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- How to write a literary analysis essay | A step-by-step guide
How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay | A Step-by-Step Guide
Published on January 30, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on September 2, 2022.
Literary analysis means closely studying a text, interpreting its meanings, and exploring why the author made certain choices. It can be applied to novels, short stories, plays, poems, or any other form of literary writing.
A literary analysis essay is not a rhetorical analysis , nor is it just a summary of the plot or a book review. Instead, it is a type of argumentative essay where you need to analyze elements such as the language, perspective, and structure of the text, and explain how the author uses literary devices to create effects and convey ideas.
Before beginning a literary analysis essay, it’s essential to carefully read the text and c ome up with a thesis statement to keep your essay focused. As you write, follow the standard structure of an academic essay :
- An introduction that tells the reader what your essay will focus on.
- A main body, divided into paragraphs , that builds an argument using evidence from the text.
- A conclusion that clearly states the main point that you have shown with your analysis.
Table of contents
Step 1: reading the text and identifying literary devices, step 2: coming up with a thesis, step 3: writing a title and introduction, step 4: writing the body of the essay, step 5: writing a conclusion.
The first step is to carefully read the text(s) and take initial notes. As you read, pay attention to the things that are most intriguing, surprising, or even confusing in the writing—these are things you can dig into in your analysis.
Your goal in literary analysis is not simply to explain the events described in the text, but to analyze the writing itself and discuss how the text works on a deeper level. Primarily, you’re looking out for literary devices —textual elements that writers use to convey meaning and create effects. If you’re comparing and contrasting multiple texts, you can also look for connections between different texts.
To get started with your analysis, there are several key areas that you can focus on. As you analyze each aspect of the text, try to think about how they all relate to each other. You can use highlights or notes to keep track of important passages and quotes.
Consider what style of language the author uses. Are the sentences short and simple or more complex and poetic?
What word choices stand out as interesting or unusual? Are words used figuratively to mean something other than their literal definition? Figurative language includes things like metaphor (e.g. “her eyes were oceans”) and simile (e.g. “her eyes were like oceans”).
Also keep an eye out for imagery in the text—recurring images that create a certain atmosphere or symbolize something important. Remember that language is used in literary texts to say more than it means on the surface.
- Who is telling the story?
- How are they telling it?
Is it a first-person narrator (“I”) who is personally involved in the story, or a third-person narrator who tells us about the characters from a distance?
Consider the narrator’s perspective . Is the narrator omniscient (where they know everything about all the characters and events), or do they only have partial knowledge? Are they an unreliable narrator who we are not supposed to take at face value? Authors often hint that their narrator might be giving us a distorted or dishonest version of events.
The tone of the text is also worth considering. Is the story intended to be comic, tragic, or something else? Are usually serious topics treated as funny, or vice versa ? Is the story realistic or fantastical (or somewhere in between)?
Consider how the text is structured, and how the structure relates to the story being told.
- Novels are often divided into chapters and parts.
- Poems are divided into lines, stanzas, and sometime cantos.
- Plays are divided into scenes and acts.
Think about why the author chose to divide the different parts of the text in the way they did.
There are also less formal structural elements to take into account. Does the story unfold in chronological order, or does it jump back and forth in time? Does it begin in medias res —in the middle of the action? Does the plot advance towards a clearly defined climax?
With poetry, consider how the rhyme and meter shape your understanding of the text and your impression of the tone. Try reading the poem aloud to get a sense of this.
In a play, you might consider how relationships between characters are built up through different scenes, and how the setting relates to the action. Watch out for dramatic irony , where the audience knows some detail that the characters don’t, creating a double meaning in their words, thoughts, or actions.
Your thesis in a literary analysis essay is the point you want to make about the text. It’s the core argument that gives your essay direction and prevents it from just being a collection of random observations about a text.
If you’re given a prompt for your essay, your thesis must answer or relate to the prompt. For example:
Essay question example
Is Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” a religious parable?
Your thesis statement should be an answer to this question—not a simple yes or no, but a statement of why this is or isn’t the case:
Thesis statement example
Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” is not a religious parable, but a story about bureaucratic alienation.
Sometimes you’ll be given freedom to choose your own topic; in this case, you’ll have to come up with an original thesis. Consider what stood out to you in the text; ask yourself questions about the elements that interested you, and consider how you might answer them.
Your thesis should be something arguable—that is, something that you think is true about the text, but which is not a simple matter of fact. It must be complex enough to develop through evidence and arguments across the course of your essay.
Say you’re analyzing the novel Frankenstein . You could start by asking yourself:
Your initial answer might be a surface-level description:
The character Frankenstein is portrayed negatively in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein .
However, this statement is too simple to be an interesting thesis. After reading the text and analyzing its narrative voice and structure, you can develop the answer into a more nuanced and arguable thesis statement:
Mary Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as.
Remember that you can revise your thesis statement throughout the writing process , so it doesn’t need to be perfectly formulated at this stage. The aim is to keep you focused as you analyze the text.
Finding textual evidence
To support your thesis statement, your essay will build an argument using textual evidence —specific parts of the text that demonstrate your point. This evidence is quoted and analyzed throughout your essay to explain your argument to the reader.
It can be useful to comb through the text in search of relevant quotations before you start writing. You might not end up using everything you find, and you may have to return to the text for more evidence as you write, but collecting textual evidence from the beginning will help you to structure your arguments and assess whether they’re convincing.
