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Study Guides for Important Novels

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 2/17/2012

If you really want to understand a novel you've been assigned in class, it's not enough to simply read it (or just read the summaries online). Use these study guides for commonly taught literature to really understand the novel, review for tests and make everyone think you're really smart.

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    Study Tips

    1. Read the novel. "But wait," exclaims the corner-cutting student. "The whole purpose of using the study guide is to save time." Novel study guides are more effective as a supplement to the novel, not as a substitute.
    2. Don't treat the novel study guide as a novel. Study guides are boring, more boring than the actual book, and you may miss crucial details without reading the actual text.
    3. Read the summaries and chapter analyses before class discussions to refresh your memory or to review for a test.
    4. Don't assume the study guide's interpretation is the only interpretation or even a correct interpretation. Challenge what you read.
    5. Use the guides as a reference. When your teacher assigns an essay, for example, that requires character analysis or the interpretation of symbols, use the study guide as a source.
    6. Get them free on the Internet. Bright Hub Education is a good place to start (see the links below). Other sources include Sparknotes, Cliffnotes, and Bookrags.
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    Common Novels for High School

    Following are common novels taught in high schools and colleges. Each novel is linked to its corresponding study guide.

    • Lord of the Flies Study Guide - Marooned on an island in the south Pacific, children get a little carried away and start killing each other. This study guide contains chapter summaries, symbols, themes, characters, allusions, important quotes, and analysis. Teachers looking for lesson plans can find them here.
    • Frankenstein Study Guide - Victor Frankenstein's quest for immortality dooms his family. This guide contains chapter summaries, characters, quotes, allusions, and analysis. Teachers can find great Frankenstein lesson plans as well.
    • Great Expectations Study Guide - Pip goes from a lovable boy to a snooty teenager to a mature adult. Read a summary of all 59 chapters, character descriptions, themes and analysis, and a look at Dickens' writing style. Teachers can find Great Expectations lesson plans as well.
    • Fahrenheit 451 Study Guide - Guy Montag goes from book burner to book reader with the help of his strange neighbor and a weirdo at the park. This guide contains summaries of each section, study guide questions, character descriptions with analysis, a look at figurative language, and an explanation of symbols. Teachers can find Ray Bradbury lesson plans as well.
    • Of Mice and Men Study Guide - George and Lennie tramp about California during the depression, going from job to job in hopes of earning enough money to buy a farm of their own. Read the chapter summaries, characters, themes, quotes and study questions. Teachers can find lesson plans here. If you're a student and you think your teacher needs help, click on the lesson plans, print them out, and put them on your teacher's desk.
    • Things Fall Apart Study Guide - Okonkwo fails to adapt to a changing world before and after the arrival of European missionaries. Our guide includes chapter summaries, character analysis, themes in the novel, quotes from the novel, and essay questions and answers about the novel.
    • The Great Gatsby Study Guide - Jay Gatsby goes to extremes to win back his former lover. The Great Gatsby study guide contains an explanation of symbols, characters, quotes, and themes in the novel. There is also a list of study questions. Teachers can find lesson ideas here. If you're a student and you think your teacher needs help, click on the lesson plans, print them out, and put them on your teacher's desk.
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    More Novels You May Encounter in High School

    • 1984 Study Guide - Big Brother is watching and it's worse than it sounds. The 1984 study guide contains chapter summaries, character analysis, quotes, discussion questions and examples of irony. Teachers can find 1984 lesson plans here.
    • Red Badge of Courage Study Guide - Henry Fleming joins the army and soon discovers it's not all fun and games. This guide contains chapter summaries, symbolism analysis, study questions, themes, and quotations.
    • Old Man and the Sea Study Guide - Santiago finally catches a fish, but there's a slight problem. Sharks want it too. In this guide, we'll look at symbolism, chapter summaries, character analysis and more.
    • The Scarlet Letter Study Guide - Avoid the Scarlet 'F' by reviewing crucial information on the novel, which includes chapter summaries, symbol analysis, character analysis, famous quotes, and study questions. If you'd like to convince your teacher not to teach this novel next year, print out my review of The Scarlet Letter.

Literature Study Guides

Learn about all those books and plays you were supposed to read last semester.
  1. Tips for Reading and Understanding Shakespeare
  2. Study Guides for Important Novels
  3. Poetry Analysis Study Guides: A Collection