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Analyzing Short Storie




ed., Chapter 6: Language, 43-57.

·Baldwin, James.

“Sonny’s Blues.”


A Short Guide to Imagery, Symbolism, and Figurative Language. I wrote this guide myself. It is not available online, but I attached a link to it to this message.

Found online at: http://macaulay.cuny.edu/eportfolios/seminar1fall2010hong/files/2010/08/Baldwin-Sonnys-Blues.pdf
English 1302 Reading and Writing Assignment for Paper A
Due Date and other specifics
Your professor must receive this 1200-1500-word essay by You may either send your
paper as a MS Word attachment or via Google Doc with permission to edit. If you do not
send it with permission to edit, your professor will not be able to make any comments
directly on your paper. To help preserve your professor’s eyesight, please use a font of
12, and do not use an ornate or gothic font.
Length: A minimum of 6 paragraphs and 1200 words.. Your essay may be longer,
but please do not make it longer by relating numerous details about the story’s plot.
Make certain you punctuate all quotations correctly in your essay. You do not
need a list of references for this paper. But if you do use any direct (word-for-word)
quotations from the story, you must use parenthetical documentation (author and
page number–if the story has page numbers–after the quotation marks but before
the period at the end of the sentence). You should not use outside sources in your
paper; it should be entirely your own analysis. The ACC Library has an excellent
guide to MLA (Modern Languages Association) documentation on its web site:
http://library.austincc.edu/help/MLA/. Scroll down the page to find an explanation
and examples of how to do parenthetical documentation. Don’t worry; it’s easy. But
if you need further help, feel free to email me or contact an English tutor in any of the
ACC Learning Labs. The tutors are all professionals, their help is free, and you do if
you are visiting the learning lab in person. Information about how to make an
appointment for a virtual visit with a tutor can be found by opening on the link in the
previous sentence.
Essay Format
❖ Cover sheet: Your essay must have a cover sheet and a title. Your cover sheet
should provide the following information:
Your Name
English 1302 Paper A
Theme, Setting, Conflict, and Point of View, and Character in “____(title of the
or any original title of your own creation
Do not put quotation marks around your own title. Do put quotation marks around
the title of the story when you refer to it in the paragraphs of your paper.
You may change the order in which you discuss any of the elements of the
story. Except for putting the introductory paragraph first and the
concluding paragraph last, you may change the order in which you write
any of the other paragraphs in your paper.
❖ Paragraph 1: The introductory paragraph will begin with a very brief summary of
the story–no more than three or four sentences. The last sentence of the first
paragraph must state the theme or central idea of the story. “Central idea” and
“theme” mean the same thing in literary analysis. Some textbooks use one term
and some use the other. That’s why I am using both terms here.) Your
sentence that states the theme of the story is called your thesis statement.
Underline your thesis statement. It will give the main idea of your entire essay.
Very important: Your central idea must be an original statement you formulate
yourself about the main idea of the story. It cannot be an old saying or figure of
speech such as, “What goes around comes around” or “Judge not, lest you be
judged.” We might all agree with these statements, but somebody else has
already created them. I want to see what you can create in this essay.
❖ Paragraph 2: This paragraph discusses the setting of the story. Setting deals
with both the time and the place the story takes place. The type of terrain, the
climate and weather, and even the time of day the events take place can be
important elements of a story’s setting. The setting of the story supports all the
other elements. The way the characters talk, dress, think, and even their mental
states are often shaped by the setting of the story. So is the story’s conflict,
especially in story such as “The Things They Carried,” in which the setting and
the external conflict of the story are almost inseparable since it takes place
during the Vietnam War.
❖ Paragraph 3: This paragraph discusses the conflict in the story. While conflicts
in some stories can be extremely complex, the meaning of the element of conflict
is not difficult to understand. There are two basic types. When there is internal
conflict, a character (usually the protagonist) is wrestling with himself. The
problem can be anything from a drug or drinking problem to a moral dilemma to a
decision he has to make. In external conflict, the protagonist or other characters
are in conflict with someone or something else. That someone or something can
