New criticism essay
Grace Lear Ms. Joan Richmond English 2261 17 Feb. 2013 New Criticism: A Focused Summary New criticism is a type of literary theory that focuses on the close reading of literature and how the literature functions as the object it’s meant to be. No external influences are to be taken into consideration, strictly the writing itself. This movement emphasizes the text in literature and explains the writers meaning to the reader. The author’s intention, excluding historical and cultural context is taken into consideration for analysis.
When reading as a “New Critic” it’s important to separate emotion and the literal text used by the author, which can be hard to do. Close reading is something used by New Critics to bring out the straightforward and uncontroversial approach to understanding literature. Terms like paradox, ambiguity, irony, and tension help break down the story in different ways to understand the meaning new critics expect. These terms also show a conservative side to New Criticism taking away the controversial, external, social issues like race, gender and class.
New criticism is sometimes looked at as the scientific approach to reading literature compared to other theories. In order to analyze in a new critic way its important to take notice of the terms above and the literal meaning of the setting, plot and theme. The subject and the object of the story should be separated and stable in mind while readers analyze in this type of theory. The focus should be literal not emotional and bring out the social function and effect of the literature the writer makes.
The application of this theory, New Criticism can be shown through the story “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner. The title “A Rose for Emily” could symbolize death. This also could also symbolize her oppressed, sad life due to her father, possibly meaning she was dead before she actually died (437). “The man himself lay in the bed… what was left of him, rotted beneath what was left of the nightshirt, had become inextricable from the bed in which he lay” (Faulkner). This connects to the ongoing theme of an older generation struggling to keep its place in this modern era.
The tension between the past and the present or two generations is seen in the background of this story. Emily’s house was called a “stubborn and coquettish decay” compared to the gasoline pumps next to her house. The older generation of the town took care of Miss Emily in respects to her father (who donated money to the city). “A sort of hereditary obligation”, until the new generation mayors and aldermen expected taxes from her (Faulkner). There are some flashbacks to the past, which create images of death in her past specifically her father’s death.
Is it ironic she doesn’t want to believe he’s dead? “She told them that her father was not dead. She did that for three days with ministers calling on her and the doctors trying to persuade her”(Faulkner) This could possibly mean the past isn’t ready to let go of a new coming era, an ongoing theme shown throughout this story. The description of her home, old furniture, dusty rooms, and dark shadowy halls are sensory details. The smell of her home due to dead bodies is so bad towns people come by to drop lime through her basement windows.
These all give an eerie, dirty image and mood for the story. The question of why wouldn’t she put postal numbers on her house is her almost refusing new society that rejected her right back. Her characteristics steady show stubbornness, isolation and rejection. The main point of the story is to show the comparisons between the old days and the new and tensions between them are shown through Emily’s sad life. Another story that can be used to explain New Criticism would be “Hills like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway in the use of characters, symbolism and conflict.
In the story the only character that is referred to as the American is the male protagonist. He is distant from her on an emotional level and create what he thinks would be a resolution to a problem he clearly cares nothing about. The other character is a non-English speaking waitress who is deep in her own but is indecisive and afraid to say what she wants. These characters create tension throughout the story. The symbolism is started in the title “Hills like White Elephants” making readers question the comparison between the two.
The “White Elephant” is the burden and decision of the unborn baby. “They look like White Elephants” (Hemingway). The waitress is talking about the hills but later deciding they didn’t look like elephants, which could lead to her indecisiveness about what to do with the baby. The setting of the story is at a train station, which creates theme and symbol. The train tracks going in different directions are the crossroads of their relationship on their decision of what to do with the unborn baby. She comments on the hills being beautiful and the country being brown or dry