A Few Possible Approaches For Essays
1) Study your text to ascertain the worldview of one of the characters. How does this character see the world and his/her role in it? How do you know? From where did that worldview come? Is it a stable view that exists throughout the text or does it emerge at a certain point? Where? At what point in the text does it become most evident? What happens to that worldview at the end of the text? Does it change or remain the same?
2) Study your text in terms of power. Who has power? Who wants it? Does this power relationship change or remain the same throughout the text? Does power transfer from one character to another at any point? Are there any symbols of power in the text? How do you know? What do they represent exactly?
3) Study your text in terms of your own responses to it, tracking your emotional curve as you pass through the narrative. Where do you find yourself having strong or surprising feelings. How does the author use the elements of writing—diction, image, tone, characterization, etc. to make you feel that way?
4) Study your text in terms of value. What are you being asked to value in this text? How do you know? Is there a character here who symbolizes this value or its opposite? How do you know?
5) Study your text in terms of its ethical arc. How does a character morally develop through the text? What are the key moments in his/her moral development? Does the character dramatically change at any moment in the text? How do you know?
6) Study your text in terms culture. Are there any characters who are struggle to fit into or escape from a social code? What is the code of behavior surrounding this character. How does the character fit or not fit into that model? To what extent is his/her identity shaped by that model? Does that character fit the model, change the model, or escape the model?
7) Study this text in terms of psychology. Try to explain the character’s actions or statements in terms of basic human needs (nature) and the accumulated events of his or her life (nurture). Why does this character act the way he or she does?
8) Study this text in terms of identity. Try to show how a character achieves or a does not achieve a fully realized identity by the end of the text. What is this character missing at the beginning of the text that he or she must find by the end in order to fully “become.” By the end of the text does the character know who he or she is? Does that character accept who he or she is? Does that character “find himself,” or “lose herself”?