Analyzing a novel The message and other contexts

It is one thing to tell what the story is in a novel and to give an in-depth presentation of it. Different readings can be applied on a novel, for example a biographical, a comparative or a historical.

The message

“The message” is what is told between the lines so to say.

Example 1: The message could be political as in the poem “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg.
“who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war, / who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull”

This is not explicit political neither is the political far from the only force behind the expression. The political substance is partly implicit in the way the voice in the poem pride the individual and especially the outsider. The outsider-theme is extremely common in literature and is often in concurrence with a political stance.  

Example 2: The message could be moral as in the novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
Many would describe Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice as a love story between the characters Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. This is not wrong at all, but I may not be the message of the story that is told. For example, you could look at it a lesson in moral. The youngest sister Lydia is from a moral perspective contrasted to Elizabeth and it is easy to understand there the sympathy from the writer lays.


Among the major things to consider in an analysis is if a specific theme could be found. It is very probable since the themes are many and in different areas. You have the knowledge of plenty of themes in literature even if you perhaps aren’t aware of it. For example, in the science fiction genre, common themes are speculation about the future, dystopian scenarios and life on other planets.

Example: How does a science fiction novel correspond to typical themes in its genre?
This is a simple but solid approach to an examination of a novel or motion picture. Does the novel include a speculation of a distant future? If yes, the follow-up question to put: does the speculations mirror the contemporary world–this is often the case. If yes, the next follow-up question to put: does is doing this in a critical way?

The author

Depending on the fashion in the critic of literature, the willingness to involve the author from a biographical perspective, tends to shift. Yet, an important key to a specific literature work can often be found be compare it with the life of the writer. It is not always the case that such comparisons must be of interest, but it is indeed very tempting to search for clues in that direction.

Some novels insist on some research into the life of the person behind the novel.

Example: How does the protagonist in My Struggle related to the writer Karl-Ove Knausgård?
The six novels that makes up My Struggle (Min kamp) is among the most notice novels in recent years. The book was controversial, not at least in Norway, the home country of the writer, since it involves real persons (and sometimes with their real names).

The writing technique is in this case reflected in the content. The writing is partly hyper-realistic and the reader get the expression that the depicted events in the book must been taken from real life. The interesting thing is though that the book involves a lot a fiction after all, which is partly a method to give it a composition.

The historical context

The context should always be a thing to think about when analyzing a novel or a poem. The context is already mention indirectly since it can be a part of both the message and the biographical perspective. Another way is to contribute a work to a specific context, in this case an historical.

Example 1: How could a Robinson Cruse reading with an historical context in mind look like?
Robinson Cruse is one of the most famous novels of all time. Almost everyone knows a little about the story, but few can place the story in a historical context. This could be a great starting point for an analyze of this novel.

Example 2: How does the patriotism vary in novels during and after World War II?
To set up an issue or a question is a great way to breed a literature analyzes. You will automatically find yourself in a reading that is beyond consuming the story. A very noticeable tendency occurred during the World War II. Many books and motion pictures were produced in the war genre and they displayed often an obvious patriotic agenda. This leads into another question how art can affect people.

In this case you could involve two works in your analyze and make a comparison how patriotic elements were present in two different books, one that was written during the war and one written afterwards.