Task #1: Account

Account

“Account” falls under the Analysis Acronym (Revision) category.

Account for discrepancies and contradictions. Read the following excerpt from my student essay on Steinbeck’s “Chrysanthemums.”

Figure 72: Essay Excerpt on “Chrysanthemums (2nd Paragraph)

The narrative starts out with Elisa working in her flower garden. She looks down across the yard and sees Henry, her husband, talking to two businessmen; they are making a proposition to Henry for his thirty heads of three-year old steers. Elisa takes several glances at the men as they smoke cigarettes and talk; her “face was lean and strong and her eyes were as clear as water . . . her figure looked blocked and heavy in her gardening costume, a man’s black hat pulled down over her eyes, clod-hopper shoes, a figured print dress almost completely covered by a big corduroy apron with four big pockets . . .” (Steinbeck 220). Steinbeck clearly shows Elisa’s habitual activity; it is implied that she even wears the exact same thing everyday.

Although every part of this body paragraph appears to be in order, there is a discrepancy. The word “discrepancy” means a distinct difference between two things. There is a difference between what the student writes in this paragraph and what the actual story reads. The following is an excerpt from the first paragraph of Steinbeck’s “Chrysanthemums.”

Figure 73: Sample Passage from Steinbeck’s “Chrysanthemums” (1st Paragraph)

“The high grey-flannel fog of winter closed off the Salinas Valley from the sky and from all the rest of the world. On every side it sat like a lid on the mountains and made of the great valley a closed pot. On the broad, level land floor the gang plows bit deep and left the black earth shining like metal where the shares had cut. On the foothill ranches across the Salinas River, the yellow stubble fields seemed to be bathed in pale cold sunshine, but there was no sunshine in the valley now in December. The thick willow scrub along the river flamed with sharp and positive yellow leaves” (Steinbeck 254).

First Discrepancy

We do not need to add the rest of the paragraphs that follow because we have made our point.

The first line of the topic sentence uses the following: “The narrative starts out with Elisa working in her flower garden” (Favors 1). However, as you can read, the narrative starts with Steinbeck’s description of the setting. We call this type of discrepancy an “unvalidated assumption.” The topic sentence of the body paragraph represents an assumption and we cannot validate its truthfulness.

Remember that any statement you write represents an assumption until you incorporate credible evidence in the forms of a quote or any other type of evidence sufficient to support your ideas. It is always important to be accurate. You must accurately convey the ideas expressed within the primary source.

Second Discrepancy

There is another discrepancy within the student’s essay. The student writes, “She looks down across the yard and sees Henry, her husband, talking to two businessmen; they are making a proposition to Henry for his thirty heads of three-year old steers” (Favors 1).

Here are the actual quotes. We only include those quotes and dialogue that relate to the student’s belief that the two businessmen are making a proposition to Henry for his thirty heads of three-year-old steers.

Figure 74: Sample Passage from Steinbeck’s “Chrysanthemums” (2nd Paragraph) 

“Elisa Allen, working in her flower garden, looked down across the yard and saw Henry, her husband, talking to two men in business suits. The three of them stood by the tractor shed, each man with one foot on the side of the little Fordson. They smoked cigarettes and studied the machine as they talked… . “Elisa cast another glance toward the tractor shed. The strangers were getting into their Ford coupe. . . . “ ‘Henry, who were those men you were talking to?’“ ‘Why, sure, that’s what I came to tell you. They were from the Western Meat Company. I sold those thirty head of three-year-old steers. Got nearly my own price, too’ ” (Steinbeck 254-255).

First, there is nothing in the narrative that reads the two businessmen are making a proposition to Henry.

Second, we do not know if these two men are “businessmen.” The quote reads that they are “two men in business suits.”

