When your teachers or professors ask you to analysis a literature text, they regularly look because that something commonly called near reading. Close analysis is deep analysis of just how a literary text works; the is both a reading process and something you include in a literary evaluation paper, though in a refined form.

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Fiction writers and poets develop texts the end of many central components, consisting of subject, form, and details word choices. Literary evaluation involves evaluating these components, which allows us to discover in small parts that the text ideas to aid us understand the whole. For example, if an author writes a novel in the kind of a an individual journal around a character’s daily life, yet that journal reads favor a collection of rap reports, what perform we learn about that character? What is the effect of choose a word prefer “tome” instead of “book”? In effect, girlfriend are putting the author’s options under a microscope.

The procedure of close reading should produce a lot of questions. It is as soon as you start to answer these inquiries that girlfriend are ready to take part thoughtfully in class discussion or compose a literary analysis file that provides the many of her close reading work.

Close reading occasionally feels favor over-analyzing, but don’t worry. Close reading is a process of finding together much information as you deserve to in stimulate to type as many questions together you can. When it is time to compose your document and formalize your near reading, friend will kind through your work-related to number out what is most convincing and helpful come the discussion you hope to make and, conversely, what seems like a stretch. This guide imagines you space sitting under to review a text for the an initial time ~ above your method to emerging an argument about a text and betterworld2016.org a paper. To give one instance of exactly how to execute this, us will read the city “Design” by renowned American poet Robert Frost and resolve four significant components of literary texts: subject, form, word selection (diction), and theme.

If you want even more information around approaching poems specifically, take it a look in ~ our guide: how to review a Poem.

The Poem

As our overview to reading poetry suggests, have a pencil out as soon as you read a text. Make notes in the margins, underline important words, ar question marks whereby you are confused by something. The course, if friend are analysis in a library book, you need to keep all her notes ~ above a separate piece of paper. If you room not do marks directly on, in, and beside the text, be sure to note line number or also quote parts of the text so you have sufficient context come remember what you discovered interesting.

Robert Frost, 1941. Library that Congress.

DesignI discovered a dimpled spider, fat and white,On a white heal-all, holding up a mothLike a white item of rigid satin cloth—Assorted characters of death and also blightMixed ready to begin the morning right,Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth—A snow-drop spider, a flower choose a froth,And dead wings carried like a record kite.What had that flower to perform with gift white,The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?What lugged the kindred spider to the height,Then steered the white moth thither in the night?What but architecture of darkness to appall?—If design govern in a point so small.


The topic of a literary text is simply what the message is about. What is the plot? What is its most vital topic? What image does it describe? It’s simple to think that novels and stories as having actually plots, yet sometimes it helps to think of city as having actually a type of plot as well. Once you study the subject of a text, you want to build some preliminary ideas around the text and make sure you know its major concerns prior to you destruction deeper.


In “Design,” the speaker defines a scene: a white spider stop a moth on a white flower. The flower is a heal-all, the blooms that which space usually violet-blue. This heal-all is unusual. The speaker then poses a collection of questions, questioning why this heal-all is white rather of blue and how the spider and moth discovered this details flower. Exactly how did this instance arise?


The speaker’s questions seem simple, however they room actually reasonably nuanced. We have the right to use them as a guide for our very own as us go forward with our nearby reading.

Furthering the speaker’s basic “how walk this happen,” we could ask, is the step in this poem a manufactured situation?The white moth and also white spider each usage the patent white flower together camouflage searching for sanctuary and supper respectively. Did these flora and also fauna come with each other for a purpose?Does the speaker have actually a stance around whether there is a objective behind the scene? If so, what is it?How will other facets of the text relate come the unpleasantness and uncertainty in our first look at the poem’s subject?

After thinking about local questions, we need to zoom out. Ultimately, what is this text about?


