How to Think Deeply
A Guide to Theory And Its Use
What is Theory Used For?
“While I will help you become better writers,
I will not teach you how to write better.”
- Shark
Theories can help us gain a better
understanding of writing, pictures, and other
forms of expression.
In writing, theories can be used to analyze a
text, and to think more deeply about the text.
•Feminist Theory
•Marxist Theory
•Archetypal Theory
•Satirical Analysis
•Historical Analysis
•Logic and Fallacies
•Existential Theory
•Psychological Analysis
•African American
•Rhetorical Analysis
Feminist Theory
Feminist theory is the extension of feminism into philosophy and theory.
Analyzes the roles of the male and female characters.
Rigney's Pattern, a feminist theory, includes:
•Rejection of the father figure and dread of engulfment.
•Expression of the divided self in the form of a doppelganger.
•Annihilation of male authority figures and of the doppelganger.
•Search for the metaphoric mother and discovery of the mother within
the self.
•Return from psychosis.
Examples of Use
•Analysis of “The Yellow Wallpaper” – Bethany Pennington
•Analysis of “Dream Children” – Eliza Gowell
“Overwhelmed by the expectations to take care of herself “for his sake,” her
submissiveness to her husband’s prescriptions are the true causes of her problems.”
“The narrator has a fear of engulfment by her monotonous life of prescribed rest,
which is intensified by the yellow wallpaper. Fear leads to the desire to escape, as is
symbolized by her frequent mention of windows, from which she has an expansive
view, but no means to access it.”
“The bars represent her husband, or all men, restricting her, or all women. She, like
the doppelganger, is kept still at daylight, strangled by the pattern of society. At night
when the world and its laws are asleep, both try to escape the monotonous,
strangling, confusing pattern of life.”
•The narrator exemplifies Rigney’s pattern as she struggles solitarily over her
purpose within her family.”
•Though unable to recognize the phenomenon, Jane’s unconscious appears to
have invented an alter ego of herself in the semi- developed aspirations of
escaping…her situation. These…show themselves through the expression of her
doppelganger…her inside feelings are reflected in her spiritual double, pacing
within the wallpaper.”
Archetypal Theory
According to Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, archetypes are patterns transmitted from one generation to the
next as part of our human psychological heritage. They are part of what Jung calls the collective unconscious. That
area of the mind that is hidden from conscious thought and is basically the same for all of human kind. Jung defined
an archetype of any pattern that reoccurs in course of human thought process, an archetype can be a recurring
symbol or image, character type, or story pattern.
Symbols and Images
water: birth-death-resurrection, creation, purification,
redepmtion, fertility and growth, unconscious
sun: creative thinking, engery and enlightenment, wisdom,
spiritual vision
3- light, spiritual awareness, unity, male priniciple
4- associated with the circle, life cycle, four seasons,
female principle, earth, nature, elements
7- the most potent of all symbolic numbers, symbolizes the
unity of 3 and 4, the completion of a cycle, perfect order
tree: life, growth, symbol of immortality
desert: spiritual aridity, death, hopelessness
red- blook, sacrafice, passion, disorder
green- growth, hope, fertility
blue- highly positive, secure, tranquil, spiritual purity
yellow- enlightenment, wisdom
concave symbols: female or womb symbols
phallic symbols: male symbols
Examples of Use
•Analysis of “Fault Lines” – Tye Stien
•Analysis of “The Machine Stops” – Bethany Pennington
•Alexander describes the narrative as a snake “swallowing its own ending.” The use of
the snake analogy both lends to the sinister quality of the narrative as snakes are
typically viewed as symbols of evil in most cultures, but also describes it as futile and
•As Vashti passes over lighthouse towers, ruined trees, peninsulas, and mountains (all
male symbols according to Freud), she refutes them as foolish. The flight attendanyt
says of the mountains, “let me show you them.” Vashti was deliberately exposed to
male symbols that should have pointed her towards the machine, but she asks that the
images be covered with a “metal blind,” and sees them in a “deep shadow.” All the trees
have been destroyed, showing that Vashti would not see eye to eye with Kuno in time to
saver herself.
•While Vashti notes the brown earth and the white snow, along with their archetypes of
mystery and death, Kuno sees the rosy colors of passion, which, according to the
archetype, will be paid for with blood and disorder. The rosy colors foreshadow the
stopping of the machine, which emits a false sense of calm with its blue communication
Historical Analysis
Historical analysis is the use of history and historical events, in order to explain or
analyze a piece of writing, painting or other form of expression.
