This excerpt is when Jane and Mr. Rochester are discussing why, exactly, she must leave him and her life at Thornfield. They are essentially debating the pros and cons of her staying or leaving.

I did what human beings do instinctively when they are driven to utter extremity- looked for aid from one higher than man: the words "God help me!" burst involuntarily from my lips. (page 309)

Explanation: This passage- sentence, really- captures one of the predominant themes of Jane Eyre: Jane's struggle to understand religion and it's ultimate effect on her life, and the world as a whole. Jane is faced with many religious hurdles: the forced bleak religion of Lowood, the calming faith of Helen Burns, and the steady belief of Miss Temple. She is exposed to many kinds of belief, but doesn't truly adopt any as her mantra: true, she does believe in God's forgiveness, but I believe that she doesn't fully subscribe to the doctrine of Christianity; she adds her own, independent Jane-isms. So, when she verbally calls to God for His assitance, I think Jane is looking for solace in the only place she has seen the world around her turn to when times got badly; a higher being. I think that in believing in God, Jane is hoping that there is some kind of plan laid out for her by Him; that she is not completely alone; that maybe things could turn for the best.

This excerpt is directly after Jane discovers that Mr. Rochester is already married to a lunatic; Jane has called off the wedding and is realizing her impending solitude.

Jane Eyre, who had been an ardent, expectant woman- almost a bride- was a cold, solitary girl again: her life was pale, her prospects were desolate...My hopes were all dead- struck with a subtle doom, such as, in one night, fell on all the first born children in Egypt. (page 300)

Explanation: The importance of the narrative here is that Ja ne momentarily switches to a third-person perspective, while the rest of the novel is told in the first. The significance of this is the shock of finding her future slashed to bits has rendered her numb, unable to relate to anything- even herself. The shock is subtely woven into the text here as Jane looks at herself from the outside, showing how the world must perceive her after her broken betrothal. She alludes to the plagues of Egypt, showing that this situation- to her, at least- is not only misfortunate, it is dooming and chaotic.

This is when the uninvited newcomer arrives at Thornfield amid the festivities. He is invited to sit in the drawing room, where Jane commences to observe.

-I compared him with Mr. Rochester. I think (with deference it be spoken) the contrast could not have been greater between a sleek gander and a fierce falcon: between a meek sheep and a rough-coated keen-eyed dog, its guardian. (page 193)

This passage shows that the newcomer - Mr. Mason - is a foil for Mr. Rochester. Subsequent to the passage I reiterated, Jane goes into detail of how Mr. Mason is decidedly beautiful- but too beautiful, too placid: almost malicious in his perfection. She says he is too meek to be attractive, which only highlights Mr. Rochester's audacities- the very extravagancies that made Jane fall so deeply in love. His beauty shows up Mr. Rochester's imperfect, angry visage- emphasizing it so that Jane can do nothing but face the fact that that is what she loves about him; his unusual tendancies. And so, I believe that Mr. Mason's boring angelicism will only highlight Mr. Rochester's volatile persona- in a good way.

This excerpt is from Jane Eyre, as Jane is discussing the bed-on-fire situation. She is observing Grace Poole in her solitude, and reflecting on her persona.

Had Grace been young and handsome, I should have been tempted to think that tenderer feelings than prudence or fear had influenced Mr. Rochester on her behalf; but, hard favored and matronly as she was, the idea could not be admitted...I reflected, "I don't think she could ever have been pretty, but she may possess originality and strength of character to compensate for the want of personal advantages." (page 158)

This passage reiterates a motif in Jane Eyre: women "cursed" with imperfect looks must have gallons of personality to make up for it. Here, in Grace, is a reflection of Jane: both are plain women in household situations, but while Jane strives to loosen her domestic chains, Grace seems complacent. The fact that Jane muses upon whether or not Grace makes up for her "matronly-ness" embodies this motif; throughout the novel, if a women is not beautiful, she is immediately characterized by her actions instead of her appearance, showing that to be unbeautiful is to not exist.

This excerpt is from Jane Eyre, when Mr. Brocklehurst is explaining the pious and plain nature of Lowood, and how it will rid Jane of her passion and her pride. He is saying what his daughter's told him occured when they visited...