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See an example
To start your literary analysis paper, you’ll need two things: a good title, and an introduction.
Your title should clearly indicate what your analysis will focus on. It usually contains the name of the author and text(s) you’re analyzing. Keep it as concise and engaging as possible.
A common approach to the title is to use a relevant quote from the text, followed by a colon and then the rest of your title.
If you struggle to come up with a good title at first, don’t worry—this will be easier once you’ve begun writing the essay and have a better sense of your arguments.
“Fearful symmetry” : The violence of creation in William Blake’s “The Tyger”
The essay introduction provides a quick overview of where your argument is going. It should include your thesis statement and a summary of the essay’s structure.
A typical structure for an introduction is to begin with a general statement about the text and author, using this to lead into your thesis statement. You might refer to a commonly held idea about the text and show how your thesis will contradict it, or zoom in on a particular device you intend to focus on.
Then you can end with a brief indication of what’s coming up in the main body of the essay. This is called signposting. It will be more elaborate in longer essays, but in a short five-paragraph essay structure, it shouldn’t be more than one sentence.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.
Some students prefer to write the introduction later in the process, and it’s not a bad idea. After all, you’ll have a clearer idea of the overall shape of your arguments once you’ve begun writing them!
If you do write the introduction first, you should still return to it later to make sure it lines up with what you ended up writing, and edit as necessary.
The body of your essay is everything between the introduction and conclusion. It contains your arguments and the textual evidence that supports them.
A typical structure for a high school literary analysis essay consists of five paragraphs : the three paragraphs of the body, plus the introduction and conclusion.
Each paragraph in the main body should focus on one topic. In the five-paragraph model, try to divide your argument into three main areas of analysis, all linked to your thesis. Don’t try to include everything you can think of to say about the text—only analysis that drives your argument.
In longer essays, the same principle applies on a broader scale. For example, you might have two or three sections in your main body, each with multiple paragraphs. Within these sections, you still want to begin new paragraphs at logical moments—a turn in the argument or the introduction of a new idea.
Robert’s first encounter with Gil-Martin suggests something of his sinister power. Robert feels “a sort of invisible power that drew me towards him.” He identifies the moment of their meeting as “the beginning of a series of adventures which has puzzled myself, and will puzzle the world when I am no more in it” (p. 89). Gil-Martin’s “invisible power” seems to be at work even at this distance from the moment described; before continuing the story, Robert feels compelled to anticipate at length what readers will make of his narrative after his approaching death. With this interjection, Hogg emphasizes the fatal influence Gil-Martin exercises from his first appearance.
To keep your points focused, it’s important to use a topic sentence at the beginning of each paragraph.
A good topic sentence allows a reader to see at a glance what the paragraph is about. It can introduce a new line of argument and connect or contrast it with the previous paragraph. Transition words like “however” or “moreover” are useful for creating smooth transitions:
… The story’s focus, therefore, is not upon the divine revelation that may be waiting beyond the door, but upon the mundane process of aging undergone by the man as he waits.
Nevertheless, the “radiance” that appears to stream from the door is typically treated as religious symbolism.
This topic sentence signals that the paragraph will address the question of religious symbolism, while the linking word “nevertheless” points out a contrast with the previous paragraph’s conclusion.
Using textual evidence
A key part of literary analysis is backing up your arguments with relevant evidence from the text. This involves introducing quotes from the text and explaining their significance to your point.
It’s important to contextualize quotes and explain why you’re using them; they should be properly introduced and analyzed, not treated as self-explanatory:
It isn’t always necessary to use a quote. Quoting is useful when you’re discussing the author’s language, but sometimes you’ll have to refer to plot points or structural elements that can’t be captured in a short quote.
In these cases, it’s more appropriate to paraphrase or summarize parts of the text—that is, to describe the relevant part in your own words:
The conclusion of your analysis shouldn’t introduce any new quotations or arguments. Instead, it’s about wrapping up the essay. Here, you summarize your key points and try to emphasize their significance to the reader.
A good way to approach this is to briefly summarize your key arguments, and then stress the conclusion they’ve led you to, highlighting the new perspective your thesis provides on the text as a whole:
By tracing the depiction of Frankenstein through the novel’s three volumes, I have demonstrated how the narrative structure shifts our perception of the character. While the Frankenstein of the first volume is depicted as having innocent intentions, the second and third volumes—first in the creature’s accusatory voice, and then in his own voice—increasingly undermine him, causing him to appear alternately ridiculous and vindictive. Far from the one-dimensional villain he is often taken to be, the character of Frankenstein is compelling because of the dynamic narrative frame in which he is placed. In this frame, Frankenstein’s narrative self-presentation responds to the images of him we see from others’ perspectives. This conclusion sheds new light on the novel, foregrounding Shelley’s unique layering of narrative perspectives and its importance for the depiction of character.
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8 Steps to Write a Great Literary Analysis Essay
Written by marketing knovva.
A literary analysis is not merely a book report or a summary of events. To craft a good literary analysis, the writer should develop a clear thesis regarding the work they’re analyzing. Instead of a simple recounting of what happened in the novel, poem, or short story, this type of essay requires you to consider the choices the author made, why they made those choices, and how those choices worked together (or didn’t work) to some effect.
