As a teacher and writer of long experience, I hope that I am being fair in thinking myself qualified to address you on the subject of literary analysis. Over the years, I have read many (though not all) of the major writers. In fact, at this point in history – and flying in the face of the popular notion that mass media is reducing us all to a common mediocrity – the truth is that more literature, including even poetry, is being produced worldwide. There is simply no shortage of it, and many artists of formidable ability go unnoticed. Sometimes I find – or am led – to one of these splendid artists and the pleasure plus the insights into the human condition I get are astounding. To make a study of such literature old and new, past and present, is to make a study of life itself.


First, a word about the kind of writing which at the moment is not prerequisite to our young students but which will become more and more important as they go up the education ladder. And that is what is known as ‘Academic Writing.’ It is far more rigid and demanding than basic expository and narrative writing, which is what we are concentrating on now. It requires a great deal of secondary (second source) material and considerable skill at organizing the material, keeping to a narrow theme, and using all sources and references effectively and in complete conformity to the format assigned. ‘Academic '’ means just what it sounds like, and for many students this type of strict, template and structured writing is less enjoyable than when composing simple opinion pieces. But all serious academic and scientific journals require it. The standard English must be flawless.

首先,我要说文学赏析essay 写作对我们年幼的学生来说不是非常必需,但随着他们的年级不断上升,这样的写作会越来越重要。这就是所谓的“学术写作” 。学术写作比基本的说明性和叙述性写作要严格得多,要求高得多,而这正是我们今天要谈论的重点。它需要大量的二手(第二来源)的材料和相当高超的组织材料的能力,要讨论比较专的主题,要有效地使用所有资讯和参考资料,并且需要符合指定的格式。“学术” 的意思就是它听起来的样子,对于许多学生来说,这种严格、模板化和结构化的写作比撰写简单的议论文要枯燥。但所有严肃的学术和科学期刊都需要它。标准化的英语必须完美无瑕。

But, parents, please, let us not  get ahead of ourselves. For now the students need only to produce coherent, graceful, grammatically correct, and hopefully inspired essays based solely on what they  themselves think.  While it might be tempting for ambitious parents to think that their children should leave out the early stages of writing development and jump straight into what will be required in the big institutions, I personally feel that this is unwise. Writing is above all a process, and students need time to master this process.


So for our present purposes, let’s begin as follows:

First, the student should choose – or have chosen for him/her – a text that is manageable for the student’s current level. There is no good purpose in force feeding a child a work of adult literature that is behind the child’s grasp. So the ‘sink or swim’ idea – throw him into the ocean and he must swim – is counterproductive and only the product of ambitious parents’ wishful thinking. It does nothing but frustrate the child and drive them into corners where they have to come up with ‘cliffnotes’ type of ideas that are not their own. To this I add the disclaimer that these sources can be extremely useful in offering windows into texts that are difficult or ambiguous even for seasoned adults, but they should not be used in place of the actual story or poem. That should be the student’s firsthand experience。


首先,学生应该选择——或者别人已经为他/她选择了——适合学生当前水平的文本。强迫孩子阅读儿童无法理解的成人文学作品并没有什么好处。因此,“要么沉没,要么游泳”的想法——就是把孩子扔到海里,他就必须游泳的想法——会适得其反,只是雄心勃勃的父母一厢情愿的心思罢了。它只会让孩子感到沮丧,把他们逼急了,他们不得不弄出一些不属于他们自己的,从‘文学作品学习手册“截取的想法。在这里,我要声明,’文学作品学习手册‘ 能帮助人们理解那些即使对于经验丰富的成年人也难以理解或模棱两可的文本,但它们不应被用来代替实际的故事或诗歌。那(要被赏析的文学作品)应该是学生的第一手资料。

Students also need time to thoroughly examine and consider the reading material, and I will discuss how extremely important I think it is for students to understand the background, setting, and historical milieu behind the literary text (book or story) itself. In some cases, it’s not vital; often it is; otherwise, one will misread the whole thing and mislead oneself into misleading his or her reader as well.


So in my opinion, it is wrong to try to get a 9-year-old to read Hamlet. For one thing, there is no way that a student at this age (not even a native speaker) can handle Shakespeare’s language in the Elizabethan original. And reading some watered-down, modernized version is obscene. DON’T DO THAT !!  Either read Shakespeare or don’t read Shakespeare, but read it as it was written. This requires time and careful coaching.

所以在我看来,试图让一个 9 岁的孩子读哈姆雷特是错误的。一方面,这个年龄的学生(甚至不是英语为母语的人)无法理解伊丽莎白时代莎士比亚原著中的语言。阅读一些简化了的、现代化的版本是不体面的。不要那样做!要么读莎士比亚,而且是照原样读要么不读莎士比亚。这需要时间和耐心的教导。

It also requires some context beyond the play itself, and this is what everyone ignores or forgets. As a teacher I insist on it. To understand Shakespeare, you simply have to understand something about the world he lived in; otherwise, how can you make sense of it? For example, if I write “She’s”, do I mean “She is” or She has” ?  It is impossible to tell without a context. Shakespeare existed in history and wrote out of that epoch. One doesn’t need to be a scholar, but without knowing anything at all, Shakespeare diminishes in value.

