Critical lens: “All literature is protest. You can’t name a single literary work that isn’t protest.” – Richard Wright



The novel Prognosis Negative by Art Vandelay expresses protest against many different things. The story covers a great deal of time and takes the reader through many different places and events, as the author uses several different techniques to really make the reader think. By using a certain type of narrative structure, Vandelay is able to grab the reader’s attention and make the piece much more effective and meaningful, showing how everything happened. The story moves from the beginning to the end as the protagonist struggles to resolve the central conflict, while a number of unusual and unexpected things occur along the way. Characterization is used throughout the novel, as each of the characters is described in a different way, making them seem more real and allowing the reader to better relate to them. Each character has a unique personality, with several important characteristics described in the text. This allows the reader to understand who these people are, why they do what they do, and how they end up where they are in the end. The characters represent how the author feels about the issues he is protesting, and in the end, the reader understands exactly what Vandelay is trying to say. Prognosis Negative is an example of how authors use their works to express their opposition to various things.



To avoid excessive vagueness:


·                    Avoid using interrogative conjunctions to cite examples. “…how they end up where they are in the end.” Where are they in the end? How do they end up there? “…how the author feels…” How does the author feel? “…what Vandelay is trying to say.” What is he trying to say? Who, what, when, where, why and how are questions, not affirmative statements. They must be answered in order to attain the needed specificity.


·                    Avoid comparative adjectives. “…many different things.” Such as…? Different from what? Different in what way? “…seem more real.” Compared to what? “…better relate to them.” Better than what? Better in what way? When comparing ideas, be specific about both.


·                    Avoid broad or non-specific descriptives. “…a certain type of narrative structure.” Which type? “…several important characteristics…” Such as? “…opposition to various things.” Again, what things, specifically?


·                    Avoid meaningless stock responses, especially when discussing the author’s purpose. “…make the reader think.” “…make the piece more effective and meaningful...” “…allowing the reader to better relate to them.” These phrases sound good but they don’t really mean anything. They are far too broad, vague and universal; everything an author does essentially serves these purposes. Again, be more specific.


·                    Avoid indefinite pronouns: something, anything, everything; someone, anyone, everyone. Where possible, use a specific noun instead; identify specifically to what (or to whom) the indefinite pronoun refers, or might refer.


·                    Avoid meaningless and needless extra sentences and phrases like: “This text supports the critical lens.”  “Another way in which this test supports the critical lens is…”   “There are many examples of how this book reveals the principles suggested by the statement.”   “This is another example of how the author uses literary elements to support the critical lens.”   There is no need to announce your purpose. Make your purpose clear by constructing your essay intelligently and providing meaningful specifics.