Analyzing and interpreting literature clep study guide

So you’re thinking about taking the Analyzing and Interpreting Literature CLEP exam? Fantastic! Let me giới thiệu what you’ll need khổng lồ know.

Bạn đang xem: Analyzing and interpreting literature clep study guide

The 100 question exam is designed lớn be the equivalent of a freshman single semester course. You’ll cover the basics, lượt thích understanding poetry & prose, before diving inkhổng lồ a few trickier topics, like actually analyzing selected texts.


This exam will demo your abilities in three primary areas: analyzing prose, analyzing poetry, & analyzing drama.

Let’s jump into all three:


Unlike poetry, prose often features longer sentences, & is organized in long paragraphs. Reading prose requires a good grasp of the context of the text, và an appreciation of how the writer is able to use words khổng lồ create effects in terms of character or plot, or to lớn describe something or convince us of an argument being made.

1) Read the prose piece once carefully và make an educated guess at what the themes or main ideas are.

Is the prose an extract from a narrative sầu (story), with characters & a plot? Is it a piece of descriptive sầu writing that paints a picture of an object or event? Is it a piece of non-fiction, giving an exposition of a concept or making an argument?

Narrative sầu textsYou will need khổng lồ figure out who the characters are and what the plot is (i.e., what is going on in the story). Many narratives will have sầu some sort of conflict in the story, & will create tension. You will need lớn examine how the writer uses literary devices lớn tell the story và analyze what effects.

Descriptive sầu textsYou will have to find out what is being described here. You must explain how the writer uses literary devices khổng lồ describe the event or object và analyse what effects those devices have sầu.

Non-fiction textsThese generally fall inlớn two categories: they could be expository, describing và explaining objects, concepts, or events. They could be argumentative, trying khổng lồ convince the reader of a certain point of view. You must examine how the writer uses language to lớn create effects in the text.

2) How is it being narrated?

1st person narratives are told from the point of view of the “I” in the story. 2nd person narratives are rare, và “you” are the main character (think about how recipes and instruction manuals are written). 3rd person narratives feature an omniscient narrator, who knows everything in the story, or a limited narrator, who does not know everything and may also be involved in the story.

3) How are the characters portrayed?

Think about entering a room with several strangers inside. A voice from the ceiling tells you more about each person, describing what they look lượt thích, what they’re thinking & what they’re doing. You may not agree with that voice, but it sounds lượt thích a professional, & you decide to lớn make note of how it is describing all these people & evaluate how these people are being portrayed.


A protagonist is the main character of the story. There might also be an antagonist who is pitted against the protagonist. Look carefully at how the characters behave sầu & how it contrasts with their inner thoughts. Consider how the narrator is portraying all the characters, where the narrator’s sympathies lie, và how the narrator uses humour or other literary devices khổng lồ describe the characters. To what extent is the narrator reliable; is the narrator hiding something from the reader?

4) What is the plot of the narrative?

Plot is the sequence of events in the story. Make notes on what the characters are doing. Conflict refers khổng lồ the struggle that one or more characters undergo in a story, either against nature or against other characters. Make notes on how the writes structures the story và uses literary devices to lớn create tension, making the reader feel excited about what might happen. For example, how does the writer make a lovers’ quarrel exciting?


Analyzing a Text: Example"Yet even in this stage of withering a little incident happened, which showed that the sap of affection was not all gone. It was one of his daily tasks khổng lồ fetch his water from a well a couple of fields off, và for this purpose, ever since he came khổng lồ Raveloe, he had had a brown earthenware pot, which he held as his most precious utensil among the very few conveniences he had granted himself. It had been his companion for twelves years, always standing on the same spot, always lending its handle to lớn him in the early morning, so that its size had an expression for him of willing helpfulness, and the impress of its handle on his palm gave sầu a satisfaction mingled with that of having the fresh clear water. One day as he was returning from the well, he stumbled against the step of the stile, và his brown pot, falling with force against the stones that overarched the tich below him, was broken in three pieces. Silas picked up the pieces and carried them home with grief in his heart. The brown pot could never be of use to lớn hyên any more, but he stuông xã the bits together and propped the ruin in its old place for a memorial."- From "Silas Marner" by George Eliot
Analyzing a Text: Answer
The writer elicits sympathy for Silas by making hyên affectionate for his belongings. He still had the "sap of affection"; this image that he had something natural và nourishing inside hyên. The personification of the cup in "lending its handle" & "willing helpfulness", make his cup seem lượt thích a living friend. That Silas derives "satisfaction" from it just having his thirst quenched shows how nourishing this relationship is for Silas. The final image of Silas piecing together the remains of his broken friover makes us feel sympathetic for this lonely, sentimental man.

Poetry is a very compressed size of writing featuring a limited number of words arranged in certain forms to affect the listener or reader. It is meant khổng lồ be read out loud, so make notes as you read the poem several times và develop your interpretation. You will have to lớn find out what is being described or what is going on.

