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It’s a temptation to see literature as purely story-telling. While it is true that the plot, the action, is important, equally important are these:
1. mise-en-scene: where does the action take place—time in history, geography. Social classes involved, etc. How is the scene set?
2. character development: the characters are introduced early and given traits (age, gender, etc.); how do they change as the plot progresses? What makes them change? Physically? Socially? Philosophically? etc.
3. language choices: Is the author verbose or succinct? What is the ratio of adjectives/adverbs and strong nouns and verbs? Flowery or sparse? etc.
4. themes and symbols: What is being said indirectly? How are the details reflecting the whole structure? Why did the author write this piece?
This kind of close look at the literature is what makes it worth a lifetime of study and enjoyment. Your understanding of the literature comes from treating each piece as a years-long effort on the part of the author to express large ideas and points of view. The author’s canon is his heart and soul and mind opened up to you, the reader, and is there for readers for centuries to come. It is worth your best attention and imagination.
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