To begin using SparkNotes, visit its website, and select Sparknotes from the menu at the top of the page. This allows you to browse study guides by popularity, by subject or alphabetically. Search for specific study guides by using the search bar in the upper-right of the screen.
Clicking on a selected work brings up its study guide. For literary works, these study guides contain the context of the story, a plot overview, a list and analysis of major characters, and an overview of the themes, motifs and symbols of the story.
Context provides historical information about the writer's life and his time period that may help the reader understand the story. The plot overview provides a brief summary of the events of the entire story. For more specific information, click on the book's different chapters under Summary and Analysis.
The character list provides the names and brief descriptions of the major characters within the book. After each description, you can visit the character analysis page for more about who the character is and how he functions both as part of the narrative and as a symbol within the story.
The themes, motifs and symbols provide additional context for the story. Themes include the major ideas underlying the story and its characters, while motifs represent recurring literary devices and contrasts to help present those themes. The symbols section describes how characters, objects and events serve as abstract representations of certain ideas and concepts.