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What Are the Best Tips for Analyzing Literature?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 02 September 2016
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Part of the joy of reading is figuring out how to get good at analyzing literature in a meaningful way. The first step is to figure out what kind of text is being read, as the analysis of the text can vary according to the type of writing. Analyzing literature presented as a novel, for example, will differ from the analysis of a short story or poem. A reader may be able to identify a plot in a short story or novel, but in a poem, a plot may not be present at all; instead, a central theme or idea may be present for identification.

Identifying key elements of a story is another good tip for analyzing literature. Setting, tone, theme, and even the identity of the narrator can help make analyzing literature much easier. The setting is the place and time in which a story takes place, and it can have a significant effect on how characters interact, how plots unfold, and how interactions can be interpreted in the context of the time period. The tone is the general mood the writer has chosen to tell the story. Identifying the tone of a story can give the reader a better understanding of character motivations and the central idea behind the text.

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Authors often attempt to convey ideas without directly stating those ideas by using figurative language. It is a good idea to learn some of the different types of figurative language when analyzing literature, and some of the most important types of figurative language include metaphor and simile. Similes are comparisons between two seemingly dissimilar things using the word "like" or "as." A metaphor is also a comparison between two seemingly unlike things, but metaphors do not use "like" or "as" to denote the comparison. Metaphors can be trickier to identify than similes, but being able to identify either type of figurative language will help the reader gain a deeper understanding of the text.

A narrator is the storyteller, and the voice can come in different forms depending on the choices the author has made. It is important to identify a narrator when analyzing literature, as well as what type of narrator is telling the story. A third person omniscient narrator, for example, will tell the story in an omniscient, or all knowing, manner. This means the reader will get insight into the thoughts of all characters in the story. A first person narrator will tell the story from the "I" perspective, and his or her storytelling will be limited by what that character says, thinks, feels, or does.

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irontoenail
Post 3

@KoiwiGal - In saying that, I would also urge people to stick to their guns. Just because an expert says something, doesn't mean it's true. Even if the author themselves says something it doesn't make it true in your experience.

Reading is about the reader and the connections they make. Everything about it is relative and that includes the analysis of what it all means. If, to you, it means one thing and to everyone else it means something else, that's OK.

KoiwiGal
Post 2

@Ana1234 - It's surprising what depth even children's books might have though. The Harry Potter series is an interesting example. I don't think it would stand up to the kind of analysis that you might do on something like Shakespeare, but the insights that I've seen people come up with online are pretty amazing.

I guess one of my tips for analyzing literature is to do a lot of research. Most classics will have been analyzed extensively and there will be a lot of information out there for you to enjoy and process. Learning from experts is the best way to learn and eventually you will get the knack of it and be able to do it yourself.

Ana1234
Post 1

I think it's important to read through a novel or a poem first without any intention of looking for deeper meaning. Just enjoy the story or the words and images for what they are on the surface.

For some kinds of poetry and novels, that is all you will ever want to do because there isn't much below the surface. But for others, you will have a much richer experience if you do a bit of analysis. I think it should always be about enjoying yourself though.

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