Squaring the Author’s Text Within Your Analysis

The first part of The FAVORS Step-by-Step Squaring Process involves squaring the author’s text within your analysis. Consider the following steps as you revise your own analysis.

Step #1: Analyze. Analyze the text. Study it. Determine two things.

  • Determine if the content within the whole paragraph maintains the topic.
  • Determine if the body paragraph sentences support the topic sentence.
  • Locate the topic sentence. (King’s topic sentence states, “Now, what is the difference between the two?”)
  • Locate the supporting evidence. (King defines what a “just law” is and what an “unjust law” is.)

Step #2: Annotate.  Annotate the text by underlining and numbering. For example, do the following:

  • Apply a number one to all those sentences that King defines as a just law.
  • Apply a number two to all those sentences that King defines as an unjust law.

Step #3: Table. Arrange the information in table or graph form. Type or write all of the sentences that define “just law” and all the sentences that define “unjust law” into a table or on a piece of paper. Tables 18 and 19 represent examples.

Step #4: Perform a Gap Analysis. Study the gaps in the author’s evaluation. Remember that after King’s definition of the terms, he evaluates the relationship of the defined terms to the examples of segregation. Therefore, study the inconsistency within his evaluation.

  • Study the structure of the excerpt. Identify the breaks (the gaps).
  • Identify the missing parts. What are they?
  • Study the common denominator between each side.

Step #5: Square. Within your analysis, square the author’s argument by filling in the gaps. For example, in the case of King’s discussion of just law and unjust law, inform the reader that the author, in this case King, does not present a balanced discussion. In contrast to segregation statutes, King does not provide an example of “just laws” on the same ground. Examine the quote:

  • “All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality.”
  • Where is the counterpart? King doesn’t provide a counterpart that discusses just (law) statutes. As you square the discussion, you must become the counterpart. Otherwise, your discussion will appear to have gaps also. 

Squaring Sub-Steps

Become the counterpart. If the author doesn’t provide a counterpart, then you fill in this gap within your analysis. Inform the reader of the author’s inconsistency.

  • A simple statement such as this will suffice: Although the author provides a lengthy discussion of “unjust laws,” adding examples also, he does not provide the same level discussion of “just laws.”
  • Then evaluate the significance of this gap. Why is it important to you, as the reader, to have a balanced discussion?

Square the author’s square. Consider the following examples from King’s excerpt.

Table 17: Comparison of Just and Unjust Law References in King’s Letter

 Just Law  Unjust Law
Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.

These two columns represent a brief example of a balanced discussion. Therefore, since the author squares the ideas, you should also do the same. For the second column, the base of King’s discussion centers on “human personality,” which is the common denominator between both columns.

In one column, a just law “uplifts”; in the second column, an unjust law degrades. In your analysis, present both sides of the topic. In other words, do exactly what the author does. Square the author’s square.

It is easy to develop an analysis from this one row. You can clearly see that King offers definitions for both types of laws. The question that we have to ask is this: Does King balance his discussion from beginning to end? It is one thing to offer both sides of the topic, but it is quite another to endure the goal.

To determine if King presents a balanced view within his letter, we have placed all of his definitions for both “just laws” and “unjust laws” within two tables. Table 18 begins our discussion. Read the sentences. Refer to Figure 81 for a full view of King’s excerpt. King’s work falls under U.S. copyright law is it displayed here for educational purposes.

Table 18:  King’s Discussion of Just Law and Unjust Law in Table Form

 Just Law  Unjust Law
“A just law is a manmade code that squares with the moral law or the law of God.” “An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.”
“To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas:  An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.”
“Any law that uplifts human personality is just.” “Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.”
“All segregation statues are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality.”
“It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority.”
“Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I-it” relationship for an “I-thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things.”
“Hence segregation is not only politically, economically, and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful.”
“Paul Tillich” has said that sin is separation.Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness?”
“ . . . and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.” “Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; . . .”

As you can see there are gaps within King’s discussion. On the one hand, King provides a simple view of “just laws.” On the other hand, his view of “just laws” does not equally parallel his discussion of “unjust laws.”

Table 19 provides an extended view  of Table 18. Let’s continue evaluating King’s discussion.

Table 19:  King’s Discussion of Just Law and Unjust Law in Table Form (continued)

 Just Law
Unjust Law
“An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself.”
“This is difference made legal.”
“By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself.” “This is sameness made legal.”
“A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law.”
“Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state’s segregation laws was democratically elected?”
“Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered.”
“Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?”
“Sometimes a law is just on its face . . .” “ . . . and unjust in its application.”
“For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit.”
“Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade.” “But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.”

Table 19 mirrors Table 18. With this in mind, when the author doesn’t provide a balanced view of the topic, then developing an analysis becomes equally difficult. For example, it is difficult to present a balanced view of King’s work if he, in fact, doesn’t do what he is claiming.

Therefore, when confronted with this issue, use the author’s work as an opportunity to highlight the gaps that clearly exist within the text. Present what he presents. In other words, if King minimally discusses “just laws,” then highlight this fact within your analysis. As one method, you could count the number of sentences and examples he uses to prove his case for both types of laws.

In addition, as another method, you could bring in historical evidence. For example, within the context of the letter there was social injustice toward a particular minority group and “unjust laws” that perpetuated the cause of racial intolerance. To fill in some of the gaps within each table, locate the statutes and public policy for both types of laws. Use the information as additional evidence to maintain the integrity of King’s work. This will allow you to balance King’s views within your analysis.

Now that you have learned how to square the author’s text within your analysis, you must learn also how to square your own analysis, which is the second part of The FAVORS Step-by-Step Squaring Process. We return to the student’s essay on “Chrysanthemums” to evaluate phrasing. Our objective is to determine if the student presents a balanced view based upon the types of wording she uses within her analysis. Follow the link below to access the discussion.

Click here for “Squaring Your Analysis.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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