be another person, a family, a town or community and its value system, or an
outside force such as nature or even God.
❖ Paragraph 4: This paragraph discusses the point of view used in the story.
Point of view refers to the type of narration the story uses: who is telling the story
and the vantage point from which he, she, or they are observing the events of the
story. When writing about point of view, never say, “The author of this story
says. . . .” A story is written by an author, but it is told by a narrator. The
narrator does not have to be a real person or a character in the story, but in first
person narration, the narrator is an actual character in the story. If the story is
being told using the words “I” or “we,” it uses first person narration. For
example, the story “A&P” uses first person narration because the person telling
the story is also the main character or protagonist in “A&P.”
❖ Paragraph 5: This paragraph analyzes the characters in the story. Here you will
need to state who the main character (protagonist) is, and use the terminology
(such as flat, round, static, and dynamic) from the chapter on character in your
textbook to thoroughly analyze him or her. Your analysis should show how the
author uses this character to develop the central idea of the story. How is this
character described in the story? What does he or she think, say, and do? What
does he or she learn, and how does he or she changes by the end of the story?
What effect does he or she have on the lives of the other characters? (Not all
these questions are relevant to the protagonist in every story.) This paragraph
should also include a discussion of at least one or two other characters in the
story. How do these characters further the plot, provide situational conflict, add
tension to the story, and act as a force with which the protagonist must deal? An
analysis should be given for any character who appears to be almost as
important as the protagonist.
❖ Paragraph 6: This paragraph provides a brief conclusion to your paper. It will
just be a few sentences, and it should be related to your statement of the theme
(main idea) of the story, although you will state it a little differently from how you
did in Paragraph 1.
A Short Guide to Imagery, Symbolism, and Figurative Language
Imagery can be defined as a writer or speaker’s use of words or figures of speech to create a vivid
mental picture or physical sensation. Many good examples of imagery and figurative language can
be found in “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” a sermon delivered by the Puritan minister
Jonathan Edwards. For example, Edwards creates a powerful image figurative language when he
‘We find it easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the earth; so it is easy for
God, when he pleases, to cast his enemies down to hell.”
The image Edwards creates here is the vivid mental picture of someone crushing a worm. Edwards
is also using figurative language because he compares the ease with which God can “cast his
enemies down to hell” with the ease of our crushing a worm beneath our feet. The point he is making
is that human beings are as small and powerless in the eyes of God as worms are to us; just as a
worm is at our mercies for its existence, so we are at God’s for our existence. The most important
reason to analyze a writer’s usage of imagery and figurative is to recognize how it contributes to the
point he is trying to make or the effect he is attempting to create. This is true whether the writer is
Jonathan Edwards attempting to inspire terror in the hearts of his congregation or a sports writer for a
newspaper trying to help his readers experience the excitement of a football game they were not able
to see. If writers just throw a surplus of images and figures of speech into their writing, it seems
artificial and amateurish, and it can be annoying.
Types of Imagery
Although the word “imagery” most often brings to mind mental images, imagery is not always visual; it
can appeal to any of the five senses. Here is a list of some types of imagery that appeal to different
• Auditory imagery appeals to the sense of hearing.
• Gustatory imagery appeals to the sense of taste.
• Kinetic imagery conveys a sense of motion.
• Olfactory imagery appeals to the sense of smell.
• Tactile imagery appeals to the sense of touch.
• Visual imagery is created with pictures (many visual images are pictures of things representing
well-known sayings or phrases).
Writers often create images through the use of symbolism. Carl Jung defined a symbol as “a term,
a name, or even a picture that may be familiar in daily life, yet that possesses specific connotations in
addition to its conventional an obvious meaning.” Symbols can be based on culture, such as a
country’s flag (stars and stripes=USA) , or religion (the cross=Christianity), or other things. Cultural
