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Questions & Answers

What is the difference between "explaining" and "analysing"?

There’s a big difference. Even the skills required to do justice to both the tasks (of either explaining or analyzing) are quite different!

To ‘explain’, is simply to simply make an idea or thought clear in different words. But to ‘analyze’ is to do a lot more than that. In order to analyze, one has to look deeply not just at the direct meaning of the text but within the indirect implications also, that the text has to offer. Some of the important considerations could be the following:

What tone does the author use?

A negative, positive, dismal, cheerful etc. tone would implicitly demonstrate the writer’s general attitude toward the thing being talked about.

What mood is produced?:

The mood is produced to enable the reader to feel in a certain way; for instance, the writer might make the reader feel scared, anxious or even concerned for the characters present in a haunted house.

How is vocabulary used?:

Words could either be arranged in a certain way or their connotations could be used in order to convey a particular meaning. Syntax and diction are often played with by the writers. Vocabulary can also work to produce a certain tone or mood.

Are any literary devices or figures of speech employed?:

Tools like metaphor, simile, hyperbole, alliteration, allusion etc. could be used to make a certain point come across in an interesting manner.

So, to ‘analyze’ is to look deeply at the text, the way it’s structured and the devices that have been employed in order to gauge the meaning of the text in an all-encompassing manner. 

For instance, if the prompt was the following passage from The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe:

“It was A LOW, DULL, QUICK SOUND -- MUCH SUCH A SOUND AS A WATCH MAKES WHEN ENVELOPED IN COTTON. I gasped for breath, and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly, more vehemently but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why WOULD they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men, but the noise steadily increased. O God! What COULD I do? I foamed -- I raved -- I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder -- louder -- louder!”

The explanation would simply tell that the person is anxious about the situation and is frantically trying to get his point across. But the analysis would jot down in great detail all the techniques used by the writer to get the point across; for example, the capitalizations, vocabulary connotations and repetition to convey a sense of frustration, anxiety, depression or even guilt.

Critical Analysis would go even a step further, that is it would, apart from merely understanding the text in the deepest way possible, also ensure that it sheds some light over the pros and cons of it. For instance, the things that the writer was or was not able to do well.

So, explaining is plainly telling what has been said but analyzing is looking at it deeply and dissecting it thoroughly.

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