Close reading happens when a reader bases understanding of a text on small details. The details give the overall “big picture” — main idea or overarching theme. Looking at small details will allow a reader to understand not only the author’s ideas, but also her artistry and craft as a writer.
Observation is key to close reading, so you must take notes, re-read the text, and question it. Read the passage below, and write questions you may have:
I sat down in the middle of the garden, where snakes could scarcely approach unseen, and leaned my back against a warm yellow pumpkin. There were some ground-cherry bushes growing along the furrows, full of fruit. I turned back the papery triangular sheaths that protected the berries and ate a few. All about me giant grasshoppers, twice as big as any I had ever seen, were doing acrobatic feats among the dried vines. The gophers scurried up and down the ploughed ground. There in the sheltered draw-bottom the wind did not blow very hard, but I could hear it singing its humming tune up on the level, and I could see the tall grasses wave. The earth was warm under me, and warm as I crumbled it through my fingers. . . . I kept as still as I could. Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more.
– Willa Cather, My Ántonia (1918), Bk 1, chapter II.
Thank you Kathy for your literary companionship and for you digital acuity. You lift me up with your experience, humor, eternal seeking, and your lust for life.