SIFT An explanation and application to John Steinbeck’s The Pearl
SIFT This is a technique to help you begin to practice literary analysis (something you will be doing a lot more in the future). A method that allows you to “sift” through the parts in order to comprehend the whole
What does SIFT stand for? S- Symbol I- Imagery F- Figurative Language T- Theme and Tone
Symbolism • Symbol= object, person, or event that stands for something bigger. • Examine the title and text for symbolism • Example from The Pearl by John Steinbeck: • Pearl oftentimes represents purity and innocence. For the main character, the pearl symbolizes potential wealth, education for his son, and betterment for his family.
Imagery • When writers use language to create sensory impressions and to evoke specific responses to characters, objects, events, or situations in their works • “Showing” rather than “telling” • Helps to produce tone and mood • Ask yourself: • What do I see, hear, taste, smell, or feel? • What effect is the author trying to convey with these images?
Imagery continued • Example from The Pearl: • “The stars still shone and the day had drawn only a pale wash of light in the lower sky to the east. The roosters had been crowing for some time, and the early pigs were already beginning their ceaseless turning of twigs and bits of wood to see whether anything to eat had been overlooked.”
Figurative Language • Reader picks quotations from the text that illustrates examples of figurative language • A list of the various figures of speech will be provided later in the presentation • Examples from The Pearl: • “…the great pearl, perfect as the moon…” • “The houses belched people.” • “A town is like a colonial animal.” • “The poison sacs of the town began to manufacture venom, and the town swelled and puffed with the pressure of it.”
Tone • Tone= author’s attitude toward a subject • Example from The Pearl: • With his detailed description of Kino’s family’s visit to the doctor, Steinbeck effectively portrays evil, social injustice, and the inhumanity of people’s treatment of one another. Steinbeck has a sympathetic tone toward the oppressed and his outrage against the oppressors.
Theme • To determine theme, you might: • List the subject or subjects that emerge, such as: evil, injustice, inhumanity, social protest, corruption, poverty, tradition, individuality, and survival (But just listing the subject isn’t enough!) • Write a sentence about each subject listed based on insights gained from analyzing symbolism, imagery, and figurative language. • Remember: theme is a message (phrase) not a one-word topic!
Theme continued • Examples from The Pearl: • Man has no individual indentity and cannot exist as a single human person apart from society. • The defeat of an individual is inevitable when society sets out to destroy him. • Justice is often withheld from economically deprived racial minorities.
Figures of Speech Alliteration- the practice of beginning several consecutive or neighboring words with the same sound: e.g., “The twisting trout twinkled below.” Allusion- a reference to a mythological, literary, or historical person, place or thing: e.g., “He met his Waterloo.” (in reference to Napoleon’s downfall) Antithesis- direct juxtaposition of structurally parallel words, phrases, or clauses for the purpose of contrast: e.g., “Sink or swim” “Not that I didn’t love Caesar, but I loved Rome more”
Figures of Speech Assonance- repetition of accented vowel sounds in a series of words: e.g., the words “cry” and “side” have the same vowel sound and so are said to be in assonance Consonance- repetition of a consonant sound within a series of words to produce a harmonious effect: e.g., “And how each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.” The “d” sound is in consonance.
Figures of Speech • Irony- three types: verbal, situational, dramatic • See short story notes for detailed explanation of each • Metaphor- comparison of two unlike things not using “like” or “as”: e.g., “Time is money.” • Mood- feeling of the literary work (different from tone) • Onomatopoeia- the use of words that mimic the sounds they describe: e.g., “hiss,” “buzz,” and “bang.”
Figures of Speech Oxymoron- combines a pair of opposite terms into a single unusual expression: e.g., “sweet sorrow” or “cold fire” Paradox- when elements of a statement contradict each other. Although it may seem the statement doesn’t make sense, it turns out to have a coherent meaning that reveals a hidden truth: e.g., “Much madness is divinest sense.” Personification- kind of metaphor that gives inanimate objects human characteristics: e.g., “The wind cried in the dark.”
Figures of Speech • Diction- word choice intended to portray a certain effect • Flashback- a scene that interrupts the action of a work to show a previous event • Foreshadowing- the use of hints or clues in a narrative to suggest future action • Hyperbole-deliberate, often outrageous, exaggeration: e.g. “The shot heard ‘round the world” • Oftentimes it is a numerical exaggeration
Figures of Speech • Pun- play on words that are identical or similar in sound but have sharply diverse meanings. • Example from Romeo and Juliet: when Mercutio is bleeding to death, he says to his friend, “Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.” • Repetition- deliberate use of any element of language more than once– sound, word, phrase, sentence, grammatical pattern, or rhythmical pattern • Sarcasm- is the use of verbal irony in which a person seems to be praising something but is actually insulting it: e.g., “As I fell down the stairs headfirst, I heard her say, ‘Look at that coordination.’”
Figures of Speech Simile- comparison of two different things or ideas through the use of the words “like” or “as” e.g., “The warrior fought like a lion.” Understatement- the opposite of hyperbole. Deliberately represents something as being much less than it really is: e.g., “I could probably manage to survive on a salary of two million dollars per year.”