Explore, Analyze, Evaluate: Application of Terms to “Chrysanthemums”

Below is an example of a step-by-step process for understanding how to apply composition critical analysis terms within your papers.

Step 1: Explore

First, you explore. To explore means to think about something. Another definition for this word means to investigate or study something. In the case of Steinbeck’s “Chrysanthemums,” you could do the following:

Historical Context: You could explore the historical context of the story, what the author presents to you as history, the age of the characters, and the relationship the character’s age has to the date of composition of the literary piece.

Steinbeck’s Personal Background: You could perform an investigation into Steinbeck’s personal background to determine if what happens in the story has any correlation to any personal events of his life.

Structure of the Story: You could study the structure of Steinbeck’s short story, how he presents the information at the beginning of the story, his pattern for the middle parts, and how he concludes.

Step 2: Analyze

Second, you analyze the something you have explored, investigated, and studied.

Historical Context: When you think about the historical context of the story, you think about parallels that might exist between the story and actual history. What was the marital relationship of Elisa’s day? What kind of relationship did men and women have of this day? What was the day? Examine the actual history for the purpose of understanding its relationship to the story. In addition, present “history” in the way that Steinbeck presents it in the story.

Steinbeck’s Personal Background: The results from your exploration (investigation) into Steinbeck’s life history should help you think about how the story might mirror his life. Could Elisa be Steinbeck, or is the character Elisa symbolic of Steinbeck’s own mother? Is “Henry” Steinbeck’s father? Is the visitor’s entry into the story symbolic of Steinbeck’s entry into this literary genre: the short story? Researching the author’s personal background will help to understand his purpose for writing.

Structure of the Story: Think carefully about Steinbeck’s structure of the story. Why does he establish the setting? Why do we see Elisa watching her husband? It doesn’t matter what Henry is doing. It only matters why Elisa is watching him instead of tending to her garden. Providing this is the case, then what sort of impact to the story and to Elisa does the visitor have? What does “visitor” mean? The visitor represents a foreign element. Steinbeck weaves him in and out, but not quickly.

Therefore, how does the visitor’s presence affect the structure of the story? What is the parallel between the visitor’s disruption to the structure of the story and the visitor’s disruption to Elisa’s daily structure? Why does Steinbeck present the relationship between Elisa and Henry first (very short) and the relationship between Elisa and the visitor as second (as longer)? Think about chronology and the fact that Steinbeck doesn’t use transition wording.

Step 3: Evaluate

Third, you evaluate the something you have explored (investigated and studied) and analyzed. Evaluating a literary work or an argument is no different than evaluating a dress that you want to buy. You always think to yourself this: Will this shirt go with the pants I already have? You are judging the usefulness of the shirt you want to buy. If you can’t use it, and you buy it, you will be upset with yourself. It will be a waste to you.

The same principle is applicable to evaluating a quote that you want to incorporate into the paper. Ask yourself this: Will this quote go with my statement? Will the quote match what I am trying to convey? If you can’t use it, and you incorporate it, you will be upset when it doesn’t fit and your professor calls your attention to it. Now you have to revise this part of the paper, but oftentimes you don’t realize that this is the only part you have to revise, the part that doesn’t fit. Everything else in the paper is fine.

Historical Context: Judge how useful the history Steinbeck presents. Judge how useful the history is to your discussion. If Steinbeck presents something as fitting the overall scheme of the story and you believe that it doesn’t, then it is your job to evaluate what he presents to you, the reader.  Once you have evaluated it, then describe why it doesn’t fit or why what he says or writes doesn’t make sense.

Steinbeck’s Personal Background: When researching the author’s background, determine if parts of the author’s life history are suitable to your discussion. Then judge how good it is for your discussion.

Structure of the Story: The only opinion that matters here is your own.  You determine if the structure Steinbeck presents in his story is good, useful, bad; misleading or confusing; or lacks chronology. Judge (evaluate) how it would help the reader more if Steinbeck used transition wording. You may also judge (evaluate) how the use of transition wording might be too robotic for the reader and how transition wording contributes to the lack of creativity.

The above steps represent tips for developing the analysis of your essay. We have taught you minimally how to develop an analysis, so let’s keep going.

Since the body paragraphs will serve as the areas for your analysis, you will need a good structure. You may develop your own structure or use the link below as a guide for developing one.

Just remember that the obligation to develop an analysis within the body paragraphs lies with you. It is your duty. There are no exceptions. You will not get the kind of grade you want and you will not learn from the process if you don’t learn how to develop an analysis.

Click here for “The FAVORS Body Paragraph Analysis Structure: Pre-Analysis Process.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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