Conventions of Composition Rule 209

Rule: Avoid claims of authorial intent. What an author, poet, or playwright tried to say doesn't matter for your analysis. Demonstrate what's in the text.


Wrong: Nathaniel Hawthorne was trying to make a statement about the importance redemption.

Better: The Scarlet Letter makes a statement about the importance of redemption.

Wrong: Steinbeck hoped to show that George had a complex personality.

Better: By showing both his gruff side and his care for Lennie, Steinbeck shows George's complex personality.

Practice removing claims of authorial intent:

  1. Morrison doesn't want Sula and Nel's relationship to be easy for the reader to understand.
  2. Golding purposefully has Jack and Ralph display opposing characteristics.
  3. Bronte wanted the reader to have mixed feelings about Heathcliff.

Resources for further explanation of avoiding claims of authorial intent:

UVM's Tips for Close Reading (scroll down or search "authorial intent")

SMU's The Intentional Fallacy