Adding Detail to Your Explanations

We all know that the purpose of an explanation is to analyze the illustration to show how it supports the topic sentence, right? When we first start using the PIE format, our explanations might just be a sentence each, and that’s okay at the beginning. As we become experts in PIE, though, our analysis should get better and better. We should find ourselves writing explanations that are 2 or 3 sentences, or sometimes even longer.

We can add to our explanations by:

  • Analyzing the quote in multiple ways
  • Analyzing multiple parts of the quote
  • Analyzing the author’s language (word choice, sentence structure, literary devices, etc)
  • Making connections to previous PIEs to show similarity, change, etc.

Examples:

Original PIE, with a simple one-sentence explanation:
(TS)
Many women in The House on Mango Street experience sexism. (P) First, Esperanza’s great grandmother gets trapped in the house by her husband. (I) She was an independent woman, “Until my great-grandfather threw a sack over her head and carried her off. Just like that, as if she were a fancy chandelier” (11). (E) Esperanza’s great-grandmother does not have control of her life and feels trapped.

Revised PIE, with added explanation:
(TS) Many women in The House on Mango Street experience sexism. (P) First, Esperanza’s great grandmother gets trapped in the house by her husband. (I) She was an independent woman, “Until my great-grandfather threw a sack over her head and carried her off. Just like that, as if she were a fancy chandelier” (11). (E) Esperanza’s great-grandmother does not have control of her life and feels trapped. Her husband treats her like an object to be controlled just because of her gender. The comparison of a woman to a chandelier, a decorative object, reveals Esperanza’s great-grandfather’s inability to see women as human, let alone as equals.

Note how the second explanation makes the same connection to the topic sentence as the first did, but it does so MORE SPECIFICALLY. It analyzes the author’s LANGUAGE in discussing the comparison between the woman and the chandelier.

Original PIE, with a simple one-sentence explanation:
(P) Second, Alicia has to wake up early to cook for her family. (I) Cisneros writes, “Alicia, whose mama died, is sorry there is no one older to rise and make the lunchbox tortillas” (31). (E) Alicia has to work really hard to cook for her family in addition to studying for her classes at the university.

Revised PIE, with added explanation:

(P) Second, Alicia has to wake up early to cook for her family. (I) Cisneros writes, “Alicia, whose mama died, is sorry there is no one older to rise and make the lunchbox tortillas” (31). (E) Alicia has to work really hard to cook for her family in addition to studying for her classes at the university. Her father limits his daughter to the stereotypically female roles of cook and caregiver and fails to see her as an individual. Additionally, in mentioning Alicia’s mother’s death and her work in the kitchen in the same sentence, Cisneros implies that Alicia has taken over her mother’s role. Cisneros highlights the tendency of kitchen work to be passed between generations of women–women who will have to fight to break that cycle.

Note again how the second explanation makes the same connection to the topic sentence as the shorter one did. However, the second explanation analyzes the illustration in TWO DIFFERENT WAYS. It first addresses how Alicia’s father sees her, and then discusses Cisneros’s language choices. (And, of course, it all relates back to the topic sentence in the end.)

You try it: Write a detailed explanation for the following partial PIE:
(P) Third, Sally gets beaten cruelly by her father. (I) Esperanza claims that everything was fine “Until one day Sally’s father catches her talking to a boy and the next day she doesn’t come to school. And the next. Until the way Sally tells it, he just went crazy, he just forgot he was her father between the belt and the buckle. (E)

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