The task of tracking all occurrences of a word throughout an entire novel seemed incredibly daunting at the beginning of the assignment primarily because my previous experience with close reading of a single word usually occurred within a shorter poem, or excerpt of prose. The form of close reading practiced within these smaller fragments of text allowed for the close reading to draw very specific conclusions about the word use because there were only small bits of evidence to work from. In poetry or short stories, a single word carries much more weight in the text than a novel because there are simply less words or phrases to convey as much meaning. A single word in a sonnet potentially does as much work in communicating the message of the poem as an entire chapter would do in a novel.
In this exercise of tracking a word throughout a few hundred pages and analyzing the specific ways that it contributes to the overall novel, close reading became more of reading a single word more closely and considering its relation to the thousands of other words within the novel. The biggest problem for me in starting this assignment was choosing that word; in a novel with so many, what criteria make one word more important than all the others? To me, my experience with close reading had meant identifying the ways that a word or phrase contributed to the theme or message of the text, so when applying this on a larger scale it meant looking at the themes I had identified and working backwards to decipher which word provided the most evidence and elaboration on the themes I had picked. Because I started this assignment after I read the book and the plot line already was clear to me, this close reading was different because it meant retracing my original thinking and figuring out which parts of the book led me to the conclusions I had made about it. Traditionally, analyzing a word through close reading is what allows a reader to understand the piece that they are reading, and not the other way around which was different.
The other difficulty in this assignment laid in the process of simply finding the words through the PDF finder function and then determining the meaning of the word in each of the twenty five contexts in which it occurred. Traditionally close reading involves only one use of the word in one context, but the changing forms of the word and its different uses led to more complex conclusions that had to apply not only to one situation where the word was presented, but to every single situation in the novel.
I thought this picture of a quote summarized very accurately the goal of close reading, and specifically was impressed with its inclusion of both traditional and the non-traditional form practiced in this assignment, both succeeding in the conclusions reached yet through different processes.