I've been talking with several of you in office hours about how to develop your analysis in these papers. So I thought I'd try to post a couple of examples from drafts of good ways to do that. Here's a sample from a piece on "In My Mother's Kitchen" that I think does a good job of it. This writer pulls details together from several different points in the narrative to make a larger point about what Eng learns through this experience. She's not just summarizing, but actively making connections between different parts of the text:
Food has yet another purpose within Engâ€™s article: it serves as an occasion when there is none other to be found. When she was younger, breakfast was an entire meal, set out in order to prepare everyone for another day at work or school. Engâ€™s mother always said, â€œYou could never concentrate in classâ€¦if your stomach wasnâ€™t fullâ€? (316). Dinner was a reason for the family to collect at the end of the day and talk, in order to bond and keep the familial connection strong. As the kids got older and made friends, they hung out in the cafeteria or dining hall of their schools, chatting with friends and socializing, eating their lunches while sharing stories and laughter and making memories. Even before everyone is out of school, Engâ€™s mother brings them all together for sporadic dinners, reuniting everyone at the same table they grew up at. There was almost never an occasion; Engâ€™s mother â€œneeded no special occasionâ€? (317) in order to gather everyone at her table. By the end of the article Eng has realized that food can be its own occasion, and she sets about honoring that fact by trying to learn how to cook like her mother, which turns out to be an occasion in and of itself. There again is the clash of modernization v. tradition, and there is where the idea of a mixture of Chinese and American is born.
When dealing with argumentative pieces, the focus might be more on how convincing the piece is. This next writer is talking about Singer and Mason's article about the meat industry. After summarizing the mistreatments chickens face during the production process, she writes the following:
Obviously these arguments appeal to people interested in preserving animal rights. But what about those who arenâ€™t? It doesnâ€™t take a genius to realize chickens feel pain or that they have enough intelligence to recognize other chickens (Singer 22). In fact, most people understand and accept that brutal, horrible things happen to animals in order to feed them even if they donâ€™t know the gritty details. After all, how pleasant could a slaughterhouse be? Yet people still buy meat products in excess. Therefore, I do not think Peter Singerâ€™s description of the treatment of chickens alone will ultimately fulfill his goal of boycotting the company. However, the inclusion of another problem posed by the meat industry may better convince readers.
Notice here that she's not just summarizing Singer and Mason's point, but thinking about how effective these arguments are or the assumptions that are behind their argument. Certainly, you can also talk about how effectively Eng or White talk about their families, but this kind of thinking is perhaps better suited to these argumentative pieces.
In any case, I hope this helps you all get a better sense of the kind of thinking I'm looking for in these papers. The ability to critically analyze pieces in this way is immensely valuable in college writing. You don't just have to understand pieces, you have to be able to contextualize them and critically reflect on the points they make.