Form is just how a message is placed together. Once you look at a text, observe exactly how the writer has arranged it. If that is a novel, is it written in the very first person? how is the novel divided? If the is a quick story, why did the author choose to create short-form fiction instead of a novel or novella? evaluating the form of a text can assist you construct a starting collection of concerns in your reading, i beg your pardon then might guide additional questions stemming from also closer attention to the details words the writer chooses. A little background study on type and what different forms have the right to mean provides it simpler to figure out why and also how the author’s choices are important.


Most poems follow rules or values of form; even free verse poems are significant by the author’s options in line breaks, rhythm, and also rhyme—even if none of this exists, i beg your pardon is a notable choice in itself. Here’s an instance of reasoning through these elements in “Design.”

In “Design,” Frost chooses an Italian (or Petrarchan) sonnet form: fourteen currently in iambic pentameter consist of of one octave (a stanza the eight lines) and also a sestet (a stanza of six lines). We will emphasis on luck scheme and also stanza structure fairly than meter for the functions of this guide. A typical Italian sonnet has a specific rhyme system for the octave:

a b b a a b b a

There’s much more variation in the sestet rhymes, yet one of the more common schemes is

c d e c d e

Conventionally, the octave introduce a trouble or inquiry which the sestet then resolves. The suggest at i beg your pardon the sonnet goes from the problem/question to the resolution is referred to as the volta, or turn. (Note that we space speaking just in generalities here; there is a good deal of variation.)

Frost provides the normal octave scheme with “-ite”/”-ight” (a) and also “oth” (b) sounds: “white,” “moth,” “cloth,” “blight,” “right,” “broth,” “froth,” “kite.” However, his sestet complies with an unusual plan with “-ite”/”-ight” and also “all” sounds:

a c a a c c


Now, we have a few questions with which we deserve to start:

Why use an Italian sonnet?Why usage an unusual plan in the sestet?What problem/question and also resolution (if any) walk Frost offer?What is the volta in this poem?In other words, what is the point?

Italian sonnets have a lengthy tradition; many careful readers identify the kind and recognize what to expect from his octave, volta, and sestet. Frost seems to carry out something reasonably standard in the octave in presenting a situation; however, the revolve Frost renders is not to resolution, however to questions and uncertainty. A white spider sit on a white flower has actually killed a white moth.

How walk these elements come together?Was the moth’s death random or through design?Is one worse than the other?

We have the right to guess best away the Frost’s disruption of the usual objective of the sestet has something to execute with his disruption of its rhyme scheme. Feather even much more closely at the message will aid us filter our observations and also guesses.

Word Choice, or Diction

Looking at the word choice of a message helps united state “dig in” ever an ext deeply. If friend are reading something longer, are there specific words the come increase again and also again? space there words the stand out? if you are going with this process, it is finest for you to assume that every native is important—again, you deserve to decide even if it is something is really essential later.

Even as soon as you read prose, our guide for reading poetry offers great advice: check out with a pencil and make notes. Mark the words that stand out, and perhaps compose the concerns you have in the spare or on a separate item of paper. If girlfriend have concepts that might possibly answer her questions, compose those down, too.


Let’s take a look in ~ the an initial line the “Design”:

I found a dimpled spider, fat and also white

The poem starts v something unpleasant: a spider. Then, together we look much more closely in ~ the adjectives describing the spider, we may see connotations that something that sounds unhealthy or unnatural. As soon as we imagine spiders, we carry out not generally photo them dimpled and also white; that is one uncommon and also decidedly creepy image. Over there is dissonance in between the spider and its descriptors, i.e., what is wrong through this picture? currently we have actually a question: what is walk on v this spider?

