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How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay | A Step-by-Step Guide

Published on January 30, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on August 14, 2023.

Literary analysis means closely studying a text, interpreting its meanings, and exploring why the author made certain choices. It can be applied to novels, short stories, plays, poems, or any other form of literary writing.

A literary analysis essay is not a rhetorical analysis , nor is it just a summary of the plot or a book review. Instead, it is a type of argumentative essay where you need to analyze elements such as the language, perspective, and structure of the text, and explain how the author uses literary devices to create effects and convey ideas.

Before beginning a literary analysis essay, it’s essential to carefully read the text and c ome up with a thesis statement to keep your essay focused. As you write, follow the standard structure of an academic essay :

  • An introduction that tells the reader what your essay will focus on.
  • A main body, divided into paragraphs , that builds an argument using evidence from the text.
  • A conclusion that clearly states the main point that you have shown with your analysis.

Table of contents

Step 1: reading the text and identifying literary devices, step 2: coming up with a thesis, step 3: writing a title and introduction, step 4: writing the body of the essay, step 5: writing a conclusion, other interesting articles.

The first step is to carefully read the text(s) and take initial notes. As you read, pay attention to the things that are most intriguing, surprising, or even confusing in the writing—these are things you can dig into in your analysis.

Your goal in literary analysis is not simply to explain the events described in the text, but to analyze the writing itself and discuss how the text works on a deeper level. Primarily, you’re looking out for literary devices —textual elements that writers use to convey meaning and create effects. If you’re comparing and contrasting multiple texts, you can also look for connections between different texts.

To get started with your analysis, there are several key areas that you can focus on. As you analyze each aspect of the text, try to think about how they all relate to each other. You can use highlights or notes to keep track of important passages and quotes.

Language choices

Consider what style of language the author uses. Are the sentences short and simple or more complex and poetic?

What word choices stand out as interesting or unusual? Are words used figuratively to mean something other than their literal definition? Figurative language includes things like metaphor (e.g. “her eyes were oceans”) and simile (e.g. “her eyes were like oceans”).

Also keep an eye out for imagery in the text—recurring images that create a certain atmosphere or symbolize something important. Remember that language is used in literary texts to say more than it means on the surface.

Narrative voice

Ask yourself:

  • Who is telling the story?
  • How are they telling it?

Is it a first-person narrator (“I”) who is personally involved in the story, or a third-person narrator who tells us about the characters from a distance?

Consider the narrator’s perspective . Is the narrator omniscient (where they know everything about all the characters and events), or do they only have partial knowledge? Are they an unreliable narrator who we are not supposed to take at face value? Authors often hint that their narrator might be giving us a distorted or dishonest version of events.

The tone of the text is also worth considering. Is the story intended to be comic, tragic, or something else? Are usually serious topics treated as funny, or vice versa ? Is the story realistic or fantastical (or somewhere in between)?

Consider how the text is structured, and how the structure relates to the story being told.

  • Novels are often divided into chapters and parts.
  • Poems are divided into lines, stanzas, and sometime cantos.
  • Plays are divided into scenes and acts.

Think about why the author chose to divide the different parts of the text in the way they did.

There are also less formal structural elements to take into account. Does the story unfold in chronological order, or does it jump back and forth in time? Does it begin in medias res —in the middle of the action? Does the plot advance towards a clearly defined climax?

With poetry, consider how the rhyme and meter shape your understanding of the text and your impression of the tone. Try reading the poem aloud to get a sense of this.

In a play, you might consider how relationships between characters are built up through different scenes, and how the setting relates to the action. Watch out for  dramatic irony , where the audience knows some detail that the characters don’t, creating a double meaning in their words, thoughts, or actions.

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Your thesis in a literary analysis essay is the point you want to make about the text. It’s the core argument that gives your essay direction and prevents it from just being a collection of random observations about a text.

If you’re given a prompt for your essay, your thesis must answer or relate to the prompt. For example:

Essay question example

Is Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” a religious parable?

Your thesis statement should be an answer to this question—not a simple yes or no, but a statement of why this is or isn’t the case:

Thesis statement example

Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” is not a religious parable, but a story about bureaucratic alienation.

Sometimes you’ll be given freedom to choose your own topic; in this case, you’ll have to come up with an original thesis. Consider what stood out to you in the text; ask yourself questions about the elements that interested you, and consider how you might answer them.

Your thesis should be something arguable—that is, something that you think is true about the text, but which is not a simple matter of fact. It must be complex enough to develop through evidence and arguments across the course of your essay.

Say you’re analyzing the novel Frankenstein . You could start by asking yourself:

Your initial answer might be a surface-level description:

The character Frankenstein is portrayed negatively in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein .

However, this statement is too simple to be an interesting thesis. After reading the text and analyzing its narrative voice and structure, you can develop the answer into a more nuanced and arguable thesis statement:

Mary Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as.

Remember that you can revise your thesis statement throughout the writing process , so it doesn’t need to be perfectly formulated at this stage. The aim is to keep you focused as you analyze the text.

Finding textual evidence

To support your thesis statement, your essay will build an argument using textual evidence —specific parts of the text that demonstrate your point. This evidence is quoted and analyzed throughout your essay to explain your argument to the reader.

It can be useful to comb through the text in search of relevant quotations before you start writing. You might not end up using everything you find, and you may have to return to the text for more evidence as you write, but collecting textual evidence from the beginning will help you to structure your arguments and assess whether they’re convincing.

To start your literary analysis paper, you’ll need two things: a good title, and an introduction.

Your title should clearly indicate what your analysis will focus on. It usually contains the name of the author and text(s) you’re analyzing. Keep it as concise and engaging as possible.

A common approach to the title is to use a relevant quote from the text, followed by a colon and then the rest of your title.

If you struggle to come up with a good title at first, don’t worry—this will be easier once you’ve begun writing the essay and have a better sense of your arguments.

“Fearful symmetry” : The violence of creation in William Blake’s “The Tyger”

The introduction

The essay introduction provides a quick overview of where your argument is going. It should include your thesis statement and a summary of the essay’s structure.

A typical structure for an introduction is to begin with a general statement about the text and author, using this to lead into your thesis statement. You might refer to a commonly held idea about the text and show how your thesis will contradict it, or zoom in on a particular device you intend to focus on.

Then you can end with a brief indication of what’s coming up in the main body of the essay. This is called signposting. It will be more elaborate in longer essays, but in a short five-paragraph essay structure, it shouldn’t be more than one sentence.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.

Some students prefer to write the introduction later in the process, and it’s not a bad idea. After all, you’ll have a clearer idea of the overall shape of your arguments once you’ve begun writing them!

If you do write the introduction first, you should still return to it later to make sure it lines up with what you ended up writing, and edit as necessary.

The body of your essay is everything between the introduction and conclusion. It contains your arguments and the textual evidence that supports them.

Paragraph structure

A typical structure for a high school literary analysis essay consists of five paragraphs : the three paragraphs of the body, plus the introduction and conclusion.

Each paragraph in the main body should focus on one topic. In the five-paragraph model, try to divide your argument into three main areas of analysis, all linked to your thesis. Don’t try to include everything you can think of to say about the text—only analysis that drives your argument.

In longer essays, the same principle applies on a broader scale. For example, you might have two or three sections in your main body, each with multiple paragraphs. Within these sections, you still want to begin new paragraphs at logical moments—a turn in the argument or the introduction of a new idea.

Robert’s first encounter with Gil-Martin suggests something of his sinister power. Robert feels “a sort of invisible power that drew me towards him.” He identifies the moment of their meeting as “the beginning of a series of adventures which has puzzled myself, and will puzzle the world when I am no more in it” (p. 89). Gil-Martin’s “invisible power” seems to be at work even at this distance from the moment described; before continuing the story, Robert feels compelled to anticipate at length what readers will make of his narrative after his approaching death. With this interjection, Hogg emphasizes the fatal influence Gil-Martin exercises from his first appearance.

Topic sentences

To keep your points focused, it’s important to use a topic sentence at the beginning of each paragraph.

A good topic sentence allows a reader to see at a glance what the paragraph is about. It can introduce a new line of argument and connect or contrast it with the previous paragraph. Transition words like “however” or “moreover” are useful for creating smooth transitions:

… The story’s focus, therefore, is not upon the divine revelation that may be waiting beyond the door, but upon the mundane process of aging undergone by the man as he waits.

Nevertheless, the “radiance” that appears to stream from the door is typically treated as religious symbolism.

This topic sentence signals that the paragraph will address the question of religious symbolism, while the linking word “nevertheless” points out a contrast with the previous paragraph’s conclusion.

Using textual evidence

A key part of literary analysis is backing up your arguments with relevant evidence from the text. This involves introducing quotes from the text and explaining their significance to your point.

It’s important to contextualize quotes and explain why you’re using them; they should be properly introduced and analyzed, not treated as self-explanatory:

It isn’t always necessary to use a quote. Quoting is useful when you’re discussing the author’s language, but sometimes you’ll have to refer to plot points or structural elements that can’t be captured in a short quote.

In these cases, it’s more appropriate to paraphrase or summarize parts of the text—that is, to describe the relevant part in your own words:

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The conclusion of your analysis shouldn’t introduce any new quotations or arguments. Instead, it’s about wrapping up the essay. Here, you summarize your key points and try to emphasize their significance to the reader.

A good way to approach this is to briefly summarize your key arguments, and then stress the conclusion they’ve led you to, highlighting the new perspective your thesis provides on the text as a whole:

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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By tracing the depiction of Frankenstein through the novel’s three volumes, I have demonstrated how the narrative structure shifts our perception of the character. While the Frankenstein of the first volume is depicted as having innocent intentions, the second and third volumes—first in the creature’s accusatory voice, and then in his own voice—increasingly undermine him, causing him to appear alternately ridiculous and vindictive. Far from the one-dimensional villain he is often taken to be, the character of Frankenstein is compelling because of the dynamic narrative frame in which he is placed. In this frame, Frankenstein’s narrative self-presentation responds to the images of him we see from others’ perspectives. This conclusion sheds new light on the novel, foregrounding Shelley’s unique layering of narrative perspectives and its importance for the depiction of character.

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novel analysis literature

Literary Analysis

How to analyze a novel.

Setting is a description of where and when the story takes place.

  • Geography, weather, time of day, social conditions?
  • What role does setting play in the story? Is it an important part of the plot or theme? Or is it just a backdrop against which the action takes place?
  • Study the time period which is also part of the setting
  • Does it take place in the present, the past, or the future?
  • How does the time period affect the language, atmosphere or social circumstances of the novel?


Characterization deals with how the characters are described.

  • through dialogue?
  • by the way they speak?
  • physical appearance? thoughts and feelings?
  • interaction – the way they act towards other characters?
  • Are they static characters who do not change?
  • Do they develop by the end of the story?
  • What type of characters are they?
  • What qualities stand out?
  • Are they stereotypes?
  • Are the characters believable?

Plot and structure

The plot is the main sequence of events that make up the story.

  • What are the most important events?
  • How is the plot structured? Is it linear, chronological or does it move back and forth?
  • Are there turning points, a climax and/or an anticlimax?
  • Is the plot believable?

Narrator and Point of view

The narrator is the person telling the story. Point of view : whose eyes the story is being told through.

  • Who is the narrator or speaker in the story?
  • Is the narrator the main character?
  • Does the author speak through one of the characters?
  • Is the story written in the first person “I” point of view?
  • Is the story written in a detached third person “he/she” point of view?
  • Is the story written in an “all-knowing” 3rd person who can reveal what all the characters are thinking and doing at all times and in all places?

Conflict or tension is usually the heart of the novel and is related to the main character.

  • Is it internal where the character suffers inwardly?
  • is it external caused by the surroundings or environment the main character finds himself/herself in?

The theme is the main idea, lesson or message in the novel. It is usually an abstract, universal idea about the human condition, society or life, to name a few.

  • How does the theme shine through in the story?
  • Are any elements repeated that may suggest a theme?
  • What other themes are there?

The author’s style has to do with the author’s vocabulary, use of imagery, tone or feeling of the story. It has to do with his attitude towards the subject. In some novels the tone can be ironic, humorous, cold or dramatic.

  • Is the text full of figurative language?
  • Does the author use a lot of symbolism? Metaphors, similes? An example of a metaphor is when someone says, “My love, you are a rose”. An example of a simile is “My darling, you are like a rose.”
  • What images are used?

Your literary analysis of a novel will often be in the form of an essay or book report where you will be asked to give your opinions of the novel at the end. To conclude, choose the elements that made the greatest impression on you. Point out which characters you liked best or least and always support your arguments. Try to view the novel as a whole and try to give a balanced analysis.

  • How to Analyze a Novel. Authored by : Carol Dwankowski, Celia Suzanna Sandor, and Catharine Ruud. Provided by : NDLA. Located at : http://ndla.no/en/node/13288?fag=42 . License : CC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

