Writing the Critical Lens Essay New York State English Regents Exam: Session II, Part B (Task 4)
Your Critical Lens: “If the literature we are reading doesn't wake us, why then do we read it? A literary work must be an ice-axe to break the sea frozen inside us.” - Franz Kafka (adapted)
Critical Lens—Your Guidelines • Provide a valid interpretation of the quote • Clearly establish criteria for analysis • Indicate whether you agree or disagree • Choose one work to support your opinion • AVOID PLOT SUMMARY • Use Direct and Indirect Characterization for analysis • Organize your ideas clearly • Specify the title, authors and details • Follow the conventions of English
Introduction • Introduce and state the quote • Interpret the quote fully and in your own words—what does this quote mean? • Show agreement or disagreement (no need to use the word I…avoid all personal pronouns) • State thesis or stance (you will use all support to prove this statement)
Introduction (actual) Franz Kafka once stated “If the literature we are reading doesn't wake us, why then do we read it? A literary work must be an ice-axe to break the sea frozen inside us.” Kafka’s quote suggests that what we read should lead to some insight or new ideas about the world around us. Kafka is right. The purpose of literature is to lead the reader to some new understanding of the world. One piece of literature that awakens the reader is the myth Athene by Bernard Evslin. In the story, Evslin uses direct and indirect characterization to a create a character so interesting that she breaks the frozen sea inside of us.
Body Paragraphs • Include a topic sentence to introduce the text and author • Transition and include your literary element (may be multiple sentences) • Connect back to the lens (may be multiple sentences) • Concluding sentence.
Body Paragraph Part 1 (actual) In Athene by Bernard Evslin, the reader is introduced to Athena, the Greek Goddess of intellectual activities. Evslin directly characterizes Athena as the inventor of science, the ax, ploughs, and weaving. The reader is told this information because Evslin wants us to see just how significant Athena is in Greek Mythology. This breaks the frozen sea inside of us because we start to see that the ancient Greeks came up with mythology in order to explain how things like wisdom and intelligence began. Just like modern humans, the Greeks were interested in figuring out the world around them
Body Paragraph Part 2 (actual) Later in the story Bernard Evslin uses indirect characterization to demonstrate how angry a Goddess can get when a human demonstrates hubris. After her confrontation and contest with Arachne, we see Athena turn Arachne into a spider. This is a type of warning to the reader that excessive pride can be dangerous. Using direct characterization, Evslin provides the reader with a lesson that also breaks the frozen sea inside of us.
Conclusion • Re-state an interpretation of the quote • Show agreement • Briefly review main points made • Tie main ideas back to the lens and your thesis
Conclusion (actual) The best literature breaks up the frozen sea inside of the reader. It causes the reader to think and ask questions. It interests the reader and can draw him into a different world. Evslin’s Athena is one of those pieces of literature that can wake the reader up and open his eyes to a new way of seeing the world. Athena causes the reader to wonder the same questions that Greeks wondered and to care about finding out answers to life’s questions.