"Oh, dear papa, how quiet and plain all the girls at Lowood look; with their hair combed behind their ears, and their long pinnafores, and those little holland pockets outside their frocks- they were almost like poor people's children!" said she, "they looked at my dress and mama's, as if they'd never seen a silk gown before." (page 34)

Explanation: This is ironic because not only does it show the hypocrisy of Mr. Brocklehurst, but also highlights the hypocrisy and blind-eye attitude of religion at the time. Mr. Brocklehurst has been berating Jane for her "sinful" self, but here his very own daughter is belittling the unfortunate whilst being oblivious to their predicament. Religion is suppoesd to accompany frugality and selfishness, you'd think, but here the man supposed to be executing the doctrine of God, and he is selfish, he is discriminatory, he is ruthless. This also reflects the hypocrisy of religion as a whole at the time- had someone of a lower social standing -Jane, for example- talked so degradingly about girls in unfortunate positions, she would have been punished for being apathetic to the point of uncaring. Since Mr. Brocklehurt's daughter is obviously a girl of "class", apparently it's okay for her to show amazement at the fact that this girls were envious and enraptured by her blatant display of wealth and an easy-life, manifested in her "silk gown".

This excerpt is from Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, just after Jane is told that she is being sent away to a reform school of sorts and she, in turn, freaks out at Mrs. Reed.

I was left there alone- winner of the field. It was the hardest battle I had fought, and the first victory I had gained: I stood awhile on the rug, where Mr. Brocklehurst had stood, I and enjoyed my conqueror's solitude. (page 37)

Explanation: This passage- among many others, obviously- reveals Jane to be the protagonist of the novel. I think, from this passage alone, that Jane is shown to be in a constant struggle agaisnt society; she is forced to brace herself agaisnt everyone, to expect the worst, to fight and claw her way to independence and self-reliance. Since this passage occurs after Jane finally explodes at Mrs. Reed, since it is her "first victory," this could be seen as the obstacle in a quest- and in most literature, the quest is enacted by the protagonist. And so, from these two sentences, it is quite apparent that the other hundred pages of the novel will revolve around the comings and goings, the winnings and the losings, of one Jane Eyre.

This passage is the entirety of W.D. Ehrhart's poem "The Next Step," wherein he narrates in second person the monotony of a soldier's march.

The next step you take
make lead you into an ambush.

The next step you take
may trigger a tripwire.

The next step you take
may detonate a mine.

The next step you take
may tear your left off at the hip.

The next step you take
may split your belly open.

The next step you take
may send a sniper's bullet through your brain.

The next step you take.
The next step you take.

The next step.
The next step.

The next step.

Explanation: Since an elegy is defined as a "literal poem about death," wouldn't a poem encircling those final thoughts and actions before death be fitting? This poem is about the funeral march that is soldierhood: nothing -not victory, not life- is a guaranteed to the battling soldier, and this poem uses echo structure and repetition to emphasize this fact. "The next step" being repeated no less than eleven times is supposed to show the brain washed nature of the soldier's march; all thought is directed towards war and the chance that the next step could be the last. The elegy here could be seen as a social commentary on the robotic nature of man-as-soldier; on the empty, ordered mindset that simply reiterates: your next step could be your final and there's nothing you (as a mere human pawn in the chess game that is war) can do to alter your fate.

This excerpt is the last four stanzas of Archibal MacLeish's "Ars Poetica", as he resolves what exactly a poem is- and therin, is not.

A poem should be equal to:
Not true

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea-

A poem should not mean,
But be.

Explanation: The epigram here is, obviously, the last two lines: "a poem should not mean/but be". Throughout the entire poem before this, MacLeish toyed around with what a poem could be- "palpable and mute/ as a globed fruit", "wordless/as a flight of birds", "motionless in time/as the moon climbs". By creating that sense of oxymorons (because fruit isn't palpable, birds aren't wordless, and the moon defanitly moves), MacLeish shrouds his poem in a mist of dichotomies and uncertanties. When he finally resolves that, in fact, poetry is neither those things nor it isn't, he articulates what is almost intangible: that true poetry doesn't scream it's messege or blatantly spell it out; genuine poetry simply is it's meaning. As wishywashy as this could appear, it's true- the greatest poems aren't necessarily meek, but they're artfully enough created to have multiple layers, multiple meanings- each understandable only by those perceptive enough to decode. And so, this epigram ties together what the poem afore it alluded to: in seven little words, MacLeish captured the essence of poetry and all it means.