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  • Why do some critics want the 22nd Amendment repealed?
  • What is guerrilla warfare?
  • Years ago I learned that our national highway system has built-in runways for emergency landing strips. Is this still true?
  • What newspapers did Frederick Douglass write for?
  • I know that the days of the week are all named after Norse or Roman gods or the sun and moon, but I can't figure out what Tuesday is named for. Do you know?
  • Can you give me a brief history of Prussia?
  • Who were the Ottomans?
  • Who discovered oxygen?
  • What have been the major Israel and Arab conflicts since World War II?
  • 1What does the cormorant (bird) symbolize in mythology?
  • How did Peter I of Russia come to power?
  • What can you tell me about Kwanzaa?
  • What is the Alma-Ata declaration?
  • I've heard that in some countries, everyone has to sign up for the military between high school and college. Is that true?
  • How were women treated in Ancient Rome?
  • What is the history and meaning of Turkey's flag?
  • How are justices to the US Supreme Court elected Is this a good or a bad thing
  • How did ounce come to be abbreviated as oz.?
  • Why did Cromwell dissolve the first Protectorate parliament?
  • Why does The Great Depression end when the United States enters World War II?
  • What place did the underworld have in Egyptian mythology?
  • Can you explain Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in words that a teen can understand?
  • Who was the most famous mathematician?
  • Where did Christopher Columbus land when he reached the Americas?
  • Who had control of more states during the American Civil War, the North or the South?
  • How did Zeus become ruler of the Greek gods?
  • Why does Santa Claus have so many names — Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, and Kris Kringle?
  • What is antidisestablishmentarianism?
  • What is Leningrad known as today?
  • Who were the leading figures in the Classical period of music?
  • Why didn't the Pope allow Henry VIII a divorce, and who was Catherine of Aragon's relative who came and held siege?
  • Who wrote, A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still"?"
  • Was the Spanish Armada large, and did its crews have notable sailing skill?
  • What was the cause of the War of Spanish Succession?
  • What is the song Yankee Doodle Dandy" really about?"
  • What's the story of the Roanoke colony?
  • How does history reflect what people were thinking at the time?
  • My teacher says there's more than one kind of history. How can that be?
  • What were the turning points in World War II?
  • We just started studying Spanish exploration in North America. What makes it so important today?
  • What was it like for women in the 1920s?
  • Have Americans always been big on sports?
  • Who invented baseball?
  • What did American Indians have to give up for pioneers?
  • How did imperialism spread around the world?
  • How did Imperialism in India come about?
  • What's the big deal about Manifest Destiny?
  • How did the Tet Offensive affect public opinion about the Vietnam War?
  • Why did Christian Lous Lange deserve the Nobel Peace Prize in 1921?
  • Where do the four suits in a deck of cards originate? What do they represent?
  • What was the Roe v. Wade trial?
  • Who is Constantine?
  • I need to know some info on the Monroe Doctrine. I have looked everywhere but I still can't find any information. Can you PLEASE help?
  • Where did the chair originate from? I was sitting on one the other day and it said Made in China," but where did it first come from?"
  • What kind of cash crops did they grow in the South in early America?
  • Everyone talks about how enlightened the Mayans were, but what did they really do?
  • What caused the fall of the Roman Empire? Did Christianity play a role?
  • What was the reason for the downfall of the Russian Empire in 1917?
  • What prompted slavery? Why were the Africans chosen for enslavement?
  • How did World War I start and end?
  • What is The Palestinian Conflict?
  • I don't really understand the French Revolution. What started it, and what stopped it?
  • What was the doctor's diagnosis of Helen Keller when she was a baby?
  • What is the Trail of Tears?
  • When speaking about Native Americans, what is the difference between an Indian tribe and an Indian Nation?
  • What happened during the Boston Massacre?
  • What was sectionalism in America before the Civil War?
  • How did the U.S. attempt to avoid involvement in World War II?
  • What is Ronald Reagan's Tear down this wall" speech about?"
  • Can you describe the United States policy of containment and show an example of an event when the policy was used and why?
  • How many countries are there in the world?
  • What did Columbus do besides sail to the New World?
  • My history teacher said that if your religious denomination isn't Catholic, than you are a Protestant. Is she right?
  • Do you think that Mormons are Christians? What is the full name of the Mormon Church?
  • What principles of the Belmont Report were violated in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study?
  • What is the size of Europe in square miles?
  • The United States was given the right to establish naval bases in the British West Indies during World War II by the British Government in exchange for what?
  • How were the Crusades a turning point in Western history?
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  • What does impertinent mean (from The American )?
  • I know that the verb pluck means to pull out or pull at, but what's the definition when used as a noun?
  • Which novels would you recommend to 15-year-olds on the theme of places and forms of power?
  • In The Pearl, why didn't John Steinbeck give the pearl buyers identifying names?
  • In the play, The Crucible , why would Arthur Miller include the Note on Historical Accuracy?
  • What is perfidy (from Sister Carrie, by Theodore Dreiser)?
  • Is being pedantic a good or bad thing?
  • Is a termagant a type of seabird?
  • What is ichor (from The Iliad )?
  • In The Hunger Games, why did Cinna choose to be the designer for District 12?
  • Is a rivulet really a river, only smaller?
  • Charles Dickens has this person called the beadle" in lots of his books. Is that like a nickname for a man with buggy eyes or something?"
  • In Brave New World, why are family words like father and mother viewed as obscene?
  • What is the main tenet of stoicism?
  • What's the meaning of obsequious (from Theodore Dreiser's urban novel Sister Carrie )?
  • Where are the Antipodes (from Much Ado about Nothing )?
  • What is a truckle bed (from Romeo and Juliet )?
  • What does truculent (from Great Expectations ) mean?
  • If someone inculcates you, should you feel insulted?
  • What does the phrase Ethiop words" mean in Shakespeare's As You Like It ?"
  • I was chatting with a neighbor who said I was quite garrulous . Nice or mean?
  • What does laconic mean?
  • At a restaurant famous for its rude servers, a waitress told me to lump it" when I asked for another napkin. Can you tell me about that phrase?"
  • What does urbane (from Daisy Miller ) mean?
  • I thought necro had something to do with being dead. So, what's a necromancer ? Sounds creepy.
  • In The House of Mirth, this guy named Gus Trenor is eating a jellied plover." Is that some kind of doughnut?"
  • What are some well-known novels whose titles are quotations from Shakespeare?
  • In Orwell's 1984, what does the opening sentence suggest about the book?
  • Understanding the literary genre Magical Realism
  • What's a prig?
  • I asked my granddad if he liked his new apartment and he said, It's all hunky-dory, kiddo." What did he mean?"
  • What does mephitic (from Man and Superman ) mean?
  • I hate finding typos in books. Here's one I've seen several times: jalousies instead of jealousies.
  • On the second week of my summer job at a bookstore, my boss handed me an envelope with what she called my emoluments. Looked like a paycheck to me, though.
  • In To Kill a Mockingbird, what are some examples of the characters having courage?
  • What's cud? I was once told to stop chewing my cud and get back to work.
  • What can you tell me about the word patois from The Awakening ?
  • What are thews (from Ivanhoe )?
  • What does pot-shop (from The Pickwick Papers ) mean?
  • Are all dowagers women?
  • If someone is the titular head of a political party, does it mean they have all the power?
  • The word flummox confuses me. What does it mean?
  • Somebody told me I looked pasty. Does that mean I've eaten too many sweets?
  • I started taking private bassoon lessons. When I arrived at my teacher’s house, he told me to wait in the anteroom. I wasn’t sure where to go.
  • Is anomalous the same as anonymous ?
  • I know that a fathom is a unit of measure used by sailors, but how long is a fathom?
  • What is a joss (from Victory, by Joseph Conrad)?
  • What does eschew (from The Pickwick Papers ) mean?
  • What does excrescence (from The Call of the Wild ) mean?
  • What does the word covert mean?
  • In Shakespeare's Sonnet 125, what is an oblation ?
  • In Moby-Dick , what does vitiate mean?
  • In War and Peace , what does bane mean?
  • In Jane Eyre , what are chilblains ?
  • Does mendacious refer to something that is fixable (mendable)?
  • Is kickshawses one of those weird words that Shakespeare coined? What does it mean?
  • You say in CliffsNotes that In Cold Blood was Truman Capote's undoing. How?
  • What is renege , in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra ?
  • What is maxim ? I think it's a female name but I'm not sure.
  • Last Valentine's Day, this guy I barely know gave me a rose and said something about ardent love. What does ardent mean?
  • In Act I, Scene 1, of King Lear, what does benison mean?
  • What kind of literature is a picaresque novel?
  • What does culpable mean?
  • What's a cenotaph ? Every Veterans Day, I hear about the Queen of England laying a wreath at the Cenotaph in London.
  • What does gallimaufry mean in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ? My vocabulary is pretty good, but that one has me stumped!
  • What does it mean to genuflect ?
  • Someone told me I was looking wistful. What is wistful ?
  • In David Copperfield, what does superannuated mean?
  • Does the word syllogism have something to do with biology?
  • I see the word benefactor a lot in my reading assignments. Is that somebody who benefits from something?
  • I found a funny word in The Glass Castle. Where did skedaddle come from and what does it mean?
  • Does sinuous mean something like full of sin"? I saw the word in The Devil in the White City ."
  • In Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, what is the meaning of the word propaganda ?
  • What are characteristics of Modernist literature, fiction in particular?
  • What does my brother mean when he says he's too ensconced in his studies to look for a girlfriend?
  • My grandpa complained about a bunch of politicians making what he called chin music . Did he mean they were in a loud band?
  • What is melodrama?
  • In Dracula, what's a missal ?
  • In the terms abject poverty and abject misery, what does abject mean?
  • In Moby-Dick, what does craven mean?
  • What does cicatrize mean?
  • What is a noisome smell" in Tolstoy's War and Peace ?"
  • What is an apostasy, from the George Bernard Shaw play, Man and Superman ?
  • In Jane Eyre, what's syncope ?
  • I just read Dracula. What's the forcemeat in Jonathan Harker's journal?
  • Can the word stern mean more than one thing?
  • Where is Yoknapatawpha county?
  • What does smouch mean?
  • I'm supposed to write a comparison of Hektor and Achilles from Homer's The Iliad, but I don't know where to start.
  • How do you pronounce quay ? And what does it mean, anyway?
  • What are some examples of paradox in the novel Frankenstein ?
  • In Ivanhoe, what does mammock mean?
  • What does rummage mean?
  • Is a mummer some type of religious person?
  • Some guy I don't like told his friend I was acting all demure. What does that mean?
  • When I complained about our cafeteria food, my biology teacher told me he wished they'd serve agarics. Was he talking about some kind of dessert?
  • Where did the name Of Mice and Men come from?
  • What genre would you consider the book, The Outsiders ?
  • In Fahrenheit 451, why would a society make being a pedestrian a crime?
  • What does the phrase, a worn-out man of fashion" mean from Jane Eyre ?"
  • Is sagacity a medical condition?
  • My teacher told me I was being obdurate. Was that a compliment?
  • What motives inspired Iago to plot revenge against Othello?
  • Who was the first king of Rome?
  • What does enervate mean?
  • What is a parvenu ? I saw the word in William Makepeace Thackeray's book Vanity Fair.
  • Is salubrity somehow related to being famous?
  • Do capers have something to do with cops?
  • What's the difference between a soliloquy and a monologue?
  • In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce uses the word pandybat . What's a pandybat?
  • Does the word inexorable have something to do with driving demons out of a person?
  • Do people who prognosticate have some sort of special power?
  • What is a hegemony, from James Joyce's Ulysses ?
  • What are fallow fields ? I'm a city gal who heard the term at a 4-H fair and just read it in Anna Karenina.
  • What's the difference between parody and satire?
  • Lord of the Flies uses the word inimical. What does it mean?
  • What does dreadnaught mean, as it’s used in Bleak House?
  • I saw vertiginous in Madame Bovary. What does mean the word mean?
  • What does overweening mean, in Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes?
  • Can you hear a dirge anyplace but a funeral?
  • Does imperturbable refer to something you can't break through?
  • What are the seven ages of man?
  • What is a chimera , in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë?
  • What's dross ?
  • What is an injunction ?
  • For school I had to make a Napoleon hat, which called for a cockade. What is that?
  • If someone studies assiduously, does it mean they're working really hard or really slowly?
  • Define mood as it relates to a work of fiction. Distinguish mood from effect.
  • My sister calls me the Princess of Prevarication." What's prevarication ?"
  • What's turpitude, as in moral turpitude"?"
  • What's the definition of tenebrous ?
  • This biography I'm reading about Queen Victoria says that she refused to remove the hatchment she had for her husband Prince Albert. What does that word mean?
  • What does sine qua non mean?
  • What's lugubrious mean?
  • What's impugn mean, from Ivanhoe?
  • What does postprandial mean?
  • I love reading fashion magazines and occasionally come across the word atelier. What is that?
  • What does King Lear mean when he says that ingratitude is a marble-hearted fiend"?"
  • What is celerity , from Ivanhoe ?
  • In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein , what are disquisitions ?
  • What's shrive ? My neighbor said she's been unshriven for years, but I think her skin looks quite shriveled.
  • What's a dobbin ?
  • What's polemic ? Over winter break, my uncle told me I was polemic and asked if I was on the debate team at school.
  • I came across a list of homonyms: mu, moo, moue . I know mu is Greek for the letter m , and moo is the sound cows make, but what's a moue ?
  • What does trow mean?
  • In Far from the Madding Crowd , what does cavil mean?
  • What does Charles Dickens mean when he says “toadies and humbugs” in his book, Great Expectations ?
  • Where can I find the word naught in The Scarlet Letter ?
  • I found an old diary from the 1800s where the writer describes how he almost died but was saved by a sinapism . What is that?
  • I know what mulch is, but what's mulct ?
  • When our teacher was introducing the next reading assignment, he said we'll be using the unexpurgated version. What did he mean?
  • For some reason, the word dingle sticks in my head after having read Treasure Island years ago. I never did discover what it meant. How about it, Cliff?
  • In Dracula , what's stertorous breathing?
  • What does philippic mean?
  • I'm usually pretty good at guessing what words mean, but have no clue about exigence . What is it?
  • What's doughty ? How do you pronounce it?
  • What's sharecropping? I'm kind of embarrassed to ask, because it's one of those words everyone assumes you know what it means.
  • I'm working on my summer reading list with Kafka's The Trial. The very first sentence uses traduce , and I don't know what that means.
  • What does the cormorant (bird) symbolize in mythology?
  • I saw the word badinage in the book Uncle Tom's Cabin . Do you think that's a typo that really should be bandage ?
  • On a TV modeling contest, a judge said, Her simian walk is unbelievable." Was that a good thing?"
  • What is the definition of adverbiously , from Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities ?
  • In Oliver Twist , Dodger refers to Oliver as flash companion . Can't find a definition of this anywhere. What does it mean?
  • Do elocutionists kill people?
  • For my English homework, I have to write a love poem. I'm only 13 and I haven't had my first love yet. How would I go about writing about feelings that I haven't felt yet?
  • Where on the body would I find my sarcophagus ?
  • What's stolid ? It sounds like someone who's stupid and built solid like a wall.
  • What's a wonton person?
  • In which play did William Shakespeare state that misery loves company?
  • What's comfit ? Is it a different way of saying comfort?
  • Where did the story Frankenstein by Mary Shelley take place?
  • What kind of person would a shallow-pate be?
  • What are myrmidons of Justice" in Great Expectations ?"
  • Faseeshis … no clue on the spelling, but I kind of got yelled at in school today for being that. What did I do?
  • In The Red Badge of Courage , what's an imprecation ?
  • The word portmanteau shows up in a lot of the literature I read for school assignments. It sounds French. What does it mean?
  • I did something really stupid yesterday, and my grandfather told me I was hoist with my own petard." What does that mean? And what's a petard ?"
  • How do you pronounce Cymbeline, one of Shakespeare's early comedies?
  • What's a bourse ? I read it in my finance class.
  • In The House of Mirth, what are oubliettes ?
  • In Tess of the d'Urbervilles, what are thimble-riggers ?
  • In Wuthering Heights , what's a thible ?
  • Which Hemingway story references the running of the bulls" in Spain?"
  • What's a clink? My dad mentioned that his granddad was there for a long time during World War I.
  • If somebody is toady," does it mean they're ugly?"
  • Who said all's fair in love and war" and where?"
  • Why is there so much talk about baseball, especially Joe DiMaggio, in The Old Man and the Sea ?
  • In the movie Failure to Launch , there's a line that goes, Well, she certainly is yar," in reference to a yacht. What's yar ?"
  • What does mangle mean in Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities ?
  • I got detention because a teacher said I was being contumacious . What's that?
  • What are encomiums?
  • What are billets in The Three Musketeers ?
  • In Orwell's 1984 , what is doublethink ?
  • What are orts ? That's a weird word that reminds me of orcs from The Lord of the Rings .
  • What are alliteration and assonance?
  • How is John the Savage's name ironic in Brave New World ?
  • What's quinsy?
  • What is a doppelgänger?
  • What is New Historicism?
  • I found the word unwonted in a book I'm reading. Is that a typo, you think?
  • In Heart of Darkness , what does cipher mean?
  • In the play The Glass Menagerie, would you describe Tom as selfish?
  • What does Kantian mean, from a philosophical perspective?
  • What's a colonnade ? My girlfriend is freaking me out with stories of her dream wedding where she walks down a colonnade. I know this is the least of my problems, but I'm curious.
  • My grandma says she knows how I feel when I knit my brows. Is she crazy?
  • Why is Shakespeare's play titled Julius Caesar , even though he is dead by Act III and plays a relatively small role?
  • I know bier has something to do with dead people, but what is it exactly?
  • My brainy brother owns a Harley and says his girlfriend is the pillion . Is he insulting her or just showing off?
  • I ran across the word mien in a book. Is it a typo?
  • Is a younker a person or a place?
  • Does precipitancy have something to do with the weather?
