turning it in.” And I think that anyone who has ever been in school will know how I overcame that challenge.