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  How to Analyze a Novel

How to Analyze a Novel

When you set out to analyze a novel, you have a mighty task ahead of you. This is not a short story, poem, or essay. Rather, it is a lengthy work of fiction, designed to create any number of emotions in you. While most of them are inspiring, the thought of having to analyze a novel is possibly terrifying because of the size of most novels. However, the beauty behind novel analysis is that there are so many things you can do. Most novels have numerous serious themes spread throughout, and many more sub-plots (sub-themes). The most important thing to remember in analyzing a novel is that — like other analyses — there is not usually a right or wrong answer. There is only an analysis that is supported with factual details and evidence from the text. Everything you will need to analyze the novel will come from the novel itself. You can always research farther; however, you can analyze a novel without going outside the ends of the book.

Follow these simple guidelines to aid in your novel analysis.

  1. Read the novel closely
  2. A close reading of a novel is different than a quick skim. If you have time, it would behoove you to read the novel at least twice. However, as a student, you probably do not have sufficient time. So, pick up the novel, a pen, and read it while making marks in the margins. Underline lines that stand out at you. These will be your best friends while analyzing it in the future. Nothing is worse than having to look back at a novel of hundreds of pages without having a clue as to where to find that specific line you remember. If you marked it during your first read through, you will be able to find specific lines much easier later on.

  3. Make an appointment to speak with your teacher/professor
  4. While analyzing a poem or story, you have people to discuss ideas with, as they will be dealing with many of the same issues. It is helpful to share thoughts. However, when analyzing a novel, you will probably not be writing or analyzing the same thing as the rest of your peers. Your teachers will be great sources of inspiration and help. You may get stuck on a certain idea, theme, or problem; they are trained to help teach you analytical skills. After reading the novel and thinking about ideas for analysis, discuss them with a teacher. Your teacher will then sway you in a specific direction and help you organize your thoughts.

  5. Select a specific topic
  6. Once you have read the novel, discussed it in class or in private with a tutor, you are ready to begin the analysis. You have already begun unofficially by thinking about it. Now, with the numerous issues addressed in the novel, you have your easy pick, and can focus on one specific theme to analyze in the book. A problem many students encounter in this portion is that they try to analyze too many parts of the book or too many themes. You must pick one theme (and show it in several characters) or select one character and analyze him or her. It is imperative to stay on target and not veer from you thesis (your central topic).

  7. Find evidence
  8. Once you have decided upon a topic to analyze in the novel, you must now go through the book and find examples of how to prove your thesis (argument). If you had not previously taken notes or wrote in the book, then you will have to go page by page to find specific examples to use in your analysis. This step can be fairly time-consuming. However, without this step, you have absolutely no analysis. You must have evidence in order to analyze a novel.

  9. Write an outline
  10. Like any analysis, essay, or research paper, an outline is vital. It is the skeleton of your analysis, the scaffolding that holds your ideas together. It is your organizational crutch. Your outline for the novel analysis should begin with an introduction (including a thesis statement), followed by three examples of the theme in your novel, and a conclusion bringing all the examples of the themes together. This conclusion will be significant in an analysis, for you will be putting together what you have just explained into a greater context. The conclusion is the ultimate analysis of the novel and should leave the audience/readership understanding the novel in a new light.

  11. Write the paper
  12. Now that you have all your themes and ideas written down in a nice outline, you are ready to write your analysis. While it initially seemed like a daunting task, because you have done all the work already, you can now simply place all the work together into a nice organized and complete analysis.

If your novel analysis is meant to be an oral presentation, follow the same steps. You will still need an outline, as presentations are no different than written papers in content. The only difference is presentation. Your outline will serve as your notes. It will be your guide as you speak to your teacher and class.