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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 August 14, 2023.

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.

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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, other interesting articles.

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.

Language choices

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.

Narrative voice

Ask yourself:

  • 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.

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how to start a literary analysis essay example

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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.

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 introduction

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.

Paragraph structure

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.

Topic sentences

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:

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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:

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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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Jack Caulfield

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beginner's guide to literary analysis

Understanding literature & how to write literary analysis.

Literary analysis is the foundation of every college and high school English class. Once you can comprehend written work and respond to it, the next step is to learn how to think critically and complexly about a work of literature in order to analyze its elements and establish ideas about its meaning.

If that sounds daunting, it shouldn’t. Literary analysis is really just a way of thinking creatively about what you read. The practice takes you beyond the storyline and into the motives behind it. 

While an author might have had a specific intention when they wrote their book, there’s still no right or wrong way to analyze a literary text—just your way. You can use literary theories, which act as “lenses” through which you can view a text. Or you can use your own creativity and critical thinking to identify a literary device or pattern in a text and weave that insight into your own argument about the text’s underlying meaning. 

Now, if that sounds fun, it should , because it is. Here, we’ll lay the groundwork for performing literary analysis, including when writing analytical essays, to help you read books like a critic. 

What Is Literary Analysis?

As the name suggests, literary analysis is an analysis of a work, whether that’s a novel, play, short story, or poem. Any analysis requires breaking the content into its component parts and then examining how those parts operate independently and as a whole. In literary analysis, those parts can be different devices and elements—such as plot, setting, themes, symbols, etcetera—as well as elements of style, like point of view or tone. 

When performing analysis, you consider some of these different elements of the text and then form an argument for why the author chose to use them. You can do so while reading and during class discussion, but it’s particularly important when writing essays. 

Literary analysis is notably distinct from summary. When you write a summary , you efficiently describe the work’s main ideas or plot points in order to establish an overview of the work. While you might use elements of summary when writing analysis, you should do so minimally. You can reference a plot line to make a point, but it should be done so quickly so you can focus on why that plot line matters . In summary (see what we did there?), a summary focuses on the “ what ” of a text, while analysis turns attention to the “ how ” and “ why .”

While literary analysis can be broad, covering themes across an entire work, it can also be very specific, and sometimes the best analysis is just that. Literary critics have written thousands of words about the meaning of an author’s single word choice; while you might not want to be quite that particular, there’s a lot to be said for digging deep in literary analysis, rather than wide. 

Although you’re forming your own argument about the work, it’s not your opinion . You should avoid passing judgment on the piece and instead objectively consider what the author intended, how they went about executing it, and whether or not they were successful in doing so. Literary criticism is similar to literary analysis, but it is different in that it does pass judgement on the work. Criticism can also consider literature more broadly, without focusing on a singular work. 

Once you understand what constitutes (and doesn’t constitute) literary analysis, it’s easy to identify it. Here are some examples of literary analysis and its oft-confused counterparts: 

Summary: In “The Fall of the House of Usher,” the narrator visits his friend Roderick Usher and witnesses his sister escape a horrible fate.  

Opinion: In “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Poe uses his great Gothic writing to establish a sense of spookiness that is enjoyable to read. 

Literary Analysis: “Throughout ‘The Fall of the House of Usher,’ Poe foreshadows the fate of Madeline by creating a sense of claustrophobia for the reader through symbols, such as in the narrator’s inability to leave and the labyrinthine nature of the house. 

In summary, literary analysis is:

  • Breaking a work into its components
  • Identifying what those components are and how they work in the text
  • Developing an understanding of how they work together to achieve a goal 
  • Not an opinion, but subjective 
  • Not a summary, though summary can be used in passing 
  • Best when it deeply, rather than broadly, analyzes a literary element

Literary Analysis and Other Works

As discussed above, literary analysis is often performed upon a single work—but it doesn’t have to be. It can also be performed across works to consider the interplay of two or more texts. Regardless of whether or not the works were written about the same thing, or even within the same time period, they can have an influence on one another or a connection that’s worth exploring. And reading two or more texts side by side can help you to develop insights through comparison and contrast.

For example, Paradise Lost is an epic poem written in the 17th century, based largely on biblical narratives written some 700 years before and which later influenced 19th century poet John Keats. The interplay of works can be obvious, as here, or entirely the inspiration of the analyst. As an example of the latter, you could compare and contrast the writing styles of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Edgar Allan Poe who, while contemporaries in terms of time, were vastly different in their content. 

