SOAPSTone – Know it, Love it!

SOAPStone For Literary Analysis (from

SOAPStone is an acronym for a series of questions to ask yourself when reading a piece of literature. It stands for Speaker, Occasion, Audience, Purpose, Subject, and Tone. It can help you understand the meanings behind works of literature, and even get you into the mind of the author. This can prove very helpful on the AP English Language and AP English Literature exams.

So when you’re reading through a piece of literature when preparing for an AP exam, ask yourself the following questions according to the SOAPStone method:


Who is the speaker? Does the voice belong to a fictional character? Or does it belong to the authors themselves? Is there more than one speaker? What do you know about this person from historic references or from what you’ve previously read? How does this background information form his or her opinions?

The speaker and his or her characteristics play a defining part in the meaning of a work of literature. Spend some time thinking about the background of the piece. This can be helpful in identifying the speaker or source of the work.


What is the occasion? This is another way of asking about the setting of a work. When did the piece take place? Where did it occur? Is it a memory, delusion, or an actual event?

Environmental factors often affect the meaning within the text.

There are two types of occasions: larger occasions and immediate occasions. Larger occasions are factors in the environment of attitudes, ideas, and emotions that are involved in the broad issue at hand. Immediate occasions are situations or events that are more specific than larger occasions and are used to catch the reader’s attention and make them think. Most of the time, immediate occasions are designed to trigger a response from the audience.


Who is the audience? Specifically, what group of readers is this piece directed towards? What would be the ideal audience for this piece of literature? Understanding the audience of a literary work can often help decipher the meaning behind it.


What is the purpose? For what reason did the author write this piece? What does the author want to accomplish when addressing the audience with his or her work? Ultimately, why was this piece written?

This is perhaps the most important letter in the acronym to consider when analyzing text. It can singlehandedly unlock the meaning of a work.


What is the subject? What is the piece about specifically? How do you know? What was the intended task the author was trying to accomplish when writing his or her piece?

Summarizing this in a few words or sentences can help build your comprehension of the text you are studying.


What is the tone of the author? What is his or her attitude towards the actions unfolding in their work? How is the tone conveyed in the author’s syntax (construction of sentences), diction (word choice), and imagery (similes, metaphors, other types of figurative language)?

The author’s tone says a lot about his or her work, and why he or she may have written it in the first place.

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