Sample Close Reading

Here is a sample close reading written by a 12-1 student several years ago. This is the final version, after rewrites. My comments follow the paper.


The introduction starts with a quote. This does NOT mean your close reading should start with a quote, necessarily! (Almost every research paper started with an anecdote because the sample I posted started with one. I sort of got sick of anecdotes!) I don’t like the “you” in the question–I’m not sure how I let that slide. Notice the logical progression of ideas to the thesis. The thesis does not name literary techniques, but Part B and Part C of the thesis are still there in the last two sentences of the intro. The intro also doesn’t include a brief context for the scene, as yours should. This is because the Comp. 12-1 assignment required students to include a summary of the scene in the first body paragraph, which is what this paper does.

The close reading starts with the second body paragraph at the top of page 2. Notice the clear transition into the close reading and the key words: “blame towards God” (Part B) and “word choice.” Notice the many examples in the paragraph–of words Hamlet uses to refer to himself, of words he uses to refer to God, and of abstract nouns. Notice also how the writer ANALYZES how all of these words reflect Hamlet’s “blame towards God.”

The paper continues with the same clear organization (using key words), thorough development (most paragrahs have three specific examples–quotations–for support), and focused analsysis. The paragraphs also nicely build on each other, moving from diction to figurative language to overall images to overall tone. Finally, the paper culminates with an explanation of how this passage fits into the play’s overall motifs. In this final body paragraph, the writer uses specific examples from other parts of the play in order to support this point.

While this paper is not perfect (the “you” in the introduction; a little wordy in places), it is a very strong example of a well-thoughtout and clearly argued close reading.


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