文学赏析写作还需要了解一些超出戏剧本身的背景,这是每个人都忽略或忘记的。作为老师,我坚持这是必须的。要了解莎士比亚,您就需要了解他所生活的世界。否则,你怎么能彻底理解呢?例如,如果我写“She’s”,我的意思是“She is”还是“She has”?没有上下文是无法判断的。莎士比亚存在于历史中,并写于那个时代。一个人不需要成为一名学者(来读莎士比亚),但如果你什么都不知道,莎士比亚的著作的价值就会降低。

The same is true for a book like To Kill A Mockingbird, which I have also taught. If you do not understand anything at all about the Jim Crow era of the deadly racist American South where the novel is set, then DON’T READ THE NOVEL.


Now there are academic intellectuals who would disagree on purely semantic terms. They speak of ‘deconstructing’ the novel, the irrelevance of time, place, and authorship and other pedantic gobbledygook. Common sense says otherwise. How can you really get your head around a work of literature if you know NOTHING about the author and the time and place, he/she lived in? Plus, reading the book simply isn’t as much fun.


So, my advice here is mostly to the parents: CHOOSE WISELY AND DON’T OVERREACH.


If in doubt, there is always Harry Potter and his friends. It is good writing and very entertaining. Moreover, Hogwarts exists independently of time and space.


Now, as for responding in essay form to a work of literature. Most of you are totally aware that such a response calls for both SUMMARY and ANALYSIS.


SUMMARY is nothing more than a condensed version of the plot, and the complicated thing for students is how to decide what the extent of the summary short be: short or long? And once more, it is more a matter of common sense than anything else. Are we speaking of a short story or a whole novel? If the latter, maybe it would be best to break down the Summary chapter by chapter, for rarely is a student required to summarize the whole book all at once.


The student needs to ask himself: is this a book that most people would be familiar with or something nobody has heard of? Is the plot simple or complicated? Does it involve a single protagonist (two at most) or is there a gallery of characters? If there are many characters, it is a good technique to list them for the reader, just as the cast of a play is listed. Tell us briefly who these characters are and what is their function in the novel? Nice and neat, and then move on.


The main skill needed to produce a great summary (and there seems to be a ‘knack’ for it that comes naturally to some and laboriously to others) is to develop a sharp eye for what the reader absolutely must know and what can be left out. Monstrous gaps in the narrative-oriented summary can leave the reader puzzled and frustrated.  Just imagine that you are walking along in familiar territory and someone stops and asks you for directions. What do you tell the guy? What can be left out? If you assume he knows the locale – which obviously she doesn’t or she wouldn't be asking, you are going to say stupid things like “Turn right when you come to the place where Old Man Johnson’s farm USED TO BE.”  Or, “Let’s see. You go through three traffic lights  – or is it four? And then you turn right, but first you have to go left a little way before you get to the right turn, and actually the road might be closed, and…”  Good luck.


So, REMEMBER: You, yes YOU, are the EYES of the reader. The reader can only see what YOU show her. So, choose your information-share wisely, saying only what needs to be said and nothing more. A summary should never be more than 1/10th of the text, maybe even less depending on how simple or complex the narrative is in terms of following the story. (It may prove to be extremely complex when you try to analyze it, so beware. But that’s another issue.)

所以请记住:你,是的,你,是读者的眼睛。读者只能看到你向他展示的内容。所以明智地选择你要共享的信息,只说需要说的话,仅此而已。摘要不应超过文本的 1/10,甚至可能更少,这取决于跟着故事叙述的简单或复杂程度。(当你试图分析它时,它可能会非常复杂,所以要小心。但这是另一个问题。)

The SUMMARY is the whole story or chapter, as the case may be, in MICRO-FORM. But the difference is only PROPORTIONAL. Neither too many nor too few arms and legs.


Above all, remember that the SUMMARY only deals with the questions of WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, and HOW. That is its job


The ANALYSIS deals with the WHY aspect, and, needless to say, it is critically important. It is also the part that most students devote the least time to. Maybe it’s because the ANALYSIS challenges the student to THINK rather than merely RECORD. Sometimes, true, there is not much need for analysis. “Intellectuals’ have tried to make Harry Potter the subject of profound analysis, but, if that can be justified, it would probably have more to do with why the series has always been so popular with kids everywhere rather than anything especially profound that Harry or Hermione have to say about anything.

