Monday, September 10, 2007

unseen prose analysis: common errors and good essays

Common errors:
1. inaccurate attribution of "stream of consciousness writing" to Angel Pavement
2. lack of close textual analysis to support statements made
3. misreading/mis-interpretation

good points (these are extracted from actual essays)

1. "Priestley describes the tea-shop as a 'citadel' 'towering above the older buildings.' This motif of giving protection and support to a newly emerging world order is continued when Turgis 'marches' into it, with a likely satisfaction ins perceiving that he has encountered luxury far greater than any human 'conqueror'. (close reading and elaboration of point)

2. "All in all, the passage, with its derisive scorn for this "Bablylonian' pleasure-seeking lifestyle, the pathetic protagonist and changing world is symptomatic of the modern age [...] this piece of literature is in fact reactionary to that which has lately arisen." (good summation of points, with most apt use of adjectives)

3. "The extract from J. B. Priestley's Angel Pavement, can easily be identified as a work of the modern period as the elements which characterise it as such do so clearly and pointedly. The extract, for instance, excites the reader with a sensory feast, especially with its imagery. However, the deception which lurks beneath such imagery creates doubt and disenchantment within the reader and the idea of such embellishments crumbling in on themselves in that they merely support a facade to conceal an uglier interior, form the true parameters of a piece of modern writing." (Good introduction)

4. "Priestley was clearly a disillusioned man, as seen in how he has characterised Turgis, as one still enchanted by the Revolution of prosperity. From "Perhaps he knew in his heart that men have conquered half the known world, looted whole kingdoms, and never arrived at such luxury. The place was built for him", we see that Turgis considers material pleasures to be man's ultimate gratification. It is clear that Priestley rejects such materialism associated with modernisation from his constant interjections of disconcertion throughout the extract. Examples are how he deflates hope for 'a new civilisation" with "a new barbarism" and how he immediately poisons "warm sensuous" with "vulgar", thereby never leaving a scene to seem completely picture perfect. This is proof, therefore, of Priestley's disillusionment as a writer, and more importantly, as a member of the decaying society and this is how disillusionment takes centrestage in modernist literature." (Good close reading)

5. "People's obsession with money and their carelessness with it, together with its consequences, are also brought out in this passage, as can be inferred from paragraph one. With the description of the "new age", "new civilisation", being made up of nothing but stacked up pennies, represents the modern person's obsession with money. Also, the world "balanced", the basis of which this new world is built on, has its vulnerability made clear." (Good close reading, with extrapolation into thematic concerns)

Speaking of descriptions, the imagery used in “Angel Pavement” is also an apt reflection of the Jazz Age in its extravagant descriptions that overwhelm the senses. Descriptions of a “golden tropical” atmosphere permeating the tea shop, and image of the place being a “white palace”, “[towering] above the older buildings like [even] the citadel” shows the sheer grandeur and opulence of the surroundings – something that is often alluded to that period. However, with the recounting of there being “ten thousand lights” and “acres of white napery”, there also appears to be a recurring image of excessiveness to the point of absurdity (very good). There is also a hint of a certain of superficiality and artificiality, which is seen mostly from how the only type of food available was the likes of “mounds of shimmering bonbons and multi-coloured Veinnese pastries”; which can hardly be considered as substantial food, thus rightfully relegating the tea shop as “some high midsummer confectionery”. Once again, facing these seemingly resplendent visions, Priestley hints that such indulgences and decadence could in fact be working against (very good) Man, and eventually explode back into their faces like a “sugary bomb”.

Like many other pieces of literary work at that time, “Angel Pavement” not only presents the grandeur and frivolity of the Jazz Age, it also warns the people of that time about the very culture that they had immersed themselves in by effectively portrays the cracks of society at that point of time. Hence, as can be seen from its thematic concerns and its stylistic nuances, “Angel Pavement” is truly characteristic of the modern period.

(Good close reading, with extrapolation into thematic concerns)

The café being described as a public place such as the “railway station” suggests that it is a mere place of the accidental gathering of strangers, despite the façade of the “warm sensuous” intimacy that “flower[ed]” the place. (very good close reading)

Turgis is not the only person in isolation. Priestley suggests that everyone else is having similar experiences to him. As Turgis observes the richness of his surroundings, he cannot help but feel that “the place was built for him” – that surely in this bustling café is the human communication he wants, waiting for him to find it. However the anticlimactic undercutting (good) of the next sentence, emphasized by the stark jump into another paragraph, shows that Turgis is not actually as special as he feels, as the place was “built for a great many other people, too”. The fact that all the other people also feel some singular personal connection with the café hints that these emotions are just imagination, wishful thinking (good) in each person’s head. All these individual consciousnesses with their separate ideas give an image of everyone in their own personal bubble, distanced from each other. It is ironic (very apt) that in a place that “steamed with humanity” it is impossible to properly relate to another human being. For example, the “young Jewish violinist” who is like “a magnet to a thousand girls” can only interact with them on a superficial level, the irony of a well-loved celebrity.
(clear topic sentence and very good close reading)