This is the third stanza from "Dulce et Decorum Est", a poem about the nightmares of war and how propaganda lures in the patriotic boy but the war mutates him into a killing robot; a miserable shadow of himself.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace,
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud,
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Explanation: This excerpt is a telling example of expertly used rhythm because at first you don't even notice is has a rhythm. The author here incorporated such a subtle rhythm- complete with rhyme- that on first and possibly second reading, you don't even notice it. The explicit nature of the poem itself no doubt contributes to not noticing the rhyme; the gory and tragic images rip you from the page into the desolation and depression of young men -children, really- at war with each other and themselves. Usually, rhyming creates a sense of over-simplicity, of redundant cutesy appearence, but here, the rhyming adds another layer to the messege of the poem: that beneath all the chaos, there's usually some semblence of order, whether we're willing to see it or not.

This excerpt is the third and fourth stanzas from Stanley Kunitz' "Father and Son", when the speaker is kind of tying together the point of the poem.

At the water's edge, where the smothering ferns lifted
Their arms, "Father!" I cried, "Return! You know
The way. I'll wipe the mudstains from your clothes;
No trace, I promise, will remain. Instruct
Your son, whirling between two wars,
In the Gemara of your gentleness,
For I would be a child to those who mourn
And a brother to the foundlings of the field
And a friend of innocence and all bright eyes
O teach me how to work and keep me kind."

Among the turtles and the lilies he turned to me
The white ignorant hollow of his face.

Explanation: The form of this poem adds a lot to it's impact as a whole. Since Kunitz chose to cut sentences off midway for line breaks, the poem has a staccato, kind of desperate air to it. "You know/the way" seems to be a hesitant thought; as though the son forgets for a second what his father is supposed to "know". Also, "Instruct/Your son" has the same effect: the split between the rhythmic flow of the sentence creates a disjointed, uncertain air- which intensifies the sense of bewilderment in the poem as a whole. The diction of this poem also flavors it with loneliness and urgency. "No trace, I promise, will remain"- those are pretty strong words coming from a kid. The fact that the son wants to fix all his fathers "problems" and in a sense, erase the past, is shown multiple times through Kunitz' choice of words. He has the speaker be a "brother", "friend", "child"; the diction here creates a sense of simplicity, but since we know this is a very deep poem, that simplicity is laced with ignorance; with naive optimism. The final stanza is crucial to the point of the poem: the father's face is "white ignorant hollow"- words that evoke images of death, of superficiality, of absolute disappointment. So, Kunitz- through his employment of clever form and diction- births a poem brimming with evocative images of a pathetic (but relatable) need for love and security.

This is from Benito Cereno, when Captain Delano is walking around the San Dominick with Don Benito, taking in the images of so-called peace and camaraderie and equality between the Spanish sailors and the black "slaves".

"Those old men there, shaking their pows from their pulpits," continued Captain Delano, pointing to the oakum-pickers, "seem to act the part of old dominies to the rest, little heeded as their admonitions are at times. Is this voluntary on their part, Don Benito, or have you appointed them shepards to your flock of black sheep?"
"What posts they fill, I appointed them," rejoined the Spaniard, in an acrid tone, as if resenting some supposed satiric reflection. (page 50)

Explanation: This passage shows how your perspective can radically alter how you percieve things, to state the obvious. Captain Delano - from whose perspective the tale is told, in third person- sees the slaves as endearing, as animals- he even refers to them as Benito's "sheep". He, in his buffoonish naivety and trust, doesn't see the oddities in this little scene: that slaves are in charge, that Benito would have appointed them to positions of power. He sees this simply as a calm day on the boat, and so that's how the reader is forced to see it. Had he been cynical or more advertly racist- because though he is racist, he is passively so, finding the slaves entertaining and almost cute- the reader would have had the stark truth slapped before them: that Benito's "acrid tone" is actually completely, totally "satiric", that he is truly in no position of command at all but a prisoner of these "old men", and that it's unfathomable that he would "appoint" them their positions post-mutiny. But, since Melville poised this novella through the eyes of the dimwitted Delano, we see what he sees, and are therefore left nearly clueless to the true happenings aboard the San Dominick.

Narrative Prose
This scene is from The Great Gatsby, when Nick is leaving from having breakfast at the Gatsby mansion. He is just turning to leave when he feels as though there's something he needs to say, there's a disgust that he desperately needs to express before he says goodbye, because for some reason he feels this is the ultimate, cathartic goodbye between these two men.

