Students often wonder why they can't just read a book or a story and be done with it. They don't always see the point of digging more deeply into a text and drawing out its inner meanings or appreciating its language. Yet this is a very important part of reading fiction, for it allows us to discover greater significance in the text, apply the text to our lives, and grow as human beings.
Fiction presents a slice of life, often a slice that we don't experience in our day to day existence. If we take the time to think carefully about a work, broad vistas can open up before us. Let's take the example of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. We can certainly zip through this novel and enjoy it, but if we analyze it, we will discover all the delightful meanings, themes, and images J. K. Rowling has packed in. We might discover, for instance, that Harry follows a kind of hero's journey throughout the book as he travels out of his comfort zone and eventually comes face to face with and defeats (for now) his greatest enemy.
We might think, too, of the interactions between Harry, Ron, and Hermione and how they help each other grow through their differences and even their arguments. We can easily apply the lessons we learn from them to our own friendships, perhaps understanding something about our own friends that we never noticed before.
Further, if we take the time to look closely at the language Rowling uses, we might be simply delighted at the humorous Latin she employs to name spells, the appropriate names she gives her characters, and her vivid descriptions. When we notice things like these, our reading experience is greatly enhanced, and we find much more enjoyment from the novel than if we had merely zipped through it.
Finally, the skills that we develop as we analyze fiction can help us step back from ourselves and our lives and see our own circumstances more clearly. When we analyze the personality of a character in a book, for instance, we learn to see beneath that character's external appearance into their inner depths. This is helpful in real life, too, as we meet and interact with all kinds of different people. Our attention to the words and expressions of a novel can help us better understand the messages others communicate to us as well, and as we learn to explore the depths of meaning in a novel, we will be more likely to see the deeper significance of the events of our own lives.