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Analysis a Short Story

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1. Plot (introduction, conflict, climax, resolution )

The sequence of events or incidents of which the story is composed. In the plot there may be diffferent kinds of conflicts (person agains person – person agains environment – person against him/herself). Artistic unity is essential to a good plot ; nothing irrelevant should be there that does not contribute to the total meaning. A good plot should not have any unjuustified or unexpected turns or twists, no false leads.

* In only a few sentences, what is the basic story line ?
* What is the main conflict
* What are the minor conflicts ?
* How are the conflicts related ?
* How are the conflicts related ?
*What/Who caused the conflicts ?
* Are the conflicts internal or external ?
* How is the conflict resolved ?
* Where does the main climax occur ?
* Why does the main climax occur ?
* Is there more than one climax ?
* How does the story end ?

2. Characters
The character can be presented directly or indirectly. A flat character is known by one or two traits ; a round character is complex and many-sided ; a stock character is a stereotyped character ; a static character remains the same from the beginning of the plot to the end ; and a dynamic character undergoes permanent change. The protagonist is the central character. The forces working against him or her are called the antagonists.

About a specific character
* What is the character like ?
* How is X person characterized by the author ?
* What are his/her character traits ?
* Is he or she flat, round, dynamic or static ?
* What makes him or her complex (if he or she is) ? Does he/she change ?
* How and why does he or she change ?
*What sort of self realization does he/she experience ?

Analyzing a short story (2)

About the characters in general

* Do the characters understand each other and themselves ?
* Who is the protagonist ?
* Who (or what) is the antagonist ?
* What do the characters learn ?
* Does the author want us to compare one character to another ?

The theme

It is the controlling idea or central insight. It can be 1) a revelation of human character ; 2) may be stated briefly or at great length« 3) a theme is not the «moral» of the story. * What is the theme (what is this short story about) ? * What is the author trying to say about that subject ? * How does the author communicate this theme (how do you know what the theme is) ?

The setting and time

It is so to say the framework of the action, of the story. * Where does the action take place
* What time period, time of the day, time of year, erc. Does this action take place ? * How long does it take for the action to occur ? *What is the social environment of the place and time ? *How does this time and place affect the characters ? *How does it affect the reader’s perception of the characters ?

The point of view

The perspective from which the story is being told. Who is the narrator ? The point of view can be called ominscient (stroy told by the author himself who knows everything about the story and the characters), limited omniscient, objective….

* From who’s point of viewis the story told ?
* What is the narrator’s tone ?
* What are the narrator’s biases ?

Analyzing a short story (3)


A term with a ramge of meanings, all of them involving some sort of discrepancy or incongruity. It should not be confused with sarcasm, which is simply language designed to cause pain. Irony is used to suggest the difference between appearance and reality, betwenn expectation and fulfillment, the complexity of experience

* Are there important ironies in the work ` ‘
* What kind of ironies are in the work ?
* What do these ironies reveal to the reader ?


A literary symbol means more than what it is. It has layers of meanings. Whereas an image as one meaning, a symbol has many.

* Are there important symbols in the work ?
* What do they mean ?
* How do you know they are symbols ?

Study questions (some brief guidelines for analyzing a short story)

Plot : What are the conflicts ? Are they physical, intellectual, moral or emotionnal ? Is the main conflict between sharply differentiated good and evil, or is it more subtle and complex ? Does the plot have unity ? Are the different events (episodes) relevant to the total meaning or effet of the story ? Is the ending happy, unhappy, ambiguous or indeterminate ? Is it fairly achieved ?

Character : who is the protagonist who oor what are the antagonists ? Are the characters consistent in their actions ? Adequately motivated ? Plausible? Does the author successfully avoid stock characters ?

Theme : Does the story have a theme ? What is it ? Is it implicit or explicit ? Does the theme reinforce or oppose popular notions of life ? Does it furnish a new insight or refresh or deepen an old one ?

Point of view : What point of view does the story use ? Is it consistent in its use of this poiint of view ? If shifts are made, are thex justified ? If the poiint of view ist that one of the characters, does that character have any limitations that affect her/his interpretation of events or persons ?

Symbol : Does the story make use of symbols ? What kinds (names, objects, actions) are they ? If so, do they carry or merely reinforce the meaning of the story ?

Irony : Does the story anywhere utilize irony of situation ? Dramatic irony ? Verbal irony ? What functions do the ironies serve ?

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