Interpreting Literature: Session IV My Antonia 2015-03-12

Characterization Exercise

After analyzing the Introduction and Book One of My Ántonia, we moved into an exercise on characterization. We talked about how, in real life, we get to know what a person is all about. We came up with a list that included actions, clothing, family life, favorite foods, location, names, occupation, physical appearances, props, social status, speech and dialogue, and thoughts and opinions.

We also reviewed the definitions of round and flat characters and direct and indirect characterization. After giving a few examples, I had the students think of a friend or acquaintance and describe him/her using at least three different types of characterization–same person, but three different sentences. After writing the three sentences, they chose the one they liked the best, shared it with the group, and then we decided which tool of characterization was used. Some were obvious and some more subtle. Some even used two types of characterization.

We then moved on to identifying direct vs. indirect characterization and tools of characterization in three different excerpts from popular literature (The Lorax, Hunger Games, and Harry Potter). This demonstrated that the author uses these tools so that the reader can learn important information about his/her characters. We applied our newfound knowledge to My Ántonia by choosing one main character and one supporting character, locating a quote within the text, and then performing the same steps of analyses as we did with the popular fiction. Hopefully this gave students some experience in quote identification for our next essay…

Characterization Essay

We talked about characterization because our next essay focuses on the characterization of the heroine of our story–Ántonia Shimerda.In crafting your essays this week, follow the Expository Essay Guide that I made for you, but bear in mind these very important modifications:

Introduction: Follow the guide; you still need a thesis, but not necessarily a thesis with tension since we are not really making a debatable claim this time–this is a character analysis. Remember the thesis is the controlling idea of the paper. Try not to simply state the obvious–a thesis statement should be a fresh idea or opinion that is supportable based on facts or evidence taken from the story. This may take some work, since in this case, the thesis statement is not an assertion to a question that was posed. The three points you are making can simply be what we discussed in class–that Ántonia is high-spirited, proud, and generous. If you feel that is debatable, and you want to make a claim that she has different personality traits, that is up to you!

Second – Fourth Paragraphs: Each point should have a quote from the book that supports the claim (she is “high-spirited” for paragraph 2, “proud” for paragraph 3, and “generous” for paragraph 4). After the quote from the book, place the author’s last name and page number like this:

“After Ántonia had said the new words over and over, she wanted to give me a little chased silver ring she wore on her middle finger. When she coaxed and insisted, I repulsed her quite sternly. I didn’t want her ring, and I felt there was something reckless and extravagant about her wishing to give it away to a boy she had never seen before” (Cather, 23).

Don’t use more than four lines of text per quote and don’t simply start the paragraph with the quote. It will be up to you to craft the paragraph in such a way that you use your own writing to explain why the quote supports the point. This is a less formulaic approach than our last essay.

Conclusion: You can follow the guide pretty exactly for the conclusion, although you do not necessarily need to “take a stand” or “persuade the reader” for this essay.

Any questions or confusion, just email me!