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SOAPStone Strategy for Literary Analysis (+ Examples)

SOAPStone Strategy
The SOAPStone strategy is a method of literary/ rhetorical analysis and close reading used by students and scholars to examine and understand written texts, particularly non-fiction works like speeches, essays, and articles. SOAPStone is a mnenomic that stands for Speaker (S), Occasion (O), Audience (A), Purpose (P), and Subject (S), and Tone.

Key Elements

Here is a breakdown of key elements:

  1. Speaker:
    • Who is the author or speaker of the text?
    • What is their background, credibility, perspective, and reputation?
    • What is their point of view or perspective on the subject?
    • How does the speaker’s identity influence the text?
    • Understanding the speaker’s identity and motivation can provide insights into their biases and objectives.
  2. Occasion:
    • When and where was the text created or delivered?
    • What historical, cultural, or social context is relevant to the text?
    • Why was this text produced at this specific time and place?
    • How does the occasion affect the author’s message?
    • Understanding the occasion can help you grasp why the author chose to address the topic at that particular moment.
  3. Audience:
    • Who is the intended audience of the text?
    • What are the characteristics, values, and beliefs of the audience?
    • How does the author tailor the message to appeal to this audience?
    • What does the author assume or expect of the audience?
    • What are their characteristics, values, and beliefs? Understanding the audience helps in analyzing how the author tailors their message to appeal to a specific group of people.
  4. Purpose:
    • What is the author’s purpose in writing or speaking?
    • What does the author want to achieve with this text?
    • Is the purpose to inform, persuade, entertain, provoke, or something else?
    • How does the author use rhetoric to achieve their purpose?
    • What evidence in the text supports the identified purpose?
  5. Subject:
    • What is the main topic or subject of the text?
    • What specific issues, themes, or ideas are being explored?
    • Are there multiple layers or aspects to the subject?
    • How is the subject developed or discussed in the text?
    • Identifying the subject matter is crucial for understanding the central ideas and arguments.
  6. Tone:
    • What is the emotional or rhetorical tone of the text?
    • Is the tone formal, informal, persuasive, critical, or neutral?
    • How does the tone contribute to the author’s message?
    • Are there shifts in tone throughout the text?
    • Analyzing the tone helps in deciphering the author’s attitude and approach to the subject.

By systematically examining these elements, readers can gain a deeper understanding of a text and its intended message. SOAPStone is a useful tool for literary analysis, helping readers dissect and interpret texts in a structured and comprehensive manner. It is often used in educational settings to teach students critical reading and analytical skills.


Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” Speech

Let’s analyze Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech using the SOAPStone strategy:

  1. Speaker:
    • Speaker: Martin Luther King Jr.
    • Background: Civil rights leader, Baptist minister, known for his activism and advocacy for racial equality.
    • Perspective: Advocated for nonviolent protest and civil rights for African Americans.
  2. Occasion:
    • Occasion: Delivered on August 28, 1963, during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
    • Context: Height of the civil rights movement in the United States, a time of racial segregation and discrimination.
    • Significance: The march aimed to address racial inequality and advocate for civil rights legislation.
  3. Audience:
    • Intended Audience: A diverse crowd of over 200,000 civil rights activists, including African Americans and supporters of the movement.
    • Characteristics: Diverse in age, race, and background, united in the pursuit of civil rights.
    • Values and Beliefs: Shared values of equality, justice, and an end to racial segregation.
  4. Purpose:
    • Main Objective: To inspire and motivate the audience to continue the fight for civil rights through peaceful means.
    • Purpose: To call for an end to racial segregation and discrimination and demand equal rights.
    • Rhetoric: Utilized powerful metaphors and repetition for persuasive impact.
    • Evidence: The speech outlines the injustices faced by African Americans and presents a vision of a more just and equal America.
  5. Subject:
    • Main Topic: Racial equality and civil rights.
    • Specific Issues and Themes: Segregation, discrimination, freedom, justice, and equality.
    • Layers: The speech addresses both the immediate need for civil rights legislation and the broader dream of a racially harmonious society.
  6. Tone:
    • Tone: Inspirational, passionate, and hopeful.
    • Rhetorical Tone: Use of vivid imagery, metaphors (e.g., “I have a dream”), and repetition (“Let freedom ring”) to evoke emotion and inspire action.
    • Impact: The tone resonated with the audience and is still celebrated for its emotional power.

In this analysis of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, we’ve broken down each component of the SOAPStone strategy to better understand the context, purpose, and impact of the speech. This method helps reveal the rhetorical and persuasive elements used by the speaker to convey their message effectively to a specific audience during a critical historical occasion.

