Textual Analysis - The Short Story
In which country/town/area does the text take place?
What are the main characteristics of the location?
Is the setting important, or could the story take place anywhere?
Are there any indications in the text of the exact or approximate time (hour/day/month /year /decade etc.) at which it takes place?
When was it written?
Make a list of the most important persons of the story (e.g. protagonist + antagonist) including a factual description of them (no interpretation or judgement!)
Give/write a summary of the plot. Avoid unnecessary details but make sure your summary is coherent and includes the ending of the story.
Divide the story into chapters.
Is the beginning of the story a traditional introduction (a description of the setting)?
Or does it begin in an unusual way?
Is there a climax in the story? Is there more than one climax?
Is the ending a natural solution or a surprise?
Is it an open ending?
Is it a happy ending?
From whose point of view is the story told?
(first person; limited third person; omniscient third person?)
Are the persons seen from the outside or the inside? Or both?
(Give examples from the text.)
Is the story written in a realistic way?
Or does it contain supernatural/absurd elements?
Is it a narrative text or a dialogue? Or a mixture of both?
Is the narrative used for (detailed) descriptions of persons/action/milieu/atmosphere?
Or is it more like Hemingway's "iceberg" technique (leaving the seven eighths of the contents below the surface)?
Is the language neutral, or does it reveal the author's attitude to his persons/subject? (irony/ humour/sympathy/criticism)
Is the dialogue written in a neutral/impersonal language? Or does it aim at rendering the individual language of the persons (slang/accent/dialect/children's language etc.)?
Is the language in general simple? Or is it rich in imagery? Symbols?
What is the core (= the main theme) of the text? (The title may give you a clue to this).
How do the characters relate to the main theme? Why does the individual person act the way he/she does?
Examples of typical conflicts in the human character:
Is he/she the master of his/her own life or does he/she let things drift?
Does he/she fight against opposition or does he/she give up?
Is he/she a pessimist or an optimist?
Is he/she a winner or a loser?
Is he/she good or evil?
Does he/she take full responsibility for his/her situation in life, or does he/she feel victimized?
Does he/she face reality or does he/she take refuge in escapism (fantasy world etc.)?
Is he/she living in a "macrocosmic" or a "microcosmic" sphere?
Does he/she act from motives of egotism or unselfishness?
Is he/she able to foresee the consequences of his/her actions, or does he/she meet with unexpected obstacles/reactions?
Is he/she able to embrace life fully, or is he/she inhibited by inner and/or outer forces?
Often one or several subthemes may be derived from the main theme, e.g.
main theme = a mother's love for and expectations to her son
subtheme 1 = the sacrifices she makes for his sake
subtheme 2 = the son's ingratitude
subtheme 3 = the mother's disappointment
subtheme 4 = her subsequent suicide
The subthemes are in general consequences of the main theme, not parallel actions.
What do you know about him/her?
Does your knowledge of facts connected with the author and his/her life help to understand his/her work better?
In what way (if any) do we feel his/her presence in the text?
(style/choice of subject/focus/the moral)
Merete Høgsbro & Erik Møldrup