Tag Archives: analysis

Poetry Journals: Annotation and Analysis

Without a doubt, working with poetry causes AP Lit students the most angst. However, this process does not have to be onerous! Working your way through a poem thoughtfully takes care and attention. Here are two methods you can employ to help you process even the most mysterious of sonnets and have it make (more) sense.


Technique by Dr. Jan Adkins, St. Petersburg High School IB Program

Defining the Terms:

IMAGE: a word (or more than one word) appealing to at least one of our senses; an image deals with reader response. Of our five senses (visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile, gustatory), the visual is the strongest.

IMAGE PATTERN: the repetition of three (yes, three is a magic number!) images, not necessarily in uninterrupted succession.

MOTIF: a repeated pattern of any type within a work. Note that an image pattern IS a motif, but a motif is NOT always an image pattern.

The Process:

  • Mark with a different color each type of image/image pattern/motif predominant in the passage.
  • Based on your color marking, ask these questions (think about them as you go; you don’t necessarily have to write the answers):

–Is there some logical progression of imagery/motifs, from one type to another?
–Is the progression illogical?
–How do the images/motifs reinforce and/or illustrate the content of the passage? Imagery reinforces content by giving it emphasis, making it fresh (an unusual or creative use of imagery), and/or by adding irony (imagery appears to contradict the content or describe it in terms of its opposite qualities).

  • Based on your answers to these questions and any others you think appropriate, CODE each color marked with INFERENCES you draw about the use of that particular image/image pattern/motif.
  • At the bottom of the page, write a brief interpretation of the poem. Use information from your color marking to explain your reasoning.


The TPCASTT method helps you make sense of a poem by considering different parts/aspects.

T – TITLE: The meaning of the title without reference to the poem.
P – PARAPHRASE: Put the poem, line by line, in your own words. DO NOT READ INTO THE POEM. Only read on surface level.
C – CONNOTATION: Looking for deeper meaning. Consider nuances of word meanings and how they are being applied:
     Diction and symbolism
     Metaphors and similes
     Rhyme scheme
     End rhymes and internal rhymes
     End stop
A – ATTITUDE: Looking for the author’s tone. How is the writer speaking?
S – SHIFTS: Looking for shifts in tone, action, and rhythm. Don’t just write the number. Discuss how the shift(s) affects the poem.
T – TITLE: Reevaluate the title now that you have considered the elements in the piece. How does it signal the overall meaning?
T – THEME: What does the poem mean? What is it saying? How does it relate to life?

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Thug Notes: Lit Circles Novels

Sparky Sweets, Ph. D., is a big fan of messed up dystopias, y’all! Salty language and adult themes ahead. Proceed with caution.

And because Dr. Sweets hasn’t gotten around to it yet, here’s the Shmoop review of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest:

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Light in August Foldable Instructions

foldables2Foldables (as anyone who’s ever has Mrs. Parm for a class would know) can prove to be a very helpful study aid. We’ll be using a simple foldable to collect textual support for your seminar on Light in August.

First, consider some of the motifs Faulkner has been tracing throughout the novel. Obviously, race is a primary motif—how the races interact, what the common attitudes were at the time, how different characters react to questions of race, etc. Next, there is isolation. In what ways are the characters isolated from others? From the larger Jefferson community? Is this isolation self-selected or imposed upon them? Identity forms a core idea in the novel. How the characters identify themselves, or push against the identities placed on them by others, reveals much about their choices and actions. Finally, as in much of Faulkner, there is the role of religion. How does religion—the moral expectations of practitioners, the language, and its traditions—impact the morals, choices, and viewpoints of the characters?

The foldable will help you gather evidence about these motifs and help you create strong questions to use in our seminar when we conclude our study of Light in August. Create your foldable this way:

  1. Fold paper in half cross-wise (hamburger style).
  2. Draw a line down the center fold, both the front and the back.
  3. Label each section as follows:     1-5     6-10     11-15     16-21
  1. In each section, you will be recording two kinds of information:
  • Quotes, examples, and instances illustrating one or more of the major motifs of the novel: race, isolation, identity, and religion.
  • Connect each quote/example/instance to one or more of the characters.
  1. You will continue to add to your foldable as you read. This foldable will substitute for the character and scene pages of the Six Pack Sheet for Light in August.

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World Café Discussion: The Glass Menagerie


The following questions were considered during the World Café discussion in class today. Selected responses are recorded below.

The Glass Menagerie is a play about _____ because _____.

