Friday, September 5, 2008


How to analyze Short Stories/Novels?
I. In literature and in writing it’s important to understand the subject and the theme and also be able to identify key points and create your own opinion. When analyzing a novel, you need to discuss the following literary elements that are interwoven together seamlessly to create the great themes and plots.
Setting (When and where the story takes place)
Mood(The overall feeling created by a writer’s use of words or the tone of the novel)
Main Characters(Names, descriptions and events associated with them)
Main Conflicts(The main disputes in the novel that move the story along and create the plot)
Climax(The greatest tension in the story, a battle between the protagonist and Antagonist)
Conclusion(The resolution after the climax)
II. You also need to understand a story plot begins with exposition, introduction to characters, setting, rising action, turning point, climax and conclusion.
III. The following elements are also common in novels:
Foreshadowing-is giving hints or clues of what is to come later in a story.
1. Imagery-is the use of words to create a certain picture in the reader’s mind. Imagery is usually based on sensory details.
2. Irony-is using a word or phrase to mean the exact opposite of its literal or normal meaning. There are three kinds of irony:
a) Dramatic irony, in the which the reader or the audience sees a character’s mistakes, but the character does not;
b) Verbal irony, in which the writer says one thing and means another.
c) Irony of situation, in which there is a great difference between the purpose of a particular action and the result.
4. Point of View-is the vantage point from which the story is told.
5. Theme-is the statement about life that a writer is trying to get across in a piece of writing. In most cases, the theme will be implied rather than directly spelled out.
6. Symbolism-is a person, a place, a thing, or an event used as a technique in literature to represent something else in order to support your writing.
7. Characterization-is the method an author uses to reveal characters and their personalities.
8. Protagonist-is the main character or hero of the story.
9. Antagonist-is the person or thing working against the protagonist, or hero, of the work.
10. Paradox-is a statement that seems contrary to common sense, yet may, in fact, be true.
11. Flashback-is returning to an earlier time (in a story) for the purpose of making something in the present clearer.
12. Stream of Consciousness-is a style of writing in which the thoughts and feelings of the writer are recorded as they occur.
IV. Use the following: the names of the main characters, favorite quotes, while reading because this will be useful for an essay or book report.

How to Analyze Short Story Characterization
Characterization is the means an author uses to describe or develop a character for the reader. The brevity of a short story insures that there will be few characters. The main character is the only character who is really developed, so characterization in a short story is fairly easy to analyze.
Step 1
Name the main character. Sometimes in a short story, the main character will be the only character. Other times there will be a few characters but only one who is mentioned repeatedly throughout the story. Your analysis of characterization needs to focus on the main character.

List the main character's physical attributes. As you read the story, keep a running list of any physical descriptions of the main character. The author may reveal the character's height, age, hair color, style of dress or other things about his appearance. Since the story is short, the author won't have time to describe everything about the main character. Therefore, the details he does reveal are important and will probably give you clues about the character. For example, if the main character is described as having a sinister smile, the writer is not only using alliteration to color his writing, he is pointing out that there is something evil about the character.

Identify character traits the main character displays. An author can reveal character traits in a description of the character's appearance or in how he acts and what other characters in the story say about him. Characterization in a short story is usually somewhat one-dimensional. The main character may be evil, unpleasant and unhappy or helpful, caring and giving. She won't usually display contradicting qualities.

Consider the source of your information when deciding how accurate it is. What another character says about the main character may be more reliable than what he says about himself.

Notice how you learned about the main character. Writers have different ways of describing a character in a short story. They can use narration to describe the character, dialogue to reveal her attributes, or some combination of techniques.

How to Analyze Short Story Plot
Plot is an element of fiction that consists of the stages of action leading up to the climax of the story. A short story does not afford the writer much time to develop an elaborate plot. A short story plot is rather simple and can be analyzed by following a few steps.

List the events. A short story usually has one main character around whom all the action takes place. Your list of events for any short story will probably consist of the movements of the main character. Also make note of mental or emotional events that take place with respect to the main character, such as he learned how his mother died, he understood why his mother left him, and he stopped feeling sad.

Create a timeline. Take your list of events and put them in chronological order. Sometimes a short story begins with a flashback, in which case the events of the story are presented out of order. Arrange your list of events in chronological order, even if that isn't the order in which they took place in the story.
Identify the conflict. Conflict is what compels the reader to continue reading, so all well-written short stories have a conflict. It may be as obvious as a struggle between two characters in the story, or it can be subtle, like the main character's internal struggle to decide what is right. Identifying the conflict will help you understand the plot, since the plot is the main character's journey toward resolving the conflict.

Find the climax. The climax of a short story happens when the tension heightens just before the conflict is resolved. In a mystery, for example, the climax is just before you find out who the killer is. The climax of a short story takes place shortly before the end of the story. After the climax, the writer ties up the loose ends and the story is over.

1. Explain the title. In what way is it suitable to the story?
2. What is the predominant element in the story - plot, theme, character, setting?
3. Who is the single main character about. whom the story centres?
4. What sort of conflict confronts the leading character or characters?
a. external?
b. internal?
5. How is the conflict resolved?
6. How does the author handle characterization?
a. by description?
b. conversation of the characters?
c. actions of the characters?
d. combination of these methods?
7. Who tells the story? What point of view is used?
a. first person?
b. omniscient?
8. Where does the primary action take place?
9. What is the time setting for the action? Period of history? Season? Time of day?
10. How much time does the story cover?
a. a few minutes?
b. a lifetime?
c. how long?
11. How does the story get started? What is the initial incident?
12. Briefly describe the rising action of the story.
13. What is the high point, or climax, of the story?
14. Discuss the falling action or close of the story.
15. Does this story create any special mood?
16. Is this story realistic or true to life? Explain your answers by giving examples.
17. Are the events or incidents of the plot presented in flashback or in chronological order?
18. Was the selection written as a short story or is it a condensation or excerpt? Is it taken from a collection of stories?
19. What is the general theme of the story? What is the underlying theme? Can you name any other stories with a similar theme?
20. Did you identify with any of the characters?
21. Does this story contain any of the following elements?
a. symbolism?
b. incongruity?
c. suspense?
d. surprise ending ?
e. irony?
f. satire?
22. Was there a villain in the story? a hero? a dynamic character?
23. Can you find any examples of figurative language?
a. simile?
b. metaphor?
c. personification?
24. Does the story contain a single effect or impression for the read er? If so, what?
25. Name one major personality trait of each leading character, and tell how the author makes the reader conscious of this trait.
26. Does the story have a moral? If not, what do you think the purpose of the author was?

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