"There isn't any symbolism. The sea is the sea. The old man is the old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The sharks are sharks, no better, no worse." - Ernest Hemingway


We cannot always expect an author to be as honest and direct as Ernest Hemingway claims that he is in the aforementioned quote and more often than not, it is necessary to read between the lines in order to find the true meaning of a text. This technique is called analysis. How to use the technique often depends on what kind of text you are dealing with. Although a lot of sub-genres and mixes between the two exist, texts are generally divided into two main genres, fiction 1 and non-fiction 2.


Fiction means that the events, people, dialogues, actions etc. described in the texts are not real. It often resembles real life and might even intend to, metaphorically 3, make a statement about the real world that we live in, but generally speaking, it is a figment 4 of the author's imagination 5. To boil it down, one could say that the main purpose of fiction is to entertain its readers.

The five best selling works of fiction

  1. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes 1605
  2. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens 1859
  3. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas 1814
  4. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien 1954
  5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling 1997

Source The Library


The term non-fiction, on the other hand, refers to what is not fictional, meaning what is not made up so to speak. The genre includes articles, speeches, talks, documentaries, manuals, news and other types of texts that involve actual events, people or information. One could argue that a journalist is also inventing or creating certain things when writing an article, but readers of non-fiction will expect factual details such as time and place to be very precisely presented thus 6 leaving the journalist with quite little space for such creation. The non-fiction genre, in broad terms, wants to inform its readers.

The five greatest non-fiction books

  1. Essays by Michel de Montaigne 1580
  2. Walden by Henry David Thoreau 1854
  3. Confessions by Augustine AD 398
  4. The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud 1913
  5. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank 1947

Source: The Greatest Books

The process of analysis and interpretation 7 cause the reader to change his or her understanding of the text as more information is revealed. This sometimes occurs without the reader even thinking about it. This process is illustrated by the hermeneutic circle.