  • I'm writing a grade 12 comparative essay, and I need a book that I could compare with All Quiet on the Western Front. Any suggestions?
  • A friend says she suffers from ineffable sadness. What's ineffable ?
  • What's a scow ?
  • Is a maelstrom some kind of dangerous weather?
  • What is the meaning of this saying, The cat will mew and dog will have his day"?"
  • What is a paradox ?
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray mentions a panegyric on youth. What does that mean?
  • In Madame Bovary , what's a mairie?
  • In The Kite Runner, what's palliative mean?
  • So what's oligarchy ? In government class, my teacher mentioned that word when we were talking about the Blagojevich scandal in Illinois.
  • Is intrepidity a good thing or a bad thing?
  • My grandmother told me that she thinks grandpa should see an alienist. Does she think he's from another planet or what?
  • Do you have to have licentiousness to get your driver's license?
  • I ran across the word hardihood in something I read the other day. Is it some kind of clothing?
  • I saw mention of haversack in my history book. What does that word mean?
  • I'm guessing the word quadroon is four of something. But what's a roon?
  • I'm trying to understand Shakespeare's play, King Lear . Can you explain these quotes from Act 1, Scene 1?
  • In Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment , what's a samovar ?
  • I came across a music channel that featured tejano," and then I saw the same word when I was reading Bless Me, Ultima. What does it mean?"
  • In The Awakening , there's a term prunella gaiter." I'm guessing that gaiters are a type of covering for your legs, like the gaiters I use on my ski boots to keep snow out. But what the heck is prunella? Is it a purplish color like prunes?"
  • What's sedulous mean?
  • In Chapter 2 of Jane Eyre , what are divers parchments ?
  • A friend of mine said she hopes to get a counterpane for Christmas. What's that?
  • In Wuthering Heights, what does munificent mean?
  • The other day, my dad called my friends a motley crew. Is that his way of saying I should hang out with a different crowd?
  • Why is there an authorship problem with Shakespeare?
  • What is it called when something is out of place in time, like a jet stream in a movie about ancient Rome?
  • In 1984 , does Winston die from a bullet at the end of the book or is he in a dream-state?
  • I saw some old guy in a soldier's uniform selling fake red flowers. He said it was for Veterans Day. What's the connection?
  • I was kind of flirting with this really cute boy when my teacher told me to stop palavering. Did she want me to stop flirting or stop talking?
  • My grandmother says when she was a kid in China, she became Catholic because of the Mary Knows nuns. I tried to look that up on the Internet but couldn't find anything. Can you help?
  • In The Count of Monte Cristo , does cupidity mean love? I'm guessing that because of, you know, Cupid . . . Valentine's Day.
  • My theater teacher called me a name the other day. I don't think it was supposed to be a compliment. What's a somnambulist, anyway?
  • Why was Tartuffe such a jerk?
  • To Kill a Mockingbird has this word fey in it, but I don't know what it means. Does it mean short lived or fleeting?
  • In Pride and Prejudice , what's probity" &mdash
  • I never met my grandma, who my mom says lives in a hovel and wants her to move in with us. Then I saw that word in Frankenstein . What's a hovel? I thought it was like a place that had room service.
  • I have a friend who said something about phantasmagoric. That's not real, is it?
  • Which of the following literary devices is used in these poetic lines by John Milton?
  • In Faulkner's A Rose for Emily," what does noblesse oblige mean?"
  • What is love?
  • What is suggested by the coin image in Book II of A Tale of Two Cities ?
  • Why does Satan rebel against God?
  • I'm reading Candide, by Voltaire, and one of the dudes is an Anabaptist. What's that?
  • What does the poem Summer Sun" by Robert Louis Stevenson really mean?"
  • What did Shakespeare want to say about his beloved in Sonnet 18?
  • In Romeo and Juliet , who was the last person to see Juliet alive?
  • What is the Catechism?
  • What is the overall meaning of the poem Before The Sun," by Charles Mungoshi?"
  • What does ague mean?
  • Is there a reference to venereal disease in Romeo and Juliet ?
  • What is fantasy fiction?
  • What is the exposition in Othello ?
  • Who is the character Susan in Romeo and Juliet ?
  • What is a found poem?
  • What did Alice Walker mean in the essay Beauty"?"
  • Why did Dr. Frankenstein create his monster?
  • What is the name of the surgeon and the English ship he's on in Moby-Dick ?
  • What are the differences between an epic hero and a Romantic hero?
  • In Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, does Gail Wynand commit suicide or only close The Banner at the end of the novel? I'm in a literary dispute over this!
  • What did W.E.B. Du Bois mean when he wrote of second-sight?
  • What is nihilism, and what should I read to get a better understanding of it?
  • What is the difference between an atheist and an agnostic?
  • What are intelligent design and creationism and how are they related?
  • What is misanthropy ?
  • I would like to understand the poem Blight" by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Please help."
  • Can you explain the significance of the question, Which came first, the chicken or the egg?""
  • In Little Lost Robot," by Isaac Asimov, why have some robots been impressioned with only part of the First Law of Robotics?"
  • Can you explain Cartesian Dualism and how Descartes' philosophical endeavors led him to dualism?
  • When reading Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice , what does entailment mean?
  • What does ignominy mean? (From Shelley's Frankenstein )
  • What does pecuniary mean? (From Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities )
  • How do I analyze Kant's philosophy?
  • What is an apostrophe in Macbeth ?
  • Is music a language?
  • Why should literature be studied?
  • In the book The Scarlet Letter , what is a vigil ?
  • The first week of school isn't even over yet and I'm already in trouble — I forgot my textbook at school and can't do my homework! What should I do now?!
  • What are the renaissance features/characteristics in Hamlet ?
  • What is the exact quote in Hamlet about something being wrong in Denmark? Something smells? Something is amiss?
  • What does Utilitarianism mean, from a philosophical perspective?
  • What was the form of English that Shakespeare used?
  • At the beginning of Act V, Scene 2 of Much Ado About Nothing, does Shakespeare insinuate that anything is going on between Margaret and Benedick?
  • What was the "final solution" in the book Night by Elie Wiesel?
  • With the many novels out there, is there a database of some sort that can narrow down your choices to a specific book of interest for pleasure reading? And if not, why hasn't there been?
  • How do you pronounce Houyhnhnms ? (From Swift's Gulliver's Travels )
  • I just took the quiz on The Great Gatsby on this site. How can Jordan Baker be described as a professional golfer? To my knowledge, the LPGA did not form until the mid-1950s. Shouldn't she be referred to as an amateur golfer instead?
  • What are the humanities?
  • If Father, Son, and Holy Ghost aren't names, what is God's name?
  • What classic novels take place in Florida?
  • In which Hemingway short story is the saying, "Children's shoes for sale"?
  • Who is the "lady" that Robert Plant speaks of in the song "Stairway to Heaven"?
  • Was Odysseus the one who planned the Trojan horse, in the Trojan War?
  • How do I get my smart-but-hates-to-read son interested in reading?
  • Poetry gives me problems. How can I figure out what poems are about?
  • What does it mean to ululate ? (From Golding's Lord of the Flies )
  • Is ambrosia a salad? (From Homer's The Odyssey )
  • What is a harbinger ? (From Shakespeare's Macbeth )
  • What does it mean to be refractory ? (From Dickens' Great Expectations )
  • What is a querulous kid? (From Wharton's Ethan Frome )
  • What does the word runagate mean? (From Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet )
  • What is the word, imprimis ? (From Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew )
  • What does the word alchemy mean? (From Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter )
  • What is an estuary ? (From Conrad's Heart of Darkness )
  • What or who is a scullion ? (From Shakespeare's Hamlet )
  • What is a schism ? (From Swift's Gulliver's Travels )
  • What does it mean to be salubrious ? (From Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights )
  • What is a replication ? (From Shakespeare's Hamlet )
  • What is vicissitude ? (From Hawthorne's The House of Seven Gables )
  • Can you define indolent ? (From Wharton's House of Mirth )
  • What does the word replete mean? (From Shakespeare's Henry V )
  • What are orisons ? (From Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet )
  • What does it mean to be ephemeral ?
  • What does it mean to be placid ? (From Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre )
  • What is a paroxysm ? (From Stoker's Dracula )
  • My English teacher got really mad when I said I was nauseous . Why?
  • What does it mean to be farinaceous ? (From Tolstoy's Anna Karenina )
  • What does dejection mean? (From Shelley's Frankenstein )
  • What is animadversion ? (From Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter )
  • What does it mean to be timorous ? (From Shakespeare's Othello )
  • Someone called me erudite . Is that good?
  • What is a mountebank ? (From Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter )
  • What does incarnadine mean? (From Shakespeare's Macbeth )
  • What does it mean to be puissant? (From Shakespeare's Julius Caesar)
  • What is a purloiner? (From Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities)
  • What does it mean to be affable ? (From Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment )
  • What does it mean to be ostensible ? (From Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court )
  • What does compunction mean? (From Dickens's Bleak House )
  • What is behoveful ? (From Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet )
  • What is a precentor ? (From Golding's Lord of the Flies )
  • What does it mean to be loquacious ? (From Cervantes's Don Quixote )
  • What does imprudence mean? (From Ibsen's A Doll's House )
  • What is a conflagration ? (From Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde )
  • What does it mean to be spurious ? (From James' Daisy Miller )
  • What is a retinue ? (From Swift's Gulliver's Travels )
  • What does the word forsworn mean? (From Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet )
  • What does the word hauteur mean? (From Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby )
  • What are vituperations ? (From Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl )
  • What are ostents ? (From Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice )
  • What is a sockdolager ? (From Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn )
  • What does insuperable mean? (From Shelley's Frankenstein )
  • What is calumny ? (From Shakespeare's Hamlet )
  • What is an augury ? (From Sophocles' Antigone )
  • What does squally mean? (From Dickens' Great Expectations )
  • What does corporal mean? (From Shakespeare's Macbeth )
  • What does it mean to be plausible ? (From Sinclair's The Jungle )
  • What is a dearth ? (From Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre )
  • What does it mean to vacillate ? (From Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest )
  • What does it mean to obtrude someone? (From Dickens's Great Expectations )
  • What is a heterodox ? (From Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter )
  • What is felicity ? (From Austen's Emma )
  • What does it mean to be effacing ? (From Adams's The Education of Henry Adams )
  • What is a repast ? (From Chan Tsao's Dream of the Red Chamber )
  • What does insouciance mean? (From Sinclair's The Jungle )
  • What is a soliloquy ? (From Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn )
  • I was reading The Iliad and there's this word in it: greaves . What's that?
  • What does the word prodigality mean? (From Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby )
  • Is there an easy way to understand The Canterbury Tales ?
  • What does the scarlet letter symbolize?
  • What is the significance of Grendel's cave in Beowulf ?
  • How did Hawthorne show that Hester Prynne was a strong woman in The Scarlet Letter ?
  • What purpose do the three witches serve at the beginning of Macbeth ?
  • What can you tell me about Grendel from Beowulf ?
  • What figurative language does Stephen Crane use in The Red Badge of Courage ?
  • Why is Roger so mean in Lord of the Flies ?
  • How do Gene and Finny mirror each other in A Separate Peace ?
  • The old man and the young wife — what's up with story plots like this?
  • What part does vengeance play in The Odyssey ?
  • What kind of a woman is Penelope in The Odyssey ?
  • Do fate and fortune guide the actions in Macbeth ?
  • How does Frankenstein relate to Paradise Lost ?
  • How has the way people view Othello changed over time?
  • How does Henry change throughout The Red Badge of Courage ?
  • What's so great about Gatsby?
  • How is To Kill a Mockingbird a coming-of-age story?
  • Why did Ophelia commit suicide in Hamlet ?
  • What is the setting of The Scarlet Letter ?
  • What is a slave narrative?
  • What's an anachronism ?
  • Doesn't Raskolnikov contradict himself in Crime and Punishment ?
  • What is the main theme of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ?
  • What does Shakespeare mean by memento mori ?
  • What are inductive and deductive arguments?
  • How does Alice Walker break the rules" of literature with The Color Purple ?"
  • What role does Friar Laurence play in Romeo and Juliet ?
  • Why did Elie Wiesel call his autobiography Night ?
  • How does Shakespeare play with gender roles in Macbeth ?
  • Where did Dickens get the idea to write A Tale of Two Cities ?
  • What's the purpose of the preface to The Scarlet Letter ?
  • What role do women play in A Tale of Two Cities ?
  • Who are the heroes and villains in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?
  • What are the ides of March?
  • Was Kate really a shrew in The Taming of the Shrew ?
  • What role does innocence play in The Catcher in the Rye ?
  • How are Tom and Huck different from each other in Huckleberry Finn ?
  • What is blank verse and how does Shakespeare use it?
  • How do the book and film versions of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest differ?
  • What is a satirical novel?
  • What is the role of censorship in Fahrenheit 451 ?
  • How can I keep myself on track to get through my summer reading list?
  • How does Jim fit into the overall theme of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ?
  • What is a major theme of The Great Gatsby ?
  • How does Shakespeare use light and darkness in Romeo and Juliet ?
  • Who is the narrator in Faulkner's A Rose for Emily"?"
  • In Lord of the Flies , what statement is William Golding making about evil?
  • How is The Catcher in the Rye different from other coming-of-age novels?
  • How does Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird show two sides?
  • Was there supposed to be a nuclear war in The Handmaid's Tale ? I couldn't tell.
  • What is experimental theater"?"
  • Does Jonas die at the end of The Giver ?
  • What is an inciting incident, and how do I find one in Lord of the Flies ?
  • How does King Arthur die?
  • In Julius Caesar , what does this mean: Cowards die many times before their deaths
  • How do you write a paper on comparing a movie with the book?
  • Please explain this Kipling quote: Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.""
  • What is a tragic flaw?
  • What is a motif, and how can I find them in Macbeth ?
  • Why didn't Socrates write any books? After all, he was supposed to be so intelligent and wise.
  • Why are there blanks in place of people's names and places in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice ?
  • Was Othello a king? A prince? He's referred to as My Lord" but I'm not sure of his actual title."
  • I need to download some pictures of Juliet. Where would I find these?
  • Why does Odysseus decide to listen to the Sirens, in The Odyssey , by Homer?
  • What does prose and poetry mean? What's the difference?
  • In The Scarlet Letter, why is the scaffold important and how does it change over the course of the novel?
  • Why does the legend of King Arthur hold such a powerful grip over us?
  • Do you like to read books?
  • What are the metrical features in poetry?
  • What are the riddles that Gollum asked Bilbo in The Hobbit ?
  • Can you tell me what these two quotes from Much Ado About Nothing mean?
  • What is connotation, and how do you find it in a poem?
  • What is a dramatic monologue?
  • What is formal fallacy?
  • In the movie Dead Poets Society, what are some themes and values that are relevant to Transcendentalism. What is Transcendentalism?
  • Why didn't Mina Harker realize she was under Dracula's spell when she witnessed her friend fall prey to him, too? Wasn't it obvious?
  • In The Three Musketeers by Dumas, Cardinal Richelieu is labeled as the villain. How could he be presented as a hero instead?
  • In Romeo and Juliet , what are the different types of irony used? Um, what's irony?
  • What is the main theme in Fahrenheit 451 ?
  • In Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities , what fact in Book the Second: Chapters 1-6, confirms Darnay's release?
  • Why is Invisible Man considered a bildungsroman?
  • In A Doll's House , what risqué item does Nora reveal to Dr. Rank that eventually prompts him to disclose his own secret?
  • What is a definition of short story?
  • What percentage of people are considered geniuses?
  • How do I write and publish my own novel?
  • Do I use the past or present tense to answer this question: What is this poem about?" "
  • A Closer Look at Internships
  • Consider Working for a Nonprofit Organization
  • Create a Top-Quality Cover Letter
  • Deciding Whether to Go for Your MBA
  • Dress the Part for a Job Interview
  • Appropriate Attire: Defining Business Casual
  • Famous Americans Who Started Out in the Military
  • The Benefits of Joining a Professional Organization
  • Five Job Interview Mistakes
  • Getting Good References for Your Job Hunt
  • Lying on Your Resume
  • Make the Most of Days between Jobs
  • Military Career Opportunity: Translators and Interpreters
  • Network Your Way into a Job
  • Prepare for a Job Interview
  • Preparing for Job Interview Questions
  • Putting Your English Degree to Work
  • Putting Your Education Degree to Work
  • Take Advantage of Job and Career Fairs
  • Tips for a Better Resume
  • Understand Negotiable Elements of a Job Offer
  • Visit the College Career Office
  • Write a Resume That Will Get Noticed
  • Write a Thank You Note after an Interview
  • Writing a Follow-Up Letter after Submitting Your Resume
  • Your Military Career: Basics of Officer Candidate School
  • Your Military Career: Requirements for Officer Candidate School
  • Know What to Expect in Graduate School
  • Paying for Graduate School
  • Plan for Graduate Education
  • Tackle the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
  • What Does School Accreditation Mean?
  • Writing Essays for Your Business School Application
  • Apply to Graduate School
  • Basic Requirements for Grad School
  • Choose a Graduate School
  • Decide if Graduate School Is Right for You
  • English Majors: Selecting a Graduate School or Program
  • Getting Letters of Recommendation for Your Business School Application
  • Graduate School Application: Tips, Advice, and Warnings
  • Graduate School: Applying as a Returning Student
  • How to Find a Mentor for Graduate School
  • How to Prepare for Grad School as an Undergrad
  • How Work Experience Affects Your MBA Application
  • Master's Degree in Biology: Choosing a Grad School
  • In what countries does Toyota produce and market cars?
  • How would you use the PDSA cycle in your personal life?
  • I am confused about adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing negative numbers.
  • Who are some famous female mathematicians?
  • Given the set of numbers [7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42], find a subset of these numbers that sums to 100.
