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Professor Elizabeth Buchanan
Analyzing a Book
• For your next essay, you will be analyzing one of your books
Bless Me Ultima or Hunger of Memory (your choice).
Thinking About the Genre
• Literary analysis is a genre that in many ways resembles an argument:
• You make a claim about the work and support your claim with
evidence from the text along with reasoning and analysis.
• The purpose of a response to literature is to persuade readers that your
analysis and interpretation of the work are valid, reasonable, and
• In writing about literature, you participate actively in the construction of
the knowledge about the text.
• The text itself creates only part of its message.
• The writer has done his/her part to convey its meaning by
using symbols, language, setting, plot, character,
foreshadowing, and so forth.
• Literature begs for readers to read, react to, think about, and
interpret the text.
• You then communicate to others the meaning you, as a
reader, have constructed from the text.
• You interpretation and analysis, then, add to the body of
meaning about the text.
Responding to Literature
• We have already engaged in studying a piece of literature by reading
Bless Me Ultima and answering short essay questions.
• How many of you are English majors?
• Then you will (or already have) responded to literature.
• Literary analysis differs from other types of writing you may have done
• For instance, perhaps you have read a story or watched a play that you
did a review of.
• A review calls upon the writer to make an evaluation, to describe and
analyze the work in question.
• With literary analysis, the focus is not on offering an opinion
about the work.
• The focus is to interpret and analyze the text.
• You will offer your informed opinion of the text’s
interpretation, but you will not offer a review or tell readers
whether or not you liked the work.
Third Person Pronouns
• Literary analysis is more objective than a review.
• Therefore, it is written using third person pronouns, which are pronouns that refer to people or
things other than the speaker (or writer) and the person(s) addressed.
• In contemporary standard English, these are the third-person pronouns:
• he, she, it, one (singular personal pronouns in the subjective case)
• they (plural personal pronoun in the subjective case)
• him, her, it, one (singular personal pronouns in the objective case)
• them (plural personal pronoun in the objective case)
• his, hers (singular possessive pronouns)
• theirs (plural possessive pronoun)
• himself, herself, itself, oneself (singular reflexive/intensive pronouns)
• In order to write well about literature, you must be able to read the text
• You do this by looking at:
• its structure
• the words the author has chosen
• the characters’ motivations
• patterns of language
• literary devises
Strategies for Reading a Work of
• First of all:
•Responding to literature requires more than a quick
• It is very different than reading the latest Nicholas
Sparks or John Grisham novel
• It usually requires reading the book more than once!
• First read:
• Read as though you are sitting on the beach, and the main “gist” of
• Second read:
• Pay attention to:
• Words you don’t know – look them up in the dictionary
• Use the margins to write definitions; or put these words on a flash
• Word choice
• Time – 20th century? Or another time.
• United States? What region of U.S.? A different country?
• What are the customs, traditions, lifestyles?
• Socioeconomic status of the characters?
• Rich, middle class, working class? Poor?
• Ethnicity of Characters
• Let’s answer these questions for Bless Me Ultima.
Subsequent readings of the book
• In your second (or even third) reading pay attention to how the
characters interact with one another.
• Consider how the writer uses words to convey meaning.
• How the characters speak.
• Who is telling the story?
• What types of images does the writer use?
• If you are going to write about Bless Me Ultima, use your short essay
assignments to assist you.
• If you are going to write about Hunger of Memory, use what you will be
learning in your Literature Circles.
Annotate, annotate, annotate
• Annotating the text is helpful because your annotations can
refer you to a particular section of the work later.
• Writing notes in the margin or on post-it notes
• Underline, circling passages
• Highlighting important information – but don’t highlight
• A character is a “person” in a literary
• Characters have moral and
psychological features that make them
human in some way or another.
• Think back to the elements of a short
story to remind you of the different
types of characters:
• Flat characters
• Round characters
• Foreshadowing uses either action or mood to prepare the reader for
something that will happen later in the work of fiction or drama.
• It is helpful to think of foreshadowing as clues that a detective might
follow when solving a mystery.
• The writer leaves hints along the way to set the stage for what is to
• What type of foreshadowing do we see in Bless Me Ultima?
• The narrator is the person who tells the story.
• This person is called a first person narrator (Tony in Bless Me Ultima)
• If the story is told by someone who is not part of the action, this type of narrator is
called a third person narrator.
• A third person narrator may knows everything about the characters—their history,
minds, emotions—in which case, the narrator is considered an omniscient narrator
• A third person narrator who has limited knowledge of the events and characters or
who only knows the minds of some characters is called a limited omniscient narrator.
Do you remember what personification means?
It is when you give animals or inanimate objects human characteristics.
•The wind whispered through dry grass.
•The flowers danced in the gentle breeze.
• The “story line” of the literary work
• Usually involves conflict between two or more characters or between a
character and himself or herself.
• Traditionally the plot of drama or fiction follows a particular pattern
• Rising action
•This is where the action takes place
• Writers use symbolism so that a person, object, or event can create a range of emotional and
intellectual responses in the readers.
• Using a flag as a symbol might bring out patriotic feelings in a person, anti-patriotic feelings, or even a
warning flag, a sense of danger.
• By using symbols, the writer can evoke a wide body of feelings,
Let’s practice using short stories
• “Salomon’s Story from Tortuga”
• "Una Edad Muy Tierna, Mija"
• We will do this in groups. Then discuss in class.
Cultural and Historical Perspectives
• In analyzing Bless Me Ultima, you will want to think about the cultural and historical
perspectives of the book.