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ANALYSIS vs.

SUMMARY

Observation: WHAT you see right in front of you in the text. Basic summary.

Interpretation: HOW does the author use that information? What does it mean to the summary?

Significance: WHY is it important? (I should never have to write “Why?” on your writing. You should
always answer the why in your analysis.

Let’s look at an example from the Odyssey (Book 5).

“Goddess,” replied Odysseus, “do not be angry with me about this. I am quite aware that my wife Penelope is
nothing like so tall or so beautiful as yourself. She is only a woman, whereas you are an immortal. Nevertheless,
I want to get home, and can think of nothing else. If some god wrecks me when I am on the sea, I will bear it
and make the best of it. I have had infinite trouble both by land and sea already, so let this go with the rest.”

This speech to Calypso explaining why he wants to leave her island, where he has lived for several

years, to go home displays his oratory skill. How does one reject the love of a goddess without incurring her

wrath and the terrible consequences that she can inflict? Here, he first puts her on a pedestal by telling her,

“Penelope is nothing like so tall or so beautiful as yourself,” to get on her good side. Then he mentions how

lowly he is: “If some god wrecks me when I am on the sea . . .” Finally, he says nothing of returning to his wife,

which would inflame Calypso with jealousy, but talks only of returning “home.” This is something that even a

goddess could sympathize with, and Calypso offers her assistance to enable Odysseus to continue on his way.
ANALYSIS vs. SUMMARY

Summary: A brief paragraph describing and informing three or more of the following elements:
1. Who: those involved
2. What: the event or topic being covered
3. When: time, period, era, night or day
4. Where: the location, distance, place
5. Why: the cause or causes
6. How: the process(es)

Report: An extended summary that delves deeper into more descriptions and details of the above elements

Example: This is a summary of the play Hamlet.

“The play Hamlet is one of betrayal and death. In the beginning of the play Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius kills
Hamlet’s father with poison. He does this because he wants to be king, and he wants Gertrude, Hamlet’s
mother. Hamlet is very upset. He becomes even more upset when Claudius, his uncle and his mother,
Gertrude, announce they are to be married. Hamlet cannot believe that they would do this after such a short
period of time. Hamlet then decides to kill his uncle to get revenge. However, Hamlet waits to do this. In the
meantime Hamlet’s girlfriend Ofelia goes crazy and drowns herself. Hamlet is also haunted by his father’s
ghost. At the end of the play, Hamlet dies.”

Analysis: examines the summary elements described above in order to look for their meaning in the
following contexts:

1. Relationships, trends, patterns


2. Roles of people, places, objects, situations Talk about these 6
3. Consequences or results of events, decisions and processes things in your analysis!
4. Causes and their effects
5. Advantages and disadvantages/ gains and losses
6. Strengths and weaknesses

Example: A Freudian analysis of the play.

“Hamlet explores betrayal and death caused by several levels of poison: physical, psychological and social. All
of these poisons are intertwined on a psychological level. Hamlet was first affected by Claudius’s physical
poison—the poison that he had poured into the King’s ear, killing him. After Claudius killed the King social
poison spread throughout the kingdom like a disease. The rebels began to call Laertes Lord, disrupting
Hamlet’s claim to the throne, ‘How cheerfully on the false trail they cry’ (IV.v.87). Hamlet’s suppressed desire,
the Oedipus complex, for his mother led to his own psychological poisoning, ‘Go not to mine uncle’s bed’
(III.iii.153). He was upset that he desired to kill his father, as his uncle did, in order to possess his mother.
Hamlet desired to seek revenge on those who had hurt him, which was caused by his id, ‘Here thou incestuous,
murderous, damned Dane, Drink of this potion’ (V.ii.330-333). However, Hamlet hesitated to kill his uncle
because of his moral super ego, ‘How I stand then, That have a father killed, a mother stained, Excitements of
my reason and my blood, And let all asleep’ (IV.iv.56-59)? These inner psychological conflicts prevented
Hamlet from acting until it was too late, and death was already knocking on his door, ‘The potent poison quiet
o’er-crows my spirit’ (V.ii.359).”

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