Additionally, literary analysis can be performed between a work and its context. Authors are often speaking to the larger context of their times, be that social, political, religious, economic, or artistic. A valid and interesting form is to compare the author’s context to the work, which is done by identifying and analyzing elements that are used to make an argument about the writer’s time or experience. 

For example, you could write an essay about how Hemingway’s struggles with mental health and paranoia influenced his later work, or how his involvement in the Spanish Civil War influenced his early work. One approach focuses more on his personal experience, while the other turns to the context of his times—both are valid. 

Why Does Literary Analysis Matter? 

Sometimes an author wrote a work of literature strictly for entertainment’s sake, but more often than not, they meant something more. Whether that was a missive on world peace, commentary about femininity, or an allusion to their experience as an only child, the author probably wrote their work for a reason, and understanding that reason—or the many reasons—can actually make reading a lot more meaningful. 

Performing literary analysis as a form of study unquestionably makes you a better reader. It’s also likely that it will improve other skills, too, like critical thinking, creativity, debate, and reasoning. 

At its grandest and most idealistic, literary analysis even has the ability to make the world a better place. By reading and analyzing works of literature, you are able to more fully comprehend the perspectives of others. Cumulatively, you’ll broaden your own perspectives and contribute more effectively to the things that matter to you. 

Literary Terms to Know for Literary Analysis 

There are hundreds of literary devices you could consider during your literary analysis, but there are some key tools most writers utilize to achieve their purpose—and therefore you need to know in order to understand that purpose. These common devices include: 

  • Characters: The people (or entities) who play roles in the work. The protagonist is the main character in the work. 
  • Conflict: The conflict is the driving force behind the plot, the event that causes action in the narrative, usually on the part of the protagonist
  • Context : The broader circumstances surrounding the work political and social climate in which it was written or the experience of the author. It can also refer to internal context, and the details presented by the narrator 
  • Diction : The word choice used by the narrator or characters 
  • Genre: A category of literature characterized by agreed upon similarities in the works, such as subject matter and tone
  • Imagery : The descriptive or figurative language used to paint a picture in the reader’s mind so they can picture the story’s plot, characters, and setting 
  • Metaphor: A figure of speech that uses comparison between two unlike objects for dramatic or poetic effect
  • Narrator: The person who tells the story. Sometimes they are a character within the story, but sometimes they are omniscient and removed from the plot. 
  • Plot : The storyline of the work
  • Point of view: The perspective taken by the narrator, which skews the perspective of the reader 
  • Setting : The time and place in which the story takes place. This can include elements like the time period, weather, time of year or day, and social or economic conditions 
  • Symbol : An object, person, or place that represents an abstract idea that is greater than its literal meaning 
  • Syntax : The structure of a sentence, either narration or dialogue, and the tone it implies
  • Theme : A recurring subject or message within the work, often commentary on larger societal or cultural ideas
  • Tone : The feeling, attitude, or mood the text presents

How to Perform Literary Analysis

Step 1: read the text thoroughly.

Literary analysis begins with the literature itself, which means performing a close reading of the text. As you read, you should focus on the work. That means putting away distractions (sorry, smartphone) and dedicating a period of time to the task at hand. 

It’s also important that you don’t skim or speed read. While those are helpful skills, they don’t apply to literary analysis—or at least not this stage. 

Step 2: Take Notes as You Read  

As you read the work, take notes about different literary elements and devices that stand out to you. Whether you highlight or underline in text, use sticky note tabs to mark pages and passages, or handwrite your thoughts in a notebook, you should capture your thoughts and the parts of the text to which they correspond. This—the act of noticing things about a literary work—is literary analysis. 

Step 3: Notice Patterns 

As you read the work, you’ll begin to notice patterns in the way the author deploys language, themes, and symbols to build their plot and characters. As you read and these patterns take shape, begin to consider what they could mean and how they might fit together. 

As you identify these patterns, as well as other elements that catch your interest, be sure to record them in your notes or text. Some examples include: 

  • Circle or underline words or terms that you notice the author uses frequently, whether those are nouns (like “eyes” or “road”) or adjectives (like “yellow” or “lush”).
  • Highlight phrases that give you the same kind of feeling. For example, if the narrator describes an “overcast sky,” a “dreary morning,” and a “dark, quiet room,” the words aren’t the same, but the feeling they impart and setting they develop are similar. 
  • Underline quotes or prose that define a character’s personality or their role in the text.
  • Use sticky tabs to color code different elements of the text, such as specific settings or a shift in the point of view. 