  • The speed limit on a certain part of the highway is 65 miles per hour. What is this in feet per minute?
  • What is the sum of the angles of an octagon?
  • In math, what does reciprocal mean?
  • How many grams in an ounce?
  • A number is 20 less than its square. Find all answers.
  • How much is 1,000 thousands?
  • How do I find the angles of an isosceles triangle whose two base angles are equal and whose third angle is 10 less than three times a base angle?
  • Explain with words and an example how any number raised to the zero power is 1?
  • If I had 550 coins in a machine worth $456.25, what would be the denomination of each coin?
  • What three consecutive numbers add up to 417?
  • How many 100,000,000s in 50 billion?
  • Of 100 students asked if they like rock and roll or country music, 7 said they like neither, 90 said they like rock and roll, and 57 said they like country music. How many students like both?
  • What's the formula to convert square feet into square meters?
  • In math, what is the definition of order of operations?
  • What's the difference between digital and analog?
  • What is the square root of 523,457?
  • What are all of the prime numbers?
  • Our teacher told us to look for clues in math word problems. What did she mean?
  • How do I figure out math word problems (without going crazy)?
  • What good is geometry going to do me after I get out of school?
  • I keep forgetting how to add fractions. Can you remind me?
  • My teacher talks about the Greatest Common Factor. What's so great about it?
  • Got any tips on finding percentages of a number?
  • What does associative property mean when you’re talking about adding numbers?
  • How do I use domain and range in functions?
  • How do I change percents to decimals and fractions? How about decimals and fractions to percents?
  • What should I do if my teacher wants me to solve an inequality on a number line?
  • What is a fast and easy way to work word problems?
  • How do you combine numbers and symbols in an algebraic equation?
  • How do I go about rounding off a number?
  • What is the First Derivative Test for Local Extrema?
  • Can you describe a prism for me?
  • How can I double-check my answers to math equations?
  • How do you factor a binomial?
  • I get the words mean , mode , median , and range mixed up in math. What do they all mean?
  • How do you combine like terms in algebra?
  • Can you make it easier for me to understand what makes a number a prime number?
  • Explain probability to me (and how about some examples)?
  • Solving story problems is, well, a problem for me. Can you help?
  • What's inferential statistics all about?
  • Finding percentages confuses me. Do you have any tips to make it simpler?
  • What's a quadratic equation, and how do I solve one?
  • How do you figure out probability?
  • How do you add integers?
  • How do you use factoring in quadratic equations?
  • What are limits in calculus?
  • I've looked everywhere to find the meaning of this word and I can't find it. What's the definition of tesseract ?
  • In geometry, how do you get the perimeters of a square and a rectangle?
  • What is the absolute value of a negative number?
  • A rectangle swimming pool is 24m longer than it is wide and is surrounded by a deck 3m wide. Find the area of the pool if the area of the deck is 324m 2 . Where do I even start to solve this problem?
  • How do you classify numbers, as in rational numbers, integers, whole numbers, natural numbers, and irrational numbers? I am mostly stuck on classifying fractions.
  • How do you convert a fraction to a decimal or change a decimal to a fraction?
  • I am trying to find all solutions to this algebra (factoring) problem, x 3 – 3x 2 – x + 3 = 0, and I keep getting the wrong answer. Please help!
  • Sometimes when I'm doing my pre-calculus homework I need help on some of the problems. Do you know where I can find help on the weekends or whenever?
  • How do you convert metric measurements?
  • I'm curious about converting Celsius to Fahrenheit, or Fahrenheit to Celsius. How do I convert from one to the other?
  • In basic math, the fraction bar shows division. So why does this equation show multiplication instead of division? 9/9 = 1 because 1 x 9 = 9.
  • I'm taking geometry and I'm having problem with the angles and the degree. Is there a way you can help me out?
  • The perimeter of a rectangle is 66m. The width is 9m less than the length. What is the length and width of the rectangle?
  • How many dollars are in 5,000 pesos?
  • How many ounces in a pound?
  • I'm having a hard time remembering percent of change. All I have is P (percent) = amount of change over original amount. Is there a better way of understanding it?
  • How do I figure out tangrams?
  • What are quadrilaterals?
  • What is the least common multiple of 8, 6, and 12?
  • How do you convert decimals to fractions?
  • How did the planet" Pluto get its name? I know it's named after the mythical god of the underworld, but why?"
  • What is the difference between the earth's core and its crust?
  • What does gender really mean?
  • What does plum pudding have to do with physics?
  • What is the functionalist perspective in sociology?
  • What does pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis mean?
  • Why aren't viruses considered living things?
  • Why does your breathing rate increase when you exercise?
  • Everyone says you shouldn't clean your ears with cotton swabs because you could break an eardrum. But if you do break your eardrum, will it grow back?
  • What is a mole?
  • How, and why, is body fat stored?
  • Where on the body do you find ciliated pseudostratified columnar epithelium?
  • Since she was only married for 72 days, does Kim Kardashian have to give back her wedding gifts?
  • In the United States, how can you get buried at sea?
  • What exactly is Salvia divinorum , and is it legal?
  • What is the composition and volume of whole blood?
  • Should I refer to a widow as Mrs., Miss, or Ms.?
  • Is it possible to catch more than one cold at a time?
  • Why does the Earth have more gravitational force than the moon or some other planet?
  • Did humans evolve from monkeys or apes?
  • What is the largest organ in the human body?
  • How did we end up with both Fahrenheit and Celsius scales?
  • What is absolute zero?
  • What is cell theory?
  • How come when humans flatulate, it smells bad?
  • How do I convert mL into µL, and vice versa?
  • What is the most abundant element in the earth's crust?
  • Is global warming man-made?
  • What exactly is wind? And why does it blow?
  • This sounds really disgusting, but I'm curious: Can humans drink animal blood, or any other kind of blood?
  • Why is space exploration important?
  • How is photosynthesis essential to life on earth?
  • What is the highest mountain in New Mexico?
  • What's the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?
  • Who are the unbelievers" referred to in The Koran? What is it that they do not believe?"
  • What is the difference between Sunnis and Shi'ites?
  • What happens when you die?
  • Why is it important to memorize where the 50 states are on a map?
  • What kind of endangered species are there? Can you give me some examples, please?
  • It's impossible to sneeze with your eyes open, so when you drive a car, is it against the law to sneeze?
  • What are tectonic plates?
  • I have boy trouble. I want to ask out my friend, but I am not sure he is going to say yes. Plus, he said he had a girlfriend when we talked during school. Plus, my parents don't want me to date.
  • Why is the sky blue?
  • Do you really shrink at the end of the day and then grow in the morning?
  • What is the difference between matter" and "mass"?"
  • What does "nature versus nurture" mean?
  • What are closed contour lines?
  • What is homeostasis ?
  • What does the periodic table look like?
  • Do you know anything about the law of conservation of energy? Is it really a law?
  • I thought I knew what work means, but my physics teacher defines it differently. What's up with that?
  • How do plants know when to drop their leaves?
  • What's the surface of the moon like?
  • How does the number of neutrons in the nucleus of an atom differentiate it from another atom?
  • How do big rocks wear down over time?
  • What does genetic recombination mean?
  • How has DNA matching really made big difference in finding out who committed a crime?
  • What's the difference between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems?
  • What is incomplete dominance?
  • Can hydrocarbons be considered compounds?
  • Can you explain what molar mass is?
  • Aren't fungi really plants?
  • What information is contained in a chemical equation?
  • What are the endocrine and exocrine systems?
  • How do electrical charges interact?
  • Are there more than three kingdoms of life? I can never remember.
  • What are the characteristics of electrically charged objects?
  • How does anomie theory explain deviant behavior?
  • Why would anybody think there might be life on another planet?
  • What are chemical solutions?
  • Do you know of any way to simplify the overall subject of biochemical genetics?
  • Can a loud noise really shatter glass?
  • How do magnetic fields work?
  • Did Clarence Darrow really call an animal in to testify at the famous monkey trial?
  • What role does the thyroid gland play in the human body?
  • What did Mendel discover about heredity when he was playing around with plants?
  • How many laws of motion did Newton come up with, and what are they?
  • What in the world is constructive and destructive interference?
  • How do viruses do their dirty work?
  • What do bones do, except give us a skeletal structure?
  • Do all viruses look alike?
  • My teacher keeps talking about solubility. What does that mean, anyway?
  • How do positive and negative reinforcement work?
  • How does nondisjunction relate to birth defects?
  • With all the germs in the world today, how come everybody's not sick all the time?
  • What is thermal equilibrium?
  • How are sound waves created?
  • What do taste buds look like — up-close?
  • How often does an eclipse happen?
  • What is the chemical composition of saltwater?
  • I was told to write a 15-sentence answer to this question: When in life do you learn to expect the unexpected? I don't really know of an answer. Can you help me figure it out?
  • My school is having a blood drive and I am considering donating blood. Can you tell me more about the whole process and if it is painful?
  • Where can I download music for free? And if I do, is it illegal?
  • How do I convince my parents to give me ten bucks?
  • How should I deal with being a perfectionist?
  • How do I convince my little brother and sisters to stay out of my room?
  • Can you eat a rooster?
  • How do I work out a problem with a teacher who loses the assignments I turn in and then accuses me of not doing the homework?
  • Could a Tyrannosaurus rex kill King Kong?
  • How would you describe a rainbow to a person who has been blind their ENTIRE life and doesn't understand colors?
  • Will a tattoo inhibit hair growth?
  • When did gays come about?
  • I was wondering if the tilt on the earth's axis is important to animal life on earth. Could you explain?
  • What are the four types of tissue found in the human body?
  • Is there any easy" way to understand the Krebs Cycle?"
  • Why are prostaglandins sometimes called tissue hormones?
  • What is cell death? And what is the difference between apoptosis and necrosis?
  • How do I find the molar mass of the elements on the periodic table?
  • What do the symbols on the Periodic Table mean? For example, Gold-Au, Silver-Ag, Lead-Pb, Potassium-K, Tin-Sn, Iron-Fe, and Mercury-Hg, where did these symbols come from?
  • How is your mind connected to your dreams? Does this have anything to do with psychology?
  • What are the three main functions of the skeletal system?
  • What are the characteristics of a moneran, protist, and fungus?
  • Why does a placebo work? And who does it work for?
  • What are two properties of metals, nonmetals, and metalloids?
  • What is lymph? Is it part of the circulatory system in our bodies?
  • Can there be life on Mars?
  • How much of the ozone layer is left?
  • Is it possible for a marine mammal to be infected with rabies?
  • What exactly does the RNA do?
  • What is the sperm travel process?
  • What is a bacterial colony?
  • Dealing with the myth of Cinderella, written by the Grimm brothers, how could you analyze it in terms of archetypes that Carl Jung used?
  • What exactly is blood clotting and what are the processes involved?
  • What is the difference between nuclear fusion and nuclear fission?
  • Does a person have to have the same blood type as his or her brothers and sisters?
  • My teacher said that eating poisonous mushrooms can make you sick or even kill you, but that they're not the only fungus that can. What is she talking about?
  • What is the chemical equation for orange juice?
  • What kind of structures are opposable toes?
  • What is an oral groove?
  • Dogs are spayed, but humans have hysterectomies. Isn't it all the same surgery?
  • What does the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) do?
  • What is the angle formed by a horizontal line and a line of sight to a point below?
  • After I take the ASVAB, what is my obligation to the military?
  • If I choose to take the computerized version of the GRE, will I be typing or writing my analytical and issue essays?
  • Are there any MBA programs that don't require the GMAT?
  • Can you use a calculator on the GMAT? What are you allowed to take in with you to the test?
  • Should I keep taking the GMAT until I get a good score?
  • How is the ASVAB scored?
  • I canceled my GMAT score right after I took the test. Now I'm wondering if I did the right thing.
  • What is the ASVAB AFQT?
  • Where can I take the ASVAB?
  • Is it better to guess on GMAT answers or would that count against me?
  • How is my GMAT score used by grad schools?
  • Is it true that the writing assessment sections of the GMAT are graded by a computer?
  • What kinds of scores are reported on the GRE, and how long will it take for me to get my scores?
  • What do I need to bring with me to the GRE testing center?
  • How are GRE scores used?
  • How do I learn stuff for in-class exams?
  • How do I get ready for a math test?
  • Can I take a calculator to my ACT exam?
  • Do you have any tips for doing well on the AP Chemistry test?
  • What can I expect in the math part of the SAT?
  • How can I prepare for the SAT essay?
  • What is the Critical Reasoning section of the SAT like?
  • Is there a fun way to learn SAT vocabulary?
  • What books should I read for the AP English Literature exam?
  • How can I make sure I finish the AP essay question in time?
  • Since I made the soccer team, I don't feel like I have enough time to study. Do you have any study tips so I can use my time better and make sure I don't get kicked off the team for my grades?
  • I'm a huge procrastinator. How can I manage my time effectively to catch up on my assignments?
  • What kind or amount of note-taking is optimal? I get lost while making a notation and miss other parts of the lecture.
  • I study so hard for my tests that I know I know the material, but then I always panic and bomb. How can I reduce my test anxiety?
  • I do really bad on quizzes. I'm okay with tests and homework, but I do horribly on quizzes. What can I do to prepare for quizzes?
  • I've screwed up horribly this semester. I always say I'm going to change my habits, but I always end up getting lazy and doing something else. I want to succeed, but how can I get rid of my own laziness?
  • If you have any music or audio notes playing on tape, CD, or whatever and you fall asleep, is it true that you'll have whatever was played memorized by the time you wake up?
  • I have trouble understanding a book when I read. I try to read so that I can finish the book quickly but still understand what's going on. Could you give me a few tips on how to understand a book while reading at a quick pace?
  • What is the best study method when trying to cram three chapters all at once?
  • What if I have a really bad memory? When I read a page of a book, I can't go back and remember it.
  • Why do some teachers say light a peppermint candle? I mean, I don't think it helps you concentrate.
  • I really suck at taking multiple choice tests. Do you have any suggestions for not psyching myself out before a big test?
  • Is there a WRONG way to study?
  • Are the math questions on the GMAT extremely difficult and complex?
  • Does it matter whether I take the SAT or ACT in my junior year or my senior year of high school?
  • What does AP mean?
  • How can I explain to my friend what I mean when I call him tedious ?
  • Does the word privations has something to do with the government?
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  • What exactly is a parallel structure?
  • I have a bet on this: Learnt is a real word, right?
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  • Define paraphrasing.
  • What's another word that means the same thing as malevolence ?
  • I find the same typo in a lot of books I read. Shouldn't connexion be connection ?
  • What do you call a word that only ever appears as a plural?
  • What s the difference between like and such as
  • Can you show an easy way to remember when to use I" or "me" in a sentence? (And please skip the technical grammar rules.)"
  • Should I say, “Can I have a banana?” or “May I have a banana?”
  • Is the proper capitalization Atlantic ocean or Atlantic Ocean ?
  • What does the word supercilious mean?
  • Is grippe something that makes you sick?
  • Does the word elucidation have something to do with drugs?
  • How would you use fervid and fervent in a sentence?
  • How can someone become a good writer?
  • How do you cite CliffsNotes in APA, MLA, and CMS styles?
  • What period in history does histrionics cover?
  • People used to die from consumption. Does that mean they ate too much?
  • Is it ever okay to start a sentence with the word but?
  • What is the longest word in the English language?
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  • Please look at this sentence: Both Peter and John like soccer. Should it be: Both Peter and John likes soccer.
  • What are the four genders of noun?
  • What is it called when a word is the same both forward and backward?
  • Do swans really sing when they die
  • What does indignation mean?
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  • What is a cleft sentence
  • What is the difference between narration and first person?
  • Is it grammatically correct to say take some shots"?"
  • My teacher thinks I plagiarized an essay; what should I tell him?
  • Why do some authors use the word an before all words that start with an H? Is this form of writing correct?
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  • How do I write a good thesis statement?
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  • What's the big deal about plagiarism, anyway?
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  • Can you define the words prostate and prostrate ?
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  • What does ad infinitum mean? (From Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre )
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  • Why is English class called English in school? English is a language, so I don't think it should be a class. Please help me understand.
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  • What is a dynamic character? What is a static character? How are they different?
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  • I don't get onomatopoeias! It's as hard to spell as it is to understand!
  • What is a gothic tale?
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  • I have to write an essay for my AP world history class and my teacher said to use direct comparison, but I'm confused on what he means by that. Please Help!
  • I'm reading The Scarlet Letter in my Honors AP English class and my teacher wants us to do a 5 paragraph essay. What's the best way to start the introduction?
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  • What is a good sentence for the word plinth ?
  • What are footnotes and endnotes? How do I start off a title page?
  • Why can't you be rude or sarcastic in your thesis statement?
  • How do you write a paper, when the topic is yourself? How do you research that kind of thing?
  • What would a raging river be like?

