English
Close Reading Assignment
15% of Final Course Grade
Basics:
• 500-word minimum. Include your word count at the bottom of your paper.
• MLA Style: Typed, double-spaced, 12-pt, Times New Roman font, 1” margins
• If you for some reason need to quote anything directly from the material, make sure to
put the quoted material in quotation marks (“ ”).
Close Reading Assignment Overview:
The foundation of any good literary analysis is close reading. When doing a close reading, we
examine the specific language of a small portion—a passage—of a story to determine how the
author’s language and use of other literary elements create meaning. We want to pick apart every
detail of the passage that we can. We want to, figuratively speaking, put the passage under a
microscope to better understand why an author made the choices they did when composing the
passage. Then, we use what we find significant about the passage as evidence to support a larger
point about the story as a whole.
When using a passage as evidence, you want to quote specific examples from it and then tell
your reader how it supports the larger point you are making. You must explain not simply what
the passage says but how it says it (think about the author’s use of literary elements for this
part). Then, you need to describe how your close reading of the small passage helps us better
understand the entire story.
For the purposes of this assignment, I have broken it up into steps. 100 total points possible:
1. What story is the passage from? Be sure to accurately use the story’s title and author. (5 pts
possible)
2. Which of the author’s words and/or phrases in the passage seem especially significant? Why?
Think about diction here. (35 pts possible)
3. What does this passage tell us about the characters in the story? For example, does something
happen in this passage that helps to make them dynamic? Or do they remain static characters?
(30 pts possible)
4. How does this passage fit into the larger story? How is it significant for our understanding of
the story as a whole? (30 pts possible)
Instructions:


Please write a 500-word (min.) close reading.
Of course, you’ll want to quote some examples from the passage as you make your
claims. Put quotations from the passage within quotations marks (“ ”). Please do not
include the passage in its entirety as part of your close reading. If you do, it will not count

toward your word count requirement. Quoted excerpts from the passage should be brief
and serve to reinforce your claims about the passage.
Do make sure to say what story the passage comes from and its author within your close
reading.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s, “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”
When the child began school it had been some time since the sun and rain had caused the
collapse of the chicken coop. The angel went dragging himself about here and there like a stray
dying man. They would drive him out of the bedroom with a broom and a moment later find him
in the kitchen. He seemed to be in so many places at the same time that they grew to think that
he’d been duplicated, that he was reproducing himself all through the house, and the exasperated
and unhinged Elisenda shouted that it was awful living in that hell full of angels.

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