How To-51: "How to Read the Classics"

How to Read the Classics

from wikiHow – The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Reading classic novels and other works in school is often difficult when working with a time limit. Here are some helpful tips to fully understand the novel/work of literature as well as getting its full meaning.


  1. Read up on the author (where they lived, what happened in their life that is significant, family information, etc.). Make sure to take notes and don’t forget to make a working bibliography!
  2. Obtain a brief overview of the work of literature so you know its main idea. This way, you can spend more time while reading the novel looking for symbolism, imagery, allusions, foreshadowing, etc.
  3. Read the novel. After each chapter write down key information about the plot, characters, and figurative language. After you’re done with the novel of make a list of the characters in detail. Since you have already read it, you should have a great understanding of the characters.
  4. Look up any literature critiques on the work. By getting someone else’s opinion through a critique, you can obtain a better analysis of the book.


  • It helps to keep a notebook for each novel. This way, you can have all of your information for that novel in one place.
  • Always make a bibliography! When you write down any information from a source, make sure to add that source to your list of bibliographies. In doing this, you will always have a list of the exact sources you visited to refer back to.
  • Don’t forget to reflect on what you’ve read throughout the work. If you wait until the end, you risk forgetting what happened.
  • Remember that classics are hard to understand for most people. Just take your time and you will get it! Good luck!
  • Circle words you don’t understand and look them up in a dictionary. Even if you believe you know the definition, it doesn’t hurt to double check.

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