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( To do a close reading, you choose a specific passage and analyze it in fine detail, as if with a magnifying glass. You then comment on points of style and on your reactions as a reader. Close reading is important because it is the building block for larger analysis. Your thoughts evolve not from someone else’s truth about the reading, but from your own observations. The more closely you can observe, the more original and exact your ideas will be. To begin your close reading, ask yourself several specific questions about the passage. The following questions are not a formula, but a starting point for your own thoughts. When you arrive at some answers, you are ready to organize and write. You should organize your close reading like any other kind of essay. answer these questions :
1) Does an image here remind you of an image elsewhere in the book? Where? What’s the connection?
2) How might this image fit into the pattern of the book as a whole?
3) Could this passage symbolize the entire work? Could this passage serve as a microcosm–a little picture–of what’s taking place in the whole work?
4) Are there metaphors (words that represent something else without using like or as)? What kinds?
5) Is there one controlling metaphor? If not, how many different metaphors are there, and in what order do they occur? How might that be significant?
6) How might objects represent something else?
7) Do any of the objects, colors, animals, or plants appearing in the passage have traditional connotations or meaning? What about religious or biblical significance?
8) If there are multiple symbols in the work, could we read the entire passage as having allegorical meaning (deeper moral or spiritual meaning) beyond the literal level?
* What to do ?
Does an image here remind you of an image elsewhere in the book? Where? What’s the connection?
Yes, the image of the ‘rat gnawing in the belly,’ in the Old Bapu reminds me of ‘Parrot in the cage’ (MulkRaj, 2017). Like the rat in the cage which represents hunger that disturbs Bapu’s comfort, the Parrot in the cage regularly disturbs the Cobbler’s peace by calling the old woman every now and then.
How might this image fit into the pattern of the book as a whole?
The image fits into the pattern of the whole book because, just like a rat gnaws in the belly, poor people struggle to make ends meet in a country where they do not own land and fail to secure good jobs (Marlene, 2016).
Could this passage symbolize the entire work? Could this passage serve as a microcosm–a little picture–of what’s taking place in the whole work?
Yes. The striking similarity between Bapu’s struggles and those of the old cobbler woman in the ‘Parrot in the cage’ implies that the entire story revolves around ‘Old Bapu.’
Are there metaphors (words that represent something else without using like or as)? What kinds?
Yes. There are two kinds of metaphors; a conceptual metaphor and a visual metaphor.
The gnawing rat represents the conceptual metaphor while the visual metaphor is depicted by the two-legged donkey.
Is there one controlling metaphor? If not, how many different metaphors are there, and in what order do they occur? How might that be significant?
No. there are two different kinds of metaphors including a conceptual metaphor and a visual metaphor in that order. The conceptual metaphor which is depicted by the gnawing rat precedes the visual metaphor which is that of a ‘two-legged donkey’ (MulkRaj, 2017). The conceptual metaphor steers the ‘Old Bapu’ to step out and start hunting for a job in the pretext that he is a ‘youth’ capable of handling difficult work. When the contractor tells him that he is a ‘two-legged donkey,’ he comes to a realization that he is no longer capable of doing difficult work.
How might objects represent something else?
Objects may represent something else, especially when referring to a person to create the same illusion that one intends to communicate but in a polite manner (Marlene, 2016). Alternatively, one may use objects to avoid creating an impression that they are insulting the recipient of the imagery.
Do any of the objects, colors, animals, or plants appearing in the passage have traditional connotations or meaning? What about religious or biblical significance?
The contractor throws a piece of nickel to Old Bapu as a gift because the contractor thinks that Bapu is too old to do a full job for a full pay and a way of sympathizing with his situation (MulkRaj, 2017). Nickels were used as a means of payment in the Bible. During that time, a piece of nickel could buy a piece of land just like in the Old Bapu passage where Bapu intends to use his nickel to buy ‘four annas worth of corn.’ The illusion is drawn between sympathy and the story of the good Samaritan in the Bible, and the Nickel illustrates the old tradition (Marlene, 2016).
If there are multiple symbols in the work, could we read the entire passage as having allegorical meaning (deeper moral or spiritual meaning) beyond the literal level?
Yes. Apart from the superficial meaning or impression that the author brings to the reader or audience (MulkRaj, 2017), there is the likelihood that the author is communicating a deeper spiritual and moral message whose meaning is relative to every audience.
MulkRaj Anand. (2017).The Cobbler and the Machine, The Old Bapu. New Delhi; Sahitya Academy. Pp.69-74.
Marlene Fisher. (2016). The Shape of Lustiness: MulkRaj Anand’s Short Stories, (The Journal of Indian Writing in English, Editor: G.S.Balanuna Gupta, Vo1.2. January Gulbarga, Karnataka, l974, No. I), pp. 1-2.
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