how to analyse prose fiction
Close reading is the most important skill you need for any form of literary studies. It means paying especially close attention to what is printed on the page. It is a much more subtle and complex process than the term might suggest. Close reading means not only reading and understanding the meanings of the individual printed words; it also involves being sensitive to all the subtle uses of language in the hands of skilled writers. This can mean anything from a work’s particular vocabulary, sentence construction, and imagery, to the themes that are being explored. It also includes the way in which the story is being told, and the view of the world that it offers. It involves almost everything from the smallest linguistic items to the largest issues of literary understanding and judgement. One of the first things you need to acquire for serious literary study is a knowledge of the vocabulary, the technical language, indeed the jargon in which literature is discussed. You need to acquaint yourself with the technical vocabulary of the discipline and then go on to study how its parts work. What follows is a short list of features you might keep in mind whilst reading. They should give you ideas of what to look for. It is just a prompt to help you get under way. Close reading – Checklist
The author’s choice of individual words – which might vary from plain and simple to complex and ‘literary’. Syntax
The arrangement of words in sentences. Often used for emphasis or dramatic effect. Figures of speech
The rhetorical devices used to give decoration and imaginative expression to literature, such as simile, metaphor, puns, alliteration, and irony. Literary devices
The devices commonly used in literature to give added depth to the work, such as imagery or symbolism. Rhythm
The cadence or flow of words and phrases – including stress and repetition. Narrator
Ask yourself, who is telling the...