Analysing explicit and implicit meaning

When analysing explicit and implicit meaning, as well as having lots of ideas, you need to explain them clearly.

In order to show your understanding, you should:

  • develop your ideas only from what you find in the text
  • use examples from the text to support your ideas, for example, quotations
  • explain the effects that the writer is trying to have on the reader and the purposes for these
  • you can use the IDEAS technique to help structure your answer

Take a look at the following extract from Robert Westall's novel, Urn Burial. The narrator is telling us about a character called Ralph, who has been captured by an alien race:

This was the worst nightmare yet. He was standing with his back pressed against a smooth wall cold as ice. The cold nibbled at his buttocks and legs; it ran up and down the knobbles of his spine, making him shiver; it invaded his lungs so he could hardly breathe; he felt he had been shivering a long time.

Urn Burial by Robert Westall

In the extract, the writer is using the narrator to create a creepy, sinister atmosphere. The way that the narrator describes Ralph's imprisonment makes it sound very unpleasant.

He is 'pressed against a smooth wall that is cold as ice' and the cold is creeping into every part of his body, making him shiver. Ralph also feels as if he can 'hardly breathe' because of the cold.

The text ‘He was standing with his back pressed against a smooth wall cold as ice.’ is shown with the words ‘cold as ice’ emphasised.

The writer uses a range of literary techniques here. The simile 'cold as ice', helps the reader relate to Ralph as they will know what ice feels like. The writer also uses personification 'the cold nibbled at Ralph, it ran up and down his back and invaded his lungs'. This adds an emotional effect for the reader because it makes the cold sound as if it were alive, running over and into Ralph, trying to eat away at him. We can imply from this that he has been overpowered and is in danger.