How does Woolf’s language (particularly her similes and metaphors) reveal James’ shifting impressions of his father?

Published by Jeannie R. Ferrell

Nov 16, 2022

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Prompt:
Reread section XIII of “The Lighthouse” pages 182-188. How does James’ relationship with his father evolve here? How does Woolf’s language (particularly her similes and metaphors) reveal James’ shifting impressions of his father?
Essential Requirements
Open with a one or two sentence claim that directly answers your chosen prompt
Follow that opening sentence by briefly summarizing the scene in a few precise sentences
Use at least 4-5 key pieces of evidence from the text
Appropriately front-load each piece of evidence: provide clear context for the specific moment from which the quotation comes
Accurately cite each quotation with the corresponding page number
Choose evidence that spans the section: your chosen evidence shouldn’t all come from the same 1-2 page window of text
Follow every piece of evidence with clear, precise analysis
Use at least two of our moves from the analyzing evidence handout (listed below)
Analyzing Evidence Handout
Guidelines:
Try the following “moves” when analyzing evidence in support of an argument.
Move 1: Discuss the Connotative and/or Denotative Meaning of Specific Words and Phrases
Example:
The writer discusses the connotative meaning of the word she cited: its associations, emotional overtones, etc.
There is a clear link between the language (“necks”) and the speaker’s argument (its dehumanizing effect); the writer doesn’t just say “Necks creates a dehumanizing effect!”
***You want to expose the gears of your reading and thinking. Don’t just put an idea on the page and then rush on. Pull the curtain back and explain how you arrived at your idea. What details in the text lead you there, and why?
Example: The speaker admits he tells the line about the farmer shooting and killing angels “for some reason,” which suggests it was not a premeditated practical joke, but rather a poorly understood impulse.
Both of the examples above make good use of analytical verbs (I’ve marked them in green). Here are some helpful ones you can use:
captures, clarifies, conveys, demonstrates, depicts, diminishes, emphasizes, establishes, highlights, illustrates, implies, indicates, portrays, reaffirms, reinforces, reveals, suggests, supports, underscores, verifies
Move 2: Discuss a Pattern by Connecting Multiple, Related Words
Example: Lily’s attempt to paint requires her to face palpable fear: “dreadful,” “dark,” and the need for Lily to “maintain her courage” all create a sense of looming, unidentified danger–a terrifying unknown.
The writer highlights a sequence of key details that all relate to the same idea; she builds a chain of key words/phrases that all point to the same conclusion
Move 3: Discuss the Relationship Between Syntax and Meaning
Example: The sentences lengthen and take on a frantic, helpless quality: “Such she often felt herself—struggling against terrific odds to maintain her courage…and so to clasp some miserable remnant of her vision to her breast, which a thousand forces did their best to pluck from her” (19). The sentence above runs for five full lines, interspersed almost exclusively with commas. When read aloud, it is difficult to catch one’s breath, and the frantic quality of Lily’s thoughts becomes clear.
The writer drawn an explicit connection between two things: the pace of the sentence, and the content of the sentence
Drawing this connection is what allows the writer to effectively analyze tone
Move 4: Compare and Contrast Key Words or Images
Example: To emphasize Lily’s courage, Woolf peppers the passage with diction of fear and struggle, describing Lily’s attempt to paint as “…a journey as dreadful as any down a dark passage for a child” (19). Woolf compares Lily to a child, an image of vulnerability–not a hero charging into battle, as Mr. Ramsay sees himself–to express the fearscape through which the real artist must pass. The comparison distinguishes Lily’s shrinking humility from Mr. Ramsay’s overpowering egotism. Still, in the face of that humbling fear, Lily continues.
The writer not only analyzes how a key image functions, but also how that image is distinct/different from another important image
Here are some useful compare/contrast words you can use:
Although, Both, But, Clash, Compare, Connect, Contrast, Distinct, Distinguish, However, Juxtapose, Mirror, Parallel, Relate, Resemble, Similar, Whereas, While
Move 5: Unpack the Moment in Relation to Earlier Moments in the Text
“Nod Back” to Previous Important Language
Example: The speaker’s final description of the “tiny blade” captures a tension woven through the rest of the poem: a dual representation of the children as innocent, vulnerable creatures who are also capable of inflicting real emotional pain. “Tiny” suggests something small and ultimately harmless, which parallels the description of the teacher as “[meaning] well,” and the image of the children being “patted dry with a fluffy towel.” The teacher and the children appear harmless in these momentary descriptions: soft, sweet-tempered, innocent. But that’s not all they are. Regardless of his good intentions, the teacher still “butchers” the speaker’s name “like has a bloody sausage casing stuck between his teeth,” which suggests a moment of violence and gore. The children still twist their “necks” around to stare at the speaker, and she feels the heat of “all those eyes.” The pencil sharpener may be tiny, but it still contains a “blade.” A blade is sharp, dangerous, potentially lethal. The people in the speaker’s classroom may not mean to hurt her, but they still do.
The writer takes key language from the passage and discusses how this continues or breaks a pattern:
Key Question: Is this a continuation of or a diversion from earlier language, behavior, etc.?
In the example above, the writer describes how the final image is a continuation of a tension that exists all through the poem
The writer discusses a key moment of language (the “tiny blade” image that ends the poem), and links that image to related language earlier in the text
A Final Note:
“The meaning of a work of literature and its parts cannot be separated if that work is to be fully and completely understood. For to examine only the parts of a thing is to examine only what that thing has, not what it is. If I want to know what a frog is I should go to the pond and watch it do, and be, and inhabit. If I want to know what a frog has I should dissect it.”
—David Kern
This process of analysis is not a cold one. It’s not just dissection. It’s not separate from the emotional, human reactions we have to a text as we read. Analysis is a means of articulating how a text brought those emotions to life–why we were moved in such a way. It’s an avenue to more deeply feel the energy and heart of a work. Literature can do all kinds of magical things to a reader, but only if we read with the necessary attention and care.

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