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Subtext

Lesson for my Writing Class
by

Erica Reinholz

on 6 July 2011

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Transcript of Subtext

Subtext Text is what we hear, see, or read. Subtext is what is going on behind the words on a deeper, hidden level. Subtext is very difficult for a writer to carry out successfully, but it is a very important concept to be aware of and grasp. Look for the
hidden meaning! When the Sun comes back
And the first quail calls
Follow the Drinking Gourd,
For the old man is a-waiting for to carry you to freedom
If you follow the Drinking Gourd

The riverbank makes a very good road.
The dead trees will show you the way.
Left foot, peg foot, travelling on,
Follow the Drinking Gourd.

The river ends between two hills
Follow the Drinking Gourd.
There’s another river on the other side
Follow the Drinking Gourd.

When the great big river meets the little river
Follow the Drinking Gourd.
For the old man is a-waiting for to carry to freedom
If you follow the Drinking Gourd. The first verse instructs slaves to leave in the winter—“When the sun comes back” refers to winter and spring when the altitude of the sun at noon is higher each day. Quail, a migratory bird, spends the winter in the South. The “drinking gourd” refers to the Big Dipper, “the old man” means Peg Leg Joe, and “the great big river” refers to the Ohio River. THE REAL MEANING? The second verse told slaves to follow the bank of the Tombigbee River north. They were to look for dead trees marked with the drawings of a left foot and a round mark, denoting a peg leg.

In the third verse, the hidden message instructed the slaves to continue north over the hills when they reached the Tombigbee’s headwaters. From there, they were to travel along another river—the Tennessee. There were several Underground Railroad routes that met up on the Tennessee. So what does this mean? The text of spirituals is just a song/story.
The subtext is really instructions to head towards the North Star. How this works in dialogue... “What counts in dialogue is not what is said but what is meant.”
~Sol Stein, How to Grow a Novel A conversation between a father (RAY) and young daughter (RACHEL):
RAY: Here we go, some nice peanut butter sandwiches.
Rachel looks at him spreading the sandwiches, obviously masking frustration.
RACHEL: I’m allergic to peanut butter.
Ray, surprised, continues to spread the butter.
RAY: Since when?
RACHEL: Birth. In 1982′s "Diner" (written and directed by Barry Levinson), the characters of Shervie and Beth are young newlyweds, just starting their life together. There’s a now-famous scene in which Shrevie discovers that Beth has mismanaged his beloved record collection. She listened to a few records, but then put them back on the shelf without concern for Shrevie’s meticulous organization system.






We know what the text is saying, but what is the SUBTEXT? He calls her into the room and questions her about it: “I found my James Brown record filed under the ‘J’s’ instead of the ‘Bs’! I don’t know who taught you to alphabetize! And to top it off, he’s filed in the Rock and Roll section, instead of the R&B section! How could you do that?” What might be the subtext? Now- it's your turn! Illustrate the word: IRRITATED Bell Ringer! So where else might we look for subtext? Character's Feelings or Actions! Another word for this is:
INFER
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