How do I analyse a poem/narrative text effectively?

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Depending on whether you analyse a poem or any other type of text, the clarity of the message and themes will be different, but this does not mean a superficial analysis will be sufficient. If you follow this easy step plan however, you will develop a mechanism by which you can analyse any text that is put in front of you!

1. Read the text/poem carefully until you've understood the general meaning (characters, narrator, setting, audience)
2. Split the text into sections. This does not have to be strict, just look for elements that in your opinion create a change of flux in the narration. (change of tone, setting, change of topic)
3. By this point you have already dissectioned the text, so now you want to find the meaning of the sections and link them together, If you know the author/ movement/ historical period you might be able to point out any recurring themes and will know their value in the context. Highlight them, they will be important when you write the introduction of your analysis.
4. Now that you've done most of the hard work you'll have to do the technical bit, this is where you look through all of the sections for literary tricks (are certain sounds repeating? Do all sections start with the same word? Are many verbs of motion being used? etc). Once you learn the jargon of literary analysis your examiner will be more than impressed that you can point these out. Also think about how these 'special effects' of literature make you feel about the text so you can explain why the author might have chosen to put them there!
4. The final step: You now have a general message, different sections, a relevant connotative setting and the technical analysis of each bit. What you want to do now is find the threat connecting all of those, a pattern, or more philosophically, a big Why to the text. Now that you have all the elements of the text/poem you have to ask yourself the question of why this text is relevant, both to the author and to the public, and if you wish to impress your examiner even more, find the relevance of the text in the historical or literary context of the author. 

Good luck!

Janis R. A Level Dutch tutor, GCSE Dutch tutor, A Level English and W...

About the author

is an online IB English and World Literature tutor with MyTutor studying at Bath University

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