How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay
Writing a good literary analysis comes with challenges. It’s easy to fall into the habit of offering your own personal opinion, rather than a critical analysis of the work you’ve studied. And it’s not uncommon for students to offer a mere summary of the piece, rather than their own interpretation of it. In this article, we’ll go over the eight critical steps you need to take in order to write a great literary analysis essay.
1. Read the text carefully.
Before you even begin crafting your essay, you need to read the poem, short story, novel, play, or other piece of writing you’re studying carefully. If the piece is short (like a poem), you’ll want to read it several times until you have a clear understanding of the message and purpose. For longer works, highlight passages as you read along that stand out to you. This will make it easier for you to pinpoint a clear direction for your essay later on.
Skipping this step can have catastrophic results. Give yourself ample time to read and re-read the text to lay the foundation for an excellent literary analysis paper.
2. Brainstorm a topic.
Once you’ve done your reading, the next step is to brainstorm a potential topic. This is often the hardest part for students, as it requires a critical eye and some creativity. It’s possible that your teacher provided you with some response questions to work with. If not, here are some questions you can ask to help nail down a topic for your literary analysis:
- What connections can you draw between this literature and society?
- What stood out to you as interesting or confusing? Dive deeper into why you were struck by something.
- Consider the characters. What were their motivations? Can any characters be compared or contrasted? Was there any symbolism represented in the characters?
- Think about the setting. If the work was set in an alternate time or place, how would it be different? What conclusions can you draw about why the author chose this setting for the piece?
- Was there any imagery that stuck out to you?
- What about themes? Which themes were recurring, and what did those themes help you to infer about the message of the piece overall?
- What do you think the author was trying to say in this piece? Were they successful or unsuccessful, and why?
3. Collect and interpret the evidence.
While brainstorming your idea, consider what kind of evidence there is to support each potential topic. Creativity is important, and you should strive to choose an idea that isn’t totally obvious. Still, be careful with choosing something so obscure that you’ll have a hard time supporting your argument.
Start collecting evidence to support your thesis. This is where early highlighting and close, attentive reading will be helpful. If you feel that there is enough evidence to support your argument, move on to the thesis stage. Don’t ignore contradictory evidence, either. You may be able to find a way to interpret points that immediately appear contradictory in a way that actually supports your thesis.
4. Write a thesis.
The thesis is the central argument you’re presenting in your paper. It’s arguably the most important aspect of your paper. Successfully defending your thesis is probably even more important than choosing a unique topic.
When writing your thesis, make sure it’s a point that is debatable. Your thesis shouldn’t be a statement of fact. Here’s an example of a poor thesis:
The Great Gatsby is a novel about the 1920s and the idea of the American Dream.
This is a bad thesis because it’s obvious and it’s not up for debate. Remember, a literary analysis isn’t a book report. Here’s an example of a better thesis:
The Great Gatsby redefines the American Dream, and despite leading the reader to believe that the American Dream is dead, on closer reading, F. Scott Fitzgerald actually portrays that the American Dream is alive and well in ways we didn’t expect.
Of course, the student presenting this thesis would need to find sufficient evidence to support their claim. As long as they can, this thesis is better because it is debatable, specific, not immediately obvious in the text, and surprising.
5. Develop and organize your arguments.
You’ve collected the evidence and formulated a thesis statement. Now it’s time to dig in and start organizing it all in a cohesive paper. Create an outline and decide where each piece of evidence fits within your overarching argument. You may find that you need more supporting points at this stage.
As you review the text more closely and start to pull out passages that support your thesis, you may find that your original thesis needs to be refined or altered. It’s okay to change your thesis to fit the evidence as you go. Just remember the elements a good thesis statement needs, and ensure your new one has those.
6. Write a rough draft.
Finally, it’s time for the culmination of all your hard prep work. Start writing your literary analysis with a rough draft. Remember, this version of your essay doesn’t have to be perfect. Don’t get too caught up in making sure you’re using the right grammar or that your sentences are interesting and sound smart. The cosmetic work of writing comes later.
For now, focus on making your argument and clearly laying out all the points you’ve found. Identify spots where you could use a little more explanation and find points in the text that provide that. Organize your essay in a way that makes sense to you. Perfection comes later.
7. Refine your arguments and review.
Once your thoughts are on the page, it’s time to refine and review. Are any of the passages you’ve written repetitive? Is there a more concise way to make your point? Are you realizing after closer inspection that some of the evidence you gathered doesn’t fit into your paper like you thought it would?
Be ruthless as you edit your rough draft. This is the stage where you should start paying closer attention to grammar, sentence structure, and the specific argument you’re making. Keep checking back to your thesis to ensure that your essay isn’t veering off track. Does each paragraph bring you closer to proving the point you made in your thesis?
8. Get another opinion and finalize.
Before you turn in your paper, ask someone you trust to review it. Fresh eyes can catch small mistakes in spelling and grammar, or larger errors in structure or content. Make sure your reviewer knows that you’re looking for honest feedback and won’t take offense to their constructive criticism.
If you feel like you need more hands-on help with your literary analysis essay, consider taking a course like Knovva Academy’s ‘ How to Conduct Literary Analysis Like a Scholar .’ Working with a professor and your peers can prove invaluable when it comes to constructing a solid thesis, backing it up with rich, textual evidence, and expressing your argument like a pro.
