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How to analyse stylistic means

narrative perspectives
The effect of a story on the reader is strongly influenced by the point of view, or
perspective, from which it is told. Narrative types can be mixed and the point of view can
change in the course of the story.
Check for “he/she” or “I” in the narration (not in the parts in direct speech!) to find out
whether it is written in the third/first person. Don’t confuse narrator and author!
third-person omniscient narrator
• this narrator is not visible in the story and tells the story from the outside, but
knows everything (is omniscient) about the character’s thoughts and feelings as
well as the background of the story
• sometimes the narrator will comment on the character’s behaviour, the events
coming later in the story, or even on the writing itself
• this style of narration is mainly neutral and more distanced than first-person or
single perspective narration
• can comment on future income or include judgements
third-person limited narrator
• this type of narrator tells the story from the outside, but only describes feelings
and thoughts from the perspective of one particular character in a story
• the narrator is not identical with character
• we sympathise more easily with the character we are told most about
• can be used effectively to build tension for the reader who wants to know more
about the characters and the unfolding story
→ maintain a balance between revealing and hiding information so that the
audience remains engaged and interested in the story's plot development
first-person narrator
• a character narrates the story from his/her own perspective = we only know what
this character thinks, knows, sees or hears
→ character who becomes the lens through which the entire story is told
• the first-person narrator is often, but not always, the main protagonist
• we understand and sympathise most easily with this type of narrator
• create suspense by the limited view but there is the possibility of
• gives insight in emotions, thoughts, feelings, private things = brings
understanding to the readers, who become more attached
=> several narrative perspectives, are employed by authors to create tension in stories
style and language
Is the language formal, familiar, colloquial (= everyday speech) or neutral?
For example, does the author refer to a character as “gentleman”, “man” or “guy”?
What kind of words are used? Are they taken from a particular word field – e. g. religion
(“sermon”, “awe”, “devotion”), or business (“credit”, “investment”, “deal”, “contract”, “firm”,
Does the author use a lot of descriptive adjectives and adverbs (“sweet”, “glowing”,
“humid”, “tightly”) or verbs of motion (“jump”, “hobble”, “hob”, “rush”)?
What is the sentence structure like? Are simple sentences (paratactical) or complex
sentences with main clauses ans sub-clauses (hypotactic) used?
Does the author use predominately active or passive sentences? To what effect? To
suggest objectivity or neutrality perhaps?
Tone refers to the apparent attitude of an author, poet, narrator or character towards
the information or message that he/she is conveying to the reader.
Typical tones are: ironic, serious, humorous, witty, pompous or sentimental.
The tone of a work is sometimes difficult to detect, but can usually be discovered by
looking at the language the author uses and the rhetorical devices that he/she employs.
Particularly hyperbole, understatement and irony are important in this connection.
The use of a particular tone creates a certain mood.
choice of words
= the decision to use a particular word based on such aspects as style, register,
connotation, etc.
Authors use persuasive techniques to influence the reader. They may simply use an
argument to persuade th4e readers or sometimes may persuade readers to perform
a certain action. It’s a strategy which writers use to convey their opinions to the
reader through arguments by evoking emotions and by proving credibility.
characters and characterization
the ‘people’ in a short story or novel are referred to as characters. The novelist E. M.
Forster made a useful distinction between flat characters and round characters.
flat characters are often
twodimensional and do not
change during the course of a
fictional text. They are often
described briefly, with one or two
vivid details.
round characters have complex personalities, are
characterized in more subtle ways, and develop
during the course of a story. Like people in real life,
they reveal themselves gradually, they can surprise
us, but just like real people we do not expect them
to behave erratically, without any motivation.
=> The characters in literature are usually a mixture of main characters, who tend to be
‘round’, and minor characters, who tend to be ‘flat’.
The narrator can simply show us a character in action, and leave the interpretation up to
us (implicit/indirect characterization), or can also tell us about the character – give us
background information and make judgements for us (explicit/direct characterization).
Often a narrative text can contain both elements of showing and moments of telling.
