Analysing prose

You can analyse prose by thinking about its context, audience and purpose - or CAP.

For example, look at this extract:

It seemed like just another cold, wet, winter night in downtown Pelleville. He hiked up his collar, stepped nearer the kerb and hailed a cab. "Where to, mister?" asked the driver.

"The Vegas", was all he replied before the cab sped away.

In the dry warmth, Spickler slipped his hand inside his coat and felt for the pistol. He knew it was there. He knew he'd be okay.

Question

Now try to analyse it using the following points:

Context

  • What is the context of this text?
  • When, where and in what situation was it created?
  • What does it look like?
  • What other text type is it like?

Audience

  • What kind of audience is the text created for and how does this affect its style?
  • What features of the text let you know this?

Purpose

  • What is the purpose of the text? - What is the writer trying to achieve by creating the text?

Context - The text here seems to be part of a fictional story – perhaps the genre of a crime novel as there is a character with a pistol. It is clearly set in America as it uses the Americanism "downtown". It follows the genre conventions of a fictional story as it uses characters, places and action as well as narration and description as a way to give the reader a sense of ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘where’.

Audience - The sentences are straightforward and not overly complex, and the language is highly descriptive. The fact that there is mention of a 'pistol'and a nickname, 'Spickler', gives us clues that the audience is intended to be younger, perhaps teenagers?

Purpose - The writer is using it to communicate something and to create a response. Looking at the genre conventions, ie the use of dialogue (speech) and third-person narration (the writer is using the narrator here mainly to give description), this is clearly a story that is designed to entertain. This style means that it doesn’t read like a factual and truthful account, but is still made to seem natural and realistic by giving details that encourage the reader to imagine the person and the place.