What is plot in a book review? Is it a summary or analysis?

Expert Answers
carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For a student book review, other than your opinion, analyzing the plot of the story is paramount. Just to be sure that you cover this aspect of the review, here is a review of what to include when writing about the plot.

The plot is the series of events that describes what happens in a story. The story will be told from a specific point of view which varies with each story and nearl always  involves a conflict which the main character or protagonist encounters. As the character faces his conflict(s) and tries to resolve his problem, the action of the story is produced.   Also important to the plot is the setting of the story which explains the place and time. Many stories follow a time sequence of events or chronological approach.  Some stories are told with a flashback effect so that the reader looks back into the past to find why the present events are happening.  The plot also follows a basic set of steps:

  • The conflict sets the story in motion.  The following are the kinds of conflicts that the protagonist might face:

                                Man versus man

                                Man versus nature

                                Man versus society

                                Man versus himself

  • The obstacles that the protagonist faces that plunge him/her further into the conflict
  • The rising action in which the story’s  tension increases the drama and action
  • The climax is the highest point of the action and the most revealing time, usually the turning point of the story
  • The falling action allows the  protagonist to solve his problem and the action diminishes
  • The resolution bring the plot to a conclusion and shows that new circumstances  are in place for the protagonist

Every story is distinctive because each author modifies his approach to the characters or action to create interest.    Some authors conclude their stories without actually resolving the conflict and offering the reader the opportunity to decide for himself what happens to the protagonist. The plot is the order of events in a narrative or any other type of story

shoshona eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Basic plot: beginning, rise in action or tension, the climax of the story, the unraveling of the story (the part where you begin to get what's going on, and then the falling action and return to normalcy or the feeling that things will have some kind of return to being right again. 

A summary is something you tell or write about a story. You sum up what it was about.  Think of it as telling your friend what a movie was about, including the ending.

An analysis is entirely different than either plot or summary. Analysis can describe why you enjoyed or didn't enjoy a story. It examines the writer's technique. It might include how the author uses symbols, metaphors, builds a character, etc.

The most frequent mistake students make in writing a literary analysis is to write a plot summary instead of an analysis.  Your teacher might have said avoid plot summary.  Or he or she might have said to write a brief summary of the plot followed by an analysis. Be sure to look at what these words mean and read your directions carefully.

iklan100 | Student


The plot of a story, in a book review or elsewhere, is essentially a literary term, meaning or relating to the events that make up a story, and how they inter-connect to mark or show a development or 'evolution' in the story as it proceeds. It is quite comprehensive as it covers all the story from start to finish, and shows how the 'pattern' of the story develops.

A summary is somewhat similar to a plot, in that it simply gives the outline of the story i.e. what happens in it.

The analysis of a story is something else entirely, it takes into account a number of things which we, as 'critics' and readers have to analyse and give our views and opinions about- these can include (a) an analysis of the plot too, where we can tell or say how good or effective the plot is and why we think so; (b) analysis of the main characters in the story, (c) analysis of the main themes and ideas that we think the author is writing about in the story and so on.

Thus, these are all various elements or parts of literary analysis and study.

For the purpose of your class literature/book review (of Jonathan Swift's works or any other) a 'plot' would signify writing a detailed view of the story and its development according to a certain pattern, or way.