Good writers do create stories that are organized and comprehensible. For example, a story usually follows some organization, whether it's told chronologically, in flashbacks, from different perspectives, and so on. Also, writers provide many clues to the meaning or main ideas they want you to get from the work.

In particular, the following points are important to consider when reading and analyzing literature:

  • Characters: Who are the main characters in the piece? What are the names and roles of the main characters? Who is the narrator, the person telling the story? Does this person have a bias? That is, can you trust what he or she is saying?
  • Events and interaction: What happens in the story? How do the characters interact? How are they related or connected? Why do the characters act or behave the way they do? Why do the events play out as they do?
  • Setting: Where does the piece take place? Is the setting critical to the story? Does the setting provide background? Does the setting give historical, physical, or other information that is key to the story?
  • Time: When does the story take place? Is it timeless, or is it grounded in a particular place and time?
  • Organization: How is the story organized? Most commonly, stories are told chronologically, but in some works, you may find that the author moves back and forth (in time as well as place).
  • Writing style: What does the writing style tell you about the story? Is the writing richly detailed? Is it sparse? (For example, Hemingway was famous for his Spartan writing style.) How does the writing style affect the meaning? Do you have to make assumptions or guesses because there are gaps?
  • Symbolism: Symbolism can be tricky because, sometimes, as the saying goes: "A cigar is just a cigar." Other time, a journey represents something beyond the trip itself. For example, Huck Finn's trip was more about his development as a person than his trip down the river.
  • Theme: What are the themes of the story? What elements or ideas are repeated or emphasized? Think about this throughout your reading, not just at the end. Notice what people, places, and events pop up over and over again.
  • Retelling of a story: Many stories are in some way or form a retelling of a previous story. If you think about Huckleberry Finn's trip, you can find other trips from Greek mythology (Homer's Odyssey ) to the Bible (the trip of the Magi) with similarities.

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  • Analyzing Novels & Short Stories
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Words of Wisdom

Read your stuff out loud. Sometimes the way it reads in your head sounds different when someone says it.

— Amy Poehler

Literary analysis looks critically at a work of fiction in order to understand how the parts contribute to the whole. When analyzing a novel or short story, you’ll need to consider elements such as the context, setting, characters, plot, literary devices, and themes. Remember that a literary analysis isn’t merely a summary or review, but rather an interpretation of the work and an argument about it based on the text. Depending on your assignment, you might argue about the work’s meaning or why it causes certain reader reactions. This handout will help you analyze a short story or novel—use it to form a thesis, or argument, for your essay.

Begin by summarizing the basic plot: “ Matilda  by Roald Dahl is about a gifted little girl in small town America who learns to make things move with her mind and saves her teacher and school from the evil principal.” This will help ground you in the story. (When you write your paper, you probably won’t include a summary because your readers will already be familiar with the work. But if they aren’t, use a brief summary to orient them.)

Research the author’s background and other work. This can give insight into the author’s perspective and bias, as well as tell the reader what he might be commenting on. For example, Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is about a group of friends who embark on an epic journey and fight a great war. Knowing Tolkien fought in the Battle of Somme during World War I and that his closest friends were killed helps explain his sentiments about war.

Other questions about context can stem from the story itself. Consider the narrator’s personality and their role in the story. In The Outsiders, the narrator is the character of Ponyboy Curtis and not the author, S.E. Hinton. Also consider who the narrator is addressing. At the end of The Outsiders , for example, you find out that the entire book was an essay for one of Ponyboy’s teachers, which makes the story seem more honest and real.

When and where a story takes place can be profoundly significant. Consider where the author’s story is placed and why the author made that decision. In Shakespeare’s Othello , for example, the setting is Italy, although Shakespeare was writing in England. He set his play elsewhere, in part, so he could make social commentary about England without incurring the wrath of English rulers.

Remember, many stories would be irretrievably altered if their setting were different and setting is, therefore, integral for interpreting the story’s meaning. For instance, the setting for Faulkner’s work—the American South after the Civil War—is essential to his overall message. Faulkner’s characters are people who can’t move on, and through them he suggests that the South similarly can’t get past the Civil War and the wrongs of slavery.

Story lines usually follow patterns like those in the example below. Identifying essential plot points will help you to analyze, interpret, and explain the story.

Main Problem (Conflict) : The plot hinges on some major problem, often a conflict between characters or an obstacle that must be overcome.

Climax : The high point of the action, when the conflict or problem could either be resolved or cause a character’s downfall.

Resolution : The conflict or problem is solved and normalcy or a new order is restored.

Characters are the driving force behind stories, both major characters and minor ones, and authors use them to broadcast their most important messages. You won’t be able to analyze every character, but pick out several important ones to consider.

First, describe the character for yourself; next, consider why the character was portrayed in that way. The following are some guiding questions:

What are the character’s morals or ethics? Why does the author give him those?

Why does the character do what she does? Why did the author make her act that way?

What is the character’s relationship to other characters and why? Why did the author create the relationships?

Literary Devices

Various literary devices help convey meaning or create a mood. Look for these in a story to identify key points and their contribution to the author’s overall meaning. The following are a few common literary devices.

Allusion . An indirect reference to another artistic work or person, event, or place (real or fictitious). The author makes the allusion with the intention that the well-known object will create an association with the new object in the reader’s mind. For example, the title of William Faulkner’s novel The Sound and the Fury is an allusion to a line in Shakespeare’s Macbeth —a futile speech made by an embittered man who has ruined his life. Alluding to that speech in the title helps Faulkner set the tone for his story of a family in ruins.

Foil. A character used to contrast a second, usually more prominent character in order to highlight certain qualities of the more prominent character. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet , Fortinbras is a foil for Hamlet in that he is unhesitating in action and war-like in nature; in contrast, Hamlet is thoughtful, analytical, and careful.

Foreshadowing . The use of hints or clues to suggest what will happen later in a literary work. For example, in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet , Juliet tells her nurse to find Romeo’s name: “Go ask his name. If he be married, my grave is like to be my wedding-bed.” This foreshadows the danger of Romeo’s name being Montague and of Juliet’s death because of their marriage.

Irony . An implied discrepancy between what is said and what is meant. There are three kinds of irony: verbal irony is when an author says one thing and means something else; dramatic irony is when an audience perceives something that the characters don’t know; and situational irony is a discrepancy between the expected result and the actual result. For example, in Macbeth , the three witches recount the prophecies that must be fulfilled for Macbeth to fall. He therefore believes he is invincible—ironic because these prophecies cause his downfall.

Symbolism . The use of an object or action to mean something more than its literal meaning. For example, in Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury , one of the principle characters, Caddy, falls and stains her white dress when she’s a child. The stained dress symbolizes (and foreshadows) her later loss of purity. A character can also be equated with an object throughout a work, another form of symbolism. In Eudora Welty’s Delta Wedding, an aunt is repeatedly seen carrying an empty bag, which symbolizes her childlessness.

Themes are big ideas that authors comment on throughout a work using tools such as context, setting, and characters. Common themes are good vs. evil, human nature, religion, social structure, authority, coming-of-age, human rights, feminism, racism, war, education, sex, friendship, love, compassion, and death. Most books deal with multiple themes, some more obvious than others. Identifying an author’s themes gives you a starting place for your thesis. It gives you a general topic. However, a theme is general. You have to dig a little deeper to identify the author’s statement or attitude about that topic.

Tying It Together

Once your analysis is complete, develop a thesis that makes an arguable claim about the text. It should connect one of the themes you’ve identified with specific proof from the text (i.e. setting, context, plot, characters, symbolism, allusions, etc.). Sometimes, you will also use the support of other analysts or literary experts.

Remember that a thesis for a literary analysis should NOT merely:

  • Summarize the plot (“ The Once and Future King  tells the story of the legendary King Arthur.”)
  • Announce a general theme (“ The Once and Future King gives important ideas about leadership.”)
  • Offer a review of the book (“ The Once and Future King is a literary classic that everyone should read.”)

Before you begin to write, check the assignment and follow your instructor’s specific guidelines.

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Literature analysis is the cornerstone of many college classes, in subjects ranging from English literature to history. Literature analysis papers as you to consider how and why a literary text was written and conveys some kind of message. The ability to take apart a text and break it down into its separate parts enables you to judge how effective an author’s argument is, what symbols or motifs are important throughout the novel, poem or other text, and ultimately, to understand the text in a more holistic way.  Therefore, knowing how to craft a good argument and defend it well using textual evidence is an important skill to learn in preparing for your college career.

The most important things to consider when writing a literary analysis paper are: what is your argument? Are you expressing it correctly via a well-placed thesis statement ? Do you support your argument well throughout your essay? Support for an argument typically involves using lots of evidence from the text in the form of quotations from a close reading of a passage (for more on how to successfully use quotations, see our “Integrating Quotations” support guide). Often this also involves reading, analyzing, and using outside research to support what you are arguing. Learning the basic structure of literary analysis will be helpful for writing many different kinds of essays.

Helpful Links

Here are a few links to get you started on writing your literature analysis paper:

What is literature analysis (including a glossary of literary terms)?

  • Purdue Owl: What Makes a Good Literature Paper?
  • Roan State: The Elements of Literature

Tips on writing effective literature analysis essays.

  • How to Write a Literature Analysis Essay Handout (from Bucks County Community College)
  • Writing a Paper on Fiction in 9 Steps (from UNC Chapel Hill)

How do I support my argument?

  • Using Evidence (from UNC Chapel Hill)
  • How to do a Close Reading (from Carson-Newman University)

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Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev in 1962 was interested in exposing the flaws of Stalinism for political purposes; when the editor of Novyi Mir brought him a copy of the manuscript by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918–2008), Khrushchev approved of its publication. Soon… Read More ›

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Analysis of Carlos Fuentes’s The Old Gringo

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Analysis of Isabel Allende’s Of Love and Shadows

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Analysis of José Donoso’s The Obscene Bird of the Night

The fourth novel by Chilean writer José Donoso (1924–96), The Obscene Bird of the Night, is widely regarded as his masterpiece. His other significant novels include Coronation (Coronación, 1957), This Sunday (Este Domingo, 1966), The Space without Limits (El lugar… Read More ›

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Analysis of Rainer Maria Rilke’s The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

These evocative, atmospheric—sometimes paranoid and hallucinatory, sometimes rhapsodic—vignettes and reflections of a young dispossessed, dislocated, and disconsolate Danish poet carried the original working title The Journal of My Other Self. As a reflexive account of the alter ego of Rainer… Read More ›

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Analysis of Marguerite Duras’s The North China Lover

The North China Lover was published late in the French author’s life (1914–96). The short novel primarily revisits the events of Marguerite Duras’s 1984 celebrated novel The Lover (L’Amant), and tells of a pivotal love affair between an unnamed teenage… Read More ›

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Analysis of Elie Wiesel’s The Night Trilogy

By NASRULLAH MAMBROL on August 2, 2023

This work consists of Elie Wiesel’s first three books—the memoir Night (1958), the novel Dawn (L’aube, 1961), and the fictional work Day (Le jour, 1962), also called The Accident. Although Wiesel has published more than 20 books, these three—originally published… Read More ›

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Analysis of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Night Flight

This work marks the second novel written by France’s long-loved author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900–44). The author’s first novel, Southern Mail (Courrier sud), appeared in 1929. His masterpiece, The Little Prince (Le petit prince) was published a year before the author’s… Read More ›

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Analysis of Paul Bourget’s The Night Cometh

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novel analysis literature

Analysis of Jean-Paul Sartre ‘s Nausea

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novel analysis literature

Analysis of Hermann Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldmund

Although Narcissus and Goldmund investigates the notion of reaching death through love and art, the novel by the esteemed Swiss-German author Hermann Hesse (1877–1962) is a rather serene work, built on bipolar, contrasting patterns. Hesse’s previous great novels, Demian (1922)… Read More ›

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Novel Definition

A Novel is a long narrative work of fiction with some realism . It is often in prose form and is published as a single book. The word ‘novel’ has been derived from the Italian word ‘ novella ’ which means “new”. Similar to a short story , a novel has some features like a representation of characters , dialogues , setting , plot , climax , conflict , and resolution . However, it does not require all the elements to be a good novel.

Types of Novel

There are many types of novels. They include mysteries , thrillers , suspense , detective, science fiction , romantic, historical, realist or even postmodern.

Examples of Novels from Literature

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm by George Orwell was written in 1945 and published in England. It allegorizes the story of the Communist Revolution in Russia through the characters of pigs and satirizes its degradation into the same totalitarian regime. The story revolves around animals where pigs are the cleverer than others. They bring a revolution, expelling their old master, Mr. Jones. However, after a couple of years, the pig leaders Snowball and Napoleon develop friction. Snowball flees to save his life, and the situation turns a full circle where Napoleon and his cohorts again take a dictatorial turn to run the administration of the farm through propaganda and other strategies. This is a short form of a novel with animals as its characters.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the Sea is a tour de force of Hemingway which won Noble Prize for Literature for him. A model of the realistic novel, the Old Man and the Sea presents the story of an old man who is too fragile to fish alone in the Gulf Stream near the Cuban capital of Havana. However, he hooks a truly huge marlin which tests his mettle for almost three days. Although he kills the marlin by the end, he loses it to sharks. His extreme fight and endurance win him accolades from the readers.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

This is one of the best comings of the age novels, which takes the reader on a journey to see the life of a poor young boy, Pip. In the novel, Pip’s transformation from a poor orphan into a gentleman living in London goes through various challenges. His mistakes teach him valuable lessons as he realizes what his benefactors and Joe did for him. Parallelly, he falls in love with prideful Estelle and does his best to win her affection. By the end of the novel, Estelle is a widow and humbled, and Pip asks her to marry him, which she accepts. Without a doubt, “The Great Expectations ” is one of the best English novels which tells the main characters personal growth and development.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Although written in the 19 th century, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is one of the best science fictions. The story of a young scientist, Victor Frankenstein obsessed with the idea of creating life. He creates ‘the Creature’ and is repulsed by his own experiment. The Creature brings havoc in Victor Frankenstein’s life after he fails to give him a partner. Both Victor and the creature meet with a tragic end. The story teaches a lesson that we must never intervene with nature.

Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy is one of the best novels of the last century, which explores the role of fate and chance in an individual’s life. Tess belongs to a poor family, but her father discovers that their family perhaps descendants of D’Urbervilles, a noble family, after meeting Parson Tringham. Taking pride in his ancient lineage, he spends whatever they have and forces his young daughter to work on a farm where she is raped. Later, another young man, Angel Clare, marries her but after this disclosure, he leaves her. By the end of the novel, Angel returns and accepts her, but Tess is hanged for murdering her former rapist, Alec.

Novel Meaning and Function

A novel presents a whole picture as compared to a short story which displays only one aspect of life, or one side of the story. It also shows a vast panorama to its readers to see the story through an age in which it is presented such as The Tale of Two Cities has been written during the times when France and England were going through a lot of changes. Similarly, a novel also presents a conflict and its resolution. For every writer, a novel is a strong tool to present the philosophical, historical, social, cultural and moral perspectives .

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How to Analyze a Novel

A literary analysis essay requires basic knowledge of literary elements. The following article will give you an understanding of such basic elements.

A novel can be defined as “a long narrative in literary prose” which the author has organized chronologically or in flashbacks. The novel can be divided into seven genres or categories: romantic, historical, detective, thriller, adventure, horror, and science fiction.

