1. Try to articulate the question/problem you think that the author is trying to work out, and then try to figure out how that question/problem affects the characters in the narrative.
2. Choose a passage or a poem you want to examine closely and respond closely. (This involves using specific examples, phrases and interpreting their possible meaning(s).)
If you’re not sure where to start, here is a list of things to consider – but, don’t forget that the list is endless, so feel free to add your own considerations. The more you think about the text and its meaning, the more ideas it will suggest to you – since this is one of the earmarks of good literature:
• What are the central conflicts?
• What do you think they mean?
• How do you think the author wants you to understand the character(s)? Is the character someone you like or not? What do you think the author is getting at be creating characters like this? Do the characters help you to better understand the idea you think the author might be getting at by writing the story or poem?
• How is the novel structured – interrupted, not interrupted, sequential or jumbled in time and place? How does this suggest meaning in the story/poem?
• Questions of voice and tone – how does the voice in which the story is told suggest meaning? What tone does the story/poem take? How does that contribute to meaning?
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