Literary Analysis Mack Gipson, Jr.Tutorial and Enrichment Center Gayla S. Keesee Education Specialist
Literature focuses on the search forreasons, values, and interpretations in allareas of human interest and experience. Because literature presents us with more than one possible meaning, interpretingliterature requires more care and attention than does responding to an essay.
How to proceedRead slowly and carefully.Plan on reading the work several times.Ask questions to establish the literalmeaning first; then work oninterpretation.Annotate as you read.Identify themes and patterns.
An analysis explains whata work of literature means, and how it means it.
Critical Thinking and Reading Responding to literature with acritical temperament means always being willing to analyze, interpret,question, synthesize, and evaluate.
Critical Thinking and ReadingANALYZE What does the passage mean, literally?INTERPRET: What does it mean figuratively? Are there symbolic overtones? Can it mean more than one thing? What passages in the text lead you to believe this is a valid interpretation?
Critical Thinking and ReadingQUESTION: What problems are suggested by the reading? Whats confusing? If you had the author here, what would you ask? What philosophical question(s) does the reading inspire?
Critical Thinking and ReadingSYNTHESIZE: How does this reading compare or contrast what you’ve read previously? How does it fit into your scheme, either thematically or formally?
Critical Thinking and ReadingEVALUATE: Is it a first rate piece of writing or fifth rate piece of writing? What criteria do you use to establish this judgment? If you are evaluating a poem, for instance, what defines a first rate poem? How does this particular poem match up to that standard? Can you point to the exact places in the text to support your reading?
What is Literary Analysis?It’s literaryIt’s an analysisIt’s—An Argument!Uses evidence from the textMay also involve research on andanalysis of secondary sources
How is it “literary”?Usually, a literary analysis will involve adiscussion of a text as writing, thus theterm literary, which means “having to dowith letters”This will involve the use of certainconcepts that are very specificallyassociated with literature
How to Analyze a Story• Essential Elements of the Story• Structure of the Story• Rhetorical Elements• Meaning of the Story
How to Analyze a StoryEssential Elements of the Story Plot: Relationship and patterns of events Characters: people the author creates Including the narrator of a story or the speaker of a poem Setting: when and where the action happens Point of View: perspective or attitude of the narrator or speaker Theme: main idea—what the work adds up to
PlotExposition: Introductory material giving setting,tone, charactersRising Action: series of complications leading upto the climaxConflict: Person vs…Person, Nature, Society,Supernatural, SelfCrisis/Climax: Turning point in the conflict—moment of highest interest and/or emotionFalling Action: Events after the climax whichclose the story.Resolution (Denouement): Concludes the action
Plot Sequence Crisis/Climax Rising Falling Action Action Complications leading to Conflict(s) ResolutionIntroduction
Characterization RoundProtagonist Three-dimensional personalityMain character FlatAntagonist Only one or two strikingCharacter or force qualities—all bad or all goodthat opposes themain character Dynamic Grows and progress to aFoil higher level of understandingCharacter thatprovides a contrast to Staticthe protagonist Remain unchanged throughout the story
Point of ViewFirst Person Narrator is a character within the story—reveals own thoughts and feelings but not those of othersThird Person Objective: narrator outside the story acts as a reporter —cannot tell what characters are thinking Limited: narrator outside the story but can see into the mind of one of the characters Omniscient: narrator is all-knowing outsider who can enter the mind of more than one character.
SettingTime period Instrumental inGeographical location establishing moodHistorical and cultural May symbolizes thecontext emotional state of Social characters Political Impact on Spiritual characters’ motivations and options
ThemeMain idea or underlying meaning of theliterary work. What the author wants the reader to understand about the subject In fables, this may also be the moral of the story
Common Themes in LiteratureQuestions, issues or Conflicts:problems: what is freedom vs. restraint,right or wrong; good poverty vs. wealthor bad; worthwhileor unimportant Common topics: self-realization,Abstract ideas: love, mortality, fall fromdeath, honor innocence, search for the meaning of life.
How to Analyze a StoryStructure of the Story: design orform of the completed action May philosophically mirror the author’s intentions How the author uses the elements of the story to reveal his/her theme Look for repeated elements in action, gestures, dialogue, description as well as shifts in direction, focus, time, place, etc.
How to Analyze a StoryRhetorical Elements: Identify theauthor’s use and explain their importance Foreshadowing Use of hints or clues to suggest event that will occur later in the story Builds suspense—means of making the narrative more believable Tone Author’s attitude—stated or implied—toward the subject Revealed through word choice and details
Rhetorical ElementsMood Climate of feeling in a literary work Choice of setting, objects, details, images, wordsSymbolism Person, place, object which stand for larger and more abstract ideas American flag = freedom Dove = peace
Rhetorical ElementsIrony: contrast between what isexpected or what appears to be andwhat actually is Verbal Irony—contrast between what is said and what is actually meant Irony of Situation—an event that is the opposite of what is expected or intended Dramatic Irony—Audience or reader knows more than the characters know
Rhetorical ElementsFigurative Language: language thatgoes beyond the literal meaning ofwords Simile Metaphor Personification Oxymoron Hyperbole
How to Analyze a StoryMeaning of the Story (Interpretation) Identify the theme(s) and how the author announces it. Explain how the story elements contribute to the theme. Identify contextual elements (allusions, symbols, other devices) that point beyond the story to the author’s life/experience, history or to other writings.
How do I support a thesis statement?Examples from the text Direct quotations Summaries of scenes/action ParaphrasesOther critics’ opinionsHistorical and social context
Supporting Your ThesisThe Text (Primary Source) As you write, consistently refer to the text to support your purpose. Use the author’s own words—quotes. No right or wrong interpretation as long as you can support it from the text.Secondary Sources Literary Criticism