The Seven Categories Of Questions For Reading/Viewing

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The Seven Categories of Questions for Reading / Viewing


a.) What is the author’s purpose in writing?

b.) What emotions or ideas are present in the text?

c.) What sort of atmosphere, mood, or tone of voice is resonating in the text?

d.) What is the author’s world-view? Is it discernible?


a.) What kind of narrator / voice / speaker / persona / mask has the author created? First person (a participant, a voice using I and perhaps we)? Second person (a voice addressing the reader or auditor [or even an unidentified auditor of the text, e.g., in Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado”] as you)? Third person (an outsider, using he, she, it, they)? Also, look for shifts in point of view within a literary work.

b.) What degree of knowledge does the narrator have? Omniscient? Limited-omniscient? Objective? Note that an objective point of view can employ an omnipresent camera that moves everywhere while we still never get access to the internal states of characters.

c.) How is the narrative preserved? A collection of letters? A first, second, third-hand account?

d.) Is the narrative reliable? Can we trust the narrator? Why or why not?


a.) How has the author structured the text? What would be the most natural way of dividing the text for the purpose of analysis?

b.) Is chronological sequence (i.e., time) significant? Are we shifted forwards and backwards in time? Why? What is the author’s motive? Is it a journey and return narrative?

c.) Is there a discernible correlation between structure and content in the text? For example, is the text composed of alternating images of light and darkness, and are these images related to an oscillating emotional condition? Or again, is the text about emotional fragmentation (its content), and is it written in fragmented sentences clustered in irregular paragraphs (its structure)? Is repetition used in a significant manner to reinforce an idea, emotion, etc.? Use your imagination and look for structure / content correlations; good authors will instinctively use this tactic to reinforce and strengthen their work.

d.) Is the text framed in some way? That is, does it begin and end with a similar or identical idea, image, symbol, statement, scene, etc.? This is a common device which allows authors to achieve what’s called a sense of closure. The use of a framing device produces a sense of order and completion. Some films which use framing are A River Runs Through It, Gladiator, Cast Away, 8 Mile, Inception, The New World, etc.

e.) Is the text truncated? That is, does it suddenly end in a manner that leaves the reader surprised and or dissatisfied? If so, why has the author done this? How does this structure choice relate to the content of the work? Also keep in mind that a text can have internal truncations, that is, places within itself where we (as readers) suddenly feel cut off.


What sort of characters, voices, examples, dialogues, analogies, images, and symbols do you find in the text? How has the author used setting? Where are the characters? What season is it? How is light or its absence used? Is foreshadowing used? Are there places, structurally speaking, where the author has placed symbols, events, images, or other indicators of possible things to come? Here it is necessary to be very specific in your observations. As you are reading carefully isolate particularly important quotations to later use in your written analysis.

Within the context of the author’s PURPOSE, POINT OF VIEW, and STRUCTURE, consider the specific characters, images, settings, etc., of the text and ask yourself why these specific details are employed? What is their function in the overall whole of the work? These detailed observations will inevitably constitute the bulk of your labour: roughly 65% of your