You can use historical analysis to support other claims you may make about a piece
of writing, or to draw conclusions based on a writing's connections with historical
Historical analysis can also include references to assertions made by prominent
historical figures, such as Niccolo Machiavelli, who wrote The Prince, and Andrew
Carnegie, who wrote Gospel of Wealth.
Examples of Use
•Analysis of “The Singer Solution to World Poverty” –
Bethany Pennington
•Analysis of passage from “Democracy in America” –
Willoughby Smith
•…Singer’s attempt to take up the “rich man’s burden” violates the imperfect yearnings
of the human soul and is not as “simple” as he asserts it to be.
•When Peter Singer suggests that the hardworking rich give all the extra money they
have to show for their hard work to others, he speaks nobly, but attempts to create a
world comparable to Marx’s; where a few do the work and the rest benefit – so that the
once wealthy have only as much as the once-poor. Such “taking up “ of the rich man’s
burden could potentially leave the world more full of burden than it was before.
•In a way, De Tocqueville's “relaxed bond of human affection,” characterized by the
democrat, is similar to the relations between people described in Niccolo Machiavelli's
The Prince. One of Machiavelli's main assertions about human relations, particularly of
those between prince and subject, was the idea of keeping a man just within reach, but
never too close, since he could be either friend of foe at any given time. Though the
prince is a member of the aristocratic generation, Machiavelli often referred to the power
of the people, typically a democratic idea, but also of the trust between people, an
aristocratic idea from De Tocqueville.
Existential Theory
Existentialism is the belief that human beings live in a purposeless world and must seek
to define a purpose for themselves.
Existentialists divide existence into two categories: authentic existence and inauthentic
Inauthentic existence is defined as living in a general conformity, where one does not
seek to do for oneself, but, rather one lets oneself be defined and directed by others.
Authentic existence is defined as living in autonomy. One seeks to define oneself and
create goals, transcending enculturation. One who lives authentically is not directed by
others is said to own oneself.
Examples of Use
•Analysis of “The Machine Stops” – Ryan Marinelli
•Vashti accepts the culture given to her, and is defined by it, whereas Kuno transcends
enculturation. Vashti is engulfed in the Book of the Machine and the Machine itself. She
looks to it for help, and worships it: “If she was hot or cold or dyspeptic or at loss for a
word, she went to the book, and it told her which button to press.” The book tells her
what to do in any circumstance, and in this way provides her culture. Vashti held the
book “reverently in her hands.” She then began to worship the book: “Then, half
ashamed, half joyful, she murmured, ‘O Machine! O Machine!’ and raised the volume to
her lips. Thrice she kissed it, thrice she inclined her head, and thrice she felt the
delirium of acquiescence.” Vashti accepts this religion; at one point she even
recognizes her “acquiescence.” By accepting this given religion, and worshipping it,
Vashti is leading an inauthentic life. Kuno seeks to transcend enculturation. He
escapes to the surface of the earth, where he completely forgets about the Machine:
“And as for the machine, I forgot all about it,” says Kuno. Kuno escapes the culture
forced upon him, which illustrates his authenticity.
Framing is a rhetorical strategy defined by George Lakoff in Don't Think of an
Elephant. Of course, the first thing to come to mind when you read the title is,
more than likely, an elephant.
Lakoff describes framing as the use of certain words to create a desired
“frame” through which one's audience will see one's presentation.
Lakoff warns against the use of the negative, for it only emphasizes that which
one wishes to avoid emphasizing. Hence the name of his book, Don't Think of
an Elephant.
Examples of Use
•Analysis of “Revolutionary New Insoles Combine Five
Forms Of Pseudoscience” – Eliza Gowell
•The satire uses adjectives before introducing the noun to positively or negatively effect
the reader through preconceived notions gathered at the beginning of the phrase with
the adjective. This framing of the description rather than the subject make the reader
more aware of the situation. In the article, adjective framing can be found in quotes
such as: “Stressed and sore-footed Americans,” “scientific-sounding literature,” and
“intelligent-looking man.” These act to influence the outlook of the reader of Americans
as hurting, the literature as scientific, and the man such as intelligent, even though they
are necessarily so.
African-American Narrative
Robert Stepto classified African-American literature into two categories: ascension
narrative and immersion narrative.
Ascension Narrative:
•Movement toward a symbolic north, away from home.
•Loneliness, insight.
•Movement beyond limitations of the group.