Setting is a description of where and when the story takes place.

  • What aspects make up the setting?
  • Geography, weather, time of day, social conditions?
  • What role does setting play in the story? Is it an important part of the plot or theme? Or is it just a backdrop against which the action takes place?
  • Study the time period which is also part of the setting
  • When was the story written?
  • Does it take place in the present, the past, or the future?
  • How does the time period affect the language, atmosphere or social circumstances of the novel?


Characterization deals with how the characters are described.

Are the characters portrayed:

  • through dialogue?
  • by the way they speak?
  • physical appearance?
  • thoughts and feelings?
  • interaction - the way they act towards other characters?
  • Are they static characters who do not change?
  • Do they develop by the end of the story?
  • What type of characters are they?
  • What qualities stand out?
  • Are they stereotypes?
  • Are the characters believable?

Plot and structure

The plot is the main sequence of events that make up the story.

  • What are the most important events?
  • How is the plot structured? Is it linear, chronological or does it move back and forth?
  • Are there turning points, a climax and/or an anticlimax?
  • Is the plot believable?

Narrator and Point of view

The narrator is the person telling the story. The point of view tells us whose eyes the story is being told through.

  • Who is the narrator or speaker in the story?
  • Is the narrator the main character?
  • Does the author speak through one of the characters?
  • Is the story written in the first person “I” point of view?
  • Is the story written in a detached third person “he/she” point of view?
  • Is the story written in an “all-knowing” 3rd person who can reveal what all the characters are thinking and doing at all times and in all places?

Conflict or tension is usually the heart of the novel and is related to the main character.

  • How would you describe the main conflict?
  • Is it internal where the character suffers inwardly?
  • Is it external caused by the surroundings or environment the main character finds himself/herself in?

The theme is the main idea, lesson or message in the novel. It is usually an abstract, universal idea about the human condition, society or life, to name a few.

  • How does the theme shine through in the story?
  • Are any elements repeated that may suggest a theme?
  • What other themes are there?

The author’s style has to do with the author’s vocabulary, use of imagery, tone or feeling of the story. It has to do with his/her attitude towards the subject. In some novels the tone can be ironic, humorous, cold or dramatic.

  • Is the text full of figurative language?
  • Does the author use a lot of symbolism? Metaphors, similes? An example of a metaphor is when someone says, "My love, you are a rose". An example of a simile is "My darling, you are like a rose."
  • What images are used?

Your literary analysis of a novel will often be in the form of an essay or book report where you will be asked to give your opinions of the novel at the end. To conclude, choose the elements that made the greatest impression on you. Point out which characters you liked best or least and always support your arguments. Try to view the novel as a whole and try to give a balanced analysis.

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Literary Analysis

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Elie Wiesel

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Other Literary Devices

Night , a literary memoir, is a World War II and Holocaust autobiography.

Elie Wiesel first wrote an 800-page text in Yiddish titled Un di Velt Hot Geshvign ( And the World Remained Silent ). The work later evolved into the much-shorter French publication La Nuit , which was then translated into English as Night .

Time and Place Written

Wiesel wrote Night in the mid-1950s, in Paris. He began writing after a ten-year self-imposed vow of silence about the Holocaust.

Eliezer, a slightly fictionalized version of Elie Wiese, is the narrator of Night . He is also the protagonist.

Point of View

Eliezer speaks in the first person and always relates the autobiographical events from his perspective.

Eliezer’s perspective is limited to his own experience, and the tone of Night is therefore intensely personal, subjective, and intimate. Night is not meant to be an all-encompassing discourse on the experience of the Holocaust. Instead, it depicts the extraordinarily personal and painful experiences of a single victim.

The memoir is delivered in the past tense.

Setting (Time & Place)

Night takes place in 1941–1945, during World War II. Eliezer’s story begins in Sighet, Transylvania, which now part of Romania and which during Wiesel’s childhood was part of Hungary. The book then follows his journey through several concentration camps in Europe: Auschwitz/Birkenau (in a part of modern-day Poland that had been annexed by Germany in 1939), Buna (a camp that was part of the Auschwitz complex), Gleiwitz (also in Poland but annexed by Germany), and Buchenwald (Germany).

Major Conflict

Eliezer’s struggles with Nazi persecution, and with his own faith in God and in humanity are the major conflict.

Rising Action

Eliezer’s journey through the various concentration camps and the subsequent deterioration of his father and himself is the rising action.

The death of Eliezer’s father is the climax.

Falling Action

The falling aciton is the liberation of the concentration camps, the time spent in silence between Eliezer’s liberation and Elie Wiesel’s decision to write about his experience, referred to in the memoir when Eliezer jumps ahead to events that happened after the Holocaust.


Night does not operate like a novel, using foreshadowing to hint at surprises to come. The pall of tragedy hangs over the entire novel, however. Even as early as the work’s dedication, “In memory of my parents and my little sister, Tzipora,” Wiesel makes it evident that Eliezer will be the only significant character in the book who survives the war. As readers, we are not surprised by their inevitable deaths; instead, Wiesel’s narrative shocks and stuns us with the details of the cruelty that the prisoners experience.

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A black-and-white photograph of a man resting his chin on his hand over a small wooden table. An Aztec skull sits next to his face.

A Masterpiece That Inspired Gabriel García Márquez to Write His Own

For decades, Juan Rulfo’s novel, “Pedro Páramo,” has cast an uncanny spell on writers. A new translation may bring it broader appeal.

The Mexican writer Juan Rulfo (1917-86) with an Aztec skull. Rulfo’s work influenced generations of Latin American writers. Credit... Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo

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Readers of Latin American literature may have heard one of the many versions of this story:

It is 1961 and Gabriel García Márquez has just arrived in Mexico City, penniless but full of literary ambition, trying desperately to work on a new novel. One day, he is sitting in the legendary Café La Habana, where Fidel Castro and Che Guevara were said to have plotted the Cuban Revolution. Julio Cortázar walks in, carrying a copy of Juan Rulfo’s novel “Pedro Páramo.” With a swift gesture, as if he’s dealing cards, Cortázar throws the book on García Márquez’s table. “Tenga, pa que aprenda,” he says. “Read this and learn.”

That night, García Márquez reads the novel in a single, feverish, sleepless sitting. He is so deeply haunted by this slim book, set in a rural village full of ghosts and echoes from the past, that he reads it again that same night, and starts memorizing it. The next day, he is finally able to begin writing “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”

This is the version I heard when I was a young student — a version, it turns out, that contains some errors. The place was not Café La Habana but García Márquez’s modest apartment, and it was not Cortázar but Álvaro Mutis who gave him the book. But the kernel of this literary legend — the bedazzlement, the rapacious reading, the swell of inspiration — remains true.

What I like about the story, which García Márquez recounts in a 1980 foreword that appears in a new translation of PEDRO PÁRAMO (Grove, 129 pp., paperback, $17), is not what it says about García Márquez the writer: his photographic and phonographic memory, his baroque literary fervor and his almost humble confession that it was this compact novel that showed him a way back into writing and ultimately made possible his masterpiece . What I like about it is what it says about García Márquez the reader, and more widely, what it says about the spell Rulfo’s book casts on so many of its admirers .

“Pedro Páramo,” first published in Mexico in 1955, often produces a feverish response. Jorge Luis Borges said it was one of the greatest works of literature ever written. Susan Sontag called it one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. Enrique Vila-Matas has said that it is the “perfect novel.” Roberto Bolaño’s “2666” would probably not exist without it. The book shows its readers how to read all over again, the same way “The Waste Land” or “Ulysses” does, by bending the rules of literature so skillfully, so freely, that the rules must change thereafter.

I first read the novel in high school, in Mexico, for a class called Reading, Redaction and Initiation Into Documentary Investigation. I was 14 or 15, and it was not love at first sight. The class was as stale as its name — it is astonishing how literary education often goes out of its way to bore readers out of the pleasure of books — and I understood nothing.

It was only the second or third time I read it, while at an international boarding school in India, that I began to understand and appreciate what Rulfo had done. I pored over it with a group of Latin American students, all of us around 16 or 17. We read it the way difficult things should be read: slowly, collectively, out loud and with a pencil in hand. We had different accents — Argentinian, Dominican, Costa Rican, Spanish, Bolivian — yet Rulfo’s unique use of the vernacular from the Altos de Jalisco seemed to resonate perfectly with the many inflections of our group.

The book cover of “Pedro Páramo” shows a black-and-white photograph of a row of cacti in a desert.

We could not have articulated it properly back then, but I am sure we all felt it, something timeless and boundless in this seemingly ultra-local story of peasants and moguls during the Mexican Revolution. It is a story of all revolutions: the landless against the landlords, the dispossessed against the powerful. It is a story of usurpation, extraction and sexual violence. Of stealing land, settling it and exploiting it and its people. In other words, it is a story of nation-building in the Americas.

But at its core, “Pedro Páramo” is a tale of two journeys, or perhaps one journey that unfolds into two. The first is a linear one driven by a Telemachean quest: a man searching for his missing father. The narrator, Juan Preciado, goes to his parents’ hometown after his mother dies, seeking his long-estranged father, Pedro Páramo. He plans to demand reparations. But what he finds is a ghost town. Then he dies. (This is not a spoiler; the story continues after his death as if nothing really happened.) The second journey is Dantesque: a spiraling descent into a kind of underworld. But unlike Dante’s mathematically plotted inferno, with its concentric circles and somewhat navigable geography, Rulfo’s is largely sensory, densely packed with sounds and their endless reverberations.

Many Latin American readers know the opening sentence of the novel by heart: “Vine a Comala porque me dijeron que acá vivía mi padre, un tal Pedro Páramo.” From the beginning, we find ourselves in an unstable space-time that we will question and redefine as we move through the novel. For English-language readers, key differences in two translations of the opening line will help bring this ambiguity to light. The 1994 translation, by Margaret Sayers Peden, reads: “I came to Comala because I had been told that my father, a man named Pedro Páramo, lived there.” The most recent translation, by Douglas J. Weatherford, is: “I came to Comala because I was told my father lived here, a man named Pedro Páramo.” Just as the exchange of “here” for “there” radically changes the story’s spatiality ( where the narrator is speaking), the use of “was told” — less removed than “had been told” — shifts its temporality ( when the narration happens).

Nothing can fall into place in a novel if the author does not have control over its sense of time, be it linear or fractured. In novels of fractured time, the sequence of events must be governed by a logic of its own, one justified by the book’s central questions. Throughout “Pedro Páramo” — in which a central concern is how the world of the living haunts the world of the dead, and not vice versa, as with most ghost stories — time ebbs and flows in a kind of tidal pattern. It is not quite circular, because circles are closed circuits, but the cadence is similar to something cyclical, to the uprush and backwash of water breaking over sand, over and over again. The dead, tormented by lives they can no longer participate in but which their memories replay, over and over again, produce a steady undercurrent of murmurs, laments, mutterings, chatter, whispers, quiet confessions.

If where and when we are in “Pedro Páramo” is constantly shifting, then sound is the swift and sinuous vehicle that carries us through it. For a class I taught this fall, I asked my students to find the many sonic markers in the novel. (It was a fun experiment, and we shared the results with the sound designers of a forthcoming “Pedro Páramo” film. They wrote back to say they were inspired by our sound lists and wanted to credit the students.)

I was astonished to see how much of the novel is composed of aural details. Still air shattered by doves’ flapping wings. Hummingbirds whirring among jasmine bushes. Laughter. A tap of knuckles on the confessional window. A church clock ringing out the hours, “one after another, one after another, as if time had contracted.” Also sounds we cannot hear, but can almost imagine: “the earth rotating on rusted hinges, the trembling of an ancient world pouring out its darkness.” And of course, the myriad sounds of rain.

It rains a lot in “Pedro Páramo.” And it is usually water that marks the book’s space-time transitions. The dead become restless when it rains. “The moisture must have reached her so she’s tossing in her sleep,” one character says of a woman buried in a sepulcher. The dead start listening, and like seeds underground they begin to stir in disquiet, until they burst into conversation. One of my students called it “seepage”: As rain softens the soil, the voices in “Pedro Páramo” are able to seep through it and become audible. There’s an inevitable elusiveness to a novel with a narrative structure pieced together from muffled voices in muddy waters, but it is the kind of elusiveness that has us leaning in, so as to listen better.

Rulfo (1917-86) was shy to the point of evasiveness, nearly mute in interviews and conversations, uncomplicated in his ways and routines. “My name is Juan Nepomuceno Carlos Pérez Rulfo Vizcaíno,” he wrote in an unfinished manuscript. “They piled on me the names of my ancestors, paternal and maternal, as if I were the clustered stalk in a bunch of bananas … I would have liked a more simple name.” The simplicity he longed for in his name is a signature of his writing. His prose is spare, almost frugal; his sentences are full of staccatos, his dialogues full of pauses. “Yo creo en el silencio,” he said in an interview. “I believe in silence.”

Rulfo was an immigration agent — a terrible one, by his own account, who never deported anyone. Later, he was a traveling tire salesman. He became an avid photographer in that period, and produced a wealth of pictures documenting rural Mexico. After publishing “Pedro Páramo,” he became an editor at the national agency for Indigenous communities, where he worked for over 20 years. He was proudly prolific in that job, editing many books about the more than 50 Indigenous groups in Mexico . But as a writer, he was quite the opposite: He published only one novel and one collection of stories in his lifetime, and never finished another book after “Pedro Páramo.”

He is often included — incorrectly, I believe — in the magic realism canon. It makes more sense to map Rulfo within a constellation of writers like T.S. Eliot, Samuel Beckett and Franz Kafka, writers who took literature to the frontiers of their languages, who wrote in a kind of “foreign” tongue, in that they allowed strangeness to seep into the familiar and turn the everyday into the uncanny.

Although it is widely accepted that García Márquez borrowed heavily from Rulfo, one senses a much greater debt in the work of Cormac McCarthy. Beyond the more obvious Rulfian strokes and motifs in McCarthy’s Border Trilogy, there are also imprints of “Pedro Páramo” in “The Road,” with its sparse prose and haunting cadence, its bleak world, inconsolable characters and stirringly melancholic journeys. McCarthy also offers a wink to Rulfo in “The Crossing,” in which a Señor Páramo appears as a character.

I am not sure what it is that allows some works of translated literature to flow easily into the minds of foreign readers and become part of the collective imagination. “One Hundred Years of Solitude” passed swiftly into the Anglophone world, just as “The Metamorphosis” and “The Stranger” had. But “Pedro Páramo,” translated into more than 30 languages and revered for decades by writers, readers and critics, has had a different fate. I have read the book at least 15 times; there was a period in which I read it once a year, every year. I have no hesitation in saying that there is no novel more mesmerizing and paradigm-shifting. But it has not quite reached the ears of many English-language readers; in the United States, it remains something of a best-kept secret, a book that people either cherish or have never heard of.

One straightforward explanation would be inadequate past translations. I have always been frustrated when trying to read or teach “Pedro Páramo” in English. The first translation, by Lysander Kemp, was published in 1959 by Grove and famously excluded entire sentences that seemed opaque to him. The second, by Sayers Peden, perhaps overcompensated for the baffling omissions by adding many more words to Rulfo’s stark prose. She may have passed Rulfo through the ornate filter of the many Latin American magic-realist novels she translated (including at least 11 of Isabel Allende’s). I began reading this third edition, by Weatherford, with skepticism. But I grew more and more enthusiastic as I went along. His translation is, by far, the best of Rulfo in English.

Interviewed on Spanish TV in 1977 , Rulfo suggested that “Pedro Páramo” is meant to be read three times before it is understood. Readers, he explained, would probably face as many challenges reading it as he did writing it. Fair enough. Maybe the novel was also meant to be translated three times before it seeped more broadly and indelibly into the Anglophone consciousness. Maybe its time has finally come.

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Do you want to be a better reader?   Here’s some helpful advice to show you how to get the most out of your literary endeavor .

Each week, top authors and critics join the Book Review’s podcast to talk about the latest news in the literary world. Listen here .


