Strategies for Literary Analysis – SIFT, DIDLS, TP-CASTT
DIDLS: The Key to TONE
Diction - the connotation of the word choice What words does the author choose? Consider his/her word choice compared to another. Why did the author choose that particular word? What are the connotations of that word choice? DICTION: Laugh: guffaw, chuckle, titter, giggle, cackle, snicker, roar Self-confident: proud, conceited, egotistical, stuck-up, haughty, smug, condescending House: home, hut, shack, mansion, cabin, home, residence Old: mature, experienced, antique, relic, senior, ancient Fat: obese, plump, corpulent, portly, porky, burly, husky, full-figured Images - vivid appeals to understanding through the senses - concrete language What images does the author use? What does he/she focus on in a sensory (sight, touch, taste, smell, etc.) way? The kinds of images the author puts in or leaves out reflect his/her style? Are they vibrant? Prominent? Plain? NOTE: Images differ from detail in the degree to which they appeal to the senses. IMAGES: The use of vivid descriptions or figures of speech that appeal to sensory experiences helps to create the author's tone. My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun. (restrained) An old, mad, blind, despised, and dying king. (somber, candid) He clasps the crag with crooked hands. (dramatic) Love sets you going like a fat gold watch. (fanciful) Smiling, the boy fell dead. (shocking) Details - facts that are included or those that are omitted What details are does the author choose to include? What do they imply? What does the author choose to exclude? What are the connotations of their choice of details? PLEASE NOTE: Details are facts or fact-lets. They differ from images in that they don't have a strong sensory appeal. DETAILS: Details are most commonly the facts given by the author or speaker as support for the attitude or tone. The speaker's perspective shapes what details are given and which are not. Language - the overall use of language, such as formal, clinical, jargon What is the overall impression of the language the author uses? Does it reflect education? A particular profession? Intelligence? Is it plain? Ornate? Simple? Clear? Figurative? Poetic? Make sure you don't skip this step. LANGUAGE: Like word choice, the language of a passage has control over tone. Consider language to be the entire body of words used in a text, not simply isolated bits of diction. For example, an invitation to a wedding might use formal language, while a biology text would use scientific and clinical language. • When I told Dad that I had goofed the exam, he blew his top. (slang) • I had him on the ropes in the fourth and if one of my short rights had connected, he'd have gone down for the count. (jargon)
A close examination and correlation of the most reliable current economic indexes justifies the conclusion that the next year will witness a continuation of the present, upward market trend. (turgid, pedantic) Sentence Structure - how structure affects the reader's attitude What are the sentences like? Are they simple with one or two clauses? Do they have multiple phrases? Are they choppy? Flowing? Sinuous like a snake? Is there antithesis, chiasmus, parallel construction? What emotional impression do they leave? If we are talking about poetry, what is the meter? Is there a rhyme scheme? SENTENCE STRUCTURE: How a sentence is constructed affects what the audience understands. Parallel syntax (similarly styled phrases and sentences) creates interconnected emotions, feelings and ideas. Short sentences are punchy and intense. Long sentences are distancing, reflective and more abstract. Loose sentences point at the end. Periodic sentences point at the beginning, followed by modifiers and phrases. The inverted order of an interrogative sentence cues the reader to a question and creates tension between speaker and listener. Short sentences are often emphatic, passionate or flippant, whereas longer sentences suggest greater thought. Sentence structure affects tone. Tone SHIFT IN TONE: Good authors are rarely monotone. A speaker's attitude can shift on a topic, or an author might have one attitude toward the audience and another toward the subject. The following are some clues to watch for shifts in tone: • key words (but, yet, nevertheless, however, although) • punctuation (dashes, periods, colons) • paragraph divisions • changes in sentence length • sharp contrasts in diction TONE Tone is defined as the writer's or speaker's attitude toward the subject and the audience. Understanding tone in prose and poetry can be challenging because the reader doesn't have voice inflection to obscure or to carry meaning. Thus, an appreciation of word choice, details, imagery, and language all contribute to the understanding of tone. To misinterpret tone is to misinterpret meaning. A list of tone words is one practical method of providing a basic "tone vocabulary." An enriched vocabulary enables students to use more specific and subtle descriptions of an attitude they discover in a text. Here is a short list of simple but helpful "tone words":
Angry Sharp Upset Silly Boring Apologetic Joyful Mocking Nostalgic Tired Audacious Seductive Proud Provocative Sad Cold Urgent Joking Poignant Hollow Peaceful Sarcastic Vexed Frivolous Benevolent Restrained Giddy Didactic Sentimental Fanciful Complimentary Condescending Sympathetic Childish Horrific Sweet Vibrant Irrelevant Dreamy Somber Pitiful Lugubrious Afraid Detached Contemptuous Happy Confused Humorous Allusive Objective Zealous Bitter Shocking Candid Dramatic Sentimental
SIFT: The Key to TONE and THEME
When exploring how a writer uses literary elements and stylistic techniques to convey meaning or theme, you may want to consider the SIFT method to practice literary analysis. This method allows you to “sift” through the parts in order to comprehend the whole. SIFT Method Symbol: examine the title and the text for symbolism Images: identify images and sensory details Figures of speech: analyze figurative language and other devices Tone and Theme: discuss how all devices reveal tone and theme
SYMBOL: Since the title of a story or novel often contains symbols that hint at theme, you should
first be encouraged to reexamine the title. Is part of the title a central symbol in the story? Are there other significant symbols in the story? What are the characteristics of the symbol(s)? Speculate about its significance. Has the symbol been used in literature before to represent the same themes in this story? Does the meaning of the symbol change throughout the story, and does the change reveal insights about the author’s use of symbolism and its contribution to theme?