1) Read the poem once carefully and try khổng lồ figure out what is happening or what is being described.

How does the poem make you feel after the first reading? You will have to lớn examine what is literally going on in the poem. This will require several readings from the title to lớn the very last word. Mark out where the sentences begin and kết thúc. Is there a narrative sầu (story)? Are there characters? Or is the poem more descriptive? Compare your evaluations with your initial feelings. What have the successive sầu readings revealed about the poem?

2) What imagery is used in the poem?

Unlượt thích prose, poetry is more about the imagery than the story. Poets use a range of literary devices khổng lồ make the listener or reader feel a certain way about what they are talking about. Your task is to determine what literary devices are used & what they say about the objects, characters, or ideas of the poem.

Xem thêm: Glencoe Literature World Literature Teacher Edition Hardcover


Literary devicesSimiles compare one object to another: “As bright as the sun”Metaphors imply one object has the properties of another: “He had the heart of a lion.”Personification gives a non-human object human or animal characteristics: “The flowers sighed”Hyperbole is an exaggeration: “My mother’s going to lớn kill me”An oxymoron or paradox uses a contradiction khổng lồ create an image: “The moving stillness of the baby’s cradle”Poems may also use allegory where objects or characters may represent abstract concepts: Light and darkness in a poem could represent good & evil.
Analyzing a Text: Example
"There was a Young Lady whose chinResembled the point of a pin:So she had it made sharp,And purchased a harp,And played several tunes with her chin."- A limeriông xã by Edward Lear
Analyzing a Text: Answer
The image of the lady"s sharp chin is emphasized by simile và end-rhyme. Comparing it lớn a "pin" not only connects the two through rhyme but the stressed "-in" sound is high và metallic. That she was able lớn sharpen her chin is pure comic exaggeration, và the image of her playing the harp with her chin is another surreal image that lets us know just how sharp her chin is.

3) How does the khung of the poem contribute to lớn its effects?

Form refers to the way the poem looks on a page, or how it sounds when it is read out loud. Form can divide the poem into lớn sections, such as stanzas (a group of lines) khổng lồ separate ideas or slow down the reader. Poems can also take on unique shapes to lớn create a visual effect. Acrostic poems can contain a secret message. For example, all the initial letters in each line could spell something vertically. Poetry in the 19th century và earlier may feature stricter forms where a regular meter is essential.


Sound devicesMeter is the stress pattern of the lines: Pentameter simply means 5 stresses in a line, while Tetrameter means 4 stresses.Iambic meter has the stress on the second syllable (da DUM): “If at FIRST you DON’T sucCEED, TRY & TRY and TRY aGAIN.”Trochaic meter stresses the first syllable (DA dum): “BUBble, BUBble, TOIL and TROUble.”
Analyzing a Text: Example
"1 JANE, Jane,Tall as a crane,The morning light creaks down again;Comb your cockscomb-ragged hair,5 Jane, Jane, come down the stair.Each dull blunt wooden stalactiteOf rain creaks, hardened by the light,Sounding like an overtoneFrom some lonely world unknown.10 But the creaking empty lightWill never harden into sight,Will never penetrate your brainWith overtones lượt thích the blunt rain.The light would show (if it could harden)15 Eternities of kitchen garden,Cockscomb flowers that none will pluông chồng,And wooden flowers that "gin lớn clichồng.In the kitchen you must lightFlames as staring, red and trắng,20 As carrots or as turnips shiningWhere the cold dawn light lies whining.Cockscomb hair on the cold windHangs limp, turns the milk"s weak mind...Jane, Jane25 Tall as a crane,The morning light creaks down again!"- "Aubade" by Edith Sitwell
Analyzing a Text: Answer
The poem features the use of rhyming couplets & repetition to lớn create a chant-like effect. The rhyme và steady rhythm of "Jane, Jane... crane...creaks down again" makes it sound lượt thích a nursery rhyme or chant. Perhaps Jane is a child.The poem uses many negative phrases, such as "Cockscomb flowers that none will pluck" (Line 16). The association with Jane"s "cockscomb-ragged hair" suggests that Jane is no longer here khổng lồ pluông xã the flowers.The sudden change marked with "But" (Line 10) và the repetition of "Will never" suggests that there might be something darker behind this poem. It is as if the beauty of the light could never reach Jane, because Jane is no longer here in this place where the poet has memories of her.The poet makes use of sound khổng lồ create a picture of the morning scene. Most of the over rhymes are hard consonant sounds, as if khổng lồ emang lại the "rain creaks, hardened by the light" (Line 7). There is synesthesia, or the mixing of sensory descriptions, as the visual aspect fo light is given a particular unique of sound here. It is as if the morning light may look the same khổng lồ the poet, but no longer feels the same without Jane.

