|Thomas C. Foster|
This book is about how to analyze the patterns and symbols in other books. Most of the book is spent on common symbols and what they may or may not mean. For example, there is a chapter about weather. Rain can be used to force characters together or to isolate them. Some rain can be cleansing; it all depends on the story. Snow can be insulating and create a close, cozy environment; however, snow can also be a severe, inhuman element of a story. There is also a small section on irony, which turns everything upside down, and a part about reading with the mindset of the author's intended audience. Common patterns that may relate to myths, Biblical stories, or fairy tales are also discussed. In one case, Foster explains how Eudora Welty's "Why I Live at the P.O." is also another version of the story of The Prodigal Son from the Bible.
Multiple examples are used throughout the book to illustrate points, but even if you haven't read the book he is referring to, the examples have enough information in them that you will understand what they mean.
While you can't expect one book to make you as good at analyzing literature as an English professor, I think this book can help you to look out for symbolism and deeper meaning in literature.