Cheat Sheet for Literary Analysis - KEEP THIS FOREVER
Below are some questions and thoughts to help you begin to analyze almost anywork of prose (novels, short stories, most works of fiction. etc.) Your analysis need notcontain comments on every question or thought below. Select a few items to developideas, which will serve as a basis for detailed and interesting analysis of the work you arestudying.PLOT1. Who is the protagonist of the work?2. What are the conflicts? Are they physical intellectual, moral or emotional?(internal/external) Is the main conflict between sharply differentiated good or evil, or isit subtle and complex?3. Does the plot have unity? Are all of the events relevant to the total meaning of thework? How does each event relate to and/or reinforce the work’s theme? Does eachincident grow logically out of the preceding incident and lead naturally to the next?4. Is the ending happy, unhappy or ambiguous? How is it achieved? Is it contrived or does it grow logically out of the preceding incidents?5. How is suspense created in the work? Is the interest confined to “what will happennext,” or are larger concerns involved? Find examples of mystery and/or dilemma.6. Does the work have any surprises? Do they grow logically out of the precedingincidents? If not, are they related to the history of the character? Do they serve asignificant purpose? Does the work sustain a consistent theme, or does plot and storylineshift and introduce a divergent theme?CHARACTERS1. How does the author reveal facets of the characters? Does the author reveal enough?What is made of contrasts between characters?2. Are the characters consistent and motivated in their actions? Are they believable?Are they “stock” characters (are they used merely to serve a function in advancing the plot or does the character reveal complexity?3. Why is each character in the work? Justify their role and relate their purpose to thework’s theme.4. Do any of the characters develop or change throughout the work? Is the change largeor small, realistic, and/or motivated? What is the motivation for the change? Is thischange central to the development of plot?THEME
The theme is the central message enforced by the work --life is futile, all thingswork for the greater good, there’s no place like home, etc. There may be more than onetheme.
1. State the theme in a single sentence. Is it implied or frankly stated?2. Does the theme reinforce or oppose popular notions of life?Theme continued...