Regents Text-Analysis Response (Task 3)
The following is the Regents text-analysis response question as it appears on the NYS Regents Exam:
Closely read the text provided on pages 19 and 20 and write a well-developed
, text-based response of two to three paragraphs. In your response, identify a central idea in the text and analyze how the author’s use of one
writing strategy (literary element or literary technique or rhetorical device) develops this central idea. Use strong and thorough evidence from the text to support your analysis. Do not
simply summarize the text. You may use the margins to take notes as you read and scrap paper to plan your response. Write your response in the spaces provided on pages 7 through 9 of your essay booklet.
Be sure to:
• Identify a central idea in the text
• Analyze how the author’s use of one writing strategy (literary element or literary technique or rhetorical
device) develops this central idea. Examples include: characterization, conflict, denotation/connotation,
metaphor, simile, irony, language use, point-of-view, setting, structure, symbolism, theme, tone, etc.
• Use strong and thorough evidence from the text to support your analysis
• Organize your ideas in a cohesive and coherent manner
• Maintain a formal style of writing
• Follow the conventions of standard written English
NOTE: while the Regents asks for a 2-3 paragraph response, we are instructing you to write a brief essay of at least four paragraphs. The following is an outline for writing the Regents text-analysis response:
Begin with a general statement about the central idea. (1-2 sentences)
Include a TAG with the writing strategy/literary element that you will be discussing
End with a thesis statement that explains how the writing strategy/literary element develops the central idea.
Body Paragraphs (one for each example or set of examples)
For each body paragraph:
Begin with a topic sentence about how the writing strategy/literary element is used.
Explain using quotes
Connect to the central idea.
Write 1-2 specific sentences about the text.
Write one general statement applying the text to life.
Gertrude Talks Back
In this reimagining of Hamlet’s confrontation with his mother, Margaret Atwood flips the script on Shakespeare.
by Margaret Atwood
I always thought it was a mistake, calling you Hamlet. I mean, what kind of name is that for a young boy? It was your father's idea. Nothing would do but that you had to be called after him? Selfish. The other kids at school used to tease the life out of you. The nicknames! And those terrible jokes about pork.
I wanted to call you George.
I am not wringing my hands. I'm drying my nails.
Darling, please stop fidgeting with my mirror. That'll be the third one you've broken.
Yes, I've seen those pictures, thank you very much.
I know your father was handsomer than Claudius. High brow, aquiline nose and so on, looked great in uniform. But handsome isn't everything, especially in a man, and far be it from me to speak ill of the dead, but I think it’s about time I pointed out to you that your dad just wasn't a whole lot of fun. Noble. Sure, I grant you. But Claudius, well, he likes a drink now and then. He appreciates a decent meal. He enjoys a laugh, know what I mean? You don't always have to be tiptoeing around because of some holier-than-thou principle or something.
By the way, darling, I wish you wouldn't call your stepdad the bloat king. He does have a slight weight problem, and it hurts his feelings.
The rank sweat of what? My bed is certainly not enseamed, whatever that might be! A nasty sty, indeed! Not that it's any of your business, but I change those sheets twice a week, which is more than you do, judging from that student slum pigpen in Wittenberg. I'll certainly never visit you there again without prior warning! I see that laundry of yours when you bring it home, and not often enough either, by a long shot! Only when you run out of black socks.
And let me tell you, everyone sweats at a time like that, as you'd find out if you ever gave it a try. A real girlfriend would do you a heap of good. Not like that pasty-faced what's-her-name, all trussed up like a prizes turkey in those touch-me-not corsets of hers. If you ask me, there's something off about that girl. Borderline. Any little shock could push her right over the edge.
Go get yourself someone more down-to-earth. Have a nice roll in the hay. Then you can talk to me about nasty sties.
No darling, I am not mad at you. But I must say you're an awful prig sometimes. Just like your Dad. The Flesh, he'd say. You'd think it was dog dirt. You can excuse that in a young person, they are always so intolerant, but in someone his age it was getting, well, very hard to live with and that's the understatement of the year.
Some days I think it would have been better for both of us if you hadn't been an only child. But you realize who you have to thank for that. You have no idea what I used to put up with. And every time I felt like a little, you know, just to warm up my aging bones, it was like I'd suggested murder.
Oh! You think what? You think Claudius murdered your Dad? Well, no wonder you've been so rude to him at the dinner table!
If I'd known that, I could have put you straight in no time flat.
