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Fiction Analysis Essay

For your fiction analysis essay, you will select one of the works of fiction we have
read and discussed in class and conduct a close reading of several passages to
support a broader interpretation.
Basic Requirements
Focused on a short story or passage from a novel
4 pages, double-spaced (approximately 1000 words)
Times New Roman, 12 pt. font, 1 margins all around
MLA Format
3 sources aside from the text (JSTOR and historical sourcesno Wikipedia,
Schmoop, etc.)
Clear thesis statement
Specific quotations from the text
Conclusion that connects the work to some outside concern
Remember, for a fiction analysis, you should:
Limit your approach to only a few scenes, passages, motifs, or a character
otherwise, you run the risk of over-summarizing
Hypothesize what the work as a whole is saying about the theme
Provide clear examples of how the work is making a particular argument
about a more specific aspect (i.e. you cant cover the entire novel in four
pages, but you can cover one character or one motif)
Look carefully at specific word choice
Introduction should give some historical background for the author and/or
novel that will help place it in context
Introduction should include a clear, focused thesis that:
o Makes a claim about the interpretation of short story/novel as a
whole, a scene, a symbol, a motif, or a character
o Specifies points/examples/literary devices that will be explored in
order to support claim
o Answers the so what? question
Body paragraphs should each focus on one element of the novel (for
example, one strategy could be paragraphs focusing on the
narrative/situation in the novel, the narrator, motifs, symbols, specific word
choice/phrasing; another strategy might use the first two paragraphs to look
carefully at the way the plot and word choice work together, then move to
broader meaning; another strategy could be a character analysisthere are
many options).
Body paragraphs should connect back to a claim in the thesis.
Conclusion should make an argument about how these specific aspects of
the novel are useful for understanding the contemporary world. This could
be a personal, political, and/or cultural argument.

Nota Bene: The focus is on close reading, so the vast majority of your
essay will be concerned with analyzing short passages of exposition,
character development, description, or dialogue. Avoid broad claims in
the body of your paperyou need to build to larger claims through the
detailed evidence.
Questions for Pre-Writing

What basic plot points are most important to what you want to explore?

What are the basic attributes of the main characters?

Choose three scenes that tie together in some fashion and list how they

Choose two themes that seem to connect, and identify a scene in which they
come together.

Choose one character and find scenes that speak to their internal

What are the main symbols or motifs of the novel? In what

situations/contexts are they placed? How does this affect meaning?

What situations are presented? How do those situations relate to each


Who is the narrator? Who is the character on whom the story is focused?

from How to Read a Poem

What does the title suggest?

Who is the speaker? How can you tell?

How does the novel spring from an identifiable historical moment? Identify
passages that indicate a particular engagement with history.

Does the novel speak from a specific culture? Identify words or phrases that
indicate the novels cultural situatedness.

How does the novel use imagery to achieve a particular effect? Give at least
two examples of imagery, and provide alternative ways those images could
be interpreted.

What symbols seem to be present? List at least two, and indicate how they
can be interpreted.

Adapted from:
Hirsch, Edward. "How to Read a Poem." Poets.org. Academy of American Poets, 27 Nov. 2007.
Web. 29 Dec. 2015.
Strand, Mark, and Eavan Boland. The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms.
New York: Norton, 2001. Print.

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