Close Readings

Close Readings

Close Readings:

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1.    Exploring  the way the author controls readers’ and characters’ attitudes and feelings in The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter

Carter has a very good command in controlling the characters’ attitudes and feelings; it is through this great manipulation that she also managed the readers’ reaction towards what she has written. In the beginning of the story, a girl with a simple and happy life is suddenly orphaned. This delineates sadness and even more intensified when Carter exposes that she has two other siblings in the care of a harsh uncle. This generates sympathy, since his siblings are under the care of another uncle it could mean that they are financially challenged and her parents cannot support them all at the same time which is why they had no choice but to bear with the arrogant Uncle.

Uncle Philip is the traditional antagonist. His mute wife Margaret has two brothers, Francie and Finn, the latter she later develops a romantic and intimate relationship with. Margaret is the supporting role which darkens the already negative traits of Uncle Philip, being mute and fully dependent on Uncle Philip she has no choice but to follow the demands of Uncle Philip. She is a weak person who is introduced through association to a very powerful character in the story.

But in every story the protagonist always shines, and there is always a person who provides the opportunity for that person to shine. In here, it was Finn an unlikely prince charming who rescued Melanie in the fangs of Uncle Finn (specifically in the play when she was being assaulted by the swan and failed to meet the expectations of the Uncle). He also opened her eyes to intimacy and sexuality. In that field Carter changes the image of Finn in the minds of the readers, despite him lacking in looks he is fully capable of rescuing Melanie thus proving to be her saviour. Furthermore, Finn proves his heroism by sitting on Uncle Philip’s chair upon his absence. It is most likely similar to a hero slaying a dragon. At this point, the readers are already enticed to read more because the sad story of Melanie is gradually turning beautiful.

The arrival of Uncle Philip is also the highest point of the story as it is the deciding point. But the greatest surprise of all is the incestuous affair between Margaret and Francie. Here, Carter surprises everyone that the silent and beautiful Margaret is having an affair and the worst of all with her own brother. In the end Margaret is able to speak and warns the lovers of Uncle Philip’s intention of burning the house. Margaret being able to speak is also another manipulation from Carter as she makes the woman respond to the series of events around her.

Finally, for Melanie the ending speaks of hope for her. Despite all the hardships she has gone through and all the difficulties she has Finn by her side. Her said story is ended by so much hope for the life ahead of her. The ending evokes feelings of relief and joy both from the characters and the readers.

2.    Exploring the way the author keys into extended meanings from other bodies of knowledge in “A Pocket full of Rye”

A Pocket Full of Rye is a detective story, which is why usage of extended and elaborated meanings from other bodies of knowledge is suitable. It creates an effect of thrill and multi – faceted paradigms in trying to solve the crime. Throughout the story there were many views presented beginning from the suspected murderers to the possible motifs of murder and reason of pursuing the gruesome act as well.

When the rich Rex Fortescue dies, the premier suspect was his wife. This was because in the point of view of the many she will inherit all the wealth of the old Fortescue once he dies so she decides to hasten it. But upon her death, she was proven innocent. All other suspects also die which is when extended use of meaning was further intensified. Not only are readers encouraged to think and wonder about who truly killed the rich man but they themselves begin to interpret all given to data and in their minds trying to organize everything to arrive at a solution to the mystery.

Miss Maple seeing the pattern of death as after the nursery rhyme “Sing a song of Sixpence” is one of the key aspects of this novel as it is coming from the view of Ms.Maple, therefore other characters views differently. Only Ms. Maple is wise enough to stitch all clues together to begin solving the mystery.

The death of Rex is mainly because of money, but the killer was unexpected. For sure, there was a point that readers assumed it was Jennifer since she is the “stranger” and has the most valid reason for committing the murder – vengeance. The author played with the clues and the characters themselves so as to create more thrill and mystery and to provoke the intellectual participation from the readers that they are not only reading but more importantly also analyzing the turn of events.

3.    Explore the way author links to the senses in The Fifth Child

The Fifth Child is a very descriptive piece of literature as it is mainly concerned with elaborating the difference of Ben, the fifth child in comparison to the rest of his siblings and more importantly his unwanted qualities as a child.

For mothers, they usually feel happy when the infant in their wombs begin to move, moreso when the child already has the capacity to kick, but in the case of Harriet, when Ben kicks it brings her so much pain. This is very elaborative and significant because an infant kicking is a symbol of life and always brings joy to the mother or parents in general but in this case there is physical pain given to the mother. Lessing links this part to the sense of mothers being able to feel their children inside them, only this time, it doesn’t bring joy.

The next is when Ben was finally born and more torment for the family as a whole arrives. Not only are the parents suffering but the four other children as well, since Ben is physically and psychologically different from his older siblings he generates fear from them. His appearance was unlovable, so grotesque it is that even the father seems not to be able to accept it. He cries very loudly and he eats too much for a child as if he never wants to stop anymore.

4.    Explore the number and importance of locations, artifacts and customs in the novel The Story of an African Farm

Otto, the farm keeper is introduced to us a religious, caring and kind man. He was a devout Christian showing all the qualities of one. When Bonaparte Belkins arrives in the farm of Tante Sannie, Otto was one of the kindest persons to him, if not the kindest. Even when people are already starting to doubt about the real character of Belkins, he remained kind to him and even defended him. That is mainly anchored in the Christian tradition which Otto is supposed to display. As Christians, they are taught how to be welcoming of others, regardless whether they are old friends or strangers. They must receive the visitors and treat him like a brother. Otto did not fail in doing that; he was in fact a perfect example of Christian customs.

