Literary Analysis: Terms
Many literature students are expected to be familiar with the basic terms listed below (and discussed in more depth in your text). Keep this study guide with your text. At the beginning of each reading assignment, write the elements of literature pertaining to the particular type of literature at the beginning of the short story or poem. After reading, define them in your text for class discussion, quizzes, and test preparation. To understand literature, it is necessary that you ask yourself certain questions, such as "what is the theme of this story?" or "why does the author use this particular type of imagery?" You are not necessarily reading for pleasure--although it is sincerely hoped you will derive pleasure from your assignments--but for the development of critical analysis skills, so observe the author's style and intent carefully. Short Stories/Novel
Theme--The idea or point of a story formulated as a generalization. In American literature, several themes are evident which reflect and define our society. The dominant ones might be innocence/experience, life/death, appearance/reality, free will/fate, madness/sanity, love/hate, society/individual, known/unknown. Themes may have a single, instead of a dual nature as well. The theme of a story may be a mid-life crisis, or imagination, or the duality of humankind (contradictions). Character--Imaginary people created by the writer. Perhaps the most important element of literature. • Protagonist--Major character at the center of the story. • Antagonist--A character or force that opposes the protagonist. • Minor character--0ften provides support and illuminates the protagonist. • Static character--A character who remains the same.
• Dynamic character--A character who changes in some important way. • Characterization--The means by which writers reveal character. • Explicit Judgment--Narrator gives facts and interpretive comment. • Implied Judgment--Narrator gives description; reader make the judgment. Look for: Connections, links, and clues between and about characters. Ask yourself what the function and significance of each character is. Make this determination based upon the character's history, what the reader is told (and not told), and what other characters say about themselves and others. Plot--The arrangement of ideas and/or incidents that make up a story. Causality--One event occurs because of another event.
• Foreshadowing--A suggestion of what is going to happen. • Suspense--A sense of worry established by the author. • Conflict--Struggle between opposing forces.
• Exposition--Background information regarding the setting, characters, plot. • Complication or Rising Action--Intensification of conflict. • Crisis--Turning point; moment of great tension that fixes the action. • Resolution/Denouement--The way the story turns out.
Structure--The design or form of the completed action. Often provides clues to character and action. Can even philosophically mirror the author's intentions, especially if it is unusual. Look for: Repeated elements in action, gesture, dialogue, description, as well as shifts in direction, focus, time, place, etc. Setting--The place or location of the action, the setting provides the historical and cultural context for characters. It often can symbolize the emotional state of characters. Point of View--Again, the point of view can sometimes indirectly establish the author's intentions. Point of view pertains to who tells the story and how it is told. • Narrator--The person telling the story.
• First-person--Narrator participates in action but sometimes has limited knowledge/vision. • Objective--Narrator is unnamed/unidentified (a detached observer). Does not assume character's perspective and is not a character in the story. The narrator reports on events and lets the reader supply the meaning. • Omniscient--All-knowing narrator...
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