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Based on a presentation by
Alison Robertson (Wilderness
School) at the SAETA Year 12
English Studies Exam
Preparation Evening, 2009
Middle Finger =
Means of Persuasion
Pointer =
Structure
Title
Whole
Ring Finger =
Imagery
Purposes
Appeals to...
emotions, reason,
patriotism etc
Vocabulary
Figurative Language
metaphors, similes,
paradox etc
Evidence
Contrasts
Paragraphs
Involves
Reader by...
rhetorical questions,
pronouns
Sentences
Pinky =
Sound Devices
Repetition
Allusions
Biblical, Historical
or Literary
Thumb =
Form
Alliteration, Assonance
& Onomatopeoia
Dialogue or Quotations
Effect of punctuation
on Tone / Mood
Author
Point of View
Context
Palm =
How each of
these
techniques
grabs you!
Subject
© Alison Robertson, Wilderness School, 2009
Handy
Guide to
Critical
Reading
Techniques
Thumb = Form
 What kind of text is it?
That will affect the types
of techniques you will
notice…
Author
How does the text use
the author’s name?
Is there one or many
‘points of view’? Whose
voice is used? Is it written
in 1st, 2nd or 3rd person?
Max Allen is given special attention in
this wine column from The Australian
because of the nature of such an
article: a piece of journalism that
Point of View
expresses the personalised opinions of
its author rather than hiding behind
Context
the more usual tone of objective
anonymity typical of news reports,
special features and editorials.
How have the circumstances of the text’s publication affected its form
and content? E.g.: an article about war published in Australia near
April 25th (ANZAC Day); a British writer addressing a local audience
may reference the Blitz, English football teams, the Queen, etc.; a
special interest magazine (Film, Sport, Economics, Computers) will
assume more about its audience's knowledge of that interest or area.
Miss Brill
By Katherine Mansfield
Although it was so brilliantly fine – the blue sky powdered with gold and great spots of light like white wine splashed over the Jardins Publiques – Miss
Brill was glad that she had decided on her fur. The air was motionless, but when you opened your mouth there was just a faint chill, like a chill from a
glass of iced water before you sip, and now and again a leaf came drifting – from nowhere, from the sky. Miss Brill put up her hand and touched her fur.
Pointer = Structure
 What sort of structure does the text have? Most text genres
– narrative, persuasive, review, etc. – have structural
conventions, but within those can be a great variety
designed to serve a text’s particular purpose …
Katherine Mansfield’s title choice not only declares her short story ‘Miss Title
How does the text use it’s title? What expectations does it set up for
Brill’ the
to be
a character
but
it’s
primthe
monosyllabic
lightness also
reader
and howstudy,
are they
met
within
body of the text?
begins the characterisation of a naïve spinster hiding her loneliness
What
sortdeluding
of structure
does of
theempty
authorartificial
employ atthrills.
the whole
text
level?
behind
a self
façade
The
whole
Whole
If
a
narrative
one,
are
orientation,
complication,
climax,
resolution
narrative structure follows a Sunday outing beginning and ending with
and coda used inof
conventional
unconventional
ways?
her contemplation
the fox furor
she
wears; but the
toneWhat
has darkened
particular purpose, idea or theme does that overall structure serve?
by the end with her realisation of her narrow empty life. The opening
Paragraphs
and closing
paragraphs
and
sentences
contrast
in
length
and
Are paragraphs long or short; even or uneven? How do their specific
complexity,
from
elaborate
self-deception to a stark
form suitreflecting
their placeainchange
the whole
text’s
structure?
realisation of loneliness. The climax is expressed not through the story’s
Sentences
What sort
of syntax
is used?descriptive
Is it simple paragraphs,
or complex; varied
or
dominant
mode
of focalised
bordering
on
consistent? How does the structure of sentences effect tone, point of
stream-of-consciousness,
but short overheard dialogue that brings
view and the reader’s emotions or response to ideas?
external reality crashing into the protagonist’s consciousness.
I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."
We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering.
You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to
wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.
You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the
road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.
Let that be realised; no survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse
of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal. But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope.
Middle finger = Means of Persuasion
In his first speech as Prime Minister (May 13th 1940),
Winston Churchill’s purpose was to galvanise the British
people to fight on after the fall of France. He uses
repetition often in threes to lend his words emphasis and
Appeals to... emotions,
strength; rhetorical questions in 2nd person to involve his
reason, patriotism, etc.
audience; elevated diction and hyperbole (exaggeration)
to appeal to emotions of moral indignation (‘monstrous
tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable
Evidence catalogue of human crime’) and patriotism (‘survival for
all that the British Empire has stood for, … the urge and
impulse of the ages’). The grandeur of his language,
assisted by poetic imagery (‘blood, toil, tears’) and
Involves Reader by... alliteration (‘wage war … with all our might and with all
the strength that God can give us’) also carries an
rhetorical questions, pronouns
emotional appeal to the dignity of sacrifice, which
supports his reasoned invitation for his listeners to share
the sacrifice with him, rather than simply demanding it.
Purposes
I sit in a bathtub, searching my scrubbed palms.
Like a surgeon about to make an opening incision,
I study the heat-wrinkled flesh. Overwhelmed by
this consciousness of my palms, struck by how
attached to them I have grown, I am searching for a
different perspective on life. …
Ring finger = Imagery
In a memoir reflecting on themes of
Vocabulary
masculinity and loss, US author and essayist
Leonard Kriegel uses a broad range of imagery
to explore
his hands as motifs for resilience in
Figurative
Language
coming to terms with a body blighted by
metaphors,
similes,
childhood
polio. His vocabulary mixes the
paradox, philosophical
etc.
