Finding Deeper Meaning in Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat

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Finding Deeper Meaning in Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat

First impressions are important when meeting new people, applying for jobs, and even when reading literature. It provides us with an idea of what is going on, where things are taking place, and who the important characters are. This first impression can be described is the Pre-Critical Response; the average reader performs this type of analysis every time he or she reads. For some people, this simplistic perspective is satisfactory; others find the quest for deeper understanding intriguing and part of the ultimate experience gained through literature.

The Formalistic Approach is one way to analyze literature in order to gain fuller understanding. This approach examines a piece of literature by identifying its individual structures and form. It studies sentence structure in terms of verb placement, the multiple meanings and etymology of words, and the stanza and line breaks. The Formalistic Approach stresses sensitivity to words and their connotations, denotations, and implications they may have to surrounding words and phrases. Location, setting, place, and time are other aspects identified through this approach. Formalistic analysis is referred as "...close reading in practice" (HCAL 73).

The Dialogical Approach recognizes "...the essential indeterminacy of meaning outside of the dialogic - and hence open - relationship between voices" (HCAL 349). The voices of a novel or work create a dimension all their own. Dialogical's creator, Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin, uses the key term of carnivalization to describe the "...diversities of speech and voice reflected in its structure" (HCAL 351). Mood and tone are derived from this and can be further amplified through the Formalistic Approach of analysis.

My Pre-Critical Response to Thomas Gray's "Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes" is as follows: A cat was playing with a fish in the fish bowl. The cat fell in and then drowned because none cared enough to save her. When I take a second look, details of the setting and location; language usage and sentence patterns; tone and mood; deeper meanings to the poem can be found. The Formalistic and Dialogical Approaches can be used to find these deeper meanings.

Setting and location are essential when creating atmosphere.

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