I generally did a good job of finding specific evidence for my text-based claimed, framing the argument(s) in Le Guin’s words. Just from a structural level, the first paragraph shows this: my claim is physically framed between two relevant quotes from the text, the first my starting point, the second evidence to support my claim based on that starting point. Throughout the close reading, I continue to use relevant details from the text, rarely making claims without including supporting evidence.

The main problem is that the piece is unfocused. The first point I make—that Le Guin uses asides from the narrator to show how we disregard happiness in favor of pain—would be a perfectly fine thesis, if it went a bit deeper. It’s already well grounded in textual evidence, as indicated above, but needs to add a bit more in terms of interpretation. However, instead of interpreting it, I come up with an entirely new (slightly related) thesis in the next paragraph: that Le Guin uses the child to reveal the “hopelessness and triviality [of] the citizens who remain in Omelas.” While similar, the two claims are not quite the same thing; either would be strengthened by increased focus, and both are weakened by the lack of center revealed so early.

I do get back around to Thesis A, adding the “why-should-I-care” bit: “by ‘glorifying’ [the child’s] pain in the novel…Le Guin shows us how we…also trivialize ourselves by glorifying pain.” That is, the pain in the short story being used as entertainment for us—and that’s an example of the sort of transitional sentence I needed to make clear the connections between both my theses and the why-should-I-care section at the end.

Although I did a better job of constructing Thesis B, it runs into much the same problem. The “vague happiness” is contrasted with glorified pain, but what I meant to say was that we become happy upon experiencing others pain, in this case the removed pain of a work of fiction. It’s utterly unclear, and once again an example of a missing necessary transitional sentence that would have allowed readers to follow my train of thought. I also make some accusational claims—“we become trivial ourselves, another faceless cog in the capitalist machine.” I seem to be arguing for something, but I offer no solutions, instead ending on a vague Atlas metaphor. In a piece of this kind, a ‘peace-offering’ type solutions paragraph would go a long way.

Overall, though, I did a decent job exploring Le Guin’s story. The first purpose of a close reading is to cause the writer, i.e. me, to think in a new way, thereby allowing them (me) to offer readers a new thought pattern as well. If readers weren’t turned off by the “faceless cog” jibe, they could potentially think of some more moderate ways we glorify pain, simple changes we could all make, and thus create new solutions based on new ideas, formed collectively—that, ultimately, is the goal of close reading. A clichéd tree metaphor seems appropriate here: beginning with the writer and the story, readers draw their own ideas from words, transforming the knowledge put down by the writer, and in turn transferring their (now written) words to new audiences/readers, who continue the cycle, in a never-ending, growing, living organism of ideas. And of course the writer drew upon the roots of millions of other ideas in the first place, and lives in the dirt comprised, in part, of dead trees.