Fitzgerald’s Novel “The Great Gatsby”

Let’s analyze the opening paragraph of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby” using the SOAPStone strategy:

  1. Speaker:
    • Speaker: F. Scott Fitzgerald, an American novelist.
    • Background: A prominent author of the Jazz Age, known for his exploration of the American Dream.
    • Perspective: Often critiqued the excesses and moral decay of the wealthy during the Roaring Twenties.
  2. Occasion:
    • Occasion: Published in 1925.
    • Context: The novel is set in the 1920s, a time of opulence and social change.
    • Significance: The opening paragraph sets the tone for the entire novel and introduces the themes of wealth and illusion.
  3. Audience:
    • Intended Audience: General readership of the novel, including those interested in American literature.
    • Characteristics: Diverse readers, but likely includes those interested in exploring the American Dream and the Roaring Twenties.
    • Values and Beliefs: Reflects the society of the time, with varying perspectives on wealth, success, and morality.
  4. Purpose:
    • Main Objective: To set the stage for the novel and introduce the central themes.
    • Purpose: To offer a critique of the pursuit of wealth and the hollowness of the American Dream.
    • Rhetoric: Employs vivid imagery and symbolism to convey a sense of extravagance and superficiality.
    • Evidence: The paragraph introduces the extravagant parties at Gatsby’s mansion and hints at the contrast between appearance and reality.
  5. Subject:
    • Main Topic: The opulence and extravagance of the Jazz Age, as well as the pursuit of the American Dream.
    • Specific Issues and Themes: Excess, superficiality, illusion, wealth, and the disillusionment of the American Dream.
    • Layers: The paragraph hints at deeper societal issues beneath the surface glamour.
  6. Tone:
    • Tone: Descriptive, alluring, and slightly critical.
    • Rhetorical Tone: Utilizes rich descriptions and metaphorical language to create an atmosphere of decadence while subtly critiquing the characters’ pursuits.
    • Impact: Sets the stage for the exploration of these themes throughout the novel and engages the reader’s curiosity about the characters and their motivations.

In this analysis of the opening paragraph of “The Great Gatsby,” we’ve applied the SOAPStone strategy to understand the context, purpose, and impact of Fitzgerald’s writing. This approach helps us appreciate how the author introduces the reader to the world of the novel, its characters, and the central themes of wealth and illusion.

“The Matrix” Film Directed by The Wachowskis

Let’s analyze the film “The Matrix,” directed by the Wachowskis, using the SOAPStone strategy:

  1. Speaker:
    • Speaker: The Wachowskis (Lana and Lilly Wachowski), directors and screenwriters.
    • Background: Known for their groundbreaking work in science fiction cinema.
    • Perspective: Crafted a dystopian narrative that explores themes of reality, identity, and control.
  2. Occasion:
    • Occasion: Released in 1999.
    • Context: Set in a futuristic world, it reflects the turn of the millennium and growing concerns about the impact of technology on society.
    • Significance: The film is a significant work in the cyberpunk genre, challenging perceptions of reality and the nature of existence.
  3. Audience:
    • Intended Audience: Science fiction enthusiasts, fans of action films, and those interested in philosophical questions.
    • Characteristics: A diverse audience with varying levels of familiarity with science fiction and technology.
    • Values and Beliefs: Addresses concerns about technology, surveillance, and the blurred lines between reality and simulation.
  4. Purpose:
    • Main Objective: To create a visually stunning and intellectually challenging science fiction film.
    • Purpose: To provoke thought and discussion about the nature of reality, free will, and control.
    • Rhetoric: Utilizes groundbreaking special effects, intricate storytelling, and philosophical themes to engage the audience.
    • Evidence: The film presents a world where humans are trapped in a simulated reality while battling machines that control them.
  5. Subject:
    • Main Topic: The blurred lines between reality and simulation in a dystopian future.
    • Specific Issues and Themes: Artificial intelligence, surveillance, rebellion, the quest for truth, and the nature of free will.
    • Layers: The film explores both the action-packed surface and deeper philosophical layers.
  6. Tone:
    • Tone: Dark, thought-provoking, and visually striking.
    • Rhetorical Tone: Employs cutting-edge visual effects, symbolism, and philosophical dialogues to challenge the audience’s perceptions.
    • Impact: Sparked discussions about the film’s philosophical themes and its influence on pop culture.

