1. Read through the passage one time without worrying much about the details yet. Take notes on your initial impression. What’s interesting? What’s confusing? What seems important even if you’re not quite sure why? Write in the margins or on the passage or use some symbols of your choosing.
2. Now read through the passage a second time, this time more carefully. Mark up the passage some more. You might want to use symbols again such as a question mark for confusing parts, a star for things that seem important, a heart for something that you love, a check for something that you like, etc. Write down any questions, reactions, or thoughts that you have.
3. Compare your first and second impressions of the passages. What do they have in common? Where do they contradict each other? Keep writing down all of your ideas. At this point, you should try to move beyond symbols to actual words, phrases, and sentences.
4. What do you think the main idea or point of the passage is at this early point in your analysis? Write down a draft theme statement that you will adjust and modify as you analyze more.
5. What is the point of view of the passage? Is it a first-person narrator? If so, what biases might that narrator have towards the subject? Where are they conflicted or confused? What are their goals or motivations in telling the story that they are telling? If it is the third person, does it seem to favor one idea or character or view on a topic? How does examining the point of view of the passage alter your understanding of the author’s main point here?
6. Now look closely at diction or word choice. Circle any words that seem important or interesting or strange. If there are any words that you don’t already know or that you can’t clearly define, look them up in a dictionary. If there are any words that seem especially important, look those up too; even though you already know the definition (or think you do), you might be surprised at what you find. Find words that have any cultural or social definitions that might add to the meaning of the passage. Then look back at all those important words. What trends do you notice from those words? What patterns or recurring themes do you find? How do those words fit with your initial impressions? How do they alter or shift those impressions?
7. Find and highlight any figurative language in the passage. Some pieces might not have any, some might have lots of small metaphors or similes, and some might depend on one overarching metaphor. Anything that is not completely literal can be counted as figurative. Then, think about the meaning that is created by that figurative language. These are often the most packed or loaded sections of a text. Authors don’t just write metaphors or similes
to make their writing fancy or confusing. What images or connotations do the comparisons conjure for you? What associations do you have with the comparisons? How does focusing on the figurative language shift or alter your original theme statement?
Read the last points in the second part. See you there!