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Learning and answering literature questions


Summarizing a novel

Examiners of English Literature question papers say that there is no right or wrong answers to questions on literature. They explain that what is expected is an argument supported by evidence drawn from the text. In other words it is the studentís interpretation well argued with proof that would be considered for its originality.

The studentís understanding of the text should be in a disciplined manner. The studentís response must be seen through a rational discussion of the text studied.

The students in their responses in a rational discussion of the text would make it clear the theme, plot, characterization or the language. Students are advised to study the texts thoroughly and make the notes useful to them. Here are some ways to make your own notes:

Make a brief summary at the end of each chapter of a novel.

* Identify the diction, imagery, figurative language, rhyme, rhythm, sounds and overall effect of a poem.

* Remember character, plot, theme, language, staging conventions of a play.

* Understand the narrative, plot, character, setting, theme and language of a novel or short story.

Literary terms have specific meanings. Tone is one such term. In poetry, it means the poetís attitude towards his chosen subject. We must remember that the tone is not necessarily the same all the way through. Tone often changes from stanza to stanza and sometimes single lines have a marked tone of their own.


A novel

Then there is what is known as Association. Poets choose words very deliberately for their association and connotations. They make use of their ability to choose words to prompt particular reaction.

In responding to poetry we should remember that poetry is usually short and full of ideas, expressions in few words. The poet chooses words and phrases carefully. Images and illusions that are concerned with feelings and opinions are expressed by the poet.

The basic questions are what the poet says, and how does he says it and whether he has succeeded in what he wants to say. In other words we should know what the subject matter of the poem is, how it is treated, what it means to the poet, and how the poem strikes the reader are the factors to be considered.

Examiners advise that when studying a poem, we should consider what it has to say for itself. We should not let the theme take over from our personal opinion and responses.

We should also study and compare similar types of poems... The differences seen can help our understanding of the poems in great deal.

Let us move on to other areas of literature. We have even read fables when we were too small. A fable is a story in which animals or inanimate objects are given human thoughts or emotions. The study always has a message or moral. Aesop's Fables, George Orwellís Animal Farm are good examples.

We know what a Farce is. It is a particular kind of play, a comedy in which there is a lot of ridiculous action.

When we say modern literature we mean creative writing like fiction, poetry, drama and even creative non fiction and literary criticism.

Fiction is a piece of writing in which the characters, events, settings and so on are imagined, rather than real.

However it could be based in real events. Novels, short stories, novellas, short fiction come under the category of fiction.

The plot of a story is what happens in it- the action or the events of the story. The success of a novel or play often owes a great deal to the effectiveness of the plot.

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