Em, Lyndall’s cousin is a representation of a customary female in a rural area. They do not have minds of their own, it is sad to admit but she is a representation of how women are viewed in and by the society. Like Em, women are expected to believe what they are told to.

Locations were also important as it promoted and highlighted the consistency in the story. Geographically, the story was very entertaining because it somewhat functioned as a travelogue that toured the readers from one place to another, from Bloemfontein to Transvaal to other farms, all locations had stories to share; they were like stories within a story.

With regards to artifacts, for me, its presence and use in the story was more of supportive data; to make the novel look more than just another piece of literature. It was very important though that the artifacts were used because it made the events research oriented thus rich source of learning.

5.    Explore the way the author creates dialogue that carries multiple meanings so that it means different things to different readers at the same time in The Return of the Soldier.

Like the other authors I have evaluated, Rebecca West also possesses a great command of her novel. She plays with the events and the qualities of her characters making everything believable but maintaining it under her control.

The use of dialogues was very extensive. But her dialogues were very intellectual as well, just like in A Pocket full of Rye; the readers are not only reading but are also encouraged to think thus suggesting that they are part or have become part of the story itself through reading.

“Embraces do not matter; they merely indicate the will to love and may as well be followed by defeat as victory. “ This is an example of Rebecca West uses dialogue in her story. She tells of the belief of one character from another. How different they are from one another in terms of belief and outlook in life.

In addition, West also uses a intensified combination of words to evoke romanticism – “But disregard means that now there needs to be no straining of the eyes, no stretching forth of the hands, no pressing of the lips, because theirs is such a union that they are no longer aware of the division of their flesh.” In the example above, she uses a lot of flowery union of words. Depends on the literary orientation of the readers, whether romantic, post – modernist or conservative, the lines above will generate different kinds of reaction.

6.    Explore the way the author creates a character in The Passion

The Passion is written like a journal or diary so the account of the story sounds very personal. The character of Henri being a young boy who used to be a farm boy but later joined the army was dynamic. From a dreamer to an achiever, the author created Henri as a person who, with the turn of events achieved greater stratum in life, but with this development he also faces a lot of difficulties especially people who are hungry for revenge. The bravery of Henri in facing challenges in life is of no doubt. There was never anything that he said no to, all challenges he took in.

Villenelle has a rather sad story and it is mainly in this sadness that her character is built. Having webbed feet is already a deficiency in her part; being sold by her husband to be a prostitute is another and brings about more sorrow and pain for her. Her character is very symbolic, it represents the people who never chose the lives they have but still strives to rescue themselves from the dire mud they are at.

Patrick is probably a mockery of the traditional belief that the quality of people depends largely on their stature in the society. Patrick was a priest who was excommunicated because of his habit of watching girls undress themselves. His character was the most defiant of all.

7.    Explore the author creates a brilliant use of detail in her work in The Voyage Out

Virginia Woolf has always been very detailed in any of her work. The Voyage out is her first ever novel and because of this it is less appealing compared to the others. But then she remains to be very mindful of the details.

This can be attributed to the fact that she and Rachel have the same situation. Later in the story, after the protagonist had set out to the sea, she begins to know and understand things she doesn’t know before. She develops a disease of the mind which Virginia Woolf herself has. No other person can be as elaborative other than Virginia Woolf because first, this is her story and next this is a story of a person who is much like her.

There are extensive details in the story because Woolf would like the people to understand what she is going through. This is no longer a piece of literature written for the sake of having something to write this is opening herself to the public so that they may share with her the difficulties she is going though. The disease of the mind the Virginia had had throughout her life was both her power and weakness.

8.    Exploring themes in A Voyage in the Dark:

One of the key themes of A Voyage in the Dark is the loss of home. In the beginning we are told that Anna moved to London from Caribbean, she misses her home badly and is very unhappy with the current city she is in. She describes Caribbean to be very lively and London to be gloomy. She misses the place where she was raised and began to acquire an understanding of what life is about. But, for me the loss of home is not entirely based on her moving to London, the greater aspect of it is the death of her father which is the main reason why she moved from Caribbean to London.

Another good point for contention is the prey that innocent women become. We have heard so many stories of women being abused and used. In this story, maybe Anna was not entirely abused and used by another person but she definitely failed to take care of herself. It is to be blamed to her innocence because she knows no one and have no one to support her financially and emotionally. She therefore needs to find a way to support herself through another person. But later on in the story, she also abuses herself. The greatest testament to this is when after Vincent left him, she began to go out with practically anyone.

Another probable addition to the variety of themes present in the story is selfishness. Vincent is probably the obvious representation of selfishness because she used Anna, first to satisfy his earthly desires and then leaves her out of his own convenience. He was never mindful of what Anna might feel; especially that she had become so dependent on him.

Anna is the second picture of selfishness. True that she was a victim but she herself committed the same thing upon considering and adhering to perform abortion. She was thinking solely of her own welfare. She disregarded the fact that the child her stomach has life and should be given an opportunity to live.


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