Interesting Literature

A Summary and Analysis of O. Henry’s ‘After Twenty Years’

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

‘After Twenty Years’ is a short story by the American writer O. Henry, whose real name was William Sydney Porter (1862-1910). A trademark of the O. Henry story is the surprise twist ending, and ‘After Twenty Years’ is a classic example of this. The story is about two friends who agree to meet up after twenty years to compare each other’s lives.

You can read ‘After Twenty Years’ here . Below, we offer a summary and analysis of the story.

‘After Twenty Years’: summary

One night in New York, a policeman sees a man striking a match to light his cigar. This man stands in the doorway of the building that had once been a restaurant named Big Joe Brady’s. The man explains to the policeman why he is loitering here, in case the policeman thinks there is something suspicious about him hanging around here after dark.

He tells the policeman that twenty years ago to the day – indeed, to the very hour – he parted company with an old friend of his, Jimmy. Both he and Jimmy were young New Yorkers who decided to make their fortunes, but while the man in the doorway decided to head out West, Jimmy vowed to remain in New York. They pledged to come back to this very spot, exactly twenty years later, to meet up for a reunion and compare how each other had fared in their attempts.

The policeman tells him he hopes Jimmy shows up, and then continues on his beat. After twenty minutes of waiting, the man is approached by someone in a long overcoat with the collar turned up. This man recognises the man in the doorway as Bob, his old friend from twenty years back. Bob, in turn, thinks he has recognised his friend of old, Jimmy Wells.

As the two men walk off arm-in-arm to find somewhere to sit and catch up properly, they turn a corner and Bob finds his companion’s face illuminated by the electric lights of a drugstore. He realises this man is not Jimmy Wells, his old friend. Instead, the man reveals himself to be a plain-clothes policeman who is arresting Bob, who is now a notorious Chicago gangster and wanted man.

The story ends with this policeman handing Bob a note from his old friend, Jimmy, who is now a policeman who patrols the streets of New York. In his note, Jimmy tells Bob that he was the policeman who spoke to him earlier in the evening. Realising that his old associate was now a wanted criminal, Jimmy found he didn’t have the heart to arrest his old friend, so he went and found a plain-clothes policeman to arrest him instead.

‘After Twenty Years’: analysis

Like most of O. Henry’s short tales, ‘After Twenty Years’ is a story with a twist. Here, the twist is actually several twists (or, at the very least, surprise developments) packed into one. First, there is the obvious narrative twist, that the much-anticipated and long-awaited reunion between the two old friends has, in fact, already happened at the very start of the story.

But of course, there is also the added twist, that Bob has made his fortune by illicit means, and is now a wanted criminal. Chicago in the early twentieth century has strong associations with gangsters, with Al Capone being perhaps the most famous, or notorious, of them all. The fact that Bob has been given a nickname, ‘Silky’ Bob, only strengthens the suggestion that he is involved in some sort of illegal gang activity.

So, the two friends who do indeed meet up ‘After Twenty Years’ have taken divergent paths: one has gone West and the other has remained in New York; one has remained on the straight and narrow (and even become part of the law enforcement establishment) while the other has become a criminal; one has become a success and the other is about to become a failure as he is finally seized and arrested for his crimes.

The clever thing about O. Henry’s stories is his use of a third-person narrator, who is thus impersonal and omniscient. Whether third-person narrators always are omniscient – that is, all-knowing – is something that critics have often debated. The critic and theorist Nicholas Royle, for instance, has argued that the term ‘telepathic’ is more accurate than ‘omniscient’, since third-person narrators have the ability to go into characters’ minds but they don’t necessarily know everything .

However, the point with ‘After Twenty Years’ is that O. Henry keeps the focus of the story on the action (and dialogue) of the characters rather than what’s going on inside their heads. Thus the neat twist unfolds naturally and without our feeling that anything has been unfairly withheld from us.

It is also a narrative masterstroke to give Jimmy the last word, or words, of the story. His note thus reveals the delicious twist in a way that explains it without actually spelling out that he was the policeman who accosted Bob at the start of the story. The reader is thus gently encouraged to piece the final parts of the narrative jigsaw together themselves, making that final revelation a little more satisfying.

And of course, seeing criminals hauled to justice is a classic plot denouement: the manner in which the long arm of the law outstretches itself in this case only makes the poetic justice that much more poetic.

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Movie Review: ‘Eileen,’ a wonderful novel about an ‘invisible’ young lady becomes an oddball film

This image released by Neon shows Thomasin McKenzie, left, and Anne Hathaway in a scene from “Eileen.” (Jeong Park/Neon via AP)

This image released by Neon shows Anne Hathaway, left, and Thomasin McKenzie in a scene from “Eileen.” (Jeong Park/Neon via AP)

This image released by Neon shows Thomasin McKenzie in a scene from “Eileen.” (Neon via AP)

This image released by Neon shows Marin Ireland, left, and Thomasin McKenzie in a scene from “Eileen.” (Neon via AP)

From left, Luke Goebel, Thomasin McKenzie, Ottessa Moshfegh and William Oldroydfor pose for the photographers upon arrival at the screening of the film ‘Eileen’ in London, Monday, Nov. 13, 2021. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

William Oldroyd poses for photographers upon arrival at the screening of the film ‘Eileen’ in London Monday, Nov. 13, 2021. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

Ottessa Moshfegh poses for photographers upon arrival at the screening of the film ‘Eileen’ in London, Monday, Nov. 13, 2021. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

Thomasin McKenzie, left, and William Oldroyd pose for photographers upon arrival at the screening of the film ‘Eileen’ in London Monday, Nov. 13, 2021. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

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Something strange has happened to Eileen Dunlop, and we don’t just mean the plot of “Eileen.” The adaptation of novelist Ottessa Moshfegh’s delicious coming-of-age heroine has had a weird birth onto film.

The plot and setting haven’t changed: It’s late 1964 in a frigid coastal town in Massachusetts. “Everybody’s kind of angry here — it’s Massachusetts,” Eileen explains in one her best lines. She works as a clerk at a juvenile corrections facility, goes home to an alcoholic dad and repeats. Her whole world is a prison.

In print, she is dark and self-obsessed and deliciously willing to poke into every squeamish horror, even her own “folds and caverns.” On celluloid, she is just a plain, anti-social Jane. In print in one scene, she scratches her nether regions and pointedly uses the unwashed fingers to shake hands with a boss. In the film, she just walks away. Eileen has been neutered.

It’s not clear what has happened since Moshfegh — along with Luke Goebel — is a screenwriter as well as a producer. Moshfegh’s original creation is a “fabulous shoplifter” who keeps a dead field mouse in the glove box of her smoky Dodge Coronet and loves National Geographic issues that feature unusual, painful tribal rituals. None of that made it to the film. That leaves her too inert, too passive — wide-eyed without the naughty.

This combination of photos shows promotional art for "My Life with the Walter Boys" a series premiering Dec. 7 on Netflix, left, and "Mr. Monk's Last Case: A Monk Movie," premiering Dec 8 on Peacock. (Netflix via AP, left, and Peacockvia AP)

“Eileen” was always going to be a hard book to adapt, especially since it’s so internal. It’s really a character study for most of the way, then events get jolted by an unexpected outsider — a real deus ex machina — and then it evolves into a low-stakes noir thriller, right down to the film’s too heavy Hitchcockian end credits.

Thomasin McKenzie playing the titular character has a lot to do and she does it admirably, appearing mouse-ish from the outside, pulling pubic hair out of a bar of soap with delightful glee and taking the occasional flight of fancy by dreaming of executing her dad or having a hot and heavy tryst with a guard. “Get a life, Eileen. Get a clue,” says her unamusing dad.

The deus ex machina here is Anne Hathaway as the glamorous Harvard-trained psychiatrist Rebecca Saint John, who drinks cocktails, smokes furiously — “It’s a nasty habit. That’s why I like it” — dances alone in bars and doesn’t buy any ‘50s conventions. “I don’t get what’s popular,” she says. Hathaway could have pulled back the throttle a little, often overawing McKenzie’s mouse.

Hathaway’s sophisticated character is the key to unlocking Eileen, and the young woman begins mimicking the older, often wearing her dead mother’s clothes as she smokes or drinks martinis. They have a sort of flirtation — game recognizing game. “You really think you’re a normal person?” the psychiatrist asks Eileen.

While director William Oldroyd often gets lost in the heavy darkness of noir, the screenwriters have some fabulous lines, like when Saint John tells Eileen: “You remind me of a girl in a Dutch painting. You have a strange face. It’s plain but fascinating — with a beautiful turbulence.”

Or when gin-soaked dad — a great Shea Whigham — calmly destroys his daughter: “Some people, they’re the real people. Like in a movie. They’re the ones you watch, they’re the ones making moves. And other people, they’re just there, filling the space,” he says. “That’s you, Eileen. You’re one of them.”

And that’s the fate of “Eileen,” too, unfortunately. By sanding off all the dark human quirks from their deeply human heroine, the filmmakers have left us a film that’s just filling the space.

“Eileen,” a Neon release in theaters Dec. 1, is rated R for “violent content, sexual content and language.” Running time: 97 minutes. Two stars out of four.

MPAA definition of R: Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Online: https://neonrated.com/films/eileen

Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits


The Harvard Gazette

Hope for progress survives terror and war, new study finds wide gap in sat/act test scores between wealthy, lower-income kids.

TPanelists Tarek Masoud (from left), Amaney Jamal, David Makovsky, Khalil Shikaki, and Shai Feldman at Klarman Hall.

National & World Affairs

Panelists Tarek Masoud (from left), Amaney Jamal, David Makovsky, Khalil Shikaki, and Shai Feldman at Klarman Hall.

Photos by Niles Singer/Harvard Staff Photographer

Can the Israelis and Palestinians find peace? Scholars discuss — and debate — long history of conflict, prospects for a durable accord

By Christina Pazzanese Harvard Staff Writer

Date November 22, 2023 November 27, 2023

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Scholars revisited the long history of Israel-Palestine conflict leading up to the Oct. 7 terror attack by Hamas and weighed potential steps toward peace before hundreds of Harvard community members at a recent Klarman Hall event.

“We’re here because of dead civilians, Jewish and Arab,” said moderator Tarek Masoud, faculty chair of the Middle East Initiative and Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Governance at Harvard Kennedy School , which co-hosted the Nov. 20 discussion  with Harvard Business School .

The third such gathering convened by the Middle East Initiative in recent weeks, the event, which unfolded as Israel and Hamas negotiated a cease fire and hostage deal, was an attempt to share scholarly expertise with students so they can make better sense of the crisis and perhaps contribute to a solution, Masoud said. Srikant Datar, dean of the Business School, urged attendees to approach the talk “with open-mindedness and a commitment to empathy and learning.”

Amaney Jamal talking.

"If violence were going to solve this conflict, it would have already," said Amaney Jamal (center), dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.

It’s important to separate the terror unleashed by Hamas from the plight of Palestinians in Gaza, said David Makovsky, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who served as senior adviser to the State Department’s Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations from 2013 to 2014.

“This was a deliberate decision by the Hamas leadership to do [these] atrocities,” he said. “The people of Gaza did not commit these atrocities.”

Hamas chose to attack at a moment when its leadership believed Israel had been weakened by internal strife over the overhaul of Israel’s judiciary by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Makovsky. Another key factor was the worry that a normalization pact between Saudi Arabia and Israel would be “game over” for the terror group, leaving Hamas isolated from the other Arab nations that had struck accords with Israel.

Panelists agreed that Hamas members are terrorists, not freedom fighters. They also agreed that Netanyahu has used Hamas in the past to help thwart peace efforts.

“The current Israeli government, led by Netanyahu, is the same government that has been trying for most of the last 16 years to create conditions, or to support conditions, that have essentially prevented any progress in that direction,” said Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah. “Hamas was very instrumental in providing that kind of environment.”

At times, Masoud politely refereed passionate disagreements among the scholars over who did what during the decades that precipitated this crisis, further underscoring the enormous challenge facing those who wish to engage in reasoned debate on the subject.

On what the way forward looks like, the panelists were uncertain.

For Netanyahu, success in the short term would be to eliminate Hamas’ fighting and governing capacity and to free the hostages held in Gaza, said Shai Feldman, a professor of Israeli politics and society at Brandeis University. But eventually, the Israeli people will force a “major reckoning” internally about the policies and strategies the prime minister and his allies adopted.

Asked what role the international community can play to facilitate peace, Feldman said that if Hamas is defeated, perhaps a regional coalition made up Egypt, Jordan, and/or Saudi Arabia could temporarily take control in Gaza and make an effort to rejuvenate the Palestinian Authority, which was pursuing a two-state solution with Israel before Hamas rose to power in 2006.

“If violence were going to solve this conflict, it would have already,” said Amaney Jamal, dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs and a daughter of Palestinian immigrants. “I would rather see our policies and efforts and the Palestinian Authority … make the message of peace and reconciliation far more attractive than any other message.”

She added: “This starts with people seeing tangible changes on the ground, but also political leaders to step up and sanction their leaders when they’re espousing violence and vitriol and hatred and the dehumanization of the other. We have been victims of this conflict since we were born. We would love to turn the page and be able to live with peace and dignity as Israelis, as Palestinians.”

Test with pencil.

Apple unveils the top books of 2023 and a new Year in Review experience

A user’s Year in Review is shown in Apple Books on 11-inch iPad Pro and iPhone 15 Pro.

Discover Year in Review

A user’s Year in Review is shown on the Read Now page in Apple Books on iPhone 15 Pro.

Find Reader Types

The Contemporary reader type is shown in Apple Books on iPhone 15 Pro.

Explore the Best and Top Books and Audiobooks of 2023

  • Spare by Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex
  • The Woman in Me by Britney Spears
  • The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder by David Grann
  • Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity by Peter Attia and Bill Gifford
  • Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson
  • Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros
  • Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros
  • Happy Place by Emily Henry
  • Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano
  • The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese
  • The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin
  • Only the Dead by Jack Carr
  • Tom Lake by Ann Patchett
  • Year in Review is available for free for Apple Books users in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S.
  • For users with at least three books marked as finished, Year in Review is available on iPhone with iOS 17.1 and iPadOS 17.1 at books.apple.com/year-in-review .
  • Users can share purchased titles with up to five family members using Family Sharing.

Text of this article

November 28, 2023

Apple unveils the top books :br(l)::br(xl):of 2023 and a new Year in Review experience

Users can browse the top books and audiobooks of 2023 and explore personalized insights about the books they enjoyed this year

Apple Books is the single destination for all the books and audiobooks readers love, featuring the ability to set Reading Goals, organize books into collections, share purchases using Family Sharing, and browse personalized recommendations for new titles.

Today, Apple Books unveiled the top books and audiobooks of 2023 and launched Year in Review, a new in-app experience that helps readers to celebrate the titles, authors, and genres that defined their year. With Year in Review, users can view personalized reading highlights about the books and audiobooks they enjoyed in 2023, including their total time spent reading, the longest book or audiobook they read, the series they completed, their most-read author and genre, and their highest-rated book — all presented in a simple and engaging experience with visuals that are easy to share.

Here’s how to access Year in Review on Apple Books:

Year in Review is available on iPhone and iPad within the Read Now tab under Top Picks to users with at least three titles marked as finished.

To add books or audiobooks, readers can tap and hold on any book in the app and choose Mark as Finished. To change the finished date shown, users can hold down on the book and select Edit Finished Date. For titles read elsewhere, such as in hardcover or paperback, users can search for them in Apple Books and select Mark as Finished to add them to their Year in Review.

Year in Review uses anonymized reader insights to determine a personal reading type. There are six reader types to discover, including The Contemporary for readers of trendy titles; The Completist for readers of multiple books in a series; The Seeker for nonfiction readers; The Wanderer for multigenre readers; The Deep Diver for single-genre readers; or The Free Spirit for readers with wide-ranging interests across the book world.

At the end of a user’s Year in Review, they can see an overview of their year in Books, featuring the total books read and total minutes spent reading, with an accompanying grid of book covers they’ve finished.