By noting these patterns, comprehensive symbols, metaphors, and ideas will begin to come into focus.  

Step 4: Consider the Work as a Whole, and Ask Questions

This is a step that you can do either as you read, or after you finish the text. The point is to begin to identify the aspects of the work that most interest you, and you could therefore analyze in writing or discussion. 

Questions you could ask yourself include: 

  • What aspects of the text do I not understand?
  • What parts of the narrative or writing struck me most?
  • What patterns did I notice?
  • What did the author accomplish really well?
  • What did I find lacking?
  • Did I notice any contradictions or anything that felt out of place?  
  • What was the purpose of the minor characters?
  • What tone did the author choose, and why? 

The answers to these and more questions will lead you to your arguments about the text. 

Step 5: Return to Your Notes and the Text for Evidence

As you identify the argument you want to make (especially if you’re preparing for an essay), return to your notes to see if you already have supporting evidence for your argument. That’s why it’s so important to take notes or mark passages as you read—you’ll thank yourself later!

If you’re preparing to write an essay, you’ll use these passages and ideas to bolster your argument—aka, your thesis. There will likely be multiple different passages you can use to strengthen multiple different aspects of your argument. Just be sure to cite the text correctly! 

If you’re preparing for class, your notes will also be invaluable. When your teacher or professor leads the conversation in the direction of your ideas or arguments, you’ll be able to not only proffer that idea but back it up with textual evidence. That’s an A+ in class participation. 

Step 6: Connect These Ideas Across the Narrative

Whether you’re in class or writing an essay, literary analysis isn’t complete until you’ve considered the way these ideas interact and contribute to the work as a whole. You can find and present evidence, but you still have to explain how those elements work together and make up your argument. 

How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay

When conducting literary analysis while reading a text or discussing it in class, you can pivot easily from one argument to another (or even switch sides if a classmate or teacher makes a compelling enough argument). 

But when writing literary analysis, your objective is to propose a specific, arguable thesis and convincingly defend it. In order to do so, you need to fortify your argument with evidence from the text (and perhaps secondary sources) and an authoritative tone. 

A successful literary analysis essay depends equally on a thoughtful thesis, supportive analysis, and presenting these elements masterfully. We’ll review how to accomplish these objectives below. 

Step 1: Read the Text. Maybe Read It Again. 

Constructing an astute analytical essay requires a thorough knowledge of the text. As you read, be sure to note any passages, quotes, or ideas that stand out. These could serve as the future foundation of your thesis statement. Noting these sections now will help you when you need to gather evidence. 

The more familiar you become with the text, the better (and easier!) your essay will be. Familiarity with the text allows you to speak (or in this case, write) to it confidently. If you only skim the book, your lack of rich understanding will be evident in your essay. Alternatively, if you read the text closely—especially if you read it more than once, or at least carefully revisit important passages—your own writing will be filled with insight that goes beyond a basic understanding of the storyline. 

Step 2: Brainstorm Potential Topics 

Because you took detailed notes while reading the text, you should have a list of potential topics at the ready. Take time to review your notes, highlighting any ideas or questions you had that feel interesting. You should also return to the text and look for any passages that stand out to you. 

When considering potential topics, you should prioritize ideas that you find interesting. It won’t only make the whole process of writing an essay more fun, your enthusiasm for the topic will probably improve the quality of your argument, and maybe even your writing. Just like it’s obvious when a topic interests you in a conversation, it’s obvious when a topic interests the writer of an essay (and even more obvious when it doesn’t). 

Your topic ideas should also be specific, unique, and arguable. A good way to think of topics is that they’re the answer to fairly specific questions. As you begin to brainstorm, first think of questions you have about the text. Questions might focus on the plot, such as: Why did the author choose to deviate from the projected storyline? Or why did a character’s role in the narrative shift? Questions might also consider the use of a literary device, such as: Why does the narrator frequently repeat a phrase or comment on a symbol? Or why did the author choose to switch points of view each chapter? 

Once you have a thesis question , you can begin brainstorming answers—aka, potential thesis statements . At this point, your answers can be fairly broad. Once you land on a question-statement combination that feels right, you’ll then look for evidence in the text that supports your answer (and helps you define and narrow your thesis statement). 

