Reading, Comprehending, and Analyzing Literary Works

Reading, Comprehending, and Analyzing Literary Works

Herri Mulyono

There are two notifications that I’m going to give more attentions; reading and comprehending. In language context, reading is of receptive skills beside listening that deals where message is digested from any written materials and absorbed as understandable information. Reading is an effort to create meaningful information one might conduct to achieve at particular level of comprehension. Comprehension itself is understood as “understanding meaning of the written materials and covers the conscious strategies that lead to understanding” (Sheng, 2000: 12).

Instead of their similarity, Sheng (2000: 12) also notifies that there is significance difference between reading and comprehension. Within process of arriving at level of understanding from written material, the reading activity mostly deals with language form while the process comprehending a written language discourse emphasizes on the language content. Language contents lead someone to pursue more complex psychological involvement. It is intended to meet same understanding between the author and the reader including the author’s personal feeling around the reading environment.

Hence, it can be viewed that reading comprehension is understood as one’s effort to arrive at particular level of understanding where the readers’ point of view might meet the original one’s from the author. The deeper part of reading comprehension is when reader might also feel the author’s feeling which mostly influences the reading materials.

Comprehension is first requirements to understand literary works. Reader must initially comprehend any literary works he is reading by recognizing what, who, where, and when. This means, the area of comprehension might go along the issue (introduction of the theme and topic), characters, and setting of time and place.

Every work in literature is written for any definite aims and proposed for certain reader. It is because the writer is willing to transfer his understanding or to communicate his ideas, thoughts, or opinion through the work. Of course, when he wants to communicate certain information to experts he may use dictions that experts are familiar while at the other side casual readers would need extra time to understand. Moreover, writer’s tone or his attitude would strongly affect his work and certainly make any bias concerning to issues he delivers.

Hence, to arrive at proportional understanding toward any literary work, many of us have to endure some efforts of analyzing literary works. Of course, objects of the analysis are directed to examination on elements of the work; such as plot, characterization, settings, and some others. It could be deep investigation and long hours to go through. For such investigation, we may firstly recognize type of genres the work uses (see the type of genre above in section B and each unit explaining the elements of it).  For example, if you have already noticed that the genre is typically prose, start your investigation of knowing the elements of prose. This also occurs when you want to retrieve intended information from piece of drama. Of course, you are to recognize the elements the drama may convey. By knowing typical genre used, readers have already done a half way to examine the elements of literary work genre.

So what with the element investigation? By doing so we may find out the pattern used by the writer while our notes on characters, situations and actions (conflicts) will span. Of course, it might be valuable information and wise ways to make any judgment on the work we are examining for reactions and thoughts would be obviously displayed.


Genre in Literature

Literature Genres

Herri Mulyono

Term genre would be tied strongly in every discussion of literature. Originally, genre comes from Latin of genus that in Concise Collins Dictionary this term is understood as “kind, category, or sort, esp. of literary or artistic work”. Of course, looking at this angle term genre is used to classify varieties of literary works.

In studying literature, there are three main work classifications that we may find concerning the genre aspect. Wikipedia notes down at least eight genres in literature such as: 1) Autobiography, Memoir, Spiritual autobiography, 2) Biography, 3) Diaries and Journals, 4) Electronic literature, 5) Erotic literature, 6) Slave narrative, 7) Thoughts, Proverbs, 8) Fiction. The last fiction in this types of genre varies in mode of adventure novel, Children’s literature, Comic novel, Crime fiction, Detective fiction, Fable, Fairy tale, Folklore, Fantasy (for more details see Fantasy subgenres; fantasy literature), Gothic fiction (initially synonymous with horror), Historical fiction, Horror, Medical novel, Mystery fiction, Philosophical novel, Political fiction, Romance novel , Historical romance, Saga, Family Saga, Satire, Science fiction, Thriller (such as Conspiracy fiction, Legal thriller, Psychological thriller, Spy fiction/Political thriller) and the last Tragedy.

Being similar with Wikipedia, in my view, there are three main classification of literary genre; they are prose, drama and poetry. Prose is simple work of literature, ordinary written language without conveying any metrical structure. This means that prose is not composed in a poetic metre, that in this terminology compared to poetry as other genre, prose does not have any rhythm as poetry does.

Although prose could also be understood as sequence which reflects to narrative text, division of prose fiction like myth, parables, romances, novels, short stories would be more obvious in many discussions of literary work compared to nonfiction prose such as new reports, articles, essays editorials, text books and etc. Look at a work in prose as below:

Upon the whole, though Conscience reproduced two or three pretty faces which might have had smaller attraction for a moral Goliath than they had had for me, who am but a Tom Thumb in that way, I came to the conclusion that I was not a Rogue. So, beginning to regard the establishment as in some sort my property, bequeathed to me and divers co-legatees, share and share alike, by the Worshipful Master Richard Watts, I stepped backward into the road to survey my inheritance.


I found it to be a clean white house, of a staid and venerable air, with the quaint old door already three times mentioned (an arched door), choice little long low lattice-windows, and a roof of three gables. The silent High Street of Rochester is full of gables, with old beams and timbers carved into strange faces. It is oddly garnished with a queer old clock that projects over the pavement out of a grave red-brick building, as if Time carried on business there, and hung out his sign. Sooth to say, he did an active stroke of work in Rochester, in the old days of the Romans, and the Saxons, and the Normans; and down to the times of King John, when the rugged castle—I will not undertake to say how many hundreds of years old then—was abandoned to the centuries of weather which have so defaced the dark apertures in its walls, that the ruin looks as if the rooks and daws had pecked its eyes out. I was very well pleased, both with my property ..


(The Seven Poor Travelers by Charles Dickens, 1870)

In addition, as other genre in literature, drama might be similar with prose in meaning that it flows certain story and convey particular intention from the author. However, it has to bear in mind that drama is purposefully set to be performed on a stage. For such purpose, dialogue obviously appears in work of drama and directions are made to stream the story. If either in a prose or poetry emotions are kept beyond the characters or sentences, in drama, every character is presented with appearance of his or her emotions in the text.

Pay attention to the following sample of drama (as quoted by Lethbridge and Mildorf in Basic English Studies – Drama, p. 92):

LEN     :  This ain’ the bedroom.

PAM    :  Bed ain’ made.

LEN     :  Oo’s bothered?

PAM    :  It’s awful. ‘Ere’s nice.

LEN     :  Suit yourself. Yer don’t mind if I take me shoes off? (He kicks them

off.) No one ‘ome?

PAM    :  No.

LEN     :  Live on yer tod?

PAM    :  No.

LEN     :  O.

Pause. He sits back on the couch.

Yer all right? Come over ‘ere.

PAM    :  In a minit.

LEN     :  Wass yer name?

PAM    :  Yer ain’ arf nosey.

(Bond, Saved, 1)

The last genre is poetry (in singular mode also be said as poem). Concise Oxford Dictionary explains briefly that poetry may go as “literary compositions that are given intensity by particular attention to diction (sometimes involving rhyme), rhythm, and imaginary.” In some conditions, poetry might speak just as the same of ordinary language. However, in some others, it talks more and more powerful that daily language we are used to speak.

Have a look at the following sample of poem!

A Prayer in Spring

Robert Frost

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
To which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends he will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.

The above poem by Frost obviously explains poetry as mean of communication that speaks more than ordinary language we are used to communicate. Through choices of word, Frost speaks more things with less word. Messages, intentions, and thoughts are tightly kept by joys of Frost’s imaginations. Is it only Frost who enjoys the nuances? Not so much to talk unless we are also tied to sink with the pleasure that Frost tries to communicate.