How do I analyse a literature text?

Thorough reading is key to ensure that you have analyzed a text properly. No matter what type of writing you are dealing with, do not be afraid to take out some colored pencils. Underline words or sentences that catch your attention, that connect with another part of the text, that you don’t quite understand. Later, when looking over this you will be able to analyze and understand each highlighted section as its own and as a part of the larger text.

Always remember that even though it may not seem like it, each word was carefully thought through by the writer to add meaning and detail to what you are reading. By observing descriptive words that the writer uses you can more easily understand the bigger picture he/she is trying to project. Think about ‘how’ and ‘why’ the text was written.

Pay special attention to:

Plot – the writer will use foreshadowing, suspense, crisis, conflict and other elements to build up the plot of the story; be aware of the flow of the story, where these elements surface and why.

Characterization – the author chooses how he/she presents each character and the role they play in the developing story; appearance and actions will reveal a lot about the character.

Imagery – this literary element is used to engage the reader’s senses and help them imagine and feel the scenes of the story.

Symbolism – a very important part of stories, it is a reoccurring object (idea, color, anything) that represents a big idea in the text.

Figurative language – refers to expressing meaning through words without relying on the literal meaning of those words -> metaphors, similes, personification.

These are just some basic literary elements to look out for! There are many more, and a lot are specific depending on whether you are analyzing prose or poetry. The most important thing to remember is to dissect the text into literature elements and then piece them back together to find the message. All literary works are written for the reader to enjoy them and interpret them in a unique and personal way, so never be afraid to express what you think or feel about the text!   

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