(‘consciousness’; ‘limitations’;
‘obsession’), colloquial (‘bathtub’; ‘checks out
checkout counter beefcake’; ‘Wouldn’t it be’)
Contrastsand biblical (‘God made the worship of the
body’). He contrasts animal imagery with the
bodies of humans; uses biblical metaphors
(‘hands are where obsession has pitched its
as well as surgical (‘incision’) and
Allusionstent’)
literary (‘parsing’) similes; makes cultural and
Biblical, Historical
or Literary
literary allusions
(Beethoven, Einstein, James
Joyce) and quotes from W. B. Yeats.
Despite an eye that checks out checkout counter
beefcake I know that a man’s body doesn’t belong
to him alone. God made the worship of the body
out of bounds not because of jealousy but because
of how inadequate the body was as a symbol of
worship.…What choice does one have but to accept
the limitations not only of one’s own body but of
all bodies? Some clichés bear repeating: the
elephant is bigger, the gorilla is stronger, the lion is
swifter, the insect is more durable.
Nor is it merely to the bodies of animals that the
bodies of humans are inferior. Why focus on hands
if I want to praise my bodily parts? Wouldn’t it be
better to sing of Beethoven’s deaf ears? Of
Einstein’s pickled brain? But hands are where
obsession has pitched its tent. And we do not
choose the obsessions that torment us as much as
they choose us. Where else search for vanity if not
in these hands that have served me so well? Joints
thickening, bones turning brittle, fingernails jagged
and untrimmed—does it matter as long as these
hands are still recognizably mine? As if parsing
Finnegan's Wake I probe each line in the quiescent
flesh of palms in the water. An aged man is but a
paltry thing, said Yeats. Paltry or not, I take pride
in what I am dependent on, just as I did when I was
a crutch-walking adolescent in the Bronx. I never
cared about the mysteries of the flesh. What I
wanted was to rejoice in the idea that life was
sometimes no more than flesh against flesh, body
against body, hand against hand.
An extract from ‘Hands: A Story of Obsession’ by
Leonard Kriegel
Pinky = Sound Devices
The first chapter of an eponymous Vietnam War novel,
‘The Things
They Carried’ uses repetition as both
Repetition
structural feature, following the title’s implication by
listing those very things soldiers had to carry in battle, as
well as theme, relating to the nature of war trauma that
Alliteration,
Assonance
repeats
itself through
a veteran’s life. O’Brien ‘carries’ this
repetition
over (‘as if the repetition itself were an act of
& Onomatopoeia
poise, a balance between crazy and almost crazy’) into the
very rhythm of his prose, alliterating (‘destroy the reality of
Dialogue
death itself. or
TheyQuotations
kicked corpses. They cut off thumbs’)
and assonating (‘knowing without going’) almost to the
point of rhyme (‘lines mostly memorized, irony mixed with
tragedy’), with onomatopoeia even lending itself to black
Effect
of puns
punctuation
humoured
(‘zapped whileon
zipping’). Dialogue is
unpunctuated to emphasise the effect of it flowing with
Tone
/ Mood
the rhythm of the narration and lend itself to the overall
effect of a surreal mood that the soldiers create in harmony
with war’s madness as a coping mechanism.
They used a hard vocabulary to contain the
terrible softness. Greased, they'd say. Offed, lit
up, zapped while zipping. It wasn't cruelty, just
stage presence. They were actors and the war
came at them in 3-D. When someone died, it
wasn't quite dying, because in a curious way it
seemed scripted, and because they had their
lines mostly memorized, irony mixed with
tragedy, and because they called it by other
names, as if to encyst and destroy the reality of
death itself. They kicked corpses. They cut off
thumbs. They talked grunt lingo. They told
stories about Ted Lavender's supply of
tranquilizers, how the poor guy didn't feel a
thing, how incredibly tranquil he was.
There's a moral here, said Mitchell Sanders.
They were waiting for Lavender's chopper,
smoking the dead man's dope.
The moral's pretty obvious, Sanders said, and
winked. Stay away from drugs. No joke, they'll
ruin your day every time.
Cute, said Henry Dobbins.
Mind-blower, get it? Talk about wiggy. Nothing
left, just blood and brains.
They made themselves laugh.
There it is, they'd say, over and over, as if the
repetition itself were an act of poise, a balance
between crazy and almost crazy, knowing
without going. There it is, which meant be cool,
let it ride, because oh yeah, man, you can't
change what can't be changed, there it is, there it
absolutely and positively and fucking well is.
An extract from ‘The Things They Carried’ by Tim
O’Brien
Palm = How each effect grabs you!
Always relate it back to the text’s larger purpose(s):
 Max Allen’s wine column uses its form, context and point of
view to engage readers in taking the often pretentious
language of wine critics more seriously
 The structure of Katherine Mansfield’s ‘Miss Brill’, from
sentences and paragraphs up to the whole narrative, engages
readers in the stream-of-consciousness realisation of a lonely
woman’s pitiable self-deception
 Winston Churchill’s rhetorical means of persuasion are
employed to arouse the patriotic courage of a nation at war
 Leonard Kreigel’s imagery is designed to grab both his
reader’s empathy and intellect in his memoir about
overcoming illness and disability
 The sound effects of Tim O’Brien’s prose reinforce his ideas
about the traumas of combat that ordinary soldiers carried
with them throughout, and beyond, the Vietnam War.
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