Analytical Writing

    Analysis, from Greek, {alenis}{nu}{gaacu}{lambda}{upsilon}{sigma}{iota}{fsigma}, n. of action f. {alenis}{nu}{alpha}{lambda}{guacu}-{epsilon}{iota}{nu} to unloose, undo

           Analysis discovers knowledge by taking previously "known" things apart and examining how their parts work together.  Analytical writing records the analyst's exploration of each part or relationship and draws conclusions about their quality and significance.  Voltaire dissects the commonplace moral and ethical ideas of his era in Candide by taking them apart and putting them in varying test circumstances ("thou shalt not kill"?--how about in self-defense, or killing an evil person?).  Thoreau's Walden, with its painstaking description of individual elements of Thoreau's physical and philosophical location at the pond, could be considered a masterful ecological analysis of both the pond and of the author's culture.  To analyze Thoreau's book, you might ask yourself why he divided up his world into those particular named elements, why he gave the chapters those names, and why he ordered them as he did.  Does a pair or sequence of chapters' juxtaposition make some larger sense?  Do his beginning and ending chapters reveal something about his choices?  Warner breaks a year on the Bay into four seasons, from Fall to Summer, and follows the seasonal alteration of all the species living in the Bay through those four stages.  The same kinds of questions can be asked of any book-length document that is broken into chapter-like elements, even Aebi's apparently simple "chronological" narration, which actually has numerous chronology-violating elements ("flashbacks," and "flash-forwards") to create a second analytical pattern in counterpoint with the long sailing "legs" of her voyage around the Earth in her boat.  When Warner dissects a crab, or a waterman's day, you are able to observe, similarly, the author's way of seeing a whole thing's parts, which is not necessarily the only way to divide the thing.  Those choices tell us things about the writers, and our responses to them tell us much about ourselves.