Critique in Literature (Examples & Types)

Definition of Critique

A critique is a careful judgment, wherein you give your opinion about the good and bad parts of something. This includes a piece of writing, a movie and an idea. Critiquing something means evaluating its qualities and offering constructive feedback on its strengths and weaknesses.

In a critique, you systematically assess both the favorable and unfavorable elements of the work. Rather than just say you liked or disliked something overall, a thoughtful critique involves considering specific components that did or did not work effectively.

For a book, this could include examining character development, plot structure, use of language, pacing and so on. For a film, aspects like acting, dialogue, cinematography, editing and sound design are analyzed. Even when critiquing a concept or theory, evaluating logical consistency, evidence base and feasibility of implementation provide insights.

Types of Critique

Literary Critique

A critique of a book, poem, or other writing usually talks about things like: Is the plot sensible? How interesting are the people in the story? Does the writing style work? What ideas or themes does the author discuss? For instance, a critique of a novel may say if the story flows well, if the main characters seem real, and what big subjects the writer tackles.

Movie critique

A critique of a movie often covers stuff like: How good was the acting? Was the directing well done? Did the script/story make sense? How was the filming – the camera work and lighting? And how did the movie as a whole affect people? So a critique of a film may chat about whether the cast gave a convincing performance or not, if the plot kept viewers engaged, and how the scenes were shot.

Art Critique

Art critiques focus on pieces like paintings and statues. They usually look at: What methods did the artist use? How are colors used? What feelings does it create? What meaning does the art have? So an art critique could be about how the mix of colors makes a mood, or how the artist’s technique makes it special.

Performance Critique

Critiques of plays, concerts, dances, and such cover elements like: How talented were the performers? How was it put together? How was the music, sound, etc? And how did it make the audience feel? Like a critique of a theater performance may say how believable the actors were in their roles, how the sets and staging contributed, or distracted.

Restaurant critique

Finally, critiques of restaurants often discuss: How good was the food? How nice was the service? Was the atmosphere pleasing? And how was the overall dining experience? For example, a restaurant critique may talk about the taste of the dishes, friendliness of the staff, and how cozy it felt.

Critique Examples in literature

Example#1

“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

The famous opening line of the novel sets the tone of the novel. The satirical observation of the writer critiques the societal norms of her time where economic necessity often drove marriage rather than love. Her ironic voice examines the social structure and its influence on personal relationships.

Example#2

“1984” by George Orwell

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

Orwell critiques totalitarian regimes and their use of propaganda to manipulate reality with these paradoxical statements. He makes a powerful statement about the dangers of political manipulation and the loss of individual freedoms, which illustrates how powerful entities can distort truth and reality.

Example#3

“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.

The excerpt is attributed to the character i.e. Atticus Finch, who addresses the empathy and understanding themes in the novel. It criticizes the racial prejudices and lack of understanding prevalent in the society depicted in the book. It emphasizes the importance of seeing the world through others perspectives to combat ignorance and hate.

Example#4

“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

The last line of the novel provides a powerful critique of the American Dream. It symbolizes the futile pursuit of past ideals and unattainable goals. It also reflects the disillusionment with the American Dream and the tragic nature of Gatsby’s unfulfilled desires.

Example#5

“Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley

Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.

The statement of the creature highlights the theme of unchecked ambition and the consequences of playing God. These are central to Shelley’s novel. They also serve as a critique of the pursuit of knowledge without considering moral and ethical boundaries. These reflect the dangers of scientific advancement devoid of human compassion.

Example#6

“The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger

The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.

The afore-stated excerpt reflects the exploration of adolescence, identity and the loss of innocence of the novel. Salinger critiques the idealism and cynicism that often come with youth. The protagonist namely Holden Caulfield embodies this struggle. It displays both a desire for authenticity and a disdain for the ‘phoniness’ which he perceives in the adult world. This reflects a broader commentary on the challenges of growing up and the transition from youth to adulthood.

Example#7

“Animal Farm” by George Orwell

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

The famous line of the novel serves as a critical observation of the hypocrisy and corruption of the political system. Initially, it presents a utopian idea to create a society where all are equal. The story gradually reveals how power can corrupt the people. The writer critiques the way political ideologies are twisted and exploited by those in power, which leads to a society that contradicts its original principles. The book is often seen as an allegory for the Russian Revolution and the subsequent rise of the Soviet Union under Stalin.

Critique Examples in Literature
Critique Examples in Literature

Critique Examples in Poetry

Example#1

“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The famous stanza of the poem interprets as a celebration of individualism and nonconformity. It’s deeper critique reveals contemplation of the writer on the choices we make in life and their irreversible nature. The poem through the metaphor of a traveler choosing a path in the woods, which reflects on how decisions shape our destiny. Frost critiques the human tendency to romanticize the ‘road less traveled’ and suggests that the significance of our choices is often constructed in hindsight.

Example#2

“Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest,
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est,
Pro patria mori.

Owen’s poem is a powerful critique of the glorification of war. The Latin phrase “Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori” translates to iIt is sweet and proper to die for one’s country’. Owen, through vivid and horrifying imagery of a gas attack during World War I, debunks this notion. He challenges the romanticized view of war presenting it’s brutal and traumatic reality. The poem serves as a poignant critique of nationalism and the way young soldiers are misled by the romanticized ideals of duty and honor in war.

Related Terms

Here are two literary terms related to critique:

Analysis

Analysis is a literary terms which is employed carefully in breaking down and studying the individual elements of a literary work, such as character, plot, theme, tone, imagery and style. It is a key aspect of critique. It enables an in-depth examination and interpretation of the text.

Interpretation

Interpretation is used to develop an explanation of the deeper meaning behind a literary work. It is based on a thorough analysis. Judging a artistic text and cultural merits, significance and quality heavily relies on the interpretation derived from analysis.”

Read also: Literary Devices That Start with C

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