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Close Read #1 -- McCarthy Passage

Samples, advice, etc.

Chuck McHenry

on 10 October 2014

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Transcript of Close Read #1 -- McCarthy Passage

The passage:
He fell asleep with his hands palm up before him like some dozing penitent. When he woke it was still dark. The fire had died to a few low flames seething over the coals. He took off his hat and fanned the fire with it and coaxed it back and fed the wood he’d gathered. He looked for the horse but could not see it. The coyotes were still calling all along the stone ramparts of the Pilares and it was graying faintly in the east. He squatted over the wolf and touched her fur. He touched the cold and perfect teeth. The eye turned to the fire and gave back no light and he closed it with his thumb and sat by her and put his hand upon her bloodied forehead and closed his own eyes that he could see her running in the mountains, running in the starlight where the grass was wet and the sun’s coming as yet had not undone the rich matrix of creatures passed in the night before her. Deer and hare and dove and ground-vole all richly empaneled on the air for her delight, all nations of the possible world ordained by God of which she was one among and not separate from. Where she ran the cries of the coyotes clapped shut as if a door had closed upon them and all was fear and marvel. He took her stiff head out of the leaves and held it or he reached to hold what cannot be held, what already ran among the mountains at once terrible and of a great beauty, like flowers that feed on flesh. What blood and bone are made of but can themselves not make on any altar nor by any wound of war. What we may well believe has power to cut and shape and hollow out the dark forms of the world surely if wind can, if rain can. But which cannot be held never be held and is no flower but is swift and a huntress and the wind itself is in terror of it and the world cannot lose it.
Noteworthy annotations
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Looking Good!
Looking not so good
Vague Language

•In Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Crossing, the narrator describes his experience with the body of a dead wolf.

•When McCarthy describes the man’s moment with the wolf, he describes the experience to be spiritual, the man sharing the wolf’s thoughts. When the man touched his hands to the wolf’s still forehead, he sees, “her running in the mountains, running in the starlight where the grass is wet.” McCarthy’s ability to describe the life of the wolf is reflected in the man’s regretful mind, giving a strong spiritual feeling to the man….
The man then tried to move the heavy head in weight and heavy in death but symbolically couldn’t embrace the weight of her spirit “…he reached to hold what cannot be held…” as her body belonged to the mountains she had always traveled through. The simile “like flowers that feed on flesh” is compared to the wolf being the beautiful flower and the flesh other animals that the wolf must eat to survive.
Good mix of concrete detail and commentary
McCarthy reaffirms both the simple point that he believes wolves are incredible and that they play a vital part in the sensitive balance of the creation with the firm resolution that the "world cannot lose it."
GOOD: The straightforward intro
In this passage from Cormac McCarthy's The Crossing, the main character is alone in the wilderness with the body of a wolf.
In this excerpt from The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy, there is a dramatic encounter with a dead wolf.
BAD: The "Filler" intro:
Many things on the Earth are created in various different ways: tall, strong, fast, cumbersome, small, spiky, soft, etc.
Cormac McCarthy's piece The Crossing is full of strong words and an intense meaning behind them.
FILLER: Empty language that sounds grandiose and important, but has almost no meaning. Most often, filler sentences are the first sentence of an introductory paragraph -- where the eager writer feels he or she must start the paper off with a gigantic, mind-blowing idea. "In Today's society," "across the Earth/universe," and over-inflated language of this kind are primary symptoms of the "Filler."
Write in present tense
Double-space (MLA for all formal writing assignments)
Formal tone (don't be too conversational or "slangy")
When directly quoting from the passage, there is no need for a parenthetical citation (McCarthy)
Follow the basic guidelines for Analysis paragraphing (8-sentences) for your body paragraphs
Hey, Baby!
This passage in The Crossing is as extremely deep, thoughtful and richly worded piece, as are many of Cormac McCarthy's brilliant works.
The Ugly:
"The process of readin' and writin' analysis:
When I first looked over this excerpt I thought that McCarthy was writing about some Indian who was stupid enough to not tie up his horse and was mostly in contact with a spirit world just about every Indian is fascinated with in stories or movies.
When I read this close reading I felt bad for the writer and the wolf. I really liked the language and description in this reading. It had a lot of vocabulary words that I didn't understand, but since I looked them up I do now.
I read McCarthy's passage the first time, and I could barely comprehend. I read it a second time, and I still grasped at straws. I read this and I didn't understand until my mind mulled it over, po[u]ring over each word, each connotation, how they arranged together.
Most of us get to experience being alive, but in the end, we all die.

You will be in the computer lab tomorrow.
Your revision assignment is on the piano!

When using a writer's name, use both first and last in the first reference, then last name afterward. It's "McCarthy" not "Cormac" -- you're not dating the guy!
Full transcript