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How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay: Purposes, Outline, Samples
Tia - The Writer Expert
Firstly to understand what a literary analysis essay means, it’s a way to determine and understand the work of an author, even if it is a single work or an entire body of work. Literary criticism is a description, analysis, evaluation, or interpretation of a particular literary work or an author’s writings as a whole.
Many students, writers, and english scholars are told to write essays on different literary analysis essay topics because this type of assignment helps and makes writers to think about the reason why a poem, short story, novel, or play was written. To analyze literature, writers will need to remember that authors have specific decisions for particular reasons. Your essay should point out the author’s decision and try to explain their intentions.
Learn how to write a book review and check out related guides: poem analysis essay , poetry analysis essay or critical lens essay at EssayHub blog.
What Is A Literary Analysis Essay?
The most comprehensive literary analysis definition goes as follows. It is a text that objectively analyzes the weak and strong points of another text. One author shares their opinion on what another author wrote. The most common literary analysis format is an essay.
The writer examines a novel, short story, or another type of fiction created by someone else. They praise or criticize the plot, style, characters, and other aspects of the text. After reading a piece of literary analysis, people should understand whether the book is worthy or not.
What Is The Purpose Of A Literary Analysis Essay?
When a newbie checks literary analysis examples, they will see that they are very personal. Different people might perceive the same text very differently. It depends on their character, life experience, and cultural background. The aim of writing a literary analysis is to express one’s individual understanding of the text and back it up with facts.
It is not sufficient to say, "I enjoyed every minute of reading this book!" or "It is too dull." All types of literary analysis involve the assessment of both technical and emotional aspects of the text. It implies an impartial balancing of pros and cons.
Imagine that someone is looking for a good book. Their time and finances are limited, so they can afford just one text. They want to avoid hit-or-miss decisions. They prefer an expert to recommend to them what to read.
They do not want this expert to be a high-brow professional critic. They are interested in the opinions of people whose lifestyle and worldview are close to theirs. They read book blogs and unbiased reviews on profile sites. When they finally buy a piece of fiction, they know what to expect of it.
After a reader gains experience, they become ready to share viewpoints with others. They read articles on how to analyze literature and start writing their own reviews. They can post their works in their private blogs or share them on social networks. Plus, literary analysis is an essential part of the educational process in schools and colleges.
Content Of A Literary Analysis Essay
There are many topics for literary analysis, but it all depends on the kind of work that a writer analyzes. For instance, the approach is not the same in poems as it is in the case with a play. Before writing it is important to know what you want to analyze in the literature that you have read. That brings us to types of literature analysis. How can a writer analyze the literature? This is done by:
- Character Analysis
- Symbolism Analysis
- Theme Analysis
- Setting Analysis
- Structure and Style Analysis
- Diction, Imagery, and Denotation Analysis. etc.
How To Write A Literary Analysis Essay?
Read the text critically.
When carrying out literature analysis, a person should read slowly. They should start a notebook where they would put down their thoughts. They should take notes when they find themselves in one of the following situations:
- disagree with the author;
- want to praise the author’s skills;
- come across a plot twist that resembles their own lives;
- have anything to say on the matter.
When people read an interesting text, they have controversial desires. On the one hand, they want to finish it to get to know what happens in the end. On the other hand, they want to enjoy it for as long as possible. When compiling a literary analysis sample, people should focus on their thoughts and not emotions.
When newbies ask about how to write a good literary analysis, literary devices become the most challenging aspect for them. These devices involve the following terms and notions:
- literary elements, such as plot, mood, and protagonists;
- figurative language, including symbolism and metaphors;
- literary techniques, such as foreshadowing and repetition.
To be able to analyze these aspects, newbies should read theory in textbooks. Also, they should examine enough sample literary analysis essays. They need to see how other writers handle the overview of literary devices without making their texts too formal.
In a literary analysis paper, it is not enough to say that the author has a masterful command of the word. The writer should concentrate on the following important aspects.
- Is the language modern, archaic, or full of slang?
- Does the author use poetic phrases?
- Are the sentences predominantly long or short? How does the rhythm of the text impact its mood?
It would be wise to answer the following question in a literary analysis essay example. Do all characters speak the same language, or does each one have their particular style? Individual speech manners are significant merits of fiction.
A text can be written either from a first-person or third-person perspective. In a literary analysis example, the author should explain the position of the narrator. Are they omnipresent, or does the reader hardly notice them? Are they reliable, or do they share a distorted version of events?
Writers with little experience might ask how to do literary analysis when the narrator is absent. In this case, speak about the tone. Is it neutral, comic, or tragic? What emotions does it evoke in the readers from the first passage? How often does the reader come across exaggerations, irony, or incongruities?
In a novel, the key elements of literary analysis are chapters. In a play, these constituents are acts and scenes. In a poem, these are lines and stanzas. The author of the essay should think of how skilfully the writer divided their text into parts.
Chapters, scenes, and stanzas should be interconnected logically and emotionally. The last line of the previous part should motivate the reader to glance through the next one. The structure of the text helps emphasize its conflicts and build up the tension. The pauses between every two parts might speak louder than a thousand words.
Most examples of literary analysis essay include comments on the timeline of the story. Do the events unfold in chronological order? Does the author make the readers travel back and forth in a time machine? How easy is it to switch between different time layers, and which effect does it produce?
