Okay, so what is a close reading? Googling the term “close reading” could help, but be aware that what you’ll find isn’t the same as my assignment but rather explanations of a term used in literary criticism. Basically, a close reading is a focused argument in support of a specific, arguable, literary thesis, which usually appears at the end of the first paragraph.
Assume that your reader has read the work you’re discussing, but you’ll still need to give them guideposts to the exact episode or feature of the work you’re discussing; assume they’ve read the story or poem but don’t have it open in front of them and, more importantly, haven’t spent as much time reading it carefully as you have.
Here are a couple of links that may be helpful. First, here’s a list of General Questions (from Ann Charters’s anthology “The Story”. You can print this out and use the questions listed on the two pages to help you come up with ideas about the work you want to write about.