Some Questions for Active Reading of Fiction

  1. After you have finished reading a work, go back and re-read the first unit (paragraph or scene) of the work.† What does this first unit accomplish in setting up the work and in setting up the readerís expectations of the work?† What are the key terms in the first unit?† How would the work be different if the first unit had been different?
  2. What are the key character relationships in the work?† How do you know that they are key?† What scene or scenes focus our attention on any one of these relationships?† Re-read one of those key scenes.† What does that scene ask us to think about one or more of the characters?† How does that scene get us to think that way (choice of language, plot elements, etc.)?
  3. What are the key images and/or symbols in the work?† What do we think of them when we first encounter them?† Do their meanings change?† If so, how, and to what effect?†† How would the work be different if the key images and/or symbols were different?
  4. What is the theme (the most important overall subject) of the work?† How is that theme explored?† Is that exploration adequate to the theme?† Is it prejudiced?† How might it have been explored differently?
  5. After you have finished reading the work and after you have made an attempt to write down notes toward answering at least three of the above questions, including writing down page references, re-read the last unit (paragraph or scene) of the work.† What does this last unit accomplish in pulling together the readerís response to the work?† What does it ask us to think about once we stop reading?† How does it make that impulse powerful for us?† How would the work have been different had the last unit been different?
Copyright © 2004 Eric S. Rabkin