The following types of conflicts are most likely to be present in a literary analysis:
- one person versus another;
- person versus society;
- person versus technology;
- person versus supernatural forces;
- an inner conflict within a person (good versus bad intentions).
Instead of one person, there might be a group of people.
Newbies should not get confused about how to write a thesis for a literary analysis. The term "thesis" denotes the main point that they are planning to focus on. Modern books are multifaceted: they feature numerous problems and give readers a lot of food for thought. Yet, the writer should concentrate only on a handful of aspects in their work.
There are three approaches to thesis writing:
The literary analysis thesis of the first type strives to answer the questions "why?" and "how?" The writer tries to explain why the author created that book. Why is their perception of the world so unique and innovative? Why do they draw certain parallels and use specific devices?
This sentence might serve as a good example of an analytical thesis: "Outraged by gender inequality in this Eastern country, the author ridicules the problem instead of trying to undermine the traditions."
An argumentative thesis for literary analysis implies that the writer explains their own perception of the text. They take a certain position that might differ from the opinion of the majority. They further prove their point by quoting the book. For instance: "While most critics perceive this novel as an educational one, I believe that the main conflict lies in the lack of tolerance in society."
Literary analysis thesis examples of the explanatory type do not include the author’s opinion at all. They just help other readers understand the message of the book: "The author depicts their ideal political system."
Write A Literary Analysis Essay
Write a title.
After reading the title, the person should understand what the literary analysis paper example is about. The title should contain the digest of the paper. It should reveal the writer’s attitude to the piece of fiction that they criticize.
Those who do not know how to start a literary analysis can use a popular trick that works for any book genre. They can include a short quote from the book in the name of their essay. Then, they should put a colon and accompany the quote with their own comment.
Write An Introduction
The instruction on how to write literary analysis starts with a clear statement of one’s goals. The author should tell their readers what the book they are going to criticize is about and why they chose it. They should share the title of the text and the name of its writer. They might briefly outline the plot and problems of the manuscript. They might focus the readers’ attention on the main points of their essay — language, characters, or conflicts.
Write A Body
All the best examples of literary analysis essay have an identical structure. Each paragraph is focused on one aspect or topic. In the first sentence, the author briefly outlines this topic. That initial phrase should be concise and unambiguous.
The last sentence of each paragraph should summarize its essence. It should not contradict the first phrase and overall logic of the passage.
The writer should avoid lengthy and complicated structures. Even if the author of the book prefers compound sentences, a literary analysis sample should be easier to read. One phrase should contain only one thought. To link sentences, the writer should use transition words.
"The book dissects the impact of virtual reality technologies on the life of single people in cosmopolitan cities" — this is an example of a topic sentence that opens a paragraph. "Nevertheless, its target audience is not geeks or die-hard gamers" — here, the word "nevertheless" serves as a transition.
In any literary analysis template, the writer should back up their opinion with textual evidence. They should quote parts of the original texts only if they contain no more than 30 words. Otherwise, they should reword the quotes to deliver the essence of large passages.
Write A Conclusion
The answer to the question "How to conclude a literary analysis?" is very simple. The writer needs to reword and sum up everything that they have said above. They should share no original quotes and introduce no new thoughts. It is enough to summarize their main ideas logically and concisely.
Literary Analysis Essay Outline
Introduction should be sophisticated and creative, and it should catch the reader’s attention, so they can read the rest of the essay. A literary analysis should not sound boring. It should create some enthralling and fascinating quotes, reflection or motives. The main sentences of the introduction should give backdrop facts so that the analysis will make sense; facts such as Title of the Book, Name of Author and little information about the book. Don’t write bulky details of the book the reader would have read this book and they just want to read the analysis. Make sure that your backdrop information and your thesis statement are short and transitional. To make the reader understand and connect to the literature and what exactly is been analyzed. The analysis or thesis statement is what you will prove in your essay, and it should come at the end of your introductory paragraph. The Intro could be more than one paragraph but about 5 important sentences.
The body must be very convincing. Here start rendering evidences of the argument. A convincing body will have at least three to four paragraphs or more. Also, do not go out of context the question has to be related. How does it relate to the overall theme of what the analysis? Make emphasis on the ways in which these elements bestow to the entire quality of the book. Emphasize one major point per paragraph in this section. No need to rush all of your evidence into one idea. Do more reading and analyze different factors in your literary analysis. Argue on a character's development, for example how the individual changes from the beginning to the end of the book. Center core on a character's fatal flaw and query or question the person's mistakes.
The conclusion should end dynamically and energetically. Start rounding up the literary essay paper in the last paragraph. It should include all the major points that have been made in the aforementioned statements of your literary analysis. Also, make emphasis on the on the implications of your argument.
Literary Analysis Essay Example
Symbolism Manifestation in Little Prince By Antoine De Saint-Exupery
The storyline arose from the author's personal experience. He survived an airplane accident in a desert. It happened when the writer served as a pilot during World War II.
A seemingly simple-hearted fairy tale has two main plotlines that uncover deeper problems. The leading one is the pilot-narrator line, lined up with the metaphor of adult reality. The second line dwells on the adventures of the Little Prince. Two protagonists travel to different planets, get acquainted with various characters, both positive and negative.
