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Cheat Sheet for Literary Analysis - KEEP THIS FOREVER

Below are some questions and thoughts to help you begin to analyze almost any work of prose (novels, short stories, most works of fiction. etc.) Your analysis need not contain comments on every question or thought below. Select a few items to develop ideas, which will serve as a basis for detailed and interesting analysis of the work you are studying. PLOT 1. Who is the protagonist of the work? 2. What are the conflicts? Are they physical intellectual, moral or emotional? (internal/external) Is the main conflict between sharply differentiated good or evil, or is it subtle and complex? 3. Does the plot have unity? Are all of the events relevant to the total meaning of the work? How does each event relate to and/or reinforce the works theme? Does each incident grow logically out of the preceding incident and lead naturally to the next? 4. Is the ending happy, unhappy or ambiguous? How is it achieved? Is it contrived or does it grow logically out of the preceding incidents? 5. How is suspense created in the work? Is the interest confined to what will happen next, or are larger concerns involved? Find examples of mystery and/or dilemma. 6. Does the work have any surprises? Do they grow logically out of the preceding incidents? If not, are they related to the history of the character? Do they serve a significant purpose? Does the work sustain a consistent theme, or does plot and storyline shift and introduce a divergent theme? CHARACTERS 1. How does the author reveal facets of the characters? Does the author reveal enough? What is made of contrasts between characters? 2. Are the characters consistent and motivated in their actions? Are they believable? Are they stock characters (are they used merely to serve a function in advancing the plot or does the character reveal complexity? 3. Why is each character in the work? Justify their role and relate their purpose to the works theme. 4. Do any of the characters develop or change throughout the work? Is the change large or small, realistic, and/or motivated? What is the motivation for the change? Is this change central to the development of plot? THEME The theme is the central message enforced by the work --life is futile, all things work for the greater good, theres no place like home, etc. There may be more than one theme. 1. State the theme in a single sentence. Is it implied or frankly stated? 2. Does the theme reinforce or oppose popular notions of life? Theme continued...

Does it provide a new insight or refresh and/or deepen an old one? Is the theme dogmatic or complex? POINT OF VIEW 1. Which point of view is used? Are shifts made from one type of point of view to another? If so, why? 2. What advantage is the chosen point of view? Does it provide any clue to the works purpose? Does the author use it primarily to reveal or to conceal information? 3. If the point of view is that of one of the characters, does this character have any limitations that affect his/her interpretation of events or others? LITERARY DEVICES 1. Does the work employ symbols? If so, do they carry or merely reinforce the theme of the work? 2. Does the work employ irony of situation, dramatic irony, and/or verbal irony? What functions do the ironies serve? 3. Does the work aim directly at an emotional effect and/or humor, or is the emotion and/or humor merely its own natural by product? Is this good or bad? Over sentimental? When? 4. Does the work employ fantasy? If so, what are the initial assumptions? Does the work operate logically from this assumption? Is fantasy employed to express some human truth of for its own sake? If the former, what human truth? 5. Is the work and allegory or myth? Do the characters represent general human characteristics? Does the work chronicle developments of the human psychological condition? GENERAL 1. Is the primary interest of the work in its plot, characters, theme or some other element? 2. What contribution to the work is made by the setting? Is it essential, or could the story have happened anywhere? 3. What are the characteristics of the authors style? Are they appropriate to the theme and/or nature of the work? 4. What light is thrown on the work by the title? Is it ironic? 5. Do all of the elements of the work function together to support a central purpose and theme? Is any part irrelevant or inappropriate? 6. What is the works central purpose? What is it trying to do? How fully did it achieve its purpose? How significant is its purpose?