How To Do a Novel Study

Reading good novels is one of the best ways for you to improve your English. Many students faced with a novel immediately worry about its length, and wonder how to cope with this one, long book?These notes will help.

1. Enjoy it
The first rule is to read through the novel, as quickly as you can, for enjoyment. The book is an opportunity for enjoyment; it should not be task you feel you have to do, or something to fear. Developing a positive attitude will greatly ease any problems you might have. First try to get a general idea of what the book is about, who the main characters are, and what happens in the novel. Sometimes a friend who has read the book can give you this kind of summary.

2. Make notes
Next, get to grips with the major events described in the novel the plot. Make very brief notes summarizing the main events that take place in each chapter or section. Compare your notes with those of a partner. It is usual to use the present simple tense for this purpose. For example, your notes summarizing the extract in this unit might read as follows; "Odili offers Edna a lift to the hospital on his bicycle, and tries to impress her with his power. But his attempt to impress her is spoilt when they have an accident."

3. Character Study
After you have made notes on the plot, you can look at the main characters: Who are they? What are they like? What do they do, and why? The novel gives you clues about characters in different ways:
a. By telling you what they did, or how they behaved
b. By telling you what they say.
c. By stating the motives for their actions. (Sometimes we are not told this, but have to make inferences.)

4. Types of text
As you get further into the novel, you will notice tat there are three different kinds of text;
a. Description (of people and places)
b. Dialogue (what people say to each other)
c. Narrative (the events described)
The narrative text contains most of the actual story, but all three types are important.

5. Point of view
There are different kinds of narrative, depending on the writer's point of view.
a. First- person narrative
Here, the novelist imagines himself or herself to be one of the characters. So, many of the sentences start with the word 'I'. Normally, this is an invitation to readers to identify with the narrator.
b. Third-person narrative
Many novels are written as though by an unseen observer, who knows and sees everything that is going on. This kind of narrative is sometimes called 'omniscient'. Most novels are examples of this kind of narrative.
Look at the extract in this unit: kind of narrative is used bu Chinua Acchebe? Does this lead you to identify with the character of Odili?

6. Suspense
As we read a novel we are frequently 'kept in suspense', and want to know how some mystery will be solved. This makes us keep on reading, In the Achebe extract, for example, we are anxious to know whether Edna is injured when she falls of the bicycle. Can you think what suspense there is any other novel you have read? One example in Ifeoma Okoye's Behind the Clouds, a set book, is that we are kept wondering how Ije will overcome the problem of Childlessness.

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