How to analyse a text or a lengthy novel ? where do I start? The easiest way to do so is to break the whole text down into smaller elements. The parts of a literary text are known as its literary elements. Rather than looking at a whole novel, we can examine its plot, setting, characters, point of view and themes individually. Let’s break these elements down and view them piece by piece, using the following questions:
what, when, where, who and how.
THE PLOT :What and How
A mere synopsis of the course of events is a summary – we say that this first happens, then that, then that.. It is only when we say how this is related to that and that, and in what ways all these matters are rendered and organised so as to achieve their particular effects, that a synopsis becomes a plot.
Most plots fit into a story arc, which is a visual representation of a story’s shape.
Many short stories begin at the point of the climax itself, and the writer of a drama often captures our attention with a representative incident, close to an event which precipitates the central situation or conflict.
Hamlet opens with the apparition of the ghost. The rising action begins, after the opening scene and exposition, with the ghost´ s telling Hamlet that he has been murdered by his brother Claudius; it continues with the developing conflict between Hamlet and Claudius, in which Hamlet despite setbacks, succeeds in controlling the course of events. The rising action reaches the climax of the hero´s fortunes with his proof of the King´s guilt by the device of the play within the play (Act III, scene ii). Then comes the crisis, or turning point of the fortunes of the protagonist, in his failure to kill the king while he is at prayer. This inaugurates the falling action, from now on the antagonist, Claudius, largely controls the course of events, until the catastrophe, in which the outcome is decided by the death of the hero, as well as of Claudius, the Queen, and Laertes.
¨Catastrophe¨ is usually applied to tragedy only. A more general term is denouement- resolution in our drawing.
Setting is the when and where of a literary text. For example, the novel Gone With the Wind takes place in and around Atlanta, Georgia, and the plot – or action – occurs before, during and after the Civil War.
Although it’s a simple concept, setting is a vital literary element. Try thinking of all the Southern romanticism of Gone With the Wind in New York City during the same time period. It just wouldn’t work.
In some stories, the location itself almost becomes a character.Joyce´s Ulysees is Dublin on June 16, 1901, Paul Uster ´s novels , Brooklyn. The physical setting in writers like Poe, Hardy and Faulkner, is an important element in generating the atmosphere of the novel.Without mentionning the Gothic novel where the setting plays an essential part and defines the genre. Authors of such novels set their stories in a gloomy castle replete with dungeons, secret passages, sliding pannels, aiming to evoke chilling terror.