•The self as free from community and group.
•Linear plot.
Immersion Narrative:
•Centrality of healing and recovery.
•Movement to a real or symbolic south.
•Orature, vernacular, speech of the folk privileged.
•Community and its rituals.
•Movement beyond individual limits of power.
•Self as anchored in family and communtiy.
•Circular or recursive plot. Reanchored in past and tradition.
Examples of Use
•Analysis of Governor Adlai E. Stevenson – Kim
•…and now he is immersing himself into them. This serves to address the feelings,
beliefs, and emotions of the senate in a way that he will sympathize with them. He
continues to appeal to their emotions by complementing their work: “the State of Illinois
and its local governing bodies already have enough to do.” This use of pathos makes
the governor’s veto more effective. The evolution of the governor throughout the veto
from a prophet-outcast to a part of the senate also alludes to an immerison narrative.
Because an immersion narrative is characterized by an individual going into a
community, and stresses the relationship, power, and rituals of a community, this
enhances the fact that restricting cats would be an unfair restriction on the community.
Marxist Theory
Marxist theory or Marxism, is based on the beliefs of Karl Marx.
Basic ideals of Marxism
•Capitalism is based on the exploitation of workers.
•There is a constant class struggle among those of different interests.
•Classes have some level of “class consciousness.”
There are many different schools of thought which further expand upon the primary
ideals of Marxism.
Examples of Use
•Analysis of “The Pie” – Ben Hopkins
•Gary Soto is driven to steal the pie in the German Market not through boredom but at
the hands of poverty. The father, who in 1950s America was the primary bread winner,
was dead which left the mother to provide solely for the family: “I nearly wept trying to
decide which to steal.” Due to the financial status of Gary’s family, he could only indulge
his sweet tooth through thievery. In a society based on the ideals of Marxism, a family
damaged by such a loss would be part of the community where the fruits of the citizen’s
labors would be shared so all could live equally.
Satirical Analysis
Analyzing the use of satire and its desired and actual effects.
•Irony – Saying one thing and meaning another.
•A list with one or more items which do not follow the other items.
•Figures of speech such as simile, metaphor, and oxymoron.
•Deadpan tone – Saying outrageous things in a low key way.
Examples of Use
•Analysis of Governor Adlai E. Stevenson's Veto
Statement – Tye Stien
•Analysis of “Revolutionary New Insoles Combine Five
Forms Of Pseudoscience” – Eliza Gowell
•The irony of Adlai’s tone is present on several different levels within his argument. On
the surface he simply states the facts of the law, but by using clever word choices Adlai
subtly mocks his foundations of the law as well as the law writers. One particularly
glaring example of Adlai’s mockery is the use of the term “imprison” to define the caging
of cats: “It would permit any person to capture or call upon the police to pick up and
imprison, cats at large.” Not only is the use of “imprison” an ironic term to define the
confinement of cats, due to the connotations of the word “prison” and the primarily
human nature of its inmates, but it also criticizes the law’s use of police to “arrest” cats
as if they were human criminals.
•The Onion's intention in its fake press releas is to embody how corporate America
markets products to the public. The use of satire in the article is intended to shed light
upon the gullibility of Americans in their consumer fanaticism, and ultimately enlighten
them. The strategies of satire that the Onion employs center around Tar Motta, in
outrageous praise of the product, to back consumers in a corner by threatening, and
also through positive and negative framing of MagnaSoles.
Logic and Fallacies
Analysis of logic may be used to discern arguments which are based on false reasoning. It may also be used to explain
why an argument is correct; however, doing so is unnecessary as an argument should have sound logic anyways.
Deduction – The process in which one reasons from broad examples to draw a specific conclusion
Induction – The process in which one reasons from specific examples to draw broad conclusions.
Syllogism – The formula for deductive reasoning. Draws conclusions based on the relationship between major premise and minor
premise. For example: All of those men were gods (Major Premise). He is one of those men (Minor Premise). Therefore, he was a god
Fallacies – False reasoning.
Begging the question – assuming something to be true that really needs proof.
Ignoring the question – a question is set up so that the argument is shifted to new ground or an appeal is made to emotion, having nothing to do with the logic of the case.
Equivocation – using the same word with different meanings.
Non-sequitur – It does not follow. The conclusion does not follow the premises.
Faulty dilemma – the major premise presents a choice that does not exhaust all options.
Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc – After this, because of this. Saying an event causes something which follows because it proceeds the next event.
