F. Sentence Structure
G. Shift in Tone
Point of View
Point of View (POV) is an integral part of literary analysis. In both prose and poetry, some individual tells the story, and it is this person who provides the reader with one perspective about the events. The author determines whose words are being read, where the narrator stands in relation to the events, and whether the events are viewed from a fixed or mobile position. Students sometimes have difficulty understanding that the choice is deliberate, that a different POV would change the story significantly, and that the author chooses the POV for its precise effect on the meaning of the story.
A. Participant Point of View
The participant point of view is also called first-person point of view because the first person pronouns (I, me, my, we, us, our) are used to tell the story. The participant POV can be further divided into two types:
+ The narrator as a major character in the story (the story is told by the narrator and is chiefly about him).
+ The narrator as a minor character in the story (the narrator tells a story the focuses on someone other than herself, but she is still a character in the story).
There are also three different types of narration within the major or minor character narration:
Innocent-eye narrator -- The character telling the story may be a child or a developmentally disabled individual; the narrator is thus naive. The contrast between what the innocent-eye narrator perceives and what the reader understands may produce an ironic effect.
Stream of consciousness (interior monologue) -- This is a narration in which the author tells the story through an unbroken flow of thought and awareness. The technique attempts to capture exactly what is going on in the mind of a character.
Time change -- This involves telling the story while traveling through different times in a character’s life. (e.g.; Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, or Marguerite in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings)
Purpose of Participant POV:
The first-person POV offers immediacy. The reader sees what is perceived by the individual “I”. The first person narrator can approach other fictional characters as closely as one human being can approach another. The first-person narrator can be an eyewitness, observing what other characters say and do. The first-person narrator can summarize events and retreat from a scene to meditate on its significance.
The first-person POV also allows the reader to be discerning; the reader must determine whether the narrator is trustworthy. The first-person narrator understands other characters only by observing what they say and do. This narrator cannot enter the minds of the other characters and is unable to grasp their inner thoughts. The first-person narrator outlines what a character observes and feels and thus the narrator’s
conclusions may be inaccurate. The reader may also question the validity and accuracy of the narrator’s opinions. The first-person POV may contribute to the dramatic irony; there is a discrepancy between what the narrator knows and what the reader understands.
B. Nonparticipant Point of View
The nonparticipant POV is also called the third-person point of view because third-person pronouns (he, him, she, her, they, them) are used to tell the story. The nonparticipant POV can be subdivided into three groups:
Omniscient narrator -- The author can enter the minds of all the characters.
Selective (limited) omniscient narrator -- The author limits his omniscience to the minds of a few of the characters or to the mind of a single character.
Objective narrator -- The author does not enter a single mind, but instead records what can be seen and heard. This type of narration is like a camera or a fly on the wall.
Purpose of Nonparticipant POV:
A. Omniscient POV -- The omniscient POV allows great freedom in that the narrator knows all there is to know about the characters, externally and internally. The third-person narrator describes what characters are feeling and thinking. The third-person narrator also describes what the characters do. The narration may shift focus from the close view to the larger perspective. The narrator may also comment on events and characters, thus explaining their significance to the reader.
B. Limited Omniscient POV -- The author knows everything about a particular character. The story is portrayed through the eyes of one character, and there is a sense of distance from the other characters. The limited omniscient POV approximates conditions of life in that only one character’s thoughts are known. The story is more unified through the use of this point of view.
C. Objective POV -- The objective POV allows inferences to be made by readers through their observance of the dialogue and external action. Readers are not directly influenced by the author’s statements. Readers’ perceptions are influenced only by what the characters do.
Poetry is an excellent vehicle for the exploration of human experience. Realizing the importance of poetry lies in understanding meaning and how technique enhances meaning. Poetic devices such as metaphor, simile, personification, alliteration, onomatopoeia, and rhyme are mechanisms that create poetic experience in the reader.
However, identifying poetic devices is secondary to gaining an understand of how the devices operate in conveying the effect and meaning of the poem.
Key words to keep in mind while interpreting poetry are:
+ Title -- Ponder the title before reading the poem than once again at the end on an interpretive level. Although titles are often a key to possible meanings of a poem, students frequently do not contemplate them either before or after reading poetry. As a first step in the analysis of a new poem, make predictions to what the poem may be about.
+ Paraphrase -- Translate the poem into your own words. Another aspect of a poem often neglected by students is literal meaning -- the “plot” of the poem. Frequently, real understanding of a poem must evolve from comprehension of “what’s going on in the poem.” Poems may have ambiguous paraphrases that open the possibility of multiple meanings to the lines.
+ Connotation -- Contemplate the poem for meaning beyond the literal. Although this term usually refers solely to the emotional overtones of word choice, here it indicates that students should examine any and all poetic devices, focusing on how such devices contribute to the meaning, the effect, or both of a poem. Students may consider imagery, symbolism, diction, point of view, and sound devices (alliteration, onomatopoeia, rhythm, and rhyme).
+ Attitude -- Observe the speaker’s and the poet’s attitude (tone). Having examined the oem’s devices and clues closely, students are now ready to explore the multiple altitudes that may be present in this poem. Examination of diction, images, and details suggests the speaker’s attitude and contributes to understanding.
+ Shifts -- Note the shifts in speakers and in attitudes. Rarely does a poet begin and end the poetic experience in the same place. As is true of most of us, the poet’s understanding of an experience is a gradual realization, and the poem is a reflection that epiphany. Consequently, the students’ discovery of the movement is critical to their understanding of the poem. The discovery of shift can be facilitated if one
pays close attention to key words, punctuation, stanza divisions, changes in line or stanza length or both, irony, effect of structure on meaning, changes in sound that may indicate changes in meaning, and changes in diction.
+ Theme -- Determine what the poet is saying. In identifying theme, the student will recognize the human experience, motivation, or condition suggested by the poem. One way for students to arrive at this is, first, to summarize the “plot” of the poem in a paragraph or orally; next, to list the subject or subjects of the poem
(moving from literal subjects to abstract concepts such as death, war, discovery); then, to determine what the poet is saying about each subject and write a complete sentence.
Tone is defined as the writer’s or speaker’s attitude toward the subject and the audience. But understand tone in prose and poetry is an entirely different matter. The reader doesn't have voice inflection to obscure or to carry meaning. Thus, a student’s 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, we provide a short list of helpful "tone words".
It is encouraged to use dictionaries for the definitions of the tone words listed above. Students need explicit dictionary meanings to establish subtle differences between tone words such as emotional, sentimental, and lugubrious, so that they can accurately comment on a work that appeals to the emotions, emphasizes emotion over reason, or becomes emotional to the point of being laughable.
Using the acronym DIDLS helps students remember the basic elements of tone that they should consider when evaluating prose or poetry. Diction, images, details, language, and sentence structure all help to create the authors or speakers attitude toward the subject and audience.
+ Diction -- Sensitize students to word choices in their own writing and to those of others. Using a thesaurus, select an interesting words with a neutral denotation. Then list each synonym and discuss the attitude implied by the varying words.
To laugh: guffaw, chuckle, titter, giggle, cackle, snicker, roar
Students should learn to recognize and use precise, effective words instead of vague or neutral words.
+ Images -- The use of vivid descriptions or figures or speech that appeal to sensory experiences helps to create the author's tone. Evaluate the author's or speakers tone conveyed in the images of the following lines of poetry: