Prose Analysis

Objectives: Students will be able to analyze how an author uses literary devices to achieve her purpose by reading closely a short story “Birthday Party” by Katherine Brush.

Text: a hard copy of the short story Birthday Party

Do Now: Look at an advertisement from 1950s. What’s the obvious purpose of the ad? Is there a deeper purpose hidden behind all the signifiers? Use personal whiteboard to share ideas.

Mini Lesson: What does ” author’s purpose” refer to?  Why is it important to  know the purpose? How do we bring out the implications ( hidden purpose)?

The author’s purpose is the reason he or she chose certain materials, describe characters in certain ways, choice of words, use of particular point if view etc. it’s the why behind the writing.  Some verbs that may illustrate an author’s purpose include: Compare and Contrast, Criticize, Describe/Illustrate, Explain, Identify/List: Author wanted to tell the reader about an idea or series of ideas, Intensify or Suggest.

Read the story out loud and identify three literary elements or techniques that stand out for you the most. Consider diction, imagery, anonymity of the characters( use of pronouns not proper names) , syntax ,point of view, symbolism and irony.

We’ll do Notice& Focus and Method activity-

  1. What do you find most interesting? Strange? Revealing? What doesn’t fit? Make a list of such details you notice.
  2. The method -From the details you have gathered,
  • What repeats? diction, syntax or a symbol? Is it a  particular imagery, idea or feeling? So what?
  • What goes with what ( strands) or what connections do you see among the details?  So what?
  • What is opposed to what (binaries)? Point of view? SO WHAT?
  • What doesn’t fit? -> SO What?

Share one literary element or technique that stood out the most for you from the exercise. Briefly explain why. What purpose do you think it serves( so what?)

Elicit  4-5 examples of literary elements or techniques from the responses and the class will be divided into small groups and each group will focus  on one specific literary element or technique.

Independent Practice

Based on our observations, we will discuss how Katherine Brush uses diction, imagery, syntax ,point of view, symbolism and irony to achieve her purpose.

Each group pick an element or technique to discuss further how the author uses it to serve her purpose. Be sure to –

  1. Make a claim: State what purpose the technique serves( so what), i.e. Bush uses abrupt and fragmented syntax to create a sad but tense mood contrary to the occasion, a birthday party.
  2. Provide two examples of a specific literary element or technique to illustrate the claim you have made. Explain why(analyze the evidence you have collected). Use direct quotations. Quote the entire line before zooming in for a specific word or phrase analysis.
  3. Answer ” so what”.

We will share the responses in class by picking groups that focus on different literary elements and techniques.

To sum up, what do you believe is the purpose of Brush’s story? Why? If we merely look at the story itself, would we have derived at the same conclusion?

So how do we make sense with these individual claims? Here are some of the claims based on the text evidence you have observed-

  • The husband seems to be crude, insensitive and more controlling
  • the wife seems to be caring ,submissive and voiceless
  • the couple live such a mundane marital life and everything seems to be part a routine excerpt for the  gay hat that is later used to conceal sadness;
  • the shift in point of view shows the narrator’s emotional involvement , her sympathy for the wife;
  • the abrupt and fragmented syntax reveals the disconnection between the couple.

How do we combine the ideas and make a thesis statement using a complex sentence?

To combine the claims we have drawn, here is the thesis statement-

It is pitiful and grotesque ( shift in point of view)  to see such disconnection and inequality in a human relationship, in particular , marriage  where women are voiceless and play an inferior role.

What’s the author’s true purpose?

Brush uses diction, imagery, various points of view and syntax to criticize the inequality and cruelty of human relationship exhibited in marriage and empathize with those , in this case a woman, who are voiceless and powerless.

Homework: Write an essay in which you show how Brush uses literary devices to achieve her purpose. ( View rubric provided by College Board page 4 and examples of the responses.