Argumentum ad hominem – Attacking the character rather than the argument.
Ad misericordiam – appeal to sympathy.
Hypothesis contrary to fact – Use of a premise which goes against fact.
Composition – Arguing that a group has the qualities of its members.
Division – Arguing that the individual has the qualities of the group.
Dicto simpliciter – An argument based on simplified generalizations.
Contradictory premises – The premises argue against themselves or contradict each other.
Overgeneralizing/Hasty generalization – Too few instances presented to accurately conclude anything.
False analogy – Wrongful comparisons of dissimilar situations.
Ad vericundiam – Appeal to authority. For example: It's true because the President said so.
Ad populum – Appeal to the crowd.
Self-evident truths – Using things which “everyone knows” but are, in reality, unproven.
Guilt or Innocence by association – He reads one of those radical books. He must be must be a radical.
Either/or – Posing a question or situation which offers only absolute extremes, and no middle ground.
Examples of Use
•Analysis of “Revolutionary New Insoles Combine Five
Forms Of Pseudoscience” – Eliza Gowell
•Several fallacies are employed in the article by the Onion as a means by which to disconvert the audience to the Gospel of MagnaSoles. They use appeal to authority fallacy
in an effort to convince readers that important people like it, so they should to. They do
this through the introduction of the quote by Helene Kuhn of Edison, NJ. The relatively
rare style by which they quote her is appropriate only for the introduction of important
people with relatively important things to say, in the clause-name-clause style. This
makes the consumers feel like they should know who she is, because she is important,
and that they should like the product only because she does. Another fallacy used it the
Lokis Wager Fallacy. In the article, Helene Kuhn sings the praises of MagnaSoles, and
ends her quote with: “Just try and prove that MagnaSoles didn't heal me!” This
embodies the Lokis Wager Fallacy because since MagnaSoles cannot be disproven
from working, and cannot be defined in an argument, its working can't be discussed.
This fallacy itself, is a fallacy because it is an ignoratio elenchi, and works as a red
herring to draw attention away from the argument of the real question of whether or not
MagnaSoles really work.
Psychological Analysis
Psychological analysis applies human psychology to characters in a text, or to
explain or describe the actions of an author when analyzing a work of
Freud explained the human mind as containing three parts: the id, the ego,
and the super ego. He defined the id as the source of desire and want, the
superego as the source of righteousness and morals, and the ego as the
mediator, who keeps the mind intact.
Defense mechanisms are techniques which the ego uses in order to satisfy
the needs of the id and superego when compromise is unachievable. They
often result in the distortion of reality.
Some common mechanisms include: displacement, the shifting of feelings
from an unattainable to a more attainable object; repression, the forgetting or
self-removal of a thought; reaction formation, the replacing of an unacceptable
feeling with its opposite; projection, the placement of ones feelings onto
someone else; regression, the return to a former, less mature self.
Examples of Use
•Analysis of “The Geometry of Love” – Bethany
•Analysis of “The Pie” – Eliza Gowell
•Analysis of “The Pie” – Ryan Marinelli
•Throughout the story, Charlie’s actions reflect that he is not subconsciously where he
consciously believes himself to be – in a perfect order and balance.
•Though Charlie notes that “forgetfulness was a course of action that he had tried
before” and consciously claims to seek a different method of dealing with Mathilda, he
still pursued forgetfulness consciously in his ego. He empties himself of bother and
represses Mathilda’s remarks so that they “fall short of where he stands.” When
Mathilda was unhappy in Rome, Charlie heartlessly “forgets” her sadness, covering up
his difficulties with Euclidean Theory. While he should be upset when his wife is
troubled, he remains “calm and happy.” Instead of facing relational issues with genuine
intent to repair them, Charlie Mallory seeks Euclid. He then subconsciously pretends to
forget anything that worries him, carrying the deceiving “conviction of innocence” in his
conscious self and believing himself to be in perfect Freudian balance.
•Directly after the crime, Soto undergoes the defense mechanism of reaction formation.
This occurs when one replaces an unaccetable feeling or urge with the opposite. Soto
experiences this because subconciously, he recognizes it is wrong to steal. Yet he
rationalizes this with the opposite: that it is good to steal. Sitting on someone's lawn,
licking his fingers, Soto believes that “the best things in life come stolen,” and this is an
attempt to heal the pain he feels from his misdeed.
•Gary Soto’s super ego is constantly trying to reign in Soto’s behavior. Soto expresses
this when he says, “I was holy in almost every bone.” The superego attempts to
influence young Soto, but unfortunately, it is unable. Without something positive for the
young Soto to focus his mind on, he loses touch with his superego and its morals.
Instead the id gains control: “Boredom made me sin,” said Soto. The id’s desires now
outweigh the morals of the superego. Therefore, the superego loses control of the mind,
and the id takes its place as the controlling force. Although the superego still has
influence, the id is the deciding factor in young Soto’s actions. When he goes to the
German Market, young Soto sees a vast assortment of pies. He stands in front of the
pie rack, “his sweet tooth gleaming and the juice of guilt wetting his underarms,” while
deciding which pie to take. The gleaming sweet tooth represents the desires Soto
remembers experiencing as a youth, which stem from the id. It beckons Soto to steal an
apple and satisfy his inner desires. In response, the superego creates a sense of guilt,
as shown by the sweat under Soto’s arms. Although Soto steals the pie, his superego
still has some influence on his actions.
Diction is one's word choice. When analyzing diction you analyze possible reasons
for choice of word, and you may then analyze the connotations of this word choice.
Framing is closely related and somewhat dependent on word choice.
Examples of Use
•Analysis of “The Pie” – Ryan Marinelli
•Soto’s diction and choice of details implies a feeling of guilt which Soto feels to this
date. According to Soto, Cross-eyed Johnny told him, “Your hands are dirty.” Out of
context, a statement such as this would seem irrelevant, but Soto’s remembrance of this
illustrates his guilt. The dirty hands of the youthful Soto represent Soto’s dirty past,
deeds, and conscience. This is a result of Soto disobeying his superego as a youth.
The superego’s harsh actions cause guilt to this date, even though Soto eventually
realized his mistake. Soto says that he was scared of “being thirsty for the rest of [his]
life,” when he was panicking. This thirst connotes Soto’s desire for fulfillment. Upon
arriving home, Soto gets some water, and then says, “The water soon filled me more
than the pie.” Soto reveals through this statement that he learned his lesson. The pure
water, which was attained due to a thirst for fulfillment and righteousness, was more
satisfactory than that of the pie, which was attained in the process of greedy desire.
This connotes the lesson that that which is attained through pure methods is more
satisfactory than that attained by greed and desire.
Jeremiad is a form of speech formed by African-American culture. In a jeremiad the
speaker adopts the stance of the prophet outcast, evoking the prophets from the Old
Testament and the New Testament. This is signaled by metaphor and allusion by the
speaker. The rhetorical structure of jeremiads is split three ways. It is a
consideration of promises in America's historical documents, a criticism of failed
fulfillment of promises, and prophecy that America will achieve greatness and
Examples of Use
•Analysis of Governor Adlai E. Stevenson's Veto
Statement – Kim Carlomagno
•His language also serves to isolate him from the community, and establish his stance
as the prophet-outcast. He talks about the cat owners, bird-lovers, city-dwellers, and
villagers, but does not categorize himself into any of these groups. Stevenson says he
has a “fresh outlook” on the bill, which illustrates that this is a problem he has not been
exposed to, and therefore, he is set apart from the bill. This prophet-outcast stance
functions to make the governor’s veto of the bill seem superior to the opinions of the bird
advocates without trivializing the nature of the bill.
Rhetorical Analysis
Rhetorical analysis analyzes rhetoric, or what an author does for specific effect. For
example, if an author wore a red shirt because his audience wore red shirts, then
one could infer that the author has worn a red shirt in order to mimic or connect with
his or her audience.
The three primary appeals in rhetoric are logos, the appeal to logic, pathos, the
appeal to emotion, and ethos, the appeal to the self or appeal of character.
When using rhetorical analysis you may also consider kairos, the moment or
opportunity as it relates to the presentation or speech, and the audience.
Rhetorical analysis may incorporate theories in order to analyze the rhetoric of a
piece of writing.
Examples of Use
•Analysis of “Revolutionary New Insoles Combine Five
Forms Of Pseudoscience” – Eliza Gowell
•Another way to establish the ethos with the audience is through modesty, as a way to
appeal to the likeability of the character. The onion uses meiosis, a type of
understatement for MagnaSoles. “MagnaSoles is not just a shoe insert” says the article,
which frames it in a way to make the reader think it is using modest by saying just, yet
also proving it is a whole lot more than a shoe insert.
Mr. Sharkovitz's A.P. English 11 Class, 20072008

How to Think Deeply