symbols can vary from one culture to another. For instance, to most people in our culture, white is a
symbol of innocence and purity, but this is not so in all cultures. Other symbols seem to be almost
universal across cultures. For instance, in the literature of many lands, light is a symbol for
knowledge, and darkness is associated with the unknown. Likewise, snakes often represent
temptation, curiosity, and the pitfalls that we as human beings must face in order to learn, grow, and
change. We see this in myths such the creation story in the book of Genesis in the Bible and “The
Search for Everlasting Life” in The Epic of Gilgamesh, a story written on stone tablets during ancient
times and found in the Middle East. In The Epic of Gilgamesh a king goes on a quest to find the
secret of eternal life in hopes of securing it for his best friend, who was killed during one of their
adventures. A wise person tells the king that the secret of eternal life is found in a flower that grows
under the water. The king manages to dive under the water and find the flower, but just as he is
about to grasp it, a snakes slithers up and takes the flower away.
Types of Figurative Language
When a writer compares something to something else it is not really like literally, he is using a
metaphor. Human beings are not literally worms, but Edwards uses them to make his point. When
an author makes a comparison using the word “like” or “as,” he is using a type of figurative language
called a simile. A simile is exactly the same as a metaphor except that it has to have the words
“like” or “as.” For instance, if Edwards had said, “We are like worms to God” or “God can crush us as
easily as a worm,” he would have been creating a simile.
Another common type of figure of speech is hyperbole, an obvious exaggeration. For instance,
during the first week of class I was monopolizing the faculty copying machine at CYP for long periods
of time, much to the chagrin of other instructors who also needed to make copies. The reason I had
to make so many copies is that the ACC bookstore did not order enough copies of the textbooks for
most of my classes. As I was attempting to make copies of about 40 pages from the textbook for my
World Literature I class, I apologetically explained to one of my colleagues that the bookstore had not
ordered nearly enough copies of the text. “So you’re making copies of the whole book?” she asked in
exasperation. “No,” I replied in response to her hyperbole, “this is only The Epic of Gilgamesh.”
When I was a teenager attending the First Missionary Baptist Church of Buna, I was forced to endure
the sermons of Brother Drew Sheffield, a pastor who fancied himself East Texas’ answer to the most
famous of all Puritan ministers, Jonathan Edwards. However, while this preacher equaled Edwards
with regard to the frequency of references to hellfire and brimstone in his sermons, he unfortunately
was not Edwards’ equal with regard to education. While Edwards had graduated from Yale prior to
beginning his ministry, Brother Sheffield had driven a beer truck prior to beginning his. While St. Paul
saw the light and was converted on the way to Damascus, Brother Sheffield ran a red light while
sampling too much of his employer’s product on road to the brewery. This may seem like a strange
route to take to the ministry, but I digress. Despite his lack of formal education, Brother Sheffield
could craft an image just as effective, if not as polished as Edwards’. Brother Sheffield’s favorite
phrase was “the sulphurious smell of bodies burning in hell.” Every Sunday for two years I flinched
and squirmed on the pew next to my mother as these words simultaneously assaulted my ears and
my nose. To this day, I can’t light a sulphur match without flinching. Brother Sheffield was making
highly effective use of olfactory imagery, which appeals to the sense of smell. He was also getting in
a little alliteration, a type of figurative language an author uses when he repeats sounds for poetic
effect “sulphurious smells” and “burning bodies.”
Another common type of figure of speech is personification. A writer uses personification when he
gives human qualities, feelings, action, or characteristics to nonhuman entities. The nonhuman
entities can be animals or inanimate (non-living) things. Here are some examples of the use of
personification in the poetry of Emily Dickinson. In poem # 712, “I Could Not Stop for Death,” Emily
presents Death as the driver of a carriage. In poem #986, “A Narrow Fellow in the Grass,” Dickinson
gives human qualities to a snake when she refers to him as a “Fellow” and one of “Nature’s People.”
And to use an example of personification that Austin music fans might enjoy, here the link to a
YouTube video of the old, old country song “Hello Walls” by Willie Nelson. This song is still the best
example of personification I have ever found: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cwcETeIUUg

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