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How to write about a literary text: four important reminders

One: Write in the present tense

—Use the present tense when you refer to the text. Here is an example of the wrong way of doing it:
—He was only thinking of what people would think of him, instead of helping the woman. He didn’t want to be embarrassed.
—When you use the past tense, it will seem to the reader as if you are referring to real events – something that has actually happened. Can you see the contrast to the example below?
—He is only thinking of what people would think of him, instead of helping the woman. He doesn’t want to be embarrassed.
—Another example of what you should avoid:
It’s about a man who sat on a bus next to a woman who was sobbing. He acted like he didn’t want people to think he had anything to do with her. The people on the bus stared at him and not the woman, so he switched seat and joined the others looking at the new passenger who took his seat. I think they all felt sorry for the new guy.
—
Here you must change all the past tense verbs to the present tense: It’s about a man who sits on a bus…
—Sits is acts doesn’t has stare switches joins takes feel

Two: evidence is everything

—Use evidence to support your statements. Even if you are right, you will not get credit for it unless you prove it. Here is an example:
—The man clearly cares more about what the other passengers think of him than about the woman.
—It is not clear unless you provide a convincing example. This is a better example:
—The man cares more about what the other passengers think of him than about the woman. We can see this clearly in the line “He crinkled his brow to show how disgusted he was” (p. 22). The key word here is ‘show’. It is important for him to show this to the other passengers, rather than to the woman.
Here, the statement is backed up by evidence found in the text.

Three: analysis is not judgment

—Try not to use value words such as good, best, better, bad etc. Here is an example:
—The title is the best symbol.
—Why is it best? Why is it good? “best” does not really tell us anything, because it is not a descriptive word, but rather a value judgment.
—The title is the most important symbol, because …etc.
—
Another sample: This was a good story.
—OK, but what does that tell us? That it was a good story for you, because you liked it? Why did you like it? Explain, give your reasons.
—I liked this story, because … etc.

Four: Everything leads up to the theme

—Organize your text so that you write about the theme at the end.
—Your text should be a coherent unit (sammenhengende enhet). Everything you write about setting, characters, symbols or point of view should be related to the theme of the story.
—The reason you write about things like setting and point of view is to get a better understanding of what the story is about!
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