  • Confinement – Amanda trapped in the past, Tom in the city/apartment, Laura in her defect
  • Guilt/Regret – Tom goes back after everything that had happened; he regretted leaving his sister, Tom tries to leave but his memories catch up with him
  • Illusion – Amanda lives in the past and thinks too much of everything, Tom’s distorted perspective about everything that happened, Tom dreaming of adventure, Laura living in the glass menagerie, everyone has big dreams but doesn’t work at them
  • Deception – The facts we know from the play come from memory so they’re affected by Tom’s emotions, everything is altered/exaggerated so it’s deceptive, Amanda creates a reality for her children to adhere to
  • Escape – The father’s picture represents “family” to Amanda (she hasn’t moved on), Tom knows his father got out so it gives him hope/inspiration to escape as well, Amanda wants Laura to escape through marriage, Laura escapes into her menagerie, Jim escapes by taking night classes
  • Escaping reality – Tom wants adventure, Amanda is stuck in the past, Laura lives in her own world, Tom goes to the movies, Tom tries to escape his memories of Laura, Amanda in denial about her actual life
  • Abandonment – Tom leaves Amanda and Laura like their father did
  • Family hardship – Laura feels as though she’s crippled, Tom doesn’t want to work at the factory, Tom’s leaving makes it harder for Amanda, Tom always fighting with Amanda, Laura does not fulfill what Amanda wants
  • Obstacles – Laura is crippled, Amanda wants to find Laura a husband, Tom can’t get along with his mother
  • Isolation – Laura keeps herself isolated because of her disability, but Jim sees that and tries to bring her into the normal world when he kisses her

Who is the most important character in the play? Explain.

  • Amanda – she plays a bit part in every situation, she is the reason for the split, she pushes her children (Tom into escaping, Laura into anxiety), she keeps the family together, she wants Laura to succeed in life and for Tom to live up to his responsibilities, she’s manipulative and tries to get the family to do what she wants, tries to live a different life through Laura
  • Tom – the story itself is his memories, he had to do all the work for the family including finding the gentleman caller, his memories bring emphasis to certain characters and their feelings, he brings in the conflict and ends it
  • Laura – the play is Tom’s reflection and regret about how he treated her, she is the center of the play, she’s protected by her family because of her fragility, Tom does everything for her, she is always on Tom’s mind
  • Jim – he’s the catalyst for the destruction of the family, his actions create the final break between Amanda and Tom, he builds up and then “breaks” Laura, wake up call to reality, crushes dreams of family
  • the father – he’s the reason for their current situation, characters’ choices are viewed in comparison to his, he’s always watching (figuratively) the fallout his leaving created, his absence is the catalyst for both Amanda’s and Tom’s characters, he’s the first domino, the only realistic character

Name and discuss the significance of an important symbol in the play.

  • glass menagerie – Laura’s fragility and her hopes/dreams
  • father’s picture – constant reminder of his abandonment, foreshadowing of what Tom will become, represents memory of him and family’s situation because of his absence, what could have been
  • Victrola – Laura’s unwillingness to move and how her life is painfully repetitive, Laura clinging to her father’s memory
  • fire escape – Tom can leave anytime he wants and escape from his life, wish to escape current lifestyle, Laura tries to use the fire escape but stumbles every time (shows how she can’t escape Amanda’s expectations), freedom
  • unicorn – symbolizes Laura’s difference, Laura’s innocence breaks when Jim kisses her just like the horn of the unicorn breaks off, Tom and Laura’s relationship breaks after it does, it isn’t real–when Laura opens up to Jim, she becomes like everyone else
  • movies – Tom’s need for adventure and freedom
  • blue roses – roses mean love, but blue roses don’t exist; shows how Laura believes in a relationship that doesn’t exist, uniqueness
  • music and dancing – what they can’t be
  • candle – Laura blows out hope
  • Amanda’s dress – Amanda’s old life
  • typewriter – both Tom’s ambitions and Laura’s failed attempts at success

How does the setting function to reveal character and provide insight on theme?

  • Cramped apartment – reinforces ideas of entrapment (Tom escapes through movies, Amanda through memories, Laura through her glass menagerie), small set forces us to focus on the events at hand, this house is their whole world, maintain decency of setting to feign order/normality of family, interior as nice as Amanda can make it to show what they used to be, reinforces that they are living in the past
  • Dark surrounding apartment – nothing really out there for the Wingfields, apartment is their only common place to go, isolates the family
  • Great Depression – everyone is poor and wants a form of escape, women dependent on men for financial support, women expected to be pretty and good homemakers to attract a good husband
  • Living room – Laura sleeps here/keeps focus of play on her, everything Laura cares about (Victrola, glass menagerie) is here
  • Fire escape – Tom escaping the family, Tom can leave whenever he wants but Laura can’t, reality outside the apartment
  • Music – Laura winds Victrola to calm herself down, enhances the drama
  • Light – provides intensity/focus (Amanda nagging Tom, Laura’s state of mind when the gentleman caller arrives, lights going out shows Tom’s irresponsibility and selfishness
  • Screen images – emphasizes dreamlike state of play, keeps things foggy/unclear, reminders that this is a memory
  • Southern setting – gives Amanda strong family values which makes her pressure her children to succeed

For a previous discussion, see the post here.

