Analysis: Getting Started
What is an
these questions, and use one or more of them to help you analyze the work.
You have to come to some sort of conclusion about the content of the work,
not just discuss the content itself.
are asked to write an essay about literature, it is not acceptable to just
summarize the work. Instead, you should use quotations and insights to
illustrate a certain point or answer a certain question about the work.
through the following questions and try to find one which might help you
discuss something important about the work you are studying.
the theme of the work, or what is the author trying to say? How does the
author communicate that theme to the reader?
author use any special techniques, such as foreshadowing, flashback, or
story-within-a-story? How do these techniques contribute to the work's
message or effect?
author use irony or satire? How and why? (Irony and satire have several very
specific meanings. Look them up.)
the author's tone (style or manner of expression)? The tone might be
sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek, spiteful, pitying, amused, etc. How is this tone
expressed, and why does the author use this tone?
the narrator in the work? (The narrator is often not the same as the
author.) Can you characterize the narrator? How does s/he fit into the work?
What is the narrator's perspective, and how does that perspective contribute
to the author's message? Why did the author choose this particular narrator?
the setting of the story? Does the setting contribute to the meaning? (For
example, Stephen King's The Shining is about a man going insane, and part of
the setting is a maze, representing his mind.) Or does the work teach us
something about the setting? (For example, did The Great Gatsby teach you
something, about women in 1920s America?)
author use symbols (things, people, colors, names) to contribute to the
meaning of the work? (For example, white often symbolizes purity, and night
often indicates death. A caged bird is a common symbol of physical, mental,
or emotional imprisonment, and an unnamed character shows a lack of
work have a motif, or a reoccurring thematic element? In other words, does
the same image (like water, coldness, music, birds) pop up again and again?
What is the significance of the motif.) How does it contribute to the theme?
a certain character who is particularly interesting to you? Can you do an
in-depth study of that character? How does s/he develop or change? How does
he/she fit into the work, or contribute to the theme?
compare and contrast any two characters in the work, or can you compare and
contrast one to a character in a different but somehow related work? (You
can also compare/contrast settings, themes, characters or symbols.
seen a movie or play version of the work you are writing about? Compare the
book and the movie. How and why are they different?
do feminist criticism of the work? How does the author portray women? (Or
how does the author portray any particular social group: African Americans,
Latin Americans, Jews, Muslims, Christians, homosexuals, businessmen,