Dialectical Journal – Lord of the Flies
Dialectical journals are reaction records you keep while reading. Your goal is to make notes about
points in the novel that you think are important, interesting, sad, funny, confusing, etc. during your
reading. You must connect and explain an incident, character, image, etc. to its literary merit. Your
answers should be accurate, insightful and thorough. These notes will help during class discussions,
when reviewing for the exam, and when preparing for your analytical essay. Do not use paraphrase;
pull specific, cited quotations from the novel. Often you will choose quotations that you have
annotated for a specific reason; other times I will assign a general topic for which you will pull
evidence and offer analysis. Your commentary should not paraphrase the idea or summarize plot;
commentary should reveal the value of your chosen quotation.
Possibilities for literary comment include but are not limited to:
This description is effective because . . .
The setting gives the effect of . . .
This detail seems out of place/effective/important because . . .
The thematic idea reflected here is . . .
The tone of the quote is . . . because . . .
The irony/foreshadowing/symbol is important/effective because . . .
The imagery/allusion/simile/metaphor/personification is important/effective because . . .
The character described here . . .
Criteria for the journal:
All assigned entries are completed on time. Remember, I love using my stamp for completion!
Each quote is labeled with the literary device(s) it addresses.
Each entry is thorough (minimum of 5 sentences) and accurate.
The minimum number of entries is completed (3 entries per assignment, not per chapter).
All entries must be recorded in your blue book using the following format:
Chapter(s) _________ Quotes (centered on the top line of the page)
Quote #_____ (with the correct punctuation and citation)
“ _____________________________________________________________” (14).
Commentary: __________________________________________ (minimum of 5 sentences)
Do not cite an entire event – focus on pulling the specific quote(s) you want to use. You may
use a conversation that occurs. For clarification, be sure to designate a new line for each new
Start each new set of quotes on a new, labeled page.
Note the following examples from To Kill A Mockingbird:
Chapter(s) 1-10 Quotes
Quote #1: “ . . . as I read the alphabet a faint line appeared between *the teacher’s+ eyebrows, and
after making [Scout] read most of My First Reader aloud, she discovered that [Scout] was literate
and looked at [her] with faint distaste. Miss Caroline told [Scout] to tell [her] father not to teach
[her] anymore, it would interfere with *her+ reading.” (17)
Device: Character Analysis
Commentary: Miss Caroline is revealed to be a hypocrite in this interaction with Scout. She should
be proud of Scout for her ability to read so well at her age, yet the teacher admonishes her for
having such strong reading skills. This certainly causes confusion for Scout, and rightfully so. It is
also ironic that a teacher would suggest that a parent not read with his or her child. The teacher
is suggesting that there is harm being done by Atticus, Scout’s father, reading to her, when in fact
he is partially doing the teacher’s job for her and supporting what she is teaching. This conflict
with her teacher is likely to cause more trouble for her in the future.
Quote #2: Atticus and his brother Jack are discussing the Tom Robinson trial; Tom is an African-
American man who is accused of raping a white woman.
“You know what’s going to happen as well as I do, Jack, and I hope and pray I can get Jem and
Scout through it without bitterness, and most of all without catching Maycomb’s usual disease.
Why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, is
something I don’t pretend to understand . . . “ (88)
Commentary: This quote is an excellent example of Lee’s use of diction . By referring to the racism
that exists in Maycomb as a “disease” instead of a problem, a dilemma, or even a virus, the reader
understand the impact of such close-mindedness on the town. A disease is an invasive, damaging
condition that is difficult, if not impossible, to recover from, and in Atticus’ opinion, so is the
racism that exists in his community. His concern that his kids might “catch” it shows the danger
that exists for the youth of the town who will ultimately have the responsibility of helping the
town recover from the damaging effects of this “disease.” If they, too, “catch” it, the future of
Maycomb with regard to acceptance and equality is in great peril. This use of diction also sets an
anxious and even ominous tone for the chapters that follow.