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Lord of the Flies Seminar Questions

In preparation for our Socratic seminar on Lord of the Flies, please gather textual support that will help you answer the following questions. Although direct quotations are encouraged, references to specific plot elements, characters, etc. in the text will suffice. Remember that the ultimate goal of the seminar is to enhance your knowledge of the work itself, so focus your attention on what occurs in the text rather than speculation drawn from the events in the text.

1. Who was the most effective leader, Ralph or Jack?

2. Could the boys have avoided the fate predicted by the Lord of the Flies?

3. Are people truly good or evil? Was the Lord of the Flies correct?

4. Analyze the conversation between Simon and the Lord of the Flies.

5. Which of the main characters was the most important to the story?

6. Whose fault is it that children started dying on the island?

7. Explain how the book uses foreshadowing.

8. What is the beast, really? Who is most affected by it?

9. How does the importance of the conch change throughout the novel?

10. What are the boys facing when they return home?

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Poetry Focus: Singing America

Langston Hughes’ 1925 poem “I, Too, Sing America” is one of the best-known of all poems of the Harlem Renaissance. Its message of inclusive hope reverberated across the twentieth century and continues to be a touchstone for people seeking a place at the table. Here are several interpretations of the poem to consider as you review the text.

First, Langston Hughes reading his own poem:

The political advocacy group Emerging US made the poem the focal point for this video focusing on the Mexican-American experience in Los Angeles:


YouTube user IndianaTheGreat juxtaposed images from the Civil Rights Era to audio of Denzel Washington reading the poem in the film The Great Debaters and clips from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington.

Hughes’s poem was written as a response to Walt Whitman’s famous free-verse poem “I Hear America Singing.” This visual representation of the poem by YouTube user Dustin Rowland illustrates the breadth of the American experience Whitman intended to celebrate.

Finally, this is Whitman himself, reading his poem “America.” 

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Thug Notes: Wuthering Heights

It’s a thin line between love and hate. Really thin. Salty language and adult themes ahead. Proceed with caution.

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Wuthering Heights Seminar Threads

grangeTo prepare for our seminar this week, please gather specific textual evidence for the following threads. Try to “spread the wealth” among the threads instead of concentrating on one or two.

1. Narrator bias – Lockwood/Nelly Dean

2. Comparison of locations (inside/outside, different rooms, different places in different times, Wuthering Heights/Thrushcross Grange, home/moor, etc.)

3. Character weaknesses

4. Use of twos/pairs/opposites

5. Powerful symbols

6. Heathcliff—strong or weak? (You could look at any character regarding this)

7. Love/Passion/Revenge/Obsession

Image of Ponden Hall, believed to be the inspiration for Thrushcross Grange

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Poetry Focus: “Leda and the Swan”

Really terrific analysis of William Butler Yeats’s “Leda and the Swan,” found in Chapter 8 of Sound and Sense, by Evan Puschak, aka the nerdwriter.

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Fine-Tuning the LOTF Essay


As you complete your revisions for your Lord of the Flies archetype essay, please consider the following:

DO: Include Golding’s full name and the name of the work in the first paragraph.

DON’T: Refer to Golding as “William” unless he’s your uncle or regularly comes to your house for dinner.

DO: Include a strong thesis in your first paragraph. It should be obvious which character, archetypal role, and theme/MOWAW you have chosen to explore.

DON’T: Summarize!

DO: Integrate appropriate quotations or examples into the essay to illustrate your points. For example, let’s say you wish to include the following quotation from Ralph on p. 54: “I was talking about smoke! Don’t you want to be rescued? All you can talk about is pig, pig, pig!”


“I was talking about smoke! Don’t you want to be rescued? All you can talk about is pig, pig, pig!” (54) This is what Ralph says when…

Don’t plop quotations in and expect the reader to connect the dots for you.


Ralph’s frustration with Jack’s focus on hunting boils over when he yells, “I was talking about smoke! Don’t you want to be rescued? All you can talk about is pig, pig, pig!” (54)

Reveal your thinking about why you chose the quotation or example and how it connects to what you’re developing in the writing.

Anything quoted directly from the book, whether dialogue or description, needs to be cited with a page number.

DO: Include the bibliographic citation for the work at the bottom of your last page:

Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. New York: Perigee, 1954.

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