Analyzing Novels & Short Stories

Analyzing Novels & Short Stories

A literary analysis examines a work of fiction closely to understand how each component contributes to the overall effect. When analyzing a novel or short story, you’ll need to consider elements such as the context, setting, characters, plot, literary devices, and themes. Keep in mind that your analysis should bring out something new or fresh about the text, so try to avoid simply summarizing the work.

To get started, let’s take a look at some tips for how to analyze any novel or short story you’re interested in. Of course, if you need to save time, you can use additional resources like StoryboardThat and find man vs self examples or information about literary devices or themes in mere minutes. 


Start by providing a brief summary of the text. This will help your readers understand a general sense of what the work is about. Try to keep your summary to a couple of paragraphs at most.

If you are writing a paper, it depends on your audience whether or not to include a summary. If they are already familiar with the written work, the summary will be excessive. However, if it is something you talk about for the first time, make sure to educate everyone on the subject. 


One of the most important things to consider when analyzing a work of fiction is the context in which it was written. This includes things like the historical period, geographical setting, and social conditions of the time. Knowing this information can help you understand the author’s purpose for writing and how it might be relevant to your own life.

For example, if you are reading a novel set in the Victorian era, you might want to research the social conditions of that time period. This could include things like the role of women, child labor laws, and the Industrial Revolution. 

You can also use context to better understand the characters in a work of fiction. Consider things like their social class, occupation, and family life. This information can help you understand their motivations and how they interact with the other characters in the story.


The setting is the time and place of the story. It can be helpful to consider the geographical location, as well as the historical period when trying to understand a work of fiction. The setting can also provide clues about the characters and their motives.

For example, if a story is set in a poverty-ridden city, you might assume that the characters are struggling to make ends meet. Or, if a story is set during a time of war, the characters might be dealing with loss or grief. 


One of the most important things to consider when analyzing a work of fiction is its characters. Who are they and what motivates them? What do they have to say about the other characters in the story? How do they contribute to the overall plot?

To get a better understanding of the characters, it can be helpful to create a character map. This is a diagram that shows the relationships between the different characters in the story. It can also be helpful to keep track of key quotes for each character.


The plot is the sequence of events that make up the story. It can be helpful to consider the plot as a series of cause-and-effect relationships. What happens and why? How do the different events fit together? 

It can also be helpful to identify the climax of the story. This is the point where the plot reaches its most intense moment and the characters are forced to deal with the consequences of their actions. 

Analyzing Novels & Short Stories

Literary Devices

These are the tools that an author uses to create meaning in their work. They can be used to help develop the plot, setting, characters, and themes of a story. Some common literary devices include symbolism, foreshadowing, and allegory. 

If you are looking for a more in-depth analysis, you might want to consider discussing the author’s use of literary devices in your paper. For example, you could discuss how the use of symbolism helped to develop the theme of loss in a particular story. 


Themes are the big ideas that an author is exploring in their work. They are often universal concepts that we can all relate to, such as love, loss, and betrayal. 

When analyzing a work of fiction, it can be helpful to consider the themes that are present. What do they have to say about the human experience? How do they contribute to the overall meaning of the story? 

Your Turn

Now that you have a better understanding of how to analyze a work of fiction, it’s time to put your skills to the test. Pick a work of fiction that you are familiar with and try to identify the different elements that we have discussed. Once you have done that, you can start to think about how these elements contribute to the overall meaning of the story.

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