Interpretation of Expository or Literary Text

Well, to determine what your interpretation of a work is going to be, first, let’s refresh ourselves on what expository and literary text are. Don’t hesitate to also check our 236 free and powerful practice tests

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The following transcript is provided for your convenience.

Expository writing is going to be something that informs, explains, or describes. It’s going to be very cut-and-dry. There’s not a plot. It’s basically there to explain something to you, tell you how to do something, give instructions.

A science research paper would be an example. Baking instructions for baking a cake. Anything like that would be expository.

So, what you want to do is outline the basic elements of that paper, and then you want to evaluate their effectiveness. This is how you’re going to give your interpretation.

Once you outline the basic elements of the research paper or the recipe, then you can evaluate their effectiveness.

Did you learn what you were supposed to learn from the research paper? Are you now able to bake a cake, following those directions? Very cut-and-dry.

Literary is a little bit different. Literary works are going to be your narratives, essays, works of fiction. These are going to have a plot. There’s going to be more that you will have to go through, and because there will be so much more to the literary works, you want to focus on just one aspect to give your interpretation.

You don’t want to try to cover all of the elements because that would be too much, and you wouldn’t really get to put your personal interpretation on all of the different aspects of that work.

So, some aspects you could choose from are the topic of the story, major characters in the story, major events, the setting, structure, point of view, use of language, or tone. Any of these would work. Pick one, focus on that one, and what you’re going to do is explained here.

An interpretation should both describe the text and elaborate upon it.

So, say, we were to choose major characters. You would want to describe what’s in the text and elaborate upon it, and I’ve put that into a few steps here for you.

So, to describe the text, introduce the major characters. In your interpretation, describe the major characters. What do they look like? What are their attitudes? How has the author described them in the text?

Then, explain how the author portrays them. Are they liked by other characters? Are they meant to be a villain or a hero? Are they just an everyday Joe? How does the author portray these characters?

And then, discuss what the author’s purpose was. Why did the author portray them that way? What did the author want to get across to readers?

And because this is an interpretation, there are going to be several different answers. There’s no one right answer because no one is going to know exactly what the author’s purpose was. You’re eyegiving your interpretation, what you think the author meant.

So, you’ll describe everything that the author put in the book about the characters, and then you’ll elaborate upon what the author put in there by telling what you think the author was trying to tell, what the author’s theme was, what their purpose was for showing characters in a certain light.

So, when you are interpreting a text, with expository, you want to remember to just outline the basic elements and evaluate their effectiveness. Were you able to bake that cake? Did you learn what you were supposed to from the research paper?

With literary works, you want to focus on one aspect out of all the different things you could focus on in a literary text, pick one, just one, and then describe that one from the text, what the author actually said, and elaborate upon it. Go through and give your opinion on it. What you think the author meant.

And the thing is, it’s an interpretation, everyone’s is going to be a little different. Not everyone’s going to pick the same aspect to focus on, and not everyone’s going to elaborate upon it the same way. So, since the author is writing for lots of different readers whenever he/she created this work, try to make your interpretation unique.

Practice tests help you remember. Take this mini-test to solidify your memory.

Mini-test: Interpretation of Expository or Literary Text 

1. To interpret expository text, you need to ..
2. To interpret literary text, you need to …


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