Wordy Phrasing

In the following sample excerpt, the student uses elevated wording to convey meaning within the literary text.

Although the student uses this wording, it is clear that she doesn’t understand how it relates to the ideas within the literary work. In addition, the student personifies the theme, but doesn’t outline how she will use the term as personified within the analysis of her work. Let’s read the excerpt.

Sample Excerpt

The theme of “concord” runs rampant through A Homily of the State of Matrimony and The Taming of the Shrew.  As the homily suggests, matrimony is declared and instituted by God.  God expects man and woman to live in a “perpetual friendship” avoiding all levels of lust and fornication, rejecting the notion to go against the will of God.  But within this theme of concord various levels are inherent.  A Homily presents these levels by first examining the prerequisites of marriage.  For example, if concord is preserved within marriage, then husband and wife can obtain mercy from God.  And because God ordains marriage, He sets the criteria.  In this respect, marriage is a gift from Him.  The role of man and woman within the context of concord sets up the next level.  Women are considered weak creatures, incapable of strength and constant behavior.  So, it follows that concord can be initiated and reached only through the man.  The homily requires that the man nourish concord.  The third and final level of concord centers on the devil’s opposition and the need of prayer.  The devil is discord.  This analysis will center the play around the homily by examining levels of concord within Petruchio’s speech to Kate coupled with the homily’s definition and assertion of concord.

Figure 69: Essay Excerpt on Petruchio, “Homily on the State of Matrimony,” William Shakespeare


1) How can a theme “run rampant”? Is it your purpose to personify this theme?

2) How does the Homily define “concord”? Where is the in-text evidence of the Homily’s suggestion?

3) Does the Homily suggest that man and woman both live in perpetual friendship and avoid all levels of lust and fornication?

4) Does the Homily present a clear picture of the “will of God”? Or does the analysis represent a contemporary assessment of a 17th century context?

5) What are the actual levels that the Homily presents?

 Revision Considerations

Revise those sentences where you apply personification.

Here’s a general rule: Don’t do anything within your analysis that the literary text doesn’t do. For example, if the author uses personification as part of his right in terms of poetic license, then you also have permission to do the same within your analysis. In this instance, your analysis parallels the structure and context of the author’s work. However, if the author calls one character one thing, and you call the same character something else, then your analysis is not a full and complete reflection of the author’s work.

A theme can’t “run rampant.” In the same vein, if the author doesn’t present marriage as embodying levels, then you also can’t do the same within your analysis. “God expects man and woman to live in a ‘perpetual friendship’ avoiding all levels of lust and fornication . . .” is a modern-day construct. This concept is biblical and is applicable both to ancient and contemporary thinking. However, the sentence itself reflects present-day ideals.

If this type of sentence was true for the context of the work, then provide both in-text evidence and critical perspective to validate your claims. Whatever source the main author (or the critical theorist) uses, refer to that resource. Locate the sentence within the source that best reflects the context of the work and thinking of that time period. Otherwise, your analysis will just appear wordy for the sake of fulfilling the page count your professor requires.

For extended explanations, see also the comments “Could Be Better Worded” and “Phony (Wordy).”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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