What is the SUBJECT(S)?
The general topic, content, and ideas contained in the text. You should
be able to state the main subjects in a few words or less.
What is the OCCASION? (or CONTEXT)
The time, place, context or current situation of the piece. It is
particularly important that you understand the context that encouraged
the writing to happen, but don’t confuse occasion with purpose. Also
think of it as the “genesis” of the writing, or what possibly got it
started. Why did the author sit down and write this piece? How did
events encourage the writing?
Who is the AUDIENCE?
The group of readers to whom this piece is directed (target audience).
The audience may be one person, a small group, or a large group. Try to
be as specific as possible in your description. Authors do not just
write and hope someone will read, they write for a specific audience
and hope for a possible broader audience than intended. Imagine the
author having a conversation. Who is he sitting across from? Who is the
What is the PURPOSE?
The reason behind the text. This is especially important for examining
rhetoric. You can not examine the logic or argument of a piece until
you know the reason for the piece, or what the author is trying to tell
you. What does the author hope the reader will take from the piece?
(OCCASION is the beginning, PURPOSE is the end)
Who is the SPEAKER? (with literature it could be the persona or narrator)
-What is his/her ATTITUDE? (context + opinion or bias) Look for manipulation of reader by the author
-What is their TONE? (occasion + purpose)
The voice which tells the story. When you approach a piece of fiction,
you often believe that the author and the speaker of the piece are one
and the same. They fail to realize that in fiction the author may
choose to tell the story from any number of different points of view,
or through different methods of narration and characterization. You
need to be able to differentiate between the author and the narrator,
understanding that what the narrator believes may not be true for the
author. In nonfiction it is important that the student not just
identify the author, but also analyze the author’s attitude toward the
subject and audience and the “tone of voice” that is used in the
The speaker’s purpose and subject can be entirely different things,
either for purposes of satire or manipulation. Be careful to analyze
for the author’s intended message.