In general, the objective point of a text interpretation essay is to answer the question “What did the author imply?” To interpret a text you should analyze it from different perspectives, such as the subject, the style, the main ideas and so on. Such type of academic activity reveals your analytic potential. This post will be devoted to the secrets of interpreting literary works successfully.
Before starting to write your interpretation essay look into the text background and scribble down some notes for yourself. You may or may not include them in your final paper, but they will throw daylight on the matter, helping you in organizing your thoughts. Here is what you should pay attention to:
- The author and his biography, which usually influences the ideas presented in the text. Try tracking a connection between events in the author’s life and those in his book or story.
- When the literary work came out first and what epoch it describes. Many books were inspired by drastic historic events, and it would be a pity if you accidentally overlooked the historical background of the text. When there is such a background, it usually accounts for the lion’s share of a text interpretation essay.
- The literary period or movement the text belongs to. It may be classicism, romanticism modernism and so on. The thinking behind is that every movement displays its own generic features, and you can simplify your work by looking through them and ticking the ones present in the text under consideration.
Your thoughts should not be scattered, therefore it is highly recommended to make up a plan and stick with it. As a rule, a text interpretation essay should consist of an introduction, a main part with multiple subsections and a conclusion.
Pay attention to your paragraph structure because it makes your work readable. One paragraph should fully develop only one idea. Usually 4-7 sentences will be enough. Parts of your essay must be logically interconnected, so try to insert a parenthesis at the beginning of each paragraph to introduce the main point.
Plot and characters
Now this is controversial. Text interpretation is never about summarizing the plot, although it is usually the first and the easiest idea that occurs to you. Bearing in mind the plot (except for surrealism and other cases when a book has been deprived of it) is effective in organizing your work, for instance pointing out the range of problems raised in the text, but you should refer to the story line only to substantiate your theory by examples, not to substitute it.
Then outline the main characters of the text. Start with interpreting their appearance because sometimes you can read their temper in their faces, literally. Certain facial features correspond to certain types of behavior. For example, people with shifty eyes are likely to turn out liars. After that go on paying attention to characters’ words and deeds, trying to prove or refute what you have found out from the appearance. Remember that writers speak through the lips of their characters, so look for some fundamental ideas in their remarks.
Finding out what the author meant must be the climax of your text interpretation. There exist several techniques you can follow to read between the lines:
- Look for symbols. Usually writers express themselves by using repetitive mentions of certain colors, animals, weather conditions, objects and so on. Find this leitmotif and base your interpretation essay on it.
- Search after allusions to other literary works, movies, famous people or historical events. The author could use them in order to omit unnecessary descriptions of things that everyone is aware of. If the book comes from a different country, you may not recognize such references, but a bit of googling will solve the problem.
- Play a psychologist. This strategy will help you understand character’s motives. Use Freudian literary criticism or other methods to find out characters’ inner incentives.
Since your objective is to interpret a piece of literary writing, you should employ corresponding literary terms. It helps you to kill two birds with one stone. First, you show off your brilliant knowledge of special terminology, which will not slip away from the eye of an attentive professor. Second, these terms naturally simplify the interpreting process, describing the notions you come across in your text.
You should demonstrate your unbiased approach to the text, and the best way to do it is to rely on the text itself. Do not be afraid of quoting the phrases that you find important or explanatory. Your references to the primary source will be highly estimated on condition you complete the formalities, such as providing the page numbers from which the words were taken.
Another trick is consulting existing critical analyses of the text. You should either rewrite the information you find, employing other words and shuffling the general analysis structure, or insert it in the form of references, which also benefits your essay’s trustworthiness.
This is the final stage of your job, after which you can breathe a sigh of relief. You may do the editing yourself because you are the one who knows the essay inside out. What should you pay attention to? The proofreading checklist includes consistency in form and style, correct grammar and spelling, homophones check and so on.
Alternatively, you can get your essay into shape by turning to revision services. Thus you will achieve the highest editing quality possible without rereading your work multiple times, which can get really annoying. Keep in mind that formal characteristics of your essay influence the final grade, too.
Thus, text interpretation is a kind of work that requires next stages: examining the text background, analyzing the plot, problematics and characters and pointing out main ideas (including underlying meaning). Let the text guide you, following symbols and allusions interwoven with its story line. It gets easier when you do it for the sake of understanding a piece of literature and enjoying it more.