Each planet introduces the readers to a different philosophical conundrum. Each item and being in the book bear unique symbolic meaning.
The Pilot impersonates the author in his adult years. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was, in fact, a pilot and survived a plane crash in the desert.
The sudden encounter of an adult and a child (both are metaphors for inner psychological states) occurs in the desert, symbolizing the disastrous inner state of the narrator. The story unravels during the repair of the plane. The maintenance itself is a metaphor for mending the inner traumas through direct dialogue with the inner child.
The Little Prince
The description of the Little Prince gives the readers a hint of its relation to the author in his childhood years. Antoine de Saint-Exupery came from an impoverished aristocratic family. Through the Little Prince, the author shows himself. He reveals his struggle to survive within the boring world of adults.
His visit to our planet is a symbol of birth. The return to the home planet occurs through physical death from the poison of a snake. Here, we can observe the impact of Christian religious thinking on the plotline. The physical death of the protagonist is a reference to the religious idea of an immortal soul. Thus, after receiving knowledge about life from the Fox and Pilot, Little Prince has to die to be reborn into a new state.
The line telling about the love of the Little Prince and Rose shows an allegorical depiction of love. It reveals the ironic unsimilarity of how men and women see and express this feeling.
Rose gets introduced to the readers as a proud and beautiful character who has power over the Little Prince and his feelings. Gentle, timid, dewy-eyed Little Prince suffers from the frivolity of Rose. Because of his naïve perception, the protagonist struggled to see that it was necessary to love her for her essence – for the aroma and the joy she brought him.
When the protagonist sees that roses are abundant in the gardens on Earth, he feels disappointed. Later, he meets the Fox who serves as the guide to the little lost being. Fox explains to the protagonist some basic philosophical truths. He teaches the Little Prince to look with his heart, not his eyes, and be responsible for those we have tamed.
When Little Prince absorbs the knowledge imparted by his new friend, he becomes mortal. This transition symbolizes him growing up and shaking off idealistic world perception.
Planets And Their Inhabitants
The author shows his readers two sorts of evil. The first kind of evil reveals itself in the negative sides of separate people.
The inhabitants of different planets, visited by the protagonist, reveal the most dangerous human vices. It seems relevant to note that all of them are adults. Drunkards, politicians, and selfish people seem quite morally bankrupt.
The author exposes life devoid of meaning as a common vice. The only relatable person to the protagonist is a lamplighter. He differs because his craft is good for others.
Another element of evil in the book is macro-evil. Baobabs represent evil in general. This image is a metaphor for fascism. Saint-Exupery gently leads the readers to the idea that such evil endangers the world. It should be extinguished like undesirable plants.
The main idea of the used allegories is the presentation of true values. The author contrasts naive and rational ways of world perception, the individual, and the crowd. In the tale, the unraveling of the main themes is connected with compositional structure, metaphors, and similes used by the author.
The author dwells on deep philosophical issues through similes and symbols. He emphasizes such topics as true love, friendship, and loneliness.
Romantic traditions play a keynote role in the plot formation. Unraveling the deep problems of humanity in a form of the fairytale is the main sign of that. It comprises all typical elements of this genre: child protagonist, fairy-tale characters, and a fantastic journey. These symbolic characters and items introduce the depth to the plot. They make readers see deeper into the book and reconsider their perception of reality.
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How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay Step by Step
Some students find writing literary analysis papers rather daunting. Yet, an English class cannot go without this kind of work. By the way, writing literary analysis essays is not that complicated as it seems at a glance. On the contrary, this work may be fascinating, and you have a chance to study your favorite works of literature more in-depth.
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Literary analysis implies that you read a certain piece of literature in a particular way. You need to break it into parts and see how each of these parts work . How to do this exactly? How to start a literary analysis essay? Continue reading this article by Custom-writing experts, and soon you’ll become an expert too!
❔ What Is a Literary Analysis Essay?
📑 literary analysis outline.
- 👣 Step-by-Step Writing Guide
It is one of the types of an argumentative essay in which you carry out an in-depth investigation of a novel, story, poem, play, or any other literary creation. The purpose is to explore the reasons for certain technical and artistic choices of the author and interpret their meaning.
What Is the Purpose of a Literary Analysis Essay?
This academic assignment aims to examine and evaluate a literary work or its aspect. The definition of a literary analysis essay presupposes the study of literary devices, choice of language, perspective, imagery, and structure of the text. These techniques are examined to understand the ideas the author intended to convey.
Feel free to use the following literary analysis outline . It will make your work much easier!
Writing an Introduction to a Literary Analysis Essay
Writing body paragraphs for a literary analysis essay, writing a conclusion for a literary analysis essay.
Find more details and a step-by-step guide on writing your literary analysis in the next section.
👣 How to Write a Literary Analysis Step by Step
Step 1. read critically.
If you wonder how to start the literary analysis, the answer is careful reading. At this stage, you need to find out the main themes of the novel. Make a list of them and note the pages where you can find evidence of the main ideas later. This method can be applied for all the references, as an academic paper requires you to indicate pages in the text for any quotations and paraphrases.
At this stage, the text’s events are important since they convey the main theme or the principal idea. You should rather focus on literary devices, choice of language, structure, and narrative voice. These are the elements of the text that create visual and emotional effects and convey the meaning.
