Now let’s continue to address the common mistakes made by the students. After addressing the most common mistakes with the Charlotte’s Web excerpt here is what will begin to show up with Rodriguez and Wright.
1) Summary is NOT analysis:
Richard Wright uses personification to convey hunger. The boy in excerpt from Black Boy feels hunger all the time, personification used by the author shows the boy is hungry constantly; even while lying in bed, or playing, hunger was twisting his “empty guts.”
-Instead of beginning the analysis with “The boy,” which ultimately will lead you into a summary-begin with the author’s last name:
Wright’s use of personification gives hunger the power over the boy. The hunger was a stalking stranger that awoke him at night “at my bedside.” The technique of personification allowed wright to fully convey to his audience the power and unrelenting force that Hunger had over the young speaker-every movement, awake or asleep, hunger was there stalking the young speaker of the text. It is the human stalking element of hunger that readers are able to fully grasp its power and control over the boy.
2) Your analysis is too general:
Wright’s personification of hunger shows how hungry the boy is and makes the reader feel the hunger.
Tells me nothing.
3) You tell me the “what,” “but not the how”.
“The author uses personification to convey hunger. “
-That’s what the author is doing. There is way too much unsaid there. Remind the students that at the bottom of the analysis soring guide that all readers use at the AP Reading, it says “For the purposes of scoring, analysis refers to explaining how the author’s rhetorical choices develop meaning or achieve a particular effect or purpose.” So, if a student defines the “what” but not the “how” they’ve fallen short.
-Tell me more. Develop your analysis, the “how:”
“The author uses personification to convey the boy’s hunger, by describing hunger as “standing at my bedside.” Wright develops the full intensity of the boy’s hunger by using the strategy comparing hunger to a stranger constantly haunting the him. This strategy conveys the intensity specific to an audience unfamiliar with this type of intense hunger. A better understanding of the immense pain and obsessive control this type of hunger had on Wright as a child is achieved through the use of hunger as a stalking and threatening stranger following our every move.”
4 ) Some students still be simply sight-seeing….identifying strategies but not their effect. Here, especially with AP students, it’s important to remind them to be teachable…that’s who has the best chance of success. Do not continue to make the same mistakes. This seems obvious as teachers, but remember the traditional AP student has seen success relied mostly on their natural intelligence so they take on a bad habit of coasting. So, the AP student is confident and expects learning to come easily which it has their entire academic career. But analysis at this level demands their highest engagement and humility. They must be teachable.
-The most sophisticated analysis’ will mention audience. They will develop reasoning around why specific techniques work for the specific audience.
-If you don’t discuss contrasting hunger you missed the mark, meaning what Wright knew to be hunger compared to what it is like now (hint: who is his audience and why is that technique specifically successful in conveying meaning).
-Appeals to the audience? Don’t forget to mention appeals, but do it in an appropriate manner-appeals are not techniques. An author does not “use emotional appeals,” an author “uses personification of hunger to appeal to the audience’s emotion.”
By: Tyler Ham (AP English Language and Composition teacher, National Board Certified Teacher, national consultant, and exam Reader from Spokane, WA)