Lesson #106: Mini-lesson Monday (Part 2): Comprehending ‘The Fawn’

Learn English Through Literature

Mini-lesson Monday continued (part 2):

You will see here how I approached the opening line of Edna St Vincent Millay’s ‘The Fawn’ in one of my English language lessons. 

I made use of a few simple steps to help with textual comprehension and it only took a few minutes. I will share with you what we did (plus an extra step).

πŸ–‹οΈ Step 1: Cross out or block out any group of words that initially confuses you. 

Focus instead on understanding the rest. Read it over a couple of times if you need to. 

It will soon make sense!

πŸ–‹οΈ Step 2: Re-write the line in your own words to establish its meaning.

πŸ–‹οΈ Step 3: Now search for the meaning of any word that you may not understand.

In this case, the word ‘retrieve’ may have been unclear. Put simply, ‘retrieve’ means to ‘bring something back’.

πŸ–‹οΈ Step 4: Are there any synonyms of the word you didn’t know that might help you to remember it? In this case, synonyms of ‘retrieve’ might include: ‘recover, restore, recapture, salvage, rescue (something), save (something), fetch’.

Note: ‘retrieve’ is not used to describe an action done to a person – you don’t retrieve a person, only a thing.

πŸ–‹οΈ Step 5: Rephrase the sentence’s meaning in your own words. (You could do this aloud or in writing). For example: ‘I saw something there that I will not easily forget’ or ‘I saw something there that I will always remember’. 

Compare these to the poet’s line.

✍️ Do you notice any additional meaning or subtlety in her original line when you compare it with your own phrasing? 

If you discern a new nuance, no matter how small, you are on your way towards reading English literature and fully enjoying it. 

Well done!

Please feel free to share your rephrased sentences and discoveries with me (you can do this via the contact form) – I am looking forward to reading them!

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by Joyce E. Gibbons

English language tutor and researcher at 'Learn English Through Literature' (2021)