- Literary techniques (allusion, allegory, exposition, anthropomorphism, foil, foreshadowing, repetition, and parallelism)
- Figurative language (metaphor, onomatopoeia, understatement, symbolism, personification, simile, pun, cliche, analogy, proverb, hyperbole, alliteration, idiom, assonance, irony, and oxymoron)
- Literary elements (plot, theme, setting, imagery, mood, tone, point of view, protagonists, antagonists, conflict, climax, characterization, diction, motifs, and narrator)
- Language . Here you should analyze the length of sentences, the complexity of grammatical structures, use of poetic or high-flown language, recurring to vulgar words, etc.
- Structure . Does the structure impact the flow of the story, novel, or poem? What are the structural elements used by the author (chapters, stanzas, lines, acts)? This aspect is essential in the analysis of poetry. Rhyme pattern, punctuation, pauses, and meter shape the reader’s perception of verses and convey the author’s thoughts and feelings, just as the words do. Some of the items mentioned in the literary devices can be discussed as well in terms of structure. Foreshadowing and repetition can create suspense or generate dramatic irony. Climax can be located in the middle or at the end of the narration. The plot timeline influences action development, accelerating, and slowing down the in-text time. You don’t need to discuss all these factors, but if something strikes your eye while reading, note it.
- Person vs. person
- Person vs. nature
- Person vs. self
- Person vs. supernatural forces, fate, or God
- Person vs. society
- Person vs. technology
- Narrative voice . In the course of reading, the narrator becomes the reader’s friend. What kind of person are they? Are they omnipresent and omniscient as a supernatural force, or are they in the same situation as the other protagonists? The narration can be first-person (fully involved in the plot and subjective) or third-person (distanced and objective). The tone of the narrator’s voice defines your perception of the text. Is it comic, realistic, or tragic? Is the narrator’s figure reliable, and do their words sound plausible?
Step 2. Formulate the Thesis
World classics and modern professional literature are valuable because of their multifaceted conflicts, well-thought structure, and abundant literary devices. Even the long research thesis cannot comprise all of them. Choose an aspect that stroke you the most in the course of critical reading. Formulate the intention of your analysis in one sentence. Make it succinct and to the point. The thesis tells your readers what you will tell them, but it also implies what you are not going to discuss.
A thesis statement should clearly describe the topic scope and the writer’s approach to it. It is a claim about the text that will be proved in the essay. A thesis can be argumentative, analytical, or explanatory. The samples given below will make the difference clear.
Your thesis statement requires sufficient textual evidence. In the previous step, you gathered much information, so now, it will be easier to find passages and quotations that refer to the subject. You may not use everything you have discovered in your writing, but having enough material at hand will help to structure the arguments.
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Step 3. Write Your Essay
- Write the title. It should be an abridged version of the thesis. This is the best place to be creative, witty, and brief. If you don’t know how to start the title, begin with a short quote followed by a colon, and then explain how it relates to your thesis. For example, “He’s more myself than I am”: the Destructive Nature of an Ego Blurred by Love in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. This is the easiest and the most compelling way to entitle an essay.
- Write the literary analysis introduction . In brief, it consists of background information about the author and the book, leading to the thesis. You can refer to popular opinion on the subject and state your thesis as a contradiction to it. Alternatively, you can limit out the literary devices or a theme you are going to analyze. The introduction paragraph can be concluded with an indication of what is going to be discussed in the essay. However, in a five-paragraph essay, this summary should be condensed into a single sentence.
- Start with a topic sentence stating what the paragraph is about. Avoid long phrases with complex grammar in the first sentence. It gives the reader a glance at the section and helps to orient in your text. Transition words can smooth the transition from one idea to another.
- Continue with evidence and substantiation . Using quotes is reasonable when the quote is one sentence long, not more than 30 words. Otherwise, paraphrase or summarize the quote, leaving only the essential information. Never use quotes or paraphrases without providing a proper explanation.
- Finish each paragraph with a one-sentence conclusion of the discussed idea.
Step 5. Prepare the Conclusion
Wrap up the essay without introducing any new ideas and avoiding direct quotations. Summarize everything you have mentioned above in different words. Then stress the thesis once again, highlighting the new perspective the essay has opened.
Literary Analysis Essay Topics
- Thematic analysis of The Black Cat by Edgar Alan Poe.
- Analyze the literature techniques used by W. Shakespeare in his tragedy Hamlet, Prince of Denmark .
- Discuss the central theme of the play Beautiful Thing by Jonathan Harvey .
- Describe the conflict of Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire .
- The topic of illegal immigration in Just Like Us by Helen Thorpe .
- Explore how Steven E Ambrose describes the building of transcontinental railroad in Nothing Like It in the World .
- Analyze the literary devices in The Red Convertible by Louise Erdrich .
- Analyze the plot of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman .
- Examine the symbols used by William Wymark Jacobs in his horror story The Monkey’s Paw .
- The importance of integral human sentiments in The Road by Cormac McCarthy .
- Discuss how McDonald described the conditions that lead to degradation and loss of humanity in his autobiography All Souls .
- Analyze Kafka’s short story A Hunger Artist .
- Interpret the use of stylistic devices in The Minister’s Black Veil by Nathaniel Hawthorne .
- Explore Hemingway’s ideas about life in his story A Clean, Well-Lighted Place .
- The symbolism in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness .
