By Michael Cunningham
Extract analysis is when you take an extract from a film, book or a play, and you analyse the selected text and put it into context. Extract analyses are a great way to to hone your writing skills and ability to flesh out ideas and themes. The best way to describe the process of extract analysis would be to compare it to the peeling of an onion. At first you describe what you see, which is the outer layer of the onion: this involves examining the language, use of repetition and colors, for example. You then gradually peel off layers of the onion, discussing the symbolism perhaps. Finally you get to the core of the extract, and this is when you start to branch your ideas of the extract into a broader perspective, linking the extract back the entire text and its social connotations are key at this stage. Finally, you wrap it up. A good structure of the stages of extract analysis are as follows:
- Broader Ideas
Always begin within the extract and then branch out to bigger ideas.
- Where in the book/film/play is the extract located?
- Does it parallel any ideas in the text, any present pattern?
- How does it contrast with other extracts?
- What language features are employed in the extract?
- Is there any imagery, symbolism or recurring motifs?
- What is the mood or tone of the extract?
- What does the extract do in terms of the text, what is it’s purpose.
- What does it reveal about the characters?
- Is there any significance or character development?
- What is the relationship between the characters and between the reader?
- What about the narrative voice? What sort of character is the narrator? Any changes in tone, mood or direction?
- Broader Ideas:
- Is there any significant plot development? The plot thickens…
- Any social, political or cultural context?
- What are the views and values? (of characters/narrator/author/reader etc)
- Do these views and values underpin the text?
- If present, explain the narrative voice: what is the narrator trying to establish?
- What concerns are being reflected? Are there any solutions?
And there you have it, some guidance on what sort of questions you should be asking yourself when writing an extract analysis, or any literature related essay for that matter. Hopefully this will be of some help to you, whether it be preparing for an exam, writing an essay at school, or whatever it is you do.