To close the chapter on a remarkable year, Apple Books published the Best of 2023, an editorially curated collection of standout books and audiobooks across a variety of genres, and the most popular titles of the year. Topping the charts in many countries were two prominent celebrity memoirs that bookended 2023: Prince Harry’s Spare in January and Britney Spears’s The Woman in Me , narrated by actor Michelle Williams, in October. Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros was also a must-read for fans of romance and fantasy during the spring and summer. Check out the most popular books and audiobooks of 2023 and browse the top charts for all titles on Apple Books.

Top Nonfiction Books of 2023

Top Fiction Books of 2023

Top Nonfiction Audiobooks of 2023

Top Fiction Audiobooks of 2023


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John Nichols, literary chronicler of small-town New Mexico, dies at 83

His best-known novel, ‘the milagro beanfield war,’ was adapted into a 1988 movie directed by robert redford.

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John Nichols, who launched his literary career in his mid-20s with a pair of tragicomic novels but became best known for evoking New Mexico’s small towns and rural landscapes in books including “The Milagro Beanfield War,” was found dead Nov. 27 at his home in Taos, N.M. He was 83.

His daughter, Tania Harris, said he died Sunday night or Monday morning because of his long-running heart problems, which included atrial fibrillation. He had likened his heart to a “ticking time bomb,” she said, but had refused to move out of the dusty, beaten-down home where he had lived alone for years, maintaining a nocturnal schedule in which he wrote from 10 p.m. until 6 in the morning.

Mr. Nichols, a self-effacing novelist with a penchant for dark humor, liked to say that most of his two-dozen books were “wildly unsuccessful.” But a few earned him a cult following and a reputation as a leading chronicler of New Mexico, his adoptive home state, where he wrote with humor and pathos about the land and its people, including the tension between White developers and Chicano and Indigenous communities fighting to retain their heritage and their homes.

“He fell in love with the people, the air, the sky, the mountains. But he was keenly aware of the weight of history, and the historical inequity here among the Native peoples and the Spanish,” said Stephen Hull, the director of the University of New Mexico Press, which published nine of Mr. Nichols’s books.

Mr. Nichols started his career in New York, where made a living out of college playing the guitar in Greenwich Village coffee shops and selling cartoons — “mostly of naked ladies,” in his telling. He was just 24 when he published his first book, “The Sterile Cuckoo” (1965), a coming-of-age story that began like this: “Several years ago, during the spring semester of my junior year in college, as an alternative to either deserting or marrying a girl, I signed a suicide pact with her.”

The novel went on to recount the relationship between the narrator, a more or less conventional beer-guzzling student, and his eccentric girlfriend, Pookie Adams.

Reviews were mixed — in the New York Times, Eliot Fremont-Smith wrote that it was filled with “adolescent jabbering” — but the novel became a commercial success with the help of a 1969 film adaptation that marked Alan J. Pakula’s directorial debut and featured an Oscar-nominated breakout performance by Liza Minnelli.

By the time the film was released, Mr. Nichols had published another coming-of-age story, “The Wizard of Loneliness” (1966), about a precocious 11-year-old on the home front during World War II. (The book was adapted into a 1988 film.) He had also moved to Taos, where he worked for a muckraking alternative newspaper called the New Mexico Review, reporting on land and water issues in the state’s rural north.

His reporting provided the inspiration for “The Milagro Beanfield War” (1974), a comic novel about a Latino community’s efforts to prevent its town from being transformed into an upscale vacation resort.

“At the time, that book seemed like my last shot at a literary career,” Mr. Nichols wrote in an autobiographical essay. He was broke after spending a few years unsuccessfully trying to publish a political novel, inspired by his burgeoning opposition to capitalism and the Vietnam War. His frustrations faded after he wrote a first draft of “Milagro” in five weeks, but his excitement about the novel’s commercial prospects turned into disappointment when the book turned out to be “a dismal failure,” he told the Santa Fe New Mexican . “It got reviewed, but it disappeared.”

Critics found “Milagro” overwritten and clichéd. Gradually, it found an audience of readers who admired its dark humor, underdog plot and evocative descriptions of a fictional New Mexico backwater. A 1988 film adaptation, directed by Robert Redford, drew further attention to the book, which inspired the names of a Milagro bed-and-breakfast and Milagro art gallery in Taos.

The film, which starred Rubén Blades as a friendly sheriff and Christopher Walken as a menacing lawman, was filmed in nearby Truchas, from a screenplay that Mr. Nichols co-wrote with David Ward. Mr. Nichols said he came around to the production after failing to prevent Redford from getting involved, explaining in a 2022 memoir, “I Got Mine: Confessions of a Midlist Writer”: “I didn’t want a famous blond, blue-eyed Anglo actor directing the film of a book written by another blond, blue-eyed gringo, a novel in which half the characters spoke Spanish.”

Mr. Nichols wrote two sequels, “The Magic Journey” (1978) and “The Nirvana Blues” (1981), in what he called his New Mexico Trilogy. But he came to consider “Milagro” “an albatross around my neck,” lamenting that readers seemed more keen on reading another one of his comic novels than in engaging with his later work, which often focused on politics and the environment.

Interviewed by the Los Angeles Times in 1994 , he said he had been politicized by a trip to Guatemala three decades earlier, when he encountered widespread poverty and became critical of U.S. involvement abroad. He later protested the Vietnam War by demonstrating outside the Pentagon, traveled to Nicaragua to see the effects of the country’s left-wing revolution and published a bleak and violent antiwar novel, “American Blood” (1987).

Mr. Nichols also dabbled in screenwriting, doing an uncredited rewrite of “Missing” (1982), a Costa-Gavras thriller based on the case of the American writer and filmmaker Charles Horman, who was murdered in Chile days after the 1973 U.S.-backed coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The film starred Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek and received four Oscar nominations, winning for best adapted screenplay.

“The ‘real’ Hollywood has remained a mostly unknown foreign country to me,” Mr. Nichols wrote in his memoir, looking back on other assignments, uncredited or unrealized, for directors including Costa-Gavras and Ridley Scott. “I existed on its very fringe, picking up crumbs that fell off the table. … I once explained it like this: ‘I never jumped over the moon, but, when nobody was looking, I did run away with the spoon.’”

John Treadwell Nichols was born in Berkeley, Calif., on July 23, 1940. He had the same name as his paternal grandfather, a naturalist who was the curator of fishes at the American Museum of Natural History, and spent childhood summers at his grandparents’ 18th-century estate in Mastic, N.Y., on the South Shore of Long Island.

His mother, Monique Robert, was French, a granddaughter of the poet Anatole Le Braz. Like Mr. Nichols, she was plagued by heart problems; she died at 27, when he was 2. He later memorialized her in one of his nonfiction books, “Goodbye, Monique: Requiem for a Brief Marriage” (2019). His father, David, married three more times and taught psychology at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Mr. Nichols graduated from the Loomis boarding school in Connecticut, where he captained the hockey team and wrote gangster stories in his spare time, imitating Damon Runyon. By the time he enrolled at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., he was writing “at least one novel a year,” by his count.

“Occasionally, a brave professor would be kind enough to read my stuff, then offer encouraging words as he or she politely vomited behind my back.”

Mr. Nichols received a bachelor’s degree in English in 1962 and spent a year in Barcelona, where he began writing “The Sterile Cuckoo” while teaching English. He settled in Taos in 1969, during a period of personal and artistic upheaval.

“For some reason, the East had overwhelmed me. … But in New Mexico, my relationships soon cut through class lines and occupations,” he wrote in “If Mountains Die: A New Mexico Memoir” (1979).

His marriages to Ruth Harding, Juanita Wolf and Miel Castagna ended in divorce. Survivors include two children from his first marriage, Luke Nichols and Tania Harris; a half brother; and three granddaughters.

Friends and family members said that Mr. Nichols’s home was stuffed with books, letters and manuscripts, including drafts of abandoned projects and novels that he spent years polishing and reworking. “Most of the books I have completed were never published,” he noted in a 2000 essay, “yet this has not dismayed me. It’s no small thing to build a body of work, even if much of that work remains anonymous.”


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  1. How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay

    How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay | A Step-by-Step Guide Literary analysis means closely studying a text and discussing how meaning is conveyed through things like imagery, tone and perspective. FAQ About us Our editors Apply as editor Team Jobs Contact My account Orders Upload Account details Logout My account Overview

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    LitCharts | From the creators of SparkNotes, something better. Everything you need for everything you read. Use our guides to learn or teach any of the 2945 titles and topics we cover. Browse Our Guides Literature Chapter-by-chapter summary & analysis, quotes, themes, characters, symbols, and more. Poetry

  3. How to Write Literary Analysis

    Literary analysis involves examining all the parts of a novel, play, short story, or poem—elements such as character, setting, tone, and imagery—and thinking about how the author uses those elements to create certain effects.

  4. How to Analyze a Novel

    Your literary analysis of a novel will often be in the form of an essay or book report where you will be asked to give your opinions of the novel at the end. To conclude, choose the elements that made the greatest impression on you. Point out which characters you liked best or least and always support your arguments.

  5. How do you analyze a novel?

    In literature, the meaning isn't often stated directly, but is implied. You have to get a sense on your own of what the work means, instead of having the author explicitly saying, "This is idea 1, and this is idea 2." Good writers do create stories that are organized and comprehensible.

  6. University Writing Center (UWC)

    When analyzing a novel or short story, you'll need to consider elements such as the context, setting, characters, plot, literary devices, and themes. Remember that a literary analysis isn't merely a summary or review, but rather an interpretation of the work and an argument about it based on the text.

  7. Literature Study Guides

    The original text of classic works side-by-side with an easy-to-understand translation. No Fear Literature is available online and in book form at barnesandnoble.com. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Beowulf. The Canterbury Tales. Heart of Darkness. The Scarlet Letter.

  8. 4.5: How to Analyze Fiction

    Literature and Literacy Writing and Critical Thinking Through Literature (Ringo and Kashyap) 4: About Fiction - Short Stories and the Novel 4.5: How to Analyze Fiction - Elements of Literature ... Your literary analysis of a novel will often be in the form of an essay or book report where you will be asked to give your opinions of the novel at ...

  9. 4.4: How to Analyze a Novel

    Book: Introduction to Literature (Lumen) 4: Module 4- Literary Analysis 4.4: How to Analyze a Novel ... Your literary analysis of a novel will often be in the form of an essay or book report where you will be asked to give your opinions of the novel at the end. To conclude, choose the elements that made the greatest impression on you. ...

  10. SparkNotes: Today's Most Popular Study Guides

    Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde Jane Eyre William Shakespeare's Life & Times Our comprehensive guide includes a detailed biography, social and historical context, quotes, and more to help you write your essay on Shakespeare or understand his plays and poems. Read the guide QUIZ: Are You Someone's Love Interest?

  11. A Short Guide to Close Reading for Literary Analysis

    Close reading is deep analysis of how a literary text works; it is both a reading process and something you include in a literary analysis paper, though in a refined form. Fiction writers and poets build texts out of many central components, including subject, form, and specific word choices. Literary analysis involves examining these ...

  12. Free Study Guide Answers, Book and Literature Notes

    Novelguide.com is the premier free source for literary analysis on the web. We provide an educational supplement for better understanding of classic and contemporary literature. Novelguide.com is continually in the process of adding more books to the website each week.

  13. How To Write a Literary Analysis Step by Step

    Updated June 24, 2022 Writing a literary analysis can help you get a better understanding of a work of literature. Regardless of the subject text's theme, a literary analysis is likely to offer more depth and context regarding its plot, events, characters and any other relevant elements of the piece.

  14. Summaries of classic and contemporary literature

    This is a list of Britannica articles that include summaries and analyses of significant classic and contemporary literature. It is organized alphabetically by title. These articles are brief guides that summarize each book's plot, identify its characters and themes, provide insights into the

  15. The Great Gatsby: Full Book Analysis

    Full Book Analysis. The Great Gatsby is a story about the impossibility of recapturing the past and also the difficulty of altering one's future. The protagonist of the novel is Jay Gatsby, who is the mysterious and wealthy neighbor of the narrator, Nick Carraway. Although we know little about Gatsby at first, we know from Nick's ...


    The term regularly used for the development of the central idea of a literary analysis essay is the body. In this section you present the paragraphs (at least 3 paragraphs for a 500-750 word essay) that support your thesis statement. Good literary analysis essays contain an explanation of your ideas and evidence from the text (short story,

  17. Literature Analysis

    Literature analysis is the cornerstone of many college classes, in subjects ranging from English literature to history. Literature analysis papers as you to consider how and why a literary text was written and conveys some kind of message. The ability to take apart a text and break it down into its separate parts enables you to judge how effective an author's argument is, what symbols or ...

  18. Novel Analysis

    Novel Analysis Analysis of Khalil Gibran's The Prophet By NASRULLAH MAMBROL on October 4, 2023 The Prophet, by the Lebanese-American author Khalil Gibran, occupies a peculiar place in 20th-century world literature. The Prophet has been translated into more than 100 languages, making it one of the most translated books in history. By 2012, it had…

  19. Book Explorer Tool by Book Analysis

    Discover the type of literature you want to read and learn about. Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. Rating: 3.83 / 5. The Idiot. Fyodor Dostoevsky. Rating: 4 / 5. ... Discover the full range of books analyzed, reviewed, and summarized, on Book Analysis, with filters to help narrow the search. Discover the full range of books analyzed, reviewed, and ...

  20. Novel

    Novel Definition. A Novel is a long narrative work of fiction with some realism. It is often in prose form and is published as a single book. The word 'novel' has been derived from the Italian word ' novella ' which means "new". Similar to a short story, a novel has some features like a representation of characters, dialogues ...

  21. How to Analyze a Novel

    It has to do with his/her attitude towards the subject. In some novels the tone can be ironic, humorous, cold or dramatic. Your literary analysis of a novel will often be in the form of an essay or book report where you will be asked to give your opinions of the novel at the end. To conclude, choose the elements that made the greatest ...

  22. Night: Other Literary Devices

    Genre. Night, a literary memoir, is a World War II and Holocaust autobiography.. Language. Elie Wiesel first wrote an 800-page text in Yiddish titled Un di Velt Hot Geshvign (And the World Remained Silent).The work later evolved into the much-shorter French publication La Nuit, which was then translated into English as Night.. Time and Place Written

  23. Book Review: 'Pedro Páramo,' by Juan Rulfo

    For decades, Juan Rulfo's novel, "Pedro Páramo," has cast an uncanny spell on writers. A new translation may bring it broader appeal. The Mexican writer Juan Rulfo (1917-86) with an Aztec ...

  24. Waves and Rays (Chapter 16)

    Summary. This chapter investigates the literary response to the advent of a series of technologies that operated by "waves" and "rays" - among them, wireless telegraphy, radio, X-rays, and over-the-air television. By challenging clear divisions of private and public, internal and external, urban and rural, local and global, national ...

  25. A Summary and Analysis of O. Henry's 'After Twenty Years'

    After twenty minutes of waiting, the man is approached by someone in a long overcoat with the collar turned up. This man recognises the man in the doorway as Bob, his old friend from twenty years back. Bob, in turn, thinks he has recognised his friend of old, Jimmy Wells. As the two men walk off arm-in-arm to find somewhere to sit and catch up ...

  26. Movie Review: 'Eileen,' a wonderful novel about an 'invisible' young

    "Eileen" was always going to be a hard book to adapt, especially since it's so internal. It's really a character study for most of the way, then events get jolted by an unexpected outsider — a real deus ex machina — and then it evolves into a low-stakes noir thriller, right down to the film's too heavy Hitchcockian end credits.

  27. Scholars revisit the long history of Israel-Palestine conflict— Harvard

    New study finds wide gap in SAT/ACT test scores between wealthy, lower-income kids ...

  28. Apple unveils the top books

    Year in Review uses anonymized reader insights to determine a personal reading type. There are six reader types to discover, including The Contemporary for readers of trendy titles; The Completist for readers of multiple books in a series; The Seeker for nonfiction readers; The Wanderer for multigenre readers; The Deep Diver for single-genre readers; or The Free Spirit for readers with wide ...

  29. John Nichols, literary chronicler of small-town New Mexico, dies at 83

    8 min. John Nichols, who launched his literary career in his mid-20s with a pair of tragicomic novels but became best known for evoking New Mexico's small towns and rural landscapes in books ...