How to analyze fiction (I.A.Schirova)


No comments posted yet


Slide 1

HOW TO ANALYZE FICTION ELEMENTS OF FICTION by I.A. Schirova Our acknowledgment and gratitude to the authors of the slide-show “Venice Carnival” used in this presentation

Slide 2

PLOT Plot (Fr. complot, conspiracy) is what happens in the narrative. It is narrative structure, the arrangement of the action in such a way as to induce curiosity and suspense – a state of uncertainty, anticipation and doubt about the outcome of a literary work.

Slide 3

CONFLICT Conflict (Latin conflictus, from conflīgĕre, to strike together) is a struggle between opposing forces. A usual pattern of causally related events starts with an unstable situation that describes conflict.

Slide 4

CONFLICT The author usually explains the nature of the conflict in the exposition (Lat. expositiōn- (em), a showing forth) which introduces the situation, describes the characters and provides the setting. Whatever the causal relationship among the events in the story, each event intensifies (complicates) the conflict. The author next introduces a series of events, all related by cause. The action rises, the situation becomes more and more complicated, and the crisis is reached. The turning point and the most intense event in the literary work is called climax (Gr. khlimax, a ladder; khlinen, to slope, slant). The rest of the story – the falling action (denouement – Fr. Literally untying) – leads toward diminishing tensions, the resolution of the conflict and a stable action at the end.

Slide 5

SUBJECT AND THEME Subject is what the work is about; theme is what the work says about the subject. Subject is usually stated in a word or a phrase, the statement of the work’s theme requires a sentence or sometimes several sentences.

Slide 6

SUBJECT AND THEME Theme is the central idea of a work. It is the comment the work makes on the human condition. Theme is an abstraction drawn from details, – to state it the reader should move from the situation and the characters of the work and generalize about people outside it.

Slide 7

CHARACTERS The protagonist (Greek protagonistes, first actor in drama) is the leading (chief, central) character who engages the reader’s interest and empathy.

Slide 8

CHARACTERS The antagonist (Greek antagonistes, a rival; anti, against, a contest) is the protagonist’s opponent, the character, force or collection of forces (death, the devil, an illness) that stands directly opposed to the protagonist and gives rise to the conflict of the story. The antagonist may be an aspect of the protagonist – his or her tendency toward evil and self-destruction.

Slide 9

CHARACTERS Major characters are those we see more or over a longer period of time. Minor characters are less important and we learn less about them than about major characters.

Slide 10

CHARACTERS Flat characters embody one or two qualities, ideas or personality traits. They are not psychologically complex characters and therefore are readily accessible to readers. Some flat characters are recognized as stock characters; they embody stereotypes, such as ‘the lazy husband’.

Slide 11

CHARACTERS Round characters are more complex than flat or stock characters and often display the inconsistencies and internal conflicts found in real people. They are fully developed, have multiple personality traits and therefore are harder to summarize.

Slide 12

CHARACTERS Dynamic characters, especially main characters, typically grow in understanding. The climax of this growth is epiphany, a term that James Joyce used to describe a sudden revelation of truth experienced by a character. The term comes from the Bible and describes the Wise Men’s first perception of Christ’s divinity.

Slide 13

CHARACTERIZATION Characterization is the author’s presentation and development of fictional personages (characters).

Slide 14

WAYS OF CHARACTERIZATION The simplest form of characterization is naming. The so called speaking (telling) names (Lady Teazle in School for Scandal by Sheridan) are often found in literature. Speaking names are cases of antonomasia.

Slide 15

WAYS OF CHARACTERIZATION In the direct method of revealing the characters, the author simply tells the reader what the character is like. For example: Now, Miss Amelia Sedley was a young lady of this singular species; and deserved not only all that Miss Pinkerton said in her praise, but had many charming qualities which that pompous old Minerva of a woman could not see, from the differences of rank and age between her pupil and herself. For she could not only sing like a lark, or a Mrs. Billington, and dance like Hillisberg or Parisot; and embroider beautifully; and spell as well as a Dixionary itself; but she had such a kindly, smiling, tender, gentle, generous heart of her own, as won the love of everybody who came near her, from Minerva herself down to the poor girl in the scullery (W. Thackeray: Vanity Fair)

Slide 16

WAYS OF CHARACTERIZATION In the indirect method of revealing characters, the author shows us what the characters are like through what they say about one another, through external poetic details (dress, movements, speech and deeds). The following expressive graphons in Penny’s speech make us doubt the sincerity of her feelings towards the narrator: Spreading her arms wide, she shakes her head in disbelief and for one horrible moment it looks as if I am to walk into them. I dither stupidly and I am about to take a step forward when she suddenly contracts in delight. You are adoooooorable!” she coos, turning to the others for affirmation. “Isn’t she just adoooooooooooorable?” (K. Tessaro: Elegance)

Slide 17

POINT OF VIEW Point of view (perspective, vision) is the author’s relationship to his fictional world, especially to the minds of the characters, the position from which the story is told. Point of view is an indication of the way the author sees things.

Slide 18

TONE Tone always implies the writer’s prevailing spirit, mental attitude and moral outlook. It may suggest sympathy for the characters and be judgmental. In other stories it is neutral, but, on the whole, it provides a great variety of attitudes: playful, friendly, detached, pompous, officious, intimate, bantering, optimistic, pessimistic etc.

Slide 19

IRONY Irony (Gr. eirōneia, dissimulation or simulated ignorance) is based on the opposition of what is said to what is implied. Most forms of irony involve the perception of a discrepancy or incongruity between words and their meaning, between actions and their results or between appearance and reality. In all these cases there may be an element of the absurd and of the paradoxical.

Slide 20

IMAGE AND IMAGERY The term image refers not only to the whole of the literary work but to any of its meaningful units such as detail, phrase etc. All these images constitute a hierarchical interrelation. The top if this hierarchy is the macro-image, the literary work itself. It is an image of life, visioned and depicted by the author. Within the literary work there is the intermediate layer which contains character-images, event-images, landscape-images etc. At the bottom of the hierarchy there are micro-images (word-images): similes, epithets, metaphors etc.

Slide 21

IMAGES AND IMAGERY A possible division of images is into descriptive (sensuous) images and figurative images (tropes). It is often the case that an image is not exclusively one thing or another. The borderlines between the two types are relative and they may combine and overlap. As a result, tropes may create in the reader's mind a vivid description appealing to the reader's senses, or, on the opposite, though full of descriptive images, a work may sound metaphoric.

Slide 22

IMAGES AND IMAGERY A descriptive image may be visual (pertaining to the eye), olfactory (smell), tactile (touch), auditory (hearing), gustatory (taste), abstract (in which case it may appeal to intellect).

Slide 23

SETTING Setting is the total environment for the action of a fictional work. It includes place (physical, sensuous world), time in which the action takes place – "the where and when of the story", social environment (moral values that govern the characters’ society, manners, customs etc.) and atmosphere.

Slide 24

ATMOSPHERE Atmosphere refers to the emotional reaction that the reader and the characters have to the setting of a work and is largely but not entirely an effect of setting. It is the mood and the feeling, the intangible quality which appeals to extra-sensory and sensory perception, evoked by a literary work.

Slide 25

References: I.A.Schirova “How to Analyze Fiction”. Учебное пособие. Изд. 2-е. - СПб, Борей Арт, 2008. Venice Carnival //

Slide 26


Tags: литература интерпретация текст