SOAPSTone: A Strategy for Literary Analysis

SOAPSTone is an acronym that stands for Speaker, Occasion, Audience, Purpose, Subject and Tone. This strategy is quite often used for literary analysis in order to better understand hidden meaning behind the works of literature. In other words, it is a method of rhetorical criticism that helps you analyze texts. According to the College Board, SOAPSTone is a set of questions students need to answer in the process of analyzing a literary text.

Breaking down the acronym

Who is the Speaker?

The Speaker is the voice of the story. The one who tells it. When analyzing a work of literature, you can focus on interpreting the voice of a fictional character or on introducing your own voice. The choice you make will influence the way in which the meaning of a written text can be perceived.

What is the Occasion?

In regards to this aspect, context that prompted the writing of a literary work can be the occasion, as well as the place and time of the events described in a text. In other words, any type of writing is influenced by the occasion. It can be an event, an idea, an emotion or a certain situation.

Who is the Audience?

The people who are the target readers of the piece.


The writer?s intention or the idea behind the written text.

What is the Subject?

The subject should be stated at the beginning in a few words or sentences.

What is the Tone?

Basically, the tone of the story is the attitude of its writer. Such elements as syntax, choice of words and imagery help to explain the meaning of the literary work, as well as convey its primary message.

Steps to follow

These tips will help you write a perfect literary analysis:

1. Determine who the speaker is.

2. Recognize the occasion.

3. Describe the audience in detail.

4. Establish the purpose of the piece.

5. Investigate the subject.

6. Dwell upon the tone.

Important details

When analyzing the speaker in a piece of literature, it is important to define whether there is more than one speaker. In addition, you need to state whether some background information about this person can be found anywhere in the story or it can be retrieved from their opinions. The characteristics of the speaker play a vital role in comprehending the meaning of a work of literature. In regards to such element as the analysis of the occasion, it is vital to keep in mind the significance of environmental factors. Occasions can be of two types: immediate and larger. Immediate occasions are specific events and situations. Larger occasions are factors related to emotions, attitudes and ideas. Typically, immediate occasions will trigger a response from the audience.

Speaking about audience, understanding who a certain work of literature is aimed at helps to decipher the hidden meaning of a text. In terms of purpose, defining it helps to comprehend why an author has written this text. This element is considered to be the most significant one in SOAPSTone literary analysis. The subject of a work of literature helps to grasp the idea of a text you are analyzing. Finally, the tone of a text can potentially say a lot about the author of a work of literature. It also helps to understand what the attitude of the author is towards a certain character and their actions.

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