When reading fiction we take our ideas about a character from the following indications:
outward appearance and social background:
physical appearance – what the character looks like; social status and/or personal
possessions he/she has. This is usually all the information one gets on flat characters.
actions and traits:
certain significant actions such as falling in love, marrying, resigning from a job, even
murder, suicide and so on have dramatic impact, but often it is what builds up to and
follows such moments that tell us more about a character. It is the observation of small
character traits and everyday behaviour that are used for characterization.
attitude – conversations and thoughts:
what a character says reveals a lot. However, a character might say one thing an mean
something entirely different, or indeed be thinking something else. In presenting
conversation, the author has a wide choice between showing and telling. What a
character thinks may reveal more than what is said about the character’s attitude, and
‘getting inside the head’ of a character is crucial for a sound characterization.
introduction, main part (appearance, actions, attitude), conclusion
→ precise adjectives, paragraphs, evidence, present tense, formal language, linking
. .. .
useful phrases
. .. . .
useful phraes for the anaylsis of a fictional text
narrative perspective
The story is told by a … narrator.
The neutral description of … lets the reader judge … for himself/herself.
The biased description of … shows why/how we are expected to judge him/her.
The narrative perspective is limited, because the reader only sees …
We immediately share the experiences/feeling of the first-person narrator.
Therefore, we understand best why/how the character deserves sympathy.
style and language
to make use of …
to create a certain atmosphere by using …
formal/literary/slang expressions
eloquent/witty/academic/concise/clear/objective/impersonal style
specialist terms
complex/simple sentences
imagery/vivid/animated/exaggerated language
humorous/ironic/serious/critical/friendly/positive tone
polite/rude/blunt way of addressing sb/sth
the narrator/author depicts the main features of/points out the prominent features of …
the narrator describes a character’s dominant characteristics/features/traits.
In the course of the novel/play/poem she/he undergoes a development
the character remains essentially unchanged/changes his/her attitude
the author uses showing as a mode/employs telling as a method of characterization
the author gives/presents a rough sketch/description of the character
the author gives a faithful/realistic/detailed description of …
the narrator conveys a vivid/impressive portrayal of …
the author describes/pictures a character realistically/with attention to detail
the author caricatures/presents a stereotypical person
the description presents/includes many details
the author reveals/supplies/conveys an impression
the author points out the characteristics of/characterises the protagonist as …
the author presents/provides a portrait of a person/some typical details
an essential component of this character is …
in this description the author intents to convey the impression that …
this trait manifests itself when …
the main character/protagonist seems/appear to be …
his/her behaviour suggests that …
from the way he/she acts/behaves you can assume hat …
the language the writer uses helps to create …
in terms of outward appearance and social background the reader gets to know …
the age is not mentioned, but one can assume that …
the quote … indicates that …
the actions and traits of the character show that …
in terms of attitude and thoughts …
note that, in the following fragment … is repeated multiple times indicating that …
to arouse the reader’s interest/to catch the reader’s attention
this phrase alludes to/this expression reminds of/this phrases gives the impression of …
to create a mental image/to describe sth vividly
it probably refers to/it stands for/represents …
first, second, third, …; in the first place, to begin with, finally, last but not least
also, furthermore, moreover, in addition, above all
consequently, as a consequence, hence, therefore, thus, as a result
or rather, to put in another way, in other words
on the contrary, in contrast, on the one hand… on the other hand, whereas, while
however, nevertheless, in spite of that, although
equally, likewise, in the same way; namely, for example (e. g.), for instance
that is why, for that reason, as, since
all in all, to sum up, in conclusion, to cut a long story short, to put it in a nutshell
The short story/the given novel excerpt of “…”, written by … and published in … deals
with … and takes place in Nigeria.
The author makes us of a certain atmosphere/chose a certain narrative perspective/
uses a specific language/… The … is a very … character who can be describes as …
The author’s intention in writing this short story/novel is to convince the readers about…
The language employed stresses the view that …
This particular choice of words underlines his view on ..
This … invites the readers to sympathise/identify with …
The point of view adopted creates/evokes/establishes a feeling of an ...atmosphere
The author intends/means/aims/aspires to …