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An outstanding question. Reading critically means not only reading to reveal the plot but to understand and appreciate how the story unfolds, to watch the progress of the author's "journey" through the work. Some of the elements to observe are how the author puts us into the mise-en-scene (the place, the time period, the social level, etc.), how the author builds the characters (speech acts, choices made, inner thoughts, etc.), how the author uses language (metaphors, figurative language, connotation, narrative voices, etc.), and other building blocks that form a piece of literature. In short, critical reading is being aware of the details, the "brushstrokes," that make the picture, and watching the progress of the picture as the artist works.
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