sample essay 9/21

Jennifer Beckett
Sept. 3, 2009
Pages 84-88 of Clay’s Quilt
What figures of speech does the author use in the book (similes, metaphors,
personification, etc.)? What are they, and why are they effective or interesting?
In chapter 7 of Clay’s Quilt, Silas House conveys Easter’s psychic power and
helps us get to know Anneth better. House’s goal is to describe events that are otherworldly, so he cannot just use boring language to convey the extraordinary. House used
figurative language such as onomatopoeia, simile, and imagery to create the mood in
which Easter’s powers operate.
He starts the chapter by introducing an eerie feel with onomatopoeia. He states
“Easter awoke to whispering—low, cool whispers like the wind off a falling leaf. When
she opened her eyes, there was no one, nothing” (House 84). House places it at the start
of the chapter to immediately create a mood. Through onomatopoeia like “whisper,” we
are presented with the hushed feel of secrecy. We can hear the quiet hiss breaking up the
silence. Easter’s visions are not attended by joyful shouts. Instead, whispers surround
her, and those can make people very uncomfortable.
House furthers this discomfort by using a simile comparing the whispers to “wind
off a falling leaf” (84). He wants the audience to understand how silent and out-of-thisworld Easter’s experiences are. However, he has to use language we can understand to
convey something beyond understanding. Most everyone has seen a leaf fall, and most
everyone will understand that sound is nearly non-existent. However, the sound exists
for Easter. The simile makes it seem like she has Miracle Ear—or miraculous visions.
The simile takes a common image and relates it to the beyond so that we can understand
Easter’s powers.
The author also wants his audience to understand the history of Easter’s psychic
powers, and he incorporates imagery to help us visualize her past. He needs to continue
the magical feel, and his imagery does that. On page 86 House uses descriptors like
“coal-black eyes” to connect us to the setting. He describes the birds leaving in “a noisy
frenzy” (House 86). After her first psychic experience, Easter told her grandmother what
she saw. House writes, “‘It’s a sign,’ the old woman said, and it seemed that her voice
was full of dirt, too” (87). The image “full of dirt” evokes images of death and the
ground. These images help us understand the dark, frantic mood that Easter must have
experienced at her unexpected encounters with the dead.
Throughout the book, House uses descriptive, figurative language for several
reasons. At the beginning of chapter seven he particularly uses onomatopoeia, simile and
imagery to cloak his readers in Easter’s discomfort and surreal experiences. He does this
directly before introducing us to Anneth’s letters for Easter and Clay. What better way is
there to bring back the dead than to make us feel the eeriness before she arrives?
Look back at the essay.
1) Locate the topic sentence
2) Is it strong, so-so or weak in your opinion? Why?
3) Label the parts of this essay that seem strongest to you. Briefly give comment on
what makes them strong.
4) Label the parts of this essay that seem weakest to you. Briefly give comment on
how to improve them.
5) Is the conclusion effective? Explain.
6) Below, please include notes on MLA citations.