Sample Close reading notes in paragraph format

When you’re answering an essay question about literature, there are a few things you have to make sure you actually do. These tips will be in bold letters.

1. Dicey begins to think about her conflicts in life, because of Mr. Chappelle’s English essay assignment. What are conflicts according to Dicey’s thoughts?

According to Dicey (81-83), conflicts can take many shapes and form. Sometimes, it can be a conflict of behavior, or of interests: or of feelings. For example, on page 82, she thought about Will Hawkins, and how his behavior conflicted against each other: ‘…Will was so honest with his friends, yet tricked the people who came to see his shows.’ This shows how Will’s actions conflicted against one another: being so deceitful, and yet so honest. Continuing on, Dicey’s Cousin Eunice was the perfect example of a conflict of interests: she wanted people to think good about her so she’d taken the children in, even though she didn’t want to (83). Last but not least, Dicey’s mind is a clear demonstration of a conflict of feelings: she has so many choices for the essay, but she decided against Momma, before deciding to write about her (83)). In Dicey’s mind, a conflict is when things are against one another, and she doesn’t know why and how.

TIPS: Use examples to prove your topic. When you cite examples, you can quote them, or say them in your own words (paraphrase). Then, make sure you cite the examples using MLA citation style–with page numbers inside parentheses.

2. Mina is trying to make friends with Dicey and so is Jeff. How does Dicey’s poverty affect her friendships?

Dicey’s poverty causes her to value money a lot, thus always attempting to reduce costs, or find more money. For example, when Mina attempted to talk to her about the essay, Dicey couldn’t go to her house because she had to work in Millie’s store starting at 3.15 pm (17), making Mina say, “You sure are a hard person to be friends with, Dicey Tillerman” (84). The same applies to Jeff, he has another song for her, but she can’t stay. Dicey’s poverty causes her to view friendship as something less valuable than money; she views money as a necessity, and friendship as something trivial, and could be ignored.

TIP: You can mix different examples from different parts of the text. Here the examples are from early in the book (page 17) and later (page 84).

3. Why is Dicey upset about the apron incident?

Dicey is like Gram in the fact that although they both may not really care about how others think, they still don’t like being humiliated, shown up or embarrassed by other people. That was why Dicey fought the other kids at her old school (123). She didn’t like other kids humiliating her, teasing her about Momma. When humiliated, she feels angry and upset. That was what happened during the apron incident; Dicey felt humiliated as the whole class laughed at her. Dicey might also be upset because she feels like she’s letting Gram down by failing home ec.

TIP: Connect different examples with your topic.

4. Why is Gram angry about getting the check from Welfare? Quote three passages that tell you why.

Gram is angry about the welfare check because she doesn’t like charity: “Gram didn’t like taking charity…Gram said so” (96). Her mouth was tightly closed (96). That observation was Dicey’s thought, but Gram’s use of the word ought tells us a very important detail about how Gram might be feeling about taking charity through the welfare check. When Gram says,  “…I’ve never gotten money back on taxes before. It ought to be good,” the “ought” tells us that in reality, it doesn’t feel good to take the welfare money (96) and further reinforces the point that she is not happy about getting the welfare money. Ought means something which isn’t certain; it just means ‘should’; and Dicey finishes her thought for her: it doesn’t.

TIP: Look at and discuss author’s choices. In the example above, the author’s choice that is being discussed is word choice of the word “ought.”

5. Explain what Dicey understood about Gram’s love for the children, on page 102. Is this true?

Dicey realized that by loving the children, Gram’s life had changed. She was used to living alone and was not close to her own children. Yet, she took in the children and accepted them, shown by her writing their names in the family Bible (28). Dicey learned that when you love people, you start worrying about them. Gram loves the children very much: she was very worried when Maybeth came home late; she hugged Maybeth for a long time when Maybeth finally came home. When Gram accepted the children, when she loved them and took them under her care, she had to accept both the good parts and the bad parts of love; she worried herself sick when Maybeth came home late.

TIP: Discuss all the parts of the question in the answer.

Criterion addressed is Criterion A Content.

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