The art of appreciating literature

Students of literature are often given assignments where they are asked to analyze a poem, short story, play or a novel. The first thing that they do when such a task is given is to read the work of art completely from top to bottom. Many students of literature have copies of the great works of art. If they do not then they go to the library and borrow it for the duration that they have to work on their assignment.


The first thing that they analyze is the motives of the author for producing a particular work of art. What was his state of mind at that point of time or what were the social conditions that inspired his works. Was it a comedy of errors that inspired the writing or was it a romance, was there some great tragedy that inspired him to paint or was it just loneliness. The reasons are as varied as the artists who create the works. And these reasons often set the stage for the rest of the report.

The students then start analyzing every individual aspect of the story. They start with the characters. Who are the main protagonists, what are their motivations, and how do they change during the course of the story or the play? Similarly, who are the antagonists, what are their motives, and how do their actions impact the main characters. Then the students look at what struggles, conflicts and challenges the story depicts, and how they are resolved. If the conflicts are never resolved then why not; what prevented the conflict from coming to a happy ending.

When it comes to poetry, the students also have to analyze the style of writing, the prose that has been used and the style of writing. Words like pentameter, iamb, and couplet often come to mind when analysis of poetry is done.

One of the curious aspects that students find when they are studying and analysing literature is that nothing is as straightforward as it seems. There are many twists and turns to a plot, and metaphors are used liberally in this world. Artists are rarely straightforward in what they want to tell us, and the best of them often lead the reader to guess what the true motives of the plot or the poem was. There are meanings hidden behind meanings, and this is known to commonly confuse readers.

Students find that analysing creative works is an art in itself. It sometimes takes great patience to read through a novel or a short story, and then come to a true understanding of what the author actually wanted to say. Students often feel that they are trying to solve a mystery and that they are actually playing the role of an investigator.

But those who are successful connoisseurs of creative works of writing find that there is much to be learnt from the masters. This is not just in terms of writing, but also in terms of appreciating life, love, and everything about the world around us.

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