Understanding a passage of prose: some examples
The first step — getting hold of a passage as a whole — is the vital one. If you can do this, then there is no limit to what you can build on this firm foundation. This chapter is about establishing this initial overall understanding of a passage of prose. The chapter consists of the openings of typical passages that might be set in an examination, followed by our observations on how to look for a significant tension in these extracts. The best way to approach this chapter is as a participation exercise: try to see for yourself what tension and what sense of a larger issue you can establish in each case from what are very small scraps of evidence. The passages, ranging from Jane Austen to the present day, are presented in more or less chronological order. Some are novel openings, some focus on characters, and some are passages of description. All of them, you should soon begin to realise, present tremendous opportunities for analysis and discussion.
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