- Study the core motif of the Sophocles’ Oedipus the King .
- Analyse the topics of The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.
- Examine the literary elements used by Lisa Ko in The Leavers .
- Allegory in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been by Joyce Carol Oates.
- Interpret the idea behind Herman Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener .
- Discuss how Alice Munro describes issues in marriage and relationships in How I Met My Husband .
- Analyze the main themes of Jack London’s To Build a Fire .
- The central topic of Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki.
- The connection between past and future in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway .
- Describe the rhetoric means used by August Wilson in the play Fences .
- Discuss the idea behind Jon Krakauer’s novel Into the Wild .
- Interpretation of Why I Live at the P.O. Eudora Welty .
- Compare the topic of women’s rebellion in Ibsen’s A Dollhouse and Glaspell’s Trifles .
- Analyze the rhetoric used by Chinua Achebe in Things Fall Apart .
- Gender biases and marginalization in Girl by Jamaica Kincaid.
- Analyze the main character in A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner .
- Examine the theme of tragic fate in Homer’s Iliad .
- Discuss the message to society in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale .
- Analyze the stylistic devices used by Tennessee Williams in The Glass Menagerie .
- Interpret the theme of George Orwell’s The Hanging .
- Jealousy and lasting love in Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe .
- Analyzing the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelly .
- Describe the rhetoric techniques used by Jesmyn Ward in Sing, Unburied, Sing .
- Examine the symbolism of John Updike’s A&P .
- Literary elements used by James Joyce in Ulysses .
- Discuss the themes of appearance and reality in Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare .
- Examine the characters of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice .
- Literary analysis of the poem The Man He Killed by T. Hardy .
- Analyze the central theme of Matsuo Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Interior .
- The role of an individual in the protection of the environment in The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono.
- Describe Hemingway’s rhetoric in Hills Like White Elephants .
- Discuss the role of allegory in Beloved by Toni Morrison .
- Analyze the elements of Charles Brockden Brown’s gothic novel Wieland .
- The significant features of Summer by David Updike .
- Examine the depiction of the contemporary society’s issues in Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis .
Good luck with your assignment! Note that the information that you will find in articles about a literary criticism essay and Lady Macbeth essay can also also be useful.
✏️ Literary Analysis FAQ
Here is a possible definition: a description of some peculiarities of a literary text in a structured and cohesive way. It should include some elements of a research report. There are countless examples of such essays available online and in books.
It is always a good idea to create an essay outline first. Write a minimum of 3-4 key ideas for the body part. Then, exemplify those points (you may cite the text). Then, add an appropriate introduction and a corresponding conclusion.
If you need to write a literary analysis, begin with an outline. It will help you proceed step by step without losing the structure. Think about the peculiar features of the literary text you analyze. Brush up the principles of analytical writing, too.
A book analysis essay summarizes literary research and includes examples, review elements, etc. The purpose of such a paper is to help readers understand the book better. Just like any other essay, it should be appropriately structured: an appropriate introduction, several body paragraphs, a logical conclusion.
- A Short Guide to Close Reading for Literary Analysis – UW Madison Writing Center
- Writing a Literary Analysis Presentation // Purdue Writing Lab
- Types of Literary Analysis – UVM Writing Center
- Literary Analysis | Writing Center – Leeward Community College
- Suggested Structure of Your Literary Analysis Essay (Hawaii.edu)
- Writing Critical Analysis Papers – Washington University
- Literature – The Writing Center • University of North Carolina
- Stanford Literary Lab
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I have to type out an essay over this story “everyday use” but how would I start off the paragraph so that it can flow good??? Please help
Hello! Our experts will definitely help you with your essay here .
This was really useful. Thank you so much!
Thank you for the feedback. Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂
Love your blog and all posts. They helped me write many of my academic assignments. This post on writing literary analysis essays is what I need right now! Thanks!
Thanks for the steps to write an excellent literary analysis essay! I’m thrilled to find your blog! There is always something really useful for students writing various papers.
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Step 1: Reading the text and identifying literary devices · Step 2: Coming up with a thesis · Step 3: Writing a title and introduction · Step 4:
How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay · 1. Read the text carefully. · 2. Brainstorm a topic. · 3. Collect and interpret the evidence. · 4. Write a thesis. · 5.
In this section you present the paragraphs (at least 3 paragraphs for a 500-750 word essay) that support your thesis statement. Good literary analysis essays
1. Examine the literary work · 2. Gather arguments for your thesis · 3. Create a rough outline · 4. Formulate a thesis · 5. Write the analysis.
A literary essay isn't a book review: you're not being asked whether or not you liked a book or whether you'd recommend it to another reader. A literary essay
Writing a literary analysis can be overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be if you have some guidance to assist you with your essay. Read your
The aim of writing a literary analysis is to express one's individual understanding of the text and back it up with facts. It is not sufficient
This is accomplished by examining the literary devices, word choices, or writing structures the author uses within the work. The purpose of a literary analysis
Are you writing an essay about a book, poem, short story, play, or any other piece of literature? If so, you're in the right place!
The purpose is to explore the reasons for certain technical and artistic choices of the author and interpret their meaning. What Is the Purpose
Outline Structure for Literary Analysis Essay. I. Catchy Title. II. Paragraph 1: Introduction (Use HATMAT). A. Hook. B. Author. C. Title. D. Main characters.