"They're a rotten crowd," I shouted, across the lawn. "You're worth the whole damn bunch put together."
I've always been glad I said that. It was the only compliment I ever gave him, because I disapproved of him from beginning to end. First he nodded politely, and then his face broke into that radiant and understanding smile, as if we'd been in ecstatic cahoots on that fact all the time. His gorgeous pink rag of a suit made a bright spot of color against the white steps and I thought of the night when I first came to his ancestral home three months before. The lawn and the drive had been crowded with the faces of those who guessed at his corruption- and he had stood on those steps, concealing his incorruptable dream, as he waved them goodbye.
I thanked him for his hospitality. We were always thanking him for that- I and the others.
"Goodbye," I called. (page 162)

Explanation: I chose this passage because through narrative, it ties the entire essence of the novel together. Nick at last reveals his true feelings to Gatsby- in a sense, he would never have been able to cut himself out of Gatby's life without first exposing his disgust with the vapid lifestyle embraced by Gatsby himself. This narrative shows that Nick doesn't look back on those "three months" (the first time the reader is told an exact amount of time that this all happened) with regret or hatred, but more with a pitying nostalia. He shows Gatsby to be uncomprehending of his disgust here; Gatsby has worked so intensely to acheive those "white steps" and "pink...suit" that he can't understand how someone could perceive them as "rotten", but he goes along with it as if it's just another flippant joke in his fantasy world. Nick is also ironic in his narrative- referring to Gatby's home as "ancestral", when in fact it's bought with Gatby's first-generation fortune, not handed down through decades of blue-blood. There's also irony in Nick's saying that everyone guessed at Gatsby's "corruption", when in fact Gatsby wasn't really about chasing the money or the prestige but what came with it: the girl. Through this narrative, Nick shows that the partygoers -as disdainful of Gatsby as they were- at least showed some kind of gratitude for his flamboyant parties. Finally, this narrative shows the end of an era: the final "goodbye" is the conclusion of Nick's affiliation with the great Gatsby, and so is the end of a beautiful, terrible, tumultuous, fantastical experience.

This is from The Great Gatsby, when Nick Carraway at last reveals to the reader Jay Gatby's personal history. He's talking about how he created himself; how he molded himself into the epitome of the American Dream.

I suppose he'd had the name ready for a long time, even then. His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people- his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all. The truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God- a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that- and he must be about His Father's Business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty. So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end. (page 104)

Explanation: This allusion reverts back to the original story of the self-made man: Jesus Christ. As irrevarent as it may sound, it's true: he came (physically) from poor parents, and created this persona about himself that sparked intrigue and followers- just like Gatsby. He pursued what he believed in- though Christ's motives were divine while Gatby's were materialistic - achieved them, and ultimately died because of them. You could even go as far as to say that this allusion really is incredibly accurate in that in a world where consumerism is a religion, wouldn't the epitome of that be their Christ, their guide?

This passage is from The Scarlet Letter when Dimmesdale and Hester Prynne are talking in the forest, watching Pearl play in the wild, peaceful woods.

Just where she had paused, the brook chanced to form a pool, so smooth and quiet that it reflected a perfect image of her little figure, with all the visual picturesqueness of her beauty, in its adornment of flowers and wreathed foliage, but more refined and spiritualized than reality. This image, so nearly identical with the living Pearl, seemed to communicate somewhat of its own shadowy and intangible quality of the child herself. It was so strange, the way which Pearl stood, looking so steadfastly at them through the dim medium of the forest gloom; herself, meanwhile, all glorified with a ray of sunshine that was attracted thitherward by a certain sympathy. In the brook beneath her stood another child, -another, and the same- with likewise a ray of golden light. (page 215)

Explanation: This scene is an excellent example of imagery not only because of it's quality of writing, because it also shows the juxtaposition of the entire novel. Hester has sinned; she is followed by the shadow of her misdeed. But somehow, the very product of that sin manages to be innocent, to be sunlight in a gloomy forest. I think in this context, the forest could represent society's prejudices and assumptions: they think that since Pearl is the creation of a sin, she too is marked. But, contradictoraly, Pearl is the very manifestation of innocent; a simple child at play, unaware of the world and its miserys. This scene is almost Edenic in its descriptors: smooth, quiet, refined, spiritualized, intangible, glorified, golden. This moment in time is untouchable to all but the innocent, and is so exemplified by the use of imagery.