Drama is meant to lớn be performed on a stage, not read in a book. A play is a common dramatic size featuring characters và a story. Analyzing drama requires a good grasp of what is happening onstage, & an appreciation of how the playwright creates dramatic effects with words, sounds, & the interaction of characters.

1) Read the extract piece once carefully & make an educated guess at what is happening.

Take note of who the characters are. Although there may not be stage directions, you will need to imagine what the characters are doing. Drawing a diagram or making notes will help. As you analyze the extract, you can guess what the setting is (where & when the scene takes place), what the main conflict in the extract is, and what the themes (big ideas) are.

2) Read the text out loud. Try stressing certain words khổng lồ see if there is a relatively regular rhythm in the lines.

Many of the most famous works of drama were created and staged during the Renaissance. They often featured “blank verse”, or un-rhymed lines with iambic pentameter. These lines may have been intended khổng lồ emphakích thước the poetic delivery of the speaker or to lớn indicate the authority of the character. At other times, characters could speak in a manner that is closer khổng lồ how we speak English in everyday life.


Analyzing a Text: Example"MACBETH:Prithee, peace.I DARE vị ALL that MAY beCOME a MAN;Who DARES vì chưng MORE is NONE.LADY MACBETH:What beast was"t thenThat MADE you BREAK this ENterprise to lớn ME?When YOU durst DO it, THEN you WHERE a MAN."- From "Macbeth" by William Shakespeare
Analyzing a Text: Answer
This dialogue has been made more dramatic by the use of iambic pentameter. Although Macbeth sounds authoritative when he declares in iambs, "I dare vì chưng all that may become a man," his wife undermines his declaration by adopting that same, authoritative sầu, meter, saying, "When you durst vị it, then you were a man." She is saying that he is not a man now that he does not go ahead with the conspiracy. The overall effect is lớn show that she has a stronger will than he.

3) How are the characters portrayed?

As the characters speak to lớn each other and interact, we have sầu lớn ask ourselves if the playwright wants us lớn sympathize with any of them. Are any of them behaving in especially admirable or cruel ways? Sometimes, especially in humorous situations, we may find ourselves sympathizing with a character who is playing tricks on other characters. How does the playwright achieve sầu this?

Drama is all about conflict and tension. It may be a tragic situation that is serious & grave sầu, or it may be a humorous situation where characters are fumbling, with all sorts of unintended consequences. Sometimes, the playwright creates tension through dramatic irony, a situation in which the audience knows what is happening, but not all the characters onstage may be aware of it.

Xem thêm:


Stage actor: “Sometimes I can speak lớn the audience directly without the other characters hearing me. This is called an ‘aside’. I could let you know my real opinion about the other characters or my secret plans, or sometimes I just want to lớn let you know my innermost thoughts.”
Analyzing a Text: Example
FRANCES: Human nature turns against you..by instinct..in self-defence.TREBELL: And my own human-nature!FRANCES: Yes..you must have sầu loved her, Henry..in some odd way. I"m sorry for you both.TREBELL: I"m hating her now..as a man can only hate his own silliest vices.FRANCES: That"s wrong of you. If you thought of her only as a pretty little fool..Bearing your child..all her womanly life belonged lớn you..và for that time there was no other sort of life in her. So she became what you thought her.TREBELL: That"s not true.FRANCES: It"s true enough..it"s true of men towards women. You can"t think of them through generations as one thing & then suddenly find them another.TREBELL: She should have brought that child inlớn the world.FRANCES: You didn"t love her enough!TREBELL: I didn"t love her at all.FRANCES: The why should she value your gift?TREBELL: For its own sake.FRANCES: It"s hopeless..you don"t underst&.TREBELL: I"ve been trying to..all through the night.FRANCES: That"s more the trouble then than the Cabinet question?He shakes himself lớn his feet và begins to lớn pace the room; his keenness coming baông chồng to hlặng now, his brow knitting again with the delight of thought.- From "Waste" by Harley Granville Barker
Analyzing a Text: Answer
Our sympathy towards Trebell shifts through the extract. At first, his "half-articulate pain" is expressed through exclamations lượt thích "my own human nature!" It almost seems as if he feels guilty about what he has done, và we identify with Frances"s sympathy for him.However there is an abrupt switch with his outburst of anger. He "hates her now" as if she was a "vice" or a silly mistake of his, và the way he dehumanises her elicits Frances eloquent "defense" of the girl. Her rational deconstruction of his hatred for women is in stark contrast to lớn his selfish, petulant, inarticulate exclamation that "She should have brought that child into lớn the world." Furthermore, he admits that he never loved her. Even Frances admits defeat in trying to reason with hlặng. The stage directions show Trebell rising, as if "shak" off his pain and returning khổng lồ "the delight of thought". Although we began by sympathising with his pain, his cold-hearted inability lớn appreciate a woman"s pain & his refusal to lớn admit his guilt ensure that we see him as an unsympathetic character.

Chuyên mục: literature