To understand literary work, it comes down to understanding three fundamental
components: themes, motifs and symbols.
Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored
in a literary work.
In the novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, the theme of social inequality is very pronounced.
Between blacks and whites; middle-class and poorer whites; the mentally-challenged/ill and the rest of society.
Motifs are recurring
structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text's major themes.
F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, weather is used to underscore the mood and narrative tone of the story. An
overcast sky, for example, could introduce and exemplify the heaviness of a moment.
Symbols are objects, characters,
figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
The prominent symbol of Orwell's 1984
is Big Brother. Throughout London, Winston, the main character, sees posters showing a man gazing down over the words
"BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU." So, symbolically, Big Brother is the ever-present, ever-watching, all-consuming,
plugged-in-to-every-aspect-of life, totalitarian government that cannot be escaped or avoided.
Being mindful of
these three areas will help you in your quest to better understand literature and get the most out of your reading experience.