For example, after reading “ The Fall of the House of Usher ,” you might be wondering, Why are Roderick and Madeline twins?, Or even: Why does their relationship feel so creepy?” Maybe you noticed (and noted) that the narrator was surprised to find out they were twins, or perhaps you found that the narrator’s tone tended to shift and become more anxious when discussing the interactions of the twins.

Once you come up with your thesis question, you can identify a broad answer, which will become the basis for your thesis statement. In response to the questions above, your answer might be, “Poe emphasizes the close relationship of Roderick and Madeline to foreshadow that their deaths will be close, too.” 

Step 3: Gather Evidence 

Once you have your topic (or you’ve narrowed it down to two or three), return to the text (yes, again) to see what evidence you can find to support it. If you’re thinking of writing about the relationship between Roderick and Madeline in “The Fall of the House of Usher,” look for instances where they engaged in the text. 

This is when your knowledge of literary devices comes in clutch. Carefully study the language around each event in the text that might be relevant to your topic. How does Poe’s diction or syntax change during the interactions of the siblings? How does the setting reflect or contribute to their relationship? What imagery or symbols appear when Roderick and Madeline are together? 

By finding and studying evidence within the text, you’ll strengthen your topic argument—or, just as valuably, discount the topics that aren’t strong enough for analysis. 

how to start a literary analysis essay example

Step 4: Consider Secondary Sources 

In addition to returning to the literary work you’re studying for evidence, you can also consider secondary sources that reference or speak to the work. These can be articles from journals you find on JSTOR, books that consider the work or its context, or articles your teacher shared in class. 

While you can use these secondary sources to further support your idea, you should not overuse them. Make sure your topic remains entirely differentiated from that presented in the source. 

Step 5: Write a Working Thesis Statement

Once you’ve gathered evidence and narrowed down your topic, you’re ready to refine that topic into a thesis statement. As you continue to outline and write your paper, this thesis statement will likely change slightly, but this initial draft will serve as the foundation of your essay. It’s like your north star: Everything you write in your essay is leading you back to your thesis. 

Writing a great thesis statement requires some real finesse. A successful thesis statement is: 

  • Debatable : You shouldn’t simply summarize or make an obvious statement about the work. Instead, your thesis statement should take a stand on an issue or make a claim that is open to argument. You’ll spend your essay debating—and proving—your argument. 
  • Demonstrable : You need to be able to prove, through evidence, that your thesis statement is true. That means you have to have passages from the text and correlative analysis ready to convince the reader that you’re right. 
  • Specific : In most cases, successfully addressing a theme that encompasses a work in its entirety would require a book-length essay. Instead, identify a thesis statement that addresses specific elements of the work, such as a relationship between characters, a repeating symbol, a key setting, or even something really specific like the speaking style of a character. 

Example: By depicting the relationship between Roderick and Madeline to be stifling and almost otherworldly in its closeness, Poe foreshadows both Madeline’s fate and Roderick’s inability to choose a different fate for himself. 

Step 6: Write an Outline 

You have your thesis, you have your evidence—but how do you put them together? A great thesis statement (and therefore a great essay) will have multiple arguments supporting it, presenting different kinds of evidence that all contribute to the singular, main idea presented in your thesis. 

Review your evidence and identify these different arguments, then organize the evidence into categories based on the argument they support. These ideas and evidence will become the body paragraphs of your essay. 

For example, if you were writing about Roderick and Madeline as in the example above, you would pull evidence from the text, such as the narrator’s realization of their relationship as twins; examples where the narrator’s tone of voice shifts when discussing their relationship; imagery, like the sounds Roderick hears as Madeline tries to escape; and Poe’s tendency to use doubles and twins in his other writings to create the same spooky effect. All of these are separate strains of the same argument, and can be clearly organized into sections of an outline. 

Step 7: Write Your Introduction

Your introduction serves a few very important purposes that essentially set the scene for the reader: 

  • Establish context. Sure, your reader has probably read the work. But you still want to remind them of the scene, characters, or elements you’ll be discussing. 
  • Present your thesis statement. Your thesis statement is the backbone of your analytical paper. You need to present it clearly at the outset so that the reader understands what every argument you make is aimed at. 
  • Offer a mini-outline. While you don’t want to show all your cards just yet, you do want to preview some of the evidence you’ll be using to support your thesis so that the reader has a roadmap of where they’re going. 

Step 8: Write Your Body Paragraphs

Thanks to steps one through seven, you’ve already set yourself up for success. You have clearly outlined arguments and evidence to support them. Now it’s time to translate those into authoritative and confident prose. 

