Questions to Help Analyze Literary Style
1. Is there anything strikingly different about the author’s style?
2. Does the author use figures of speech?
3. Is there much wit or humor? Pathos?
4. Is there anything unusual about the author’s method of description?
5. Is there much dialogue? Is it natural? What is its purpose?
6. Do you feel the author is a close observer of life? Is the author sensitive to life?
7. Does the author ever moralize or seem didactic?
8. Is the author particularly interested in moral problems? Social problems?
9. Does the author succeed in evoking an emotional response from the reader?
10. What are the themes? Are they universal or shallow?
11. Is the title related to the theme? Is it appropriate? Effective?
12. Is the setting essential to the story (i.e. are the particular times and places especially important)?
13. Is an unusual amount of space devoted to establishing the setting? Is so, what seems to be the reason?
14. Are the descriptions important either in establishing mood or atmosphere?
15. Is nature unused to increase the effect of a scene?
16. Are there many changes of scene? Why or why not?
17. Can the character development of the protagonist be readily traced? How and why did she or he change?
18. What use is made of minor characters?
19. Could any characters have been omitted? If so, why has the author included them?
20. What are the author’s methods of character portrayal?
21. Who are the ‘essentially evil’ characters? Do they have any redeeming qualities?
22. Who are the ‘essentially good’ characters? Do they have any detracting qualities?
23. Do the characters seem more important than the action? Is what they are more important than what they do?
24. What is the basic conflict of the plot?
25. How is the exposition handled?
26. How is suspense created and maintained?
27. Is each chapter a unit? How does it begin? End? What keeps it going?
28. Is the hand of the author apparent in the plot or is what happens the natural outgrowth of the circumstances, the character, and their interactions?
29. Is there foreshadowing? Is it signposted by the author?
30. What is the method of narration (chronological, flashback, diary, letters, parallel events, etc.)?
31. Are there episodes, incidents, or chapters that might have been omitted as far as the plot is concerned? If so, why did the author include them?
32. What makes the first scene a fitting beginning? Or is it?
33. What makes the last scene a fitting (or unfitting) ending?
34. Is the basic conflict of the plot completely and logically resolved?
35. What do you learn or assume to be the author’s sense of morals or moral values?
36. Is there close integration of plot, character, setting and theme?
37. What have you learned that will help you to “live more finely”?
For those of us who have been out of school for a while, here are some helpful definitions:
Didactic designed or intended to teach OR making moral observations
Exposition a setting forth of the meaning or purpose of a literary work
Figure of speech a form of expression (as a simile or metaphor) used to convey meaning or heighten effect often by comparing or identifying one thing with another that has a meaning or connotation familiar to the reader or listener
Narration to tell (as a story) in detail
Pathos an element in a literary work evoking pity or compassion
Protagonist the principal character in a literary work
Setting the time and place of the action of a literary, dramatic, or cinematic work
Signposted to provide with guides in a literary work
Style a distinctive manner of expression
Theme a subject or topic of discourse in a literary work