Here is the second part of How to Do A Close Reading of a Prose Passage.
8. Find and highlight any vivid imagery or description in the passage. Not all prose passages will contain vivid imagery, but most will have at least some. Anything that creates an image in your mind counts as a description. What emotions or ideas are created by the imagery? Don’t worry if they seem random or unrelated. Just take notes on all of it, and keep coming back to that theme statement.
9. Next look for repetition. What words or phrases are repeated in the passage? What is the effect of that repetition on the reader? How does it make you feel or what does it make you think about? Take notes again and think about that theme statement.
10. Now check out the punctuation and sentence structure or syntax. Are there any interesting uses? Run-ons and fragments aren’t mistakes in well-written literature; they are used for effect. Are the sentences long or short? Are there colons or semicolons? Are there any places where the normal word order is altered or shifts? Take note of whatever you notice, and again, think about the effect on the reader; if you feel confused or uncomfortable or
excited when you read the passage, just keep taking notes.
11. Look for places where the text seems to break down. What did you expect but didn’t find? What has the author left out? What is not said or stated or explained? Where can you find paradoxes or places that contradict each other? What is still confusing or awkward or uncomfortable? Where does the narrator or the author seem conflicted or caught up or contradict themselves? Don’t assume that the author has made a mistake or that your impressions are incorrect; chances are that you are reacting the way that the passage was intended to make you react. Keep taking notes.
12. Think about how the passage relates to the bigger themes of the text (if you have read the whole piece). How does this small piece make the same points as the rest of the text? How does it contradict those main ideas? How does it relate to other key scenes or parts? What other scenes or sentences or passages come to mind when you read this passage? What role does this piece play in developing the themes of the text as a whole?
13. Revise your theme statement on the passage, incorporating everything that you have discovered about it by following all of the steps here. What point does the author want you to learn as a result of reading this passage? What big question does your theme statement answer? What do you now understand about the author’s ideas on life or human nature?
14. Go back and highlight the elements of the passage that are most important to your revised theme statement.
15. Spend a few minutes writing about what you’ve found in a quick reaction. This shouldn’t be a real essay, just a chance to get down your ideas while they’re still fresh in your mind.