It wasn't Claudius, darling.
It was me.
SAMPLE TASK 3 MINI ESSAY RESPONSE:
Classic literature offers authors a ripe opportunity to reimagine iconic characters and provide a voice to characters that were not originally given one. By reinterpreting accepted traits of certain characters and by lending new traits to marginalized characters, authors can provide new insight to popularly held truths about the context of these classic works. Such is the case in “Gertrude Talks Back,” in which Margaret Atwood uses characterization to suggest that King Hamlet was not the ideal husband everyone thought he was and that Claudius is not the one-dimensional satyr Hamlet believes him to be.
First she acknowledges that “he was handsomer than Claudius,” citing his “high brow, aquiline nose and so on.” She suggests that she felt great lust for her husband who looked “great in uniform.” However, she tells her son that King Hamlet “just wasn’t a whole lot of fun,” especially in contract to Claudius who is characterized as a fun-loving, party-going guy. Claudius, she says, “well, he likes a drink now and then. He appreciates a decent meal. He enjoys a laugh, know what I mean?” While Claudius is portrayed as easygoing and fun, it may be inferred that King Hamlet was uptight and serious as she laments having to “[tiptoe] around because of some holier-than-thou principle or something.” Clearly, King Hamlet was noble and principled, but according to Gertrude, his seriousness made him less enjoyable to be with than Claudius.
In addition, King Hamlet is described as a prude who eschewed sexual relations, referring to physical affection as “The Flesh,” in disdainful terms. She faults King Hamlet for making Prince Hamlet an only child, simply because he did not enjoy sex. On top of that, Gertrude questions King Hamlet’s basic decision making as a parent. Because it was King Hamlet’s idea to name his son after a pork product, the Queen laments that “the other kids at school used to tease the life out of you.” Indeed, the image of Hamlet as a well-rounded Renaissance man seems to abate as Atwood crafts his character as a “fidgeting” boy who “has run out of black socks” and will never be able to successfully realize satisfaction with his “pasty-faced” girlfriend. King Hamlet, in this essay, is reduced to both an inept husband and father. Given these characterizations, it is clear why Gertrude might look elsewhere for satisfaction.
In her version of Hamlet’s confrontation with his mother during the closet scene, Atwood’s imagined characterization of both King Hamlet and Claudius not only provides humor, but explains why Gertrude might have wished her first husband dead. Because authors can reinvent classical characters in myriad ways, perhaps, suggests that examining the texts further will help us to understand our world today.
PRACTICE TASK 3 EXERCISES:
Please examine each of the following short texts. As you read each one, consider what literary element you find helps to communicate the message of the piece most successfully. Remember to annotate each selection to your best ability.
TEXT 1: Excerpt from Shirley Jackson’s novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle
My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the deathcup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.
The last time I glanced at the library books on the kitchen shelf they were more than five months overdue, and I wondered whether I would have chosen differently if I had known that these were the last books, the ones which would stand forever on our kitchen shelf. We rarely moved things; the Blackwoods were never much of a family for restlessness and stirring. We dealt with the small surface transient objects, the books and the flowers and the spoons, but underneath we had always a solid foundation of stable possessions. We always put things back where they belonged. We dusted and swept under tables and chairs and beds and pictures and rugs and lamps, but we left them where they were; the tortoise-shell toilet set on our mother’s dressing table was never off place by so much as a fraction of an inch. Blackwoods had always lived in our house, and kept their things in order; as soon as a new Blackwood wife moved in, a place was found for her belongings, and so our house was built up with layers of Blackwood property weighting it, and keeping it steady against the world.
Examples: (cite lines and explain)
TEXT 2: “On Discovery” a short story by Maxine Hong Kingston
Once upon a time, a man, named Tang Ao, looking for the Gold Mountain, crossed an ocean, and came upon the Land of Women. The women immediately captured him not on guard against ladies. When they asked Tang Ao to come along, he followed; if he had had male companions, he would've winked over his shoulder.
"We have to prepare you to meet the queen," the women said. They locked him in a canopied apartment equipped with pots of makeup, mirrors, and a woman's clothes. "Let us help you off with your armour and boots,” said the women. They slipped his coat off his shoulders, pulled it down his arms, and shackled his wrists behind him. The women who kneeled to take off his shoes chained his ankles together.
