Reading a novel critically employs similar strategies used to analyze short stories. However, whereas a short story usually develops one theme, one major conflict, and a small cast of characters, a novel presents multiple themes, conflicts, and characters. This is why readers often discover something new each time they re-read a great novel. Therefore, the trick is to narrow the literary analysis to focus on one or two aspects of the novel.
Reading and thinking critically involves four overlapping procedures: analysis, inference, synthesis, and evaluation. Using these procedures you can discover meanings and relationships in a text. Critical thinking begins with analysis, which involves looking at the parts or elements of a work to better understand it. Next, you use inference to draw conclusions about a work based on the analysis. This means you explore the implications of the various elements (plot, characterization, structure, tone) and interpret their meaning.
The next step in the process is to synthesize. This means putting your analysis and inferences together into a new, more informed understanding of the work. You create this new understanding by making connections, identifying patterns, and drawing conclusions. A final key to critical thinking is evaluation, the defense of the judgments made about the work’s significance, meaning, or quality.
Because readers make different connections and inferences, a literary analysis essay uses elements of argumentation. Your will have to argue that your interpretation is valid, and you can use the standard features of argumentative writing to do so: claims, evidence, reasoning, and refutation.
Defending your interpretation does not mean merely retelling what happened in the story. The analysis uses key parts of the story—evidence—to justify the reasoning behind the interpretation. Your interpretation will also seem more valid if you present and refute other interpretations. In order...
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