分析涉及“为什么”方面,不用说,它至关重要。但这也是大多数学生花时间最少的部分。这也许是因为分析会挑战学生去思考,而不仅仅是记录。有时,确实,没有太多东西需要分析。“知识分子” 试图让哈利波特成为深入分析的主题,但是,如果我可以决定的话,更多的是应该分析为什么该系列一直如此受世界各地的孩子们欢迎,而不是分析哈利或赫敏对什么事情说了什么特别深刻的话。

Nor, believe it or not, does Oliver Twist require much analysis, and that is because of Dickens’ pronounced tendency to simplify his characters into all-good and all-bad. So besides the story, there really isn’t much to think about. Of course, one could sail off into an in-depth analysis about living conditions of the poor in Victorian England, but that sort of gets us away from the novel. But once again, as I stated earlier, if you don’t know anything about the social milieu of Dickensian London, for example, the book is reduced to just being a story on about the same level as a rather gritty fairy tale. It also helps to know that Dickens himself was poor growing up and subject to some of the conditions as Oliver. This is what I mean by knowing the background and the culture that the literature grew out of

信不信由你,Oliver Twist 也不需要太多分析,这是因为狄更斯明显倾向于将他的角色简化为全好和全坏。所以除了故事之外,真的没什么好分析的。当然,人们可以开始深入分析维多利亚时代英格兰穷人的生活条件,但这会让我们远离小说本身。但再一次,正如我之前所说,如果你对狄更斯式的伦敦的社会环境一无所知,那么这本书就会沦为一个与相当坚韧的童话故事大致相同的故事。如果你知道狄更斯本人在成长过程中很穷,并且和Oliver受到很多制约,这些对你理解小说也很有帮助。这就是我所说的了解文学产生的背景和文化的意思。

- 查尔斯·狄更斯 -(Charles Dickens,1812--1870)

If you are going to read Robinson Crusoe, you need to know Defoe’s ideas about the emerging English middle class; if you are going to read Gone With the Wind, then you had better know something about the American Civil War. Etc.


On the other hand, there are books, stories, and poems which require A LOT of analysis. Franz Kafka, Dostoyevsky, Hemingway, Faulkner, Golding (Lord of the Flies), and many others write complicated things about complicated themes, and these works require stringent analysis. In order to do this, there is no reason at all why the student should not consult secondary source material. I have done it myself, and still do it. But while it is tempting to let the ‘website analyst’ do all the work, it would be a serious mistake – and actually a form of intellectual dishonesty – just to let someone else do your thinking for you and, in effect, tell you what to think. Allow the secondary source to ‘coach’ you, even use it as a ‘way in’ to an especially difficult text (if it’s that difficult maybe it shouldn’t be assigned to a 10-year-old in the first place)), but do NOT allow it to blunt out or shut out your own capacity for thinking.


我自己做过,现在还在做。虽然让 “网站分析师” 为你做所有工作很诱人,但如果让别人替你思考,或者告诉你应该想什么,这将是一个严重错误——实际上是一种脑力上的不诚实。我们可以允许这些二手资料来 “指导”你,甚至将其用作阅读特别困难的文本的“途径”(如果它那么困难,也许一开始就不应该分配给 10 岁的孩子),但不要让它削弱或关闭你自己的思考能力。

Therefore, the whole process runs like this:

Who is the author and where and when is the story situated?

What historical information is required to make sense of the story?

Who are the main characters (protagonists) in the story?

Who is NARRATING the story, and can the narrator be trusted?

First person narration or third person?

What are some of the devices the author uses in terms of foreshadowing, symbols, and so forth – DON’T get obsessed with this. It’s the kind of stuff many teachers insist on but often has nothing meaningful to offer. Crucifixion symbol. Phallic symbol. Who cares?










How does the story build up to its climax, and WHAT IS THE CLIMAX?


What did YOU PERSONALLY get from reading the work. What are YOUR OWN PERSONAL TAKEAWAYS?






What do you think is good about the book and what didn’t you like (be honest, but have good reasons to support your view).


At appropriate places in your paper, quote directly from the text.


Remember (nobody does or does not apply the principle, usually due to time constraints among busy, overworked students), WRITING IS REWRITING.


Almost NEVER is a first draft sufficient. The greatest writers who ever lived would not only agree with me here but would insist on the truth of the point. You CANNOT just flip it onto the page and imagine it is good work. IT ISN’T. The problem is the ridiculous pace of our society and the fact that students have neither time nor inclination to finish what they have started in terms of writing essays. So what the poor teacher is left with 99% of the time is a FIRST DRAFT. It’s like eating half your breakfast or taking your dog for ‘half a walk’. Or jumping off the top of a building and stopping half way down. If you are going to do it, FINISH THE JOB.

写作几乎从来没有初稿就足够完美了。有史以来最伟大的作家不仅会同意我的观点,而且会坚持这一点的真实性。你不能只是把文字写到纸上然后想象它是好作品。它不是。问题是我们的社会的荒谬的节奏,以及学生既没有时间也没有意愿完成他们在已经开始的论文写作这样的事实。因此,可怜的老师在 99% 的时间里得到的只是一份初稿。这就像吃半份的早餐或带你的狗散半个步。或者像从建筑物的顶部跳下并在半途停下。既然你开始了,请完成你的工作。







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