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Strategies for Studying a Novel/Short Story
1) If possible, research some biographical background on the author. Remember that writers sometimes use fiction as a tool to explore and reflect on issues in their own lives,
so knowing something about the author may help extend your understanding of the themes of a novel.
2) As soon as possible, try to determine both the time and place setting of the story. You may need to do further research if the novel is set in either a time or a place with which you are unfamiliar.
3) Be aware of the central conflicts that evolve as the plot develops. Remember that the internal conflicts of characters may be far more significant than obvious external conflicts in helping you discover the underlying themes of the novel.
4) Determine the point of view being used to relate the plot. Then carefully consider why you feel the author chose that particular point of view to relate the story. How does the chosen point of view slant or bias what the 'truth' is? Does the point of view shift?
5) Determine who the protagonist (central character) is. Remember that the protagonist may be more than one person. Then determine what the protagonist is trying to achieve, or, in other words, what his or her goal is. Then consider what forces, including other characters, are hindering the protagonist from achieving that goal.
Considering the nature of the protagonist(s) and that of the antagonist(s) and reflecting on the types of conflicts that develop provides important clues to help a reader make meaning of a novel.
6) Be aware of any changes that occur in the essential nature of any of the major characters as the plot develops. If changes do occur, reflect why a character is motivated to undergo such a change. If, on the other hand, the essential nature of a central character never changes, consider how such a static nature determines that character's fate.
7) Identify images that recur throughout the novel. Such recurring images are referred to as motifs and are often important keys to discovering the novel's themes.
8) Watch for other literary devices, particularly the use of foreshadowing (hints of what is to come) or irony. These, too, can be helpful clues to lead the reader to a more insightful understanding of the novel.
9) Be sensitive to the general tone and mood of the story, and to changes in the tone and mood. Consider the author's style of writing and how that style reinforces the mood and general tone that the author is seeking to create.
10) The title of a novel is usually carefully chosen. Speculateon the significance of the title the author chose .
11) Most good novels deserve more than a single read. Re-reading a book usually allows readers to deepen and expand their understanding of the story and its underlying themes.
12) Try to find someone else who has also studied the novel you are studying. Sharing various ideas, reactions and interpretations about a novel is an important way of
expanding your perspectives.
13) Reading critical reviews and watching movie adaptations of a novel may offer new perspectives and insights. However, challenge yourself to read and interpret the novel before you consider how others have interpreted the book. Then you will be better able to
critique how effectively you feel a director has adapted a novel to a movie or how erceptively a critic has reviewed a novel.
Page Created on September 8, 1998
Last updated on April 1, 2009
Copyright © 1998/2009 by Nada Salem Abisamra
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