IMAGERY: Writers use language to create sensory impressions and to evoke specific responses to
characters, objects, events, or situations in their works. The writer “shows” rather than “tells,” thus allowing the reader to participate in the experience more fully. Therefore, imagery helps to produce mood and tone. When reading a piece of literature containing imagery, consider two questions: 1. What do I see, hear, taste, smell, or feel? 2. What EFFECT is the author trying to convey with these images? Does the story open or close with significant or intense images? Why might the author begin or end with those images? What kind of information or message do they provide?
FIGURES OF SPEECH (aka FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE): Writers form images by using figures
of speech such as similes, metaphors, and personification. Find examples in the story and discuss how these figures of speech help to convey effect and meaning. Consider the following questions: 1. What is the significance of comparisons in the story? (metaphors, similes, etc.) 2. How do figures of speech enhance meaning? Consider other devices used in the story such as irony and allusion. Irony is often found in the contradictions of expectations and reality, or appearance and reality. How do allusions enhance the meaning or effect of the novel? Does the author retain the original symbolic meaning of an allusion, or does he/she alter it?
TONE: A close examination of word choice, imagery, and detail reveals a narrator’s attitude or tone
and contributes to the reader’s understanding. Find details that reveal the author’s tone toward the subjects of the story.
THEME: To determine the theme, you might:
1. Summarize the story. 2. List the subject s or motifs that emerge from the summary, such as evil, injustice, inhumanity, social protest, corruption, poverty, tradition, individuality, survival, etc. 3. Write a sentence about each subject or motif based on insights gained from analyzing symbolism, imagery, figurative language, and other devices. Because all literary devices lead to tone and theme, this process will help you to perceive what insights about life the author is revealing about each subject and to refine the process of determining meaning in a text. Ask yourself what life-lessons the main characters have learned or what lessons they themselves have learned as a result of reading. Look for statements in the story by the characters or the narrator that comment on life, the world, or human nature, thereby implying theme. Discuss each thematic possibility and decide which to be the most probable based upon the evidence from the text and from this “SIFTing” process, keeping in mind the fact that many stories have more than one theme and there is seldom just one “right” answer. Example themes: • Based on the motif of social protest: “When a man becomes a threat to society , that society sets out to destroy him.” • Based on the motif of individual and society: “Man has no individual identity and cannot exist as a single human person apart from society.”
TP-CASTT: The Key to TONE and THEME
OBJECTIVE: Analyze a poem thoroughly to discover the author’s main message. TITLE Without reading the poem, what do you think the meaning of the poem is? Remember that a poet “creates titles that give us hints about the poem” and “chooses words for a special reason.” PARAPHRASE Put the poem, sentence by sentence, into your own words. The point isn’t to ﬁnd the deeper meaning, but just make it in easy to understand prose. CONNOTATION Begin to look for the deeper meaning of the poem. Search for diction (word choice), imagery, metaphors, similes, rhyme, alliteration, assonance, punctuation, personiﬁcation, etc. How do these things add to the meaning of the poem? Why does the author use these poetic devices? ATTITUDE What is the author’s tone? What is the speaker’s tone? SHIFTS Do shifts in tone, action, rhythm, etc. happen? Where? What eﬀect do these shifts have on the poem? TITLE Now that you’ve gone through the poem, what meaning does the title add to the poem? THEME What is the author’s main message?