Last, by rereading the quote, Henry’s words in particular, it is possible to deduce that it is Henry who makes a proposition to the two men, considering that he gets the price he wants. A proposition is an idea, offer, or plan put forward for consideration or discussion. The fact that Henry gets the price he wants suggests that the two men in business suits receive Henry’s proposition. You may debate this suggestion within your analysis, but be sure to make the point and distinguish clearly between what is implied and what is directly presented (as you see it on the page).

Third Discrepancy

The last discrepancy from the student’s essay is this: “Steinbeck clearly shows Elisa’s habitual activity; it is implied that she even wears the exact same thing everyday” (Favors 1).

Steinbeck doesn’t directly write that what Elisa is doing in the story represents “habitual activity.” He doesn’t clearly show this. Because Elisa wears a “gardening costume” and not a regular dress and because she is “cutting down the old year’s chrysanthemum stalks with a pair of short and powerful scissors,” we can infer that Elisa habitually works in her garden; that this is an everyday activity for her. We can only infer this. Nothing in the author’s presentation suggests that we can imply that Elisa works in her garden everyday. There is a difference between how something or some idea is implied and how we can infer. Observe the difference.

Imply:

  • to suggest
  • to make something understood without expressing it directly

Infer:

  • to conclude something on the basis of reasoning
  • to suggest or lead to something as a conclusion
  • to imply or suggest something
  • to make a reasonable guess at something

At first glance, it may appear that both the words “imply” and “infer” are the same considering that “infer” has as one of its definitions to suggest.  Let’s go one step further.

Implication:

  • indirect suggestion, something that is implied as a natural consequence of something else

Inference:

  • a conclusion drawn from evidence or reasoning

A suggestion is an idea or proposal put forward for consideration. A conclusion is a decision made or an opinion formed after considering the relevant facts or evidence, the final part of something.

Do you see the difference? The greatest distinction between the two words is that when you “infer” something or you make an “inference,” you reach a conclusion; the conclusion is final or it represents a decision. The conclusion you reach is not the same as when you imply something. Your implication is not a conclusion; it is an opinion. Notice the difference.

Inference

We can infer that Elisa works habitually in her garden because she wears a gardening costume and not an everyday dress; and we read of her “cutting down the old year’s chrysanthemums stalks with a pair of short and powerful scissors” (Steinbeck 254).

Implication

We can infer that Elisa works habitually in her garden because she wears a gardening costume and not an everyday dress; and we read of her “cutting down the old year’s chrysanthemums stalks with a pair of short and powerful scissors” (Steinbeck 254).  The words “old year’s chrysanthemums” imply that Elisa may have planted these chrysanthemums in the previous year.

In the example that represents an inference, we reached the conclusion that Elisa works habitually in her garden by analyzing (studying) the author’s description of Elisa (i.e., gardening costume, man’s black hat, clod-hopper shoes, figured print dress, big corduroy apron with four big pockets to hold the snips, the trowel and scratcher, the seeds and the knife she worked with).  This is the only evidence we have to use in our efforts to reason and reach a conclusion.

In the example that adds an implication, we are able to make something understood without expressing it directly. The something that is understood is Elisa’s part in planting the old year’s chrysanthemums.

Therefore, when we put all of the pieces together—Steinbeck’s description coupled with the words “old year’s chrysanthemums”—we can now infer. Each piece represents evidence necessary to make an inference. When we notice certain words—“old year’s chrysanthemums”—without necessarily studying the description of Elisa, we can imply that the chrysanthemums belong to Elisa and that she is the one who plants them in the previous year.

Suggestions

Always live in your dictionary. Reread the definitions of words, even if you know their definitions. Always be accurate in your presentation of the author’s ideas; and be accurate in how you present your definition of a word. If you are defining a word, check with the dictionary first.  Then match the dictionary’s meaning of the word with the word in context in the author’s work.

Ask yourself these questions: 1) What is the author’s definition of the word? What context does the author provide? 2) Does my definition, my understanding, of the word match the author’s definition?

If it doesn’t, remove the discrepancy or revise your definition to ensure that it complements the author’s ideas.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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