A door opened, and he expected to meet his match, but it was only two old women with sewing boxes in their hands. "The less you struggle, the less it'll hurt," one said, squinting a bright eye as she threaded her needle. Two captors sat on him while another held his head He felt an old woman's dry fingers trace his ear; the long nail on her little finger scraped his neck. "What are you doing?" he asked. "Sewing your lips together," she joked, blackening needles in a candle flame. The ones who sat on him bounced with laughter. But the old women did not sew his lips together. They pulled his earlobes taut and jabbed a needle through each of them. They had to poke and probe before puncturing the layers of' skin correctly, the hole in the front of the lobe in line with the one in back, the layers of skin sliding about so. They worked the needle through - a last jerk for the needle’s wide eye ("needle’s nose" in Chinese). They strung his raw flesh with silk threads; he could feel the fibres.
The women who sat on him turned to direct their attention to his feet. They bent his toes so far backward that his arched foot cracked. The old ladies squeezed each foot and broke many tiny bones along the sides. They gathered his toes, toes over and under one another like a knot of ginger root. Tang Ao wept with pain. As they wound the bandages tight and tighter around his feet, the women sang footbinding songs to distract him: "Use aloe for binding feet and not for scholars.”
During the months of a season, they fed him on women's food: the tea was thick with white chrysanthemums and stirred the cool female winds inside his body; chicken wings made his hair shine; vinegar soup improved his womb. They drew the loops of thread through the scabs that grew daily over the holes in his earlobes. One day they inserted gold hoops. Every night they unbound his feet, but his veins had shrunk, and the blood pumping through them hurt so much, he begged to have his feet rewrapped tight. They forced him to wash his used bandages, which were embroidered with flowers and smelled of rot and cheese. He hung the bandages up to dry, streamers that drooped and draped wall to wall. He felt embarrassed; the wrappings were like underwear, and they were his.
One day his attendants changed his gold hoops to jade studs and strapped his feet to shoes that curved like bridges. They plucked out each hair on his face, powdered him white painted his eyebrows like a moth's wings, painted his cheeks and lips red. He served a meal at the queen's court. His hips swayed and his shoulders swiveled because of his shaped feet "She's pretty, don't you agree?" the diners said, smacking their lips at his dainty feet as he bent to put dishes before them.
In the Women's Land there are no taxes and no wars. Some scholars say that that country was discovered during the reign of Empress Wu (A.D. 694 - 705), and some say earlier 45 than that, A.D. 441, and it was in North America.
Literary Device: IRONY
Examples: (cite lines and explain)
TEXT 3: Excerpt from Wild by Cheryl Strayed
The trees were tall, but I was taller, standing above them on a steep mountain slope in northern California. Moments before, I'd removed my hiking boots and the left one had fallen into those trees, first catapulting into the air when my enormous backpack toppled onto it, then skittering across the gravelly trail and flying over the edge. It bounced off of a rocky outcropping several feet beneath me before disappearing into the forest canopy below, impossible to retrieve. I let out a stunned gasp, though I'd been in the wilderness thirty-eight days and by then I'd come to know that anything could happen and that everything would. But that doesn't mean I wasn't shocked when it did. My boot was gone. Actually gone. I clutched its mate to my chest like a baby, though of course it was futile. What is one boot without the other boot? It is nothing. It is useless, an orphan forevermore, and I could take no mercy on it. It was a big lug of a thing, of genuine heft, a brown leather Raichel boot with a red lace and silver metal fasts. I lifted it high and threw it with all my might and watched it fall into the lush trees and out of my life. I was alone. I was barefoot. I was twenty-six years old and an orphan too. An actual stray, a stranger had observed a couple of weeks before, when I'd told him my name and explained how very loose I was in the world. My father left my life when I was six. My mother died when I was twenty-two. In the wake of her death, my stepfather morphed from the person I considered my dad into a man I only occasionally recognized. My two siblings scattered in their grief, in spite of my efforts to hold us together, until I gave up and scattered as well. In the years before I pitched my boot over the edge of that mountain, I'd been pitching myself over the edge too. I'd ranged and roamed and railed — from Minnesota to New York to Oregon and all across the West — until at last I found myself, bootless, in the summer of 1995, not so much loose in the world as bound to it.
Examples: (cite lines and explain)
TEXT 4: Opening paragraph of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
Examples: (cite lines and explain)
TEXT 5: Opening paragraph of The Haunting of Hell House by Shirley Jackson
No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone…
Examples: (cite lines and explain)