How to analyse Novel | Critical Studies

How to Analyse Novel | Critical Studies

  • Plot

    The plot is a synopsis of the storyline in chronological order. The plot usually arises out of the conflict in the story, which eventually builds to a climactic moment. The basic plot is comprised of the following:

    • Introduction. Refers to the beginning of the story where the characters and setting are presented.
    • Problem/Conflict. This is where the events in the story become complicated and the problem in the story is revealed.
    • Climax. This is the turning point in the story in which the reader wonders what will happen next (i.e., will the problem get solved or not?)
    • Solution/Conclusion – This is the point in the story in which the problem is solved.
  • Conflict

    This is referred to as the struggle between opposing forces in the story. The main purpose of conflict is to provide interest and suspense. There are various types of conflict, which can usually be categorized as one of the following:

    • a character struggling against nature
    • a struggle between two or more characters
    • a struggle between the main character and some aspect of society
    • a struggle of opposing forces within one character (e.g. self-doubt)
  • Setting

    The setting refers to the background in which the story takes place. There are several components necessary to create a setting:

    • Place. This usually refers to the geographical location of the story. The story may move from one place to another.
    • Time. First, this refers to the period of history, if the story is set in the past. If the story could happen now or at some recent unspecified time, we say that it is ‘contemporary.’
    • Climate/Weather. This is an aspect of setting which can be important to the novel. If the story begins in the midst of a hurricane, or in a desert, it is symbolically significant.
    • Atmosphere. This is the mood or feeling of the story, the emotional quality that the story gives to the reader. The setting of the story is usually responsible for creating the mood or feeling of the story. You might say that a novel opens with a mysterious atmosphere, a gloomy atmosphere. Like the setting, the mood may change throughout the novel.
  • Characters

    Refers to people, animal, robots, etc., who play parts in the action of the story.

    • The protagonist is the main character throughout the novel. A novel can have more than one protagonist.
    • The force with which the protagonist is in conflict is called the antagonist.
    • The force can be a person or persons, society or an internal struggle within the main character.
    • Characters are usually each symbolic of some minor aspect of the overall theme.
  • Theme

    Theme refers to the central idea in the story or novel. It can usually be expressed in a short statement about human nature, life issues, or the universe.

  • How to Analyse a Novel

    1. Closely re-read the novel.

    At least do the first chapter, the last chapter, and the climax chapter and look for any emphasised techniques or themes.

    1. Draw a plot shape for the action.
      On an x-y graph, the y axis should represent the tension in the novel, and mark all the important events in the novel. Be more specific than the example above. 
    1. Do a character analysis on the main characters.
      Figure out which characters are similar or different, what they represent, and what message they are a vehicle for. Figure out which characters grow or change over the course of the novel. 
    1. Look for themes and motifs. 
    1. Pick any random page and do a close study of the language.
      If you develop any theories about particular metaphors or dialects used, pick another random page to confirm them.

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