In this analysis of “The Matrix,” we’ve applied the SOAPStone strategy to understand the context, purpose, and impact of the film. This approach helps us appreciate how the Wachowskis created a groundbreaking work of science fiction that challenges the audience’s perceptions of reality, identity, and control within the specific context of a dystopian future shaped by advanced technology.

William Shakespeare’s Play “Hamlet”

Let’s analyze William Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet” using the SOAPStone strategy:

  1. Speaker:
    • Speaker: William Shakespeare, the renowned playwright.
    • Background: A prolific playwright and poet during the Elizabethan era.
    • Perspective: Known for his exploration of human nature, politics, and morality in his works.
  2. Occasion:
    • Occasion: First performed in the early 17th century.
    • Context: Set in Denmark during the late Middle Ages, a time of political intrigue and unrest.
    • Significance: “Hamlet” is considered one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies, exploring themes of revenge, madness, and moral ambiguity.
  3. Audience:
    • Intended Audience: The play was written for a diverse audience of theatergoers during Shakespeare’s time.
    • Characteristics: Varied audience members, including nobility and commoners.
    • Values and Beliefs: Reflects the societal norms and values of the Elizabethan era, including notions of honor, family, and the supernatural.
  4. Purpose:
    • Main Objective: To create a compelling and thought-provoking tragedy that resonates with the audience.
    • Purpose: To examine the complexities of human psychology, morality, and the consequences of revenge.
    • Rhetoric: Employs poetic language, soliloquies, and intricate character development to engage the audience.
    • Evidence: The play unfolds the story of Prince Hamlet, who seeks revenge for his father’s murder.
  5. Subject:
    • Main Topic: Revenge, madness, and moral ambiguity in a royal court.
    • Specific Issues and Themes: Family loyalty, betrayal, political manipulation, the supernatural, and the consequences of inaction.
    • Layers: The play delves into the psychological depths of its characters and the moral dilemmas they face.
  6. Tone:
    • Tone: Tragic, introspective, and philosophical.
    • Rhetorical Tone: Employs soliloquies, metaphors, and poetic dialogues to convey Hamlet’s inner turmoil and the moral complexities of the story.
    • Impact: Has had a profound and enduring influence on literature and theater, sparking discussions about its themes and characters for centuries.

In this analysis of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” we’ve applied the SOAPStone strategy to understand the context, purpose, and impact of the play. This approach helps us appreciate how Shakespeare crafted a timeless tragedy that explores the human condition, moral dilemmas, and political intrigue within the specific context of a royal court in Denmark during the late Middle Ages.

“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

Let’s analyze the poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost using the SOAPStone strategy:

  1. Speaker:
    • Speaker: Robert Frost, a renowned American poet.
    • Background: Known for his rural and nature-themed poetry.
    • Perspective: Often explored choices, individualism, and the human experience in his works.
  2. Occasion:
    • Occasion: Published in 1916 in the collection “Mountain Interval.”
    • Context: Written during a period of significant societal and technological change in the United States.
    • Significance: The poem is one of Frost’s most famous works, widely interpreted and analyzed for its exploration of choice and individualism.
  3. Audience:
    • Intended Audience: Poetry readers and those interested in contemplating life choices.
    • Characteristics: Diverse readers with varying life experiences and perspectives.
    • Values and Beliefs: Reflects universal themes of decision-making and the consequences of choices.
  4. Purpose:
    • Main Objective: To evoke contemplation and reflection on the significance of individual choices.
    • Purpose: To explore the idea that choices shape one’s life and can lead to unforeseen outcomes.
    • Rhetoric: Utilizes metaphor, symbolism, and a reflective tone to engage the reader.
    • Evidence: The poem presents a traveler’s choice between two diverging paths in a forest.
  5. Subject:
    • Main Topic: Choices and their impact on one’s life journey.
    • Specific Issues and Themes: The complexity of decisions, the uncertainty of the future, and the desire to take the less-traveled path.
    • Layers: The poem delves into the emotional and philosophical aspects of choice and individualism.
  6. Tone:
    • Tone: Reflective, contemplative, and philosophical.
    • Rhetorical Tone: Employs metaphors like the diverging roads and a reflective first-person narrative to encourage readers to consider their own life choices.
    • Impact: The poem has been widely studied and interpreted, sparking discussions about its meaning and relevance.

In this analysis of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” we’ve applied the SOAPStone strategy to understand the context, purpose, and impact of the poem. This approach helps us appreciate how Frost uses simple yet powerful language to explore the theme of choice and individualism within the specific context of a traveler facing a diverging path in a forest.