Literary Essay Sample: Role of Context in Interpretation of Meaning

Published: 2019-12-09
Literary Essay Sample: Role of Context in Interpretation of Meaning
Categories:  English literature
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 1007 words
9 min read

Mr. Dursley might have been drifting into an uneasy sleep, but the cat on the wall outside was showing no sign of sleepiness. It was sitting as still as a statue, and its eyes fixed unblinkingly on the far corner of Privet Drive. It did not so much as quiver when a car door slammed on the next street, nor when two owls swooped overhead. In fact, it was nearly midnight before the cat moved at all.

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A man appeared on the corner the cat had been watching, appeared so suddenly and silently you'd have thought he'd just popped out of the ground. The cat's tail twitched and its eyes narrowed.

Nothing like this man had ever been seen on Privet Drive. He was tall, thin, and ancient, judging by the silver of his hair and beard, which were both long enough to tuck into his belt. He was wearing long robes, a purple cloak that swept the ground, and high-heeled, buckled boots. His blue eyes were light, bright, and sparkling behind half-moon spectacles and his nose was very long and crooked, as though it had been broken at least twice. This man's name was Albus Dumbledore.

Title of the book: The Boy Who Lived

The Text is selected from Chapter 1 of Harry Potter and the Philosopher`s Stone

Lexical ambiguity words

My decision of selecting this text was influenced by its relevance and also the ability to sustain various aspects that are used to infer or analyze context for meaning interpretation. Various forms of lexical ambiguity can be exemplified from this text based on different perspectives incorporated throughout the whole text. To mention a few they include, but not limited to; drifting, sitting, swept, sparkling, crooked, fixed, slammed, narrowed, uneasy sleep and sleepiness. The word list is endless, but I will dwell on some that I have mentioned.

In this context, depending on where the word has been used, it portrays an aspect of polysemy or homonym. Beginning with polysemy: the word sitting has several meanings, such as; a period when one is seated for s specific task, a legislative session, and also the act of a bird incubating the eggs. In the text the cat has been told to be sitting, to mean that it was seated for a particular purpose, particularly resting and the author ultimately said that the cat had speculation concerning an individual move that would have happened in due course and that was it remained stagnant at that place.

The word narrow in the Oxford English dictionary means, something having a small width, not wide, slim, slender, restrictive without flexibility. In the text the author tells us that the cats eyes narrowed, to mean the cat concentrated, focused or gave prompt attention, restrictions on what it had seen in the Privet Drive and this was Albus Dumbledore. Another word is popped. Conventionally it means, a loud, sharp sound produced when the cork is coming out of a bottle, an effervescence or fizzy drink, a portion or a quantity dispensed. The author meant to get come from, based on its usage. He intended to appear in full blast without any warning or announcement. There is limited usage of homonymy in the text.


The use of deixis has been highly incorporated from the beginning to the end in this text, and various forms of deixis can be clearly and discriminatively outlined.

Personal deixis

The word such as; it, itself, he, his, have been used to refer to the cat and a man known as Albus Dumbledore. The referent for the cat as it, meant the cat itself, personally as it is an animal and the word it's to say part of the cats body such as the tail, the eyes and so on. The whole text has three characters in general in which, these are Mr. Dursely, the cat, and Albus Dumbledore. Words like he and his, have been broadly used to refer to Albus Dumbledore, to give an outline of his general and physical appearance before we are finally told of his name later in the last sentence of the last paragraph. The words have been used to precisely distinguish him and make him appear like he is a robber though we have not been told literally that is what it portrays.

Social deixis

In the text, I also discovered the element of social deixis application in a word like Mr. Dursely. By use of Mr. to refer to Dursley, it means that he is a man who has a good reputation. There was no use of the word Mr. to refer to Albus because it appears like he is a ruthless man and a good for nothing fellow, but for Dursely it meant that he is a man of dignity, integrity, and respect are accorded to him.

Temporal deixis

Words like nearly have been used in the text. That is, in fact, almost midnight was when the cat moved is a temporal deixis. This means that the cat hardly moved out from the place it was at that particular time

Special deixis

The word far, while referring to the direction where the cat focused. That is not near as such and not too away from a particular place.


The word drifting as used to refer to the kind of sleep that Mr. Dursley was leading meant that he partially or aimlessly got a good sleep on that day. This means that it was so difficult for him to get asleep as a result of thinking about maybe some things that have not been mentioned by the author.

Discourse Topic

The text I chose, Chapter 1 of Harry Potter and the Philosopher`s Stone. It had significant impression concerning my analysis of the context; I was able to outline most aspects of analysis in the text, and I was also capable of understanding the intended meaning rather than the conventional sense of the topic The Boy who Lived, that the author was trying to bring into attention or pass across.

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