Last Updated September 5, 2023.
What an analysis of a story, or novel, involves is at least one sense of Aristotle's notion of "substance." In Aristotle's Metaphysics, "substance" connotes "the underlying subject" of something (6.1). Therefore, what an analysis of a story involves is an Aristotelian "substance," or "the underlying subject" of the story, which is, in other words, that which underlies something about the story. In this case, let's take George Meredith's The Egoist into account. In order to offer our analysis, let's focus on the subject of "propriety" in The Egoist.
"Propriety" is loosely defined here as "a sense of appropriateness." By extension, "appropriateness" can be used as a word to identify the character of someone whose spirit is outstanding and/or dignified. So, our analysis of The Egoist involves two questions: Is Sir Willoughby Patterne a man of any propriety? And also, which characters in The Egoist best exemplify robust propriety? With regard to the two questions, we are inclined to consider the era in which George Meredith wrote The Egoist. In the Victorian era, society was characterized, in some way, by self-dignity. In other words, members of Victorian society had a strict (even greatly remarkable) sense of what was appropriate and what was not. Nowadays, people would almost certainly identify a character of self-dignity as egoism or vanity. However, it's wise to look into the cultural context of Meredith's day. Consider the following excerpt from The Egoist in which Meredith describes Sir Willoughby Patterne:
Self-satisfied it must be. Humbleness does not win multitudes or the sex. It must be vain to have a sheen. Captivating melodies...have an inner pipe of that conceit almost ludicrous when you detect the chirp. (chapter 2)
Now, consider our original question: Is Sir Willoughby Patterne a man of any propriety? Undoubtedly, he has a certain appropriateness in accordance with his era, but even so, is that appropriateness less befitting than some higher standard of appropriateness—for example, a standard of robust propriety? We may need to find a character in Meredith's novel that exemplifies robust propriety if we are to distinguish Patterne from it. Perhaps a distinction can be made via the character Patterne chooses as his opposite ego, or soul? Indeed, in chapter 49, the dialogue between Patterne and Laetitia evinces in us a contrast, or a distinction, between each character's ego or soul; and, in that context, the character Laetitia may serve as a good model of robust propriety. From this context, we can propose that "the underlying subject" of propriety in The Egoist is a robust propriety seen in the relationship, or appropriateness, of two souls or egos.
In summary, we have focused on an analysis of a particular subject in George Meredith's The Egoist: that is, propriety. Having analyzed this subject, we found that our analysis of the subject involved not so much a question about whether or not this or that character in The Egoist has an ego or soul of robust propriety, but more so that the subject of robust propriety is a deep, underlying subject, which might be some form of relationship, or appropriateness, between two characters (e.g., Patterne and Laetitia). Thus, an analysis of George Meredith's The Egoist involves an idea that robust propriety is seen, or perhaps realized, in relationship, or appropriateness, between two souls or egos.
In conclusion, the good news about the literary arts is that an analysis of a story, or novel, is quite subjective; this means that the analysis of a story, or novel, can stem from some particular subject, and such a particular subject could be a theme, idea, term, or just about anything related to the story. Readers are encouraged to take a look at the summary of The Egoist in relation to the analysis provided here and, furthermore, to use the references provided here in relation to the summary of Meredith's novel in order to gain a deeper understanding.