Basic Short Story Analysis

Contributor: Allison Crews. Lesson ID: 13621

The first consideration when analyzing a short story is determining what is said outright and what elements require deeper thinking. Learn and practice those skills in this lesson!


Literary Studies, Writing

English / Language Arts
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Lion, Otter
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Do you remember the fable of the boy who cried wolf?

If you need a quick retelling, watch the video below.

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  • What is outright told in this story?
  • What must you infer from the story?

Read on to find out!

The explicit point of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" is that a mischievous boy inadvertently got his herd of sheep eaten because he kept lying about wolves.

The implicit point is that if you undermine your credibility by lying, people won't trust you—and this can cause very serious consequences in life.

  • How did you determine these ideas from the story?

woman thinking

Making Inferences

As you read, you gain ideas about the writing. These ideas that are formulated from what you have read are called inferences.

Simply put, inferences are the feelings and ideas a reader gets about the ideas and path of a work based on what (s)he has read so far. You, the reader, are drawing conclusions on a work as you read a text.

Sometimes an author doesn't come out and say what is meant. Instead, the author just infers it. Many times as a reader, we don't even notice when an author makes an inference rather than an outright statement because we are used to them.

Another time that you might infer what something means is when you use context clues to decide what an unfamiliar word means. Unfortunately, no matter how much vocabulary you learn, there will probably be some word for which you are not completely sure of the meaning.

Examples of inference in a sentence:

The woman wanted her three sons to grow up to be like their father.

This may be a short and simple sentence, but we can infer many things from it:

  • This woman is married.
  • She has children.
  • She admires her husband.

What we CAN NOT infer from this is how many children she has and how many of them are girls. This woman could have more than three sons, but she only wants three of them to be like her husband, and she could have many or no daughters.

Making Inferences With Vocabulary

Sometimes, you will have to decode words to understand the meaning of what is written. This is also making an inference.

In order to make an inference, it is important to read the entire sentence or even the entire section to take in the bigger picture of what is being said. Then, look at the other words in just that sentence to see what you know about them and about how they are being used.

At that point, it is likely you'll have an idea what the word means or what it is trying to get across. If not, it's a good idea to look it up in a dictionary and then infer what the sentence as a whole is trying to express.

flying letters

Take a look at these examples.

The boy felt rehgle; his stomach hurt, and he had a fever.

Rehgle isn't a word, but I'm sure you understood how this boy felt. He felt sick or ill. With this sentence, rehgle could probably pass for an actual word to many people since no one would need to look it up.

In lieu of flowers, my family asked that money be donated to charity when my grandmother died.

In lieu of is something that many people may understand when they hear it said out loud but may be confusing when written.

  • What could this mean in this sentence?

Let's break it down. Many people send flowers to a funeral. If these people are asking for money and not flowers, we can assume that in lieu of means instead of.

The talk of a later curfew has been curbed since I came in three hours past mine.

Curbed is a word that doesn't really seem to fit here.

You might think of curbing a car, like if you rubbed the tires of your car on a curb, but this doesn't really make sense in this situation. So, again, we'll have to break this down.

There was once talk of this person getting a later curfew, but there is no longer talk of this since he or she was late by three hours. So, curb must mean put aside.

Check Your Understanding

Here's an easy way to check to make sure that you've inferred a word's meaning correctly: plug what you think the word means back into the sentence.

Check out our examples.

The boy felt sick; his stomach hurt, and he had a fever.

Instead of flowers, my family asked that money be donated to charity when my grandmother died.

The talk of a later curfew has been put aside since I came in three hours past mine.

Looks like these were all correct!

Click through to the Got It? section to test your inference skills!

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