Reader Response Questions
1. What is the speaker's tone of voice and attitude toward the subject matter?
2. How do metaphors and similes in the poem sharpen the images?
3. If there is personification, why would the poet choose to use it? How does it affect or influence the
reader's perception of the poem?
4. If there is a symbol, what kind is it? A symbolic thing? action? event? How do you know it is a symbol?
How is it used in the poem? What is its significance? How does it add meaning to the poem?
5. Select a line or so of poetry, or a moment or scene in a novel, epic poem, or play that you find especially
memorable. Write a response in which you identify the line or the passage, explain its relationship to the
work in which it is found, and analyze the reasons for its effectiveness.
6. Why is this text an example of an anthology? (Include specific details about the structure) Describe the
audience that this anthology was written for. (How do you know?)
Don’t reuse a fiction question during a quarter!!
1. Did any characters change during the course of the book? How did they change? What forces caused
2. Name and describe a minor character. Describe her/him physically and describe her/his personality and
history, if known. Explain how s/he is important to the story and the ideas of the book.
3. Describe the nature of the relationship between two characters. Include their history together and details
of their relationship. Explain the significance of their relationship to the overall plot.
4. Are the characters realistic (do they seem like they could be real people)? Why or why not?
5. Compare a character from your text to a character from another work of fiction (novel, play, film, short
story). What are their similarities? What are their differences? Which character do you admire more?
6. Examine a character’s actions, values, behavior, etc. with which you disagree. What is happening?
Why is the character thinking/acting this way? What do you see wrong with it? Why? What would you
suggest as a preferable response/behavior/value?
7. What other important characters are there in the book besides the main character(s)? How are they
important to the plot?
8. What quality of which character strikes you as a good characteristic to develop within yourself over the
years? Why? How does the character demonstrate this quality?
9. Pick a scene in which you disagreed how a character handled a situation/person and rewrite it in the way
you think it should have happened.
10. Choose a complex and important character who might on the basis of the character’s actions alone be
considered evil or immoral. Explain both how and why the full presentation of the character in the work
makes us react more sympathetically than we otherwise might. Avoid plot summary.
11. In a literary work, a minor character, often known as a foil, possesses traits that emphasize, by contrast
or comparison, the distinctive characteristics and qualities of the main character. For example, the ideas
or behavior of a minor character might be used to highlight the weaknesses or strengths of the main
character. Choose a novel or play in which a minor character serves as a foil for the main character.
Then write a response in which you analyze how the relation between the minor character and the major
character illuminates the meaning of the work.
12. In many works of literature, past events can affect, positively or negatively, the present activities,
attitudes, or values of a character. Choose a novel or play in which a character must contend with some
aspect of the past, either personal or societal. Then write a response in which you show how the
character’s relationship to the past contributes to the meaning of the work as a whole.
1. What effect does the setting (time, place, social and historical background) have on the character’s
thoughts, actions, and choices? What would be your reaction to having to adapt to the character’s
2. What was unique about the setting of the book and how did it enhance or take away from the story?
3. Many plays and novels use contrasting places (for example, two countries, two cities or towns, two
houses, or the land and the sea) to represent opposed forces or ideas that are central to the meaning of
the work. Choose a novel or play that contrasts two such places. Write a response explaining how the
places differ, what each place represents, and how their contrast contributes to the meaning of the work.
1. Describe the major conflict. What side are you on?
1. Books have various endings. A satisfactory ending is not, however, always conclusive in every sense;
significant closure may require the reader to abide with or adjust to ambiguity and uncertainty. Discuss
the ending of a novel or play explaining precisely how and why the ending appropriately or
inappropriately concludes the work. Do not merely summarize the plot.
1. What specific themes - either stated outright or implied by events- did the author emphasize throughout
the novel? What do you think he or she is trying to get across to the reader? Explain its importance to
the text and why you find it meaningful.
Point of View
1. Who is the narrator of the story? Is the book written in the first or third person (I or s/he)? How does
that affect the story?
1. What clues did the author use to help you predict what was going to happen later?
1. How does the author create suspense?
2. What is the mood or tone of the book? How does the author create that mood?
3. Explain the organization of the book. How it is important to the story?
4. Does the author use humor, irony, symbolism, or metaphors? Give examples and explain the effect.
5. How does the author provide information or details to make the story seem realistic?
6. If there is any special language used (dialects, foreign words, slang, etc.) give examples and explain its
use and purpose. What is its effect?
7. Show how the significance of the title is developed through the authors’ use of devices such as contrast,
repetition, allusion, and point of view.
General Response Questions
1. Explain one specific aspect of the culture described in the book. Tell how it compares to a specific
culture you are familiar with.
2. Find one specific idea, event, or behavior in the book that relates to real life. Explain the relationship
3. What is your reaction to a relationship, event, socio-cultural behavior or message/theme of the book?
Be clear about what you are reacting to and exactly what makes you respond as you do.
4. Choose a sentence or phrase that attracts you. Explain why you chose it, its value in the book and its
value to you.
5. Importance of an Episode: Select what you consider the most important episode in the book. Explain
(briefly) what happens, why you think it is important to the section, your reaction to the episode, and
why you react this way.
6. Describe what was either believable or unbelievable about your reading. Defend your opinion.
7. The meaning of some literary works is often enhanced by sustained allusion to myths, the Bible, or other
works of literature. Select a literary work that makes use of such a sustained reference. Then write a
well-organized response in which you explain the allusion that predominates in the work and analyze
how it enhances the work’s meaning.
8. A critic has said that one important measure of a superior work of literature is its ability to produce in
the reader a healthy confusion of pleasure and disquietude. Select a literary work that produces this
“healthy confusion.” Write a response in which you explain the sources of the “pleasure and
disquietude” experienced by the readers of the work.
9. Choose a novel, play, or long poem in which a scene or character awakens “thoughtful laughter” in the
reader. Write a response in which you show why this laughter is “thoughtful” and how it contributes to
the meaning of the work.
10. In many works of literature, a physical journey - the literal movement from one place to another - plays
a central role. Choose a novel, play, or epic poem in which a physical journey is an important element
and discuss how the journey adds to the meaning of the work as a whole. Avoid mere plot summary.
11. A symbol is an object, action, or event that represents something or that creates a range of associations
beyond itself. In literary works a symbol can express an idea, clarify meaning, or enlarge literal
meaning. Select a novel or play and, focusing on one symbol, write a response analyzing how that
symbol functions in the work and what it reveals about the characters or themes of the work as a whole.
Do not merely summarize the plot.
12. Identify the genre: Identify the genre of this text and support your answer with evidence from the text.
1. Explain some of the things that you have learned so far that you are not likely to forget in the near
2. Autobiography/ Biography/ Memoir: Describe the focus of your text. (Who is the text about? What
are his/her accomplishments/contributions or what are they known for? What did you learn about this
person? What surprised you? Why are these texts important for people to read?)
3. What text features did the writer use and how did they help you as a reader understand the information?
Cite at least 2 specific observations.
4. Identify the target audience of this text and explain how you know. Would you recommend this text to
anyone? Why or why not?
5. Editorial: What is the topic of the editorial? What is the author's position on the topic? What evidence
does the author give to support his position? What, if anything, seems to be missing from his discussion
of the issue? Which words in the text suggest bias to you? Do you agree with the author's position?