We must look for extr clues more on in the text. The next two lines construct the photo of the unusual, unpleasant-sounding spider:

On a white heal-all, holding up a mothLike a white item of strict satin cloth—

Now we have a white flower (a heal-all, which usually has actually a violet-blue flower) and a white moth in addition to our white spider. Heal-alls have actually medicinal properties, together their name suggests, but this one seems to have actually a genetic mutation—perhaps choose the spider? walk the mutation that alters the heal-all’s color also adjust its advantageous properties—could it be poisonous fairly than curative? A white moth doesn’t it seems ~ remarkable, but it is “Like a white piece of strict satin cloth,” or like manmade towel that is artificially “rigid” fairly than smooth and also flowing choose we imagine satin to be. We could think because that a moment of a shroud or the lining that a coffin, yet even the is awry, because that neither need to be stiff with death.


The very first three present of the poem’s octave present unpleasant natural images “of death and also blight” (as the speaker puts it in line four). The flower and also moth disrupt expectations: the heal-all is white rather of “blue and also innocent,” and the moth is lessened to “rigid satin cloth” or “dead wings lugged like a file kite.” We might expect a spider to be unpleasant and also deadly; the poem’s spider additionally has an unusual and also unhealthy appearance.

The emphasis on whiteness in this lines has an ext to carry out with death than purity—can we understand that whiteness together being corpse-like rather than virtuous?

Well before the volta, Frost renders a “turn” far from nature together a retreat and haven; instead, he unearths its innate dangers, make nature menacing. From 3 lines alone, we have actually a number of questions:

Will whiteness play a function in the rest of the poem?How go “design”—an plan of these circumstances—fit v a scene of death?What other juxtapositions can we encounter?

These disruptions and also dissonances recollect Frost’s change to the typical Italian sonnet form: finding the ways and places in which kind and word choice go with each other will aid us start to unravel some larger principles the poem itself addresses.


Put simply, themes are major ideas in a text. Numerous texts, especially longer develops like novels and also plays, have actually multiple themes. That’s great news once you space close reading due to the fact that it way there are numerous different means you can think v the inquiries you develop.


So much in our reading of “Design,” our questions revolve roughly disruption: disruption of form, disruption of expectation in the description of specific images. Learning a ide or idea that web links multiple questions or monitorings you have actually made is the beginning of a discovery of theme.


What is happening through disruption in “Design”? What suggest is Frost making? Observations around other elements in the text assist you deal with the idea the disruption in more depth. Here is where we look back at the job-related we have currently done: What is the text about? What is notable about the form, and how go it support or undermine what the native say? go the specific language that the message highlight, or redirect, specific ideas?

In this example, we space looking to determine what kind(s) the disruption the poem consists of or describes. Fairly than “disruption,” we want to watch what sort of disruption, or whether certainly Frost uses disturbances in form and language to interact something opposite: design.

Sample Analysis

After you make notes, build questions, and collection tentative hypotheses, you must analyze the topic of your close reading. Literary evaluation is another procedure of analysis (and betterworld2016.org!) that enables you to make a claim around the text. That is also the point at i beg your pardon you revolve a vital eye to your earlier questions and also observations to uncover the most compelling points, discarding the ones that space a “stretch.” through “stretch,” we median that we need to discard point out that room fascinating however have no clear link to the text as a whole. (We introduce a separate document for record the brilliant principles that don’t rather fit this time around.)

Here adheres to an excerpt from a brief analysis of “Design” based upon the close reading above. This instance focuses on part lines in good detail in order come unpack the meaning and meaning of the poem’s language. By commenting top top the different elements of close reading we have discussed, it takes the outcomes of our close reading to market one particular way into the text. (In situation you to be thinking around using this sample together your own, it is in warned: it has no thesis and it is quickly discoverable ~ above the web. Plus that doesn’t have actually a title.)


Frost’s speak brews i can not qualify associations in the an initial stanza the the poem. The “Assorted characters of death and also blight / combined ready to begin the morning right” make of the grotesque scene an equally grotesque mock of a breakfast grain (4–5). This lines are virtually singsong in meter and also it is basic to imagine them collection to a radio jingle. A pun on “right”/”rite” slides the “characters the death and also blight” right into their expected concoction: a “witches’ broth” (6). These juxtapositions—a healthy breakfast that is likewise a potion because that dark magic—are borne out once our “fat and white” spider i do not care “a snow-drop”—an at an early stage spring flower associated with renewal—and the moth together “dead wings lugged like a file kite” (1, 7, 8). Choose the mutant heal-all the hosts the moth’s death, the spider i do not care a deadly flower; the unauthorized moth becomes a child’s toy, yet as “dead wings,” more like a puppet made of a skull.The volta uses no resolution because that our unsettled expectations. Having actually observed the scene and also detailed its aspects in all your unpleasantness, the speaker turns to questions rather 보다 answers. Just how did “The wayside blue and also innocent heal-all” finish up white and bleached like a bone (10)? how did the “kindred spider” discover the white flower, which was its perfect hiding place (11)? was the moth, then, also searching because that camouflage, only to satisfy its end?Using one more question together a disguise, the speaker offers a hypothesis: “What but architecture of darkness to appall?” (13). This question sounds rhetorical, as though the just reason because that such an unlikely mix of flora and also fauna is part “design of darkness.” some force, the speak suggests, assembled the white spider, flower, and also moth come snuff out the moth’s life. Such a architecture appalls, or horrifies. Us might additionally consider the speaker asking what other force but dark style could usage something as an easy as appalling in its various other sense (making pale or white) to result death.However, the city does no close through a question, but with a statement. The speaker’s “If architecture govern in a point so small” develops a condition for the octave’s concerns after the reality (14). Over there is no point in considering the dark architecture that lugged together “assorted personalities of death and blight” if such an event is as well minor, also physically little to be the occupational of some pressure unknown. Ending on one “if” clause has the result of rendering the poem still more uncertain in that conclusions: not only are we confronted with unanswered questions, us are now not also sure those questions are valid in the first place.Behind the speaker and also the mental scene, we have actually Frost and his defiance of ours expectations for a Petrarchan sonnet. Like every little thing designer might have altered the flower and attracted the spider to death the moth, the poet constructed his poem “wrong” with a objective in mind. Architecture surely governs in a poem, however small; does Frost likewise have a dark design? deserve to we compare a scene in nature come a closely constructed sonnet?

A note on Organization

Your goal in a record about literature is to communicate your best and most interesting principles to your reader. Depending on the kind of paper you have been assigned, your principles may need to be arranged in organization of a thesis come which every little thing should connect back. That is best to ask your instructor about the expectations for your paper.

Knowing just how to to organize these papers can it is in tricky, in component because there is no single right answer—only more and less effective answers. You may decide to organize your record thematically, or through tackling every idea sequentially; you may pick to stimulate your ideas by their prominence to your discussion or to the poem. If you room comparing and contrasting two texts, you could work thematically or by addressing an initial one text and also then the other. One means to approach a text might be to start with the beginning of the novel, story, play, or poem, and also work your means toward that end. For example, below is the rough framework of the instance above: The author of the sample decided to use the city itself together an organizational guide, at least for this part of the analysis.

A paragraph about the octave.A paragraph about the volta.A paragraph around the penultimate line (13).A paragraph around the last line (14).A i addressing form that says a change to the next section the the paper.

You will need to decide for you yourself the best method to communicate your ideas to your reader. Is it less complicated to follow your points when you write around each part of the text in detail before moving on? Or is your work-related clearer when you work-related through each big idea—the significance of whiteness, the impact of an transformed sonnet form, and so on—sequentially?

We indicate you write your record however is simplest for you then relocate things around during review if you need to.

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Further Reading

If you really desire to understand the exercise of reading and betterworld2016.org about literature, us recommend Sylvan Barnet and also William E. Cain’s exorbitant book, A quick Guide come betterworld2016.org around Literature. Barnet and Cain sell not just definitions and descriptions the processes, yet examples the explications and analyses, and checklists because that you, the writer of the paper. The Short Guide is absolutely not the only accessible reference because that betterworld2016.org about literature, however it is fantastic guide and also reminder for new writers and veterans alike.