When presenting each idea, begin with a topic sentence that encapsulates the argument you’re about to make (sort of like a mini-thesis statement). Then present your evidence and explanations of that evidence that contribute to that argument. Present enough material to prove your point, but don’t feel like you necessarily have to point out every single instance in the text where this element takes place. For example, if you’re highlighting a symbol that repeats throughout the narrative, choose two or three passages where it is used most effectively, rather than trying to squeeze in all ten times it appears. 

While you should have clearly defined arguments, the essay should still move logically and fluidly from one argument to the next. Try to avoid choppy paragraphs that feel disjointed; every idea and argument should feel connected to the last, and, as a group, connected to your thesis. A great way to connect the ideas from one paragraph to the next is with transition words and phrases, such as: 

  • Furthermore 
  • In addition
  • On the other hand
  • Conversely 

how to start a literary analysis essay example

Step 9: Write Your Conclusion 

Your conclusion is more than a summary of your essay's parts, but it’s also not a place to present brand new ideas not already discussed in your essay. Instead, your conclusion should return to your thesis (without repeating it verbatim) and point to why this all matters. If writing about the siblings in “The Fall of the House of Usher,” for example, you could point out that the utilization of twins and doubles is a common literary element of Poe’s work that contributes to the definitive eeriness of Gothic literature. 

While you might speak to larger ideas in your conclusion, be wary of getting too macro. Your conclusion should still be supported by all of the ideas that preceded it. 

Step 10: Revise, Revise, Revise

Of course you should proofread your literary analysis essay before you turn it in. But you should also edit the content to make sure every piece of evidence and every explanation directly supports your thesis as effectively and efficiently as possible. 

Sometimes, this might mean actually adapting your thesis a bit to the rest of your essay. At other times, it means removing redundant examples or paraphrasing quotations. Make sure every sentence is valuable, and remove those that aren’t. 

Other Resources for Literary Analysis 

With these skills and suggestions, you’re well on your way to practicing and writing literary analysis. But if you don’t have a firm grasp on the concepts discussed above—such as literary devices or even the content of the text you’re analyzing—it will still feel difficult to produce insightful analysis. 

If you’d like to sharpen the tools in your literature toolbox, there are plenty of other resources to help you do so: 

  • Check out our expansive library of Literary Devices . These could provide you with a deeper understanding of the basic devices discussed above or introduce you to new concepts sure to impress your professors ( anagnorisis , anyone?). 
  • This Academic Citation Resource Guide ensures you properly cite any work you reference in your analytical essay. 
  • Our English Homework Help Guide will point you to dozens of resources that can help you perform analysis, from critical reading strategies to poetry helpers. 
  • This Grammar Education Resource Guide will direct you to plenty of resources to refine your grammar and writing (definitely important for getting an A+ on that paper). 

Of course, you should know the text inside and out before you begin writing your analysis. In order to develop a true understanding of the work, read through its corresponding SuperSummary study guide . Doing so will help you truly comprehend the plot, as well as provide some inspirational ideas for your analysis.

how to start a literary analysis essay example

Literary Analysis Essay Writing

Cathy A.

How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay - A Step-by-Step Guide

16 min read

Published on: Sep 15, 2018

Last updated on: Nov 15, 2023

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Students often struggle when asked to write a literary analysis essay. It's challenging to know where to begin and how to navigate the complexities of dissecting a text.

The world of literary analysis can seem confusing, with symbolism, tone, and perspective to consider. Without guidance, it's easy to feel lost.

In this guide, we'll provide a clear roadmap, practical tips, and examples to simplify the process. You'll gain the skills to confidently analyze any text. By the end of this read, you will have the skills to develop a good literary analysis essay. 

So let’s dive right in!

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What is a Literary Analysis Essay?

A literary analysis essay is a detailed examination of a literary work's components, including its themes, characters, setting, and the author's creative choices.

This analytical approach can be applied to various forms of literary writing, such as novels, short stories, plays, poems, etc. It's a method for diving deeper into the layers of meaning within a literary work.

Literary Essay, Rhetorical Analysis, and Argumentative Essay

A Literary Analysis Essay is distinct from a rhetorical analysis or argumentative essay. While all three types of essays involve a critical examination, they have different purposes and focuses. 

  • In a literary analysis essay , the focus is on exploring elements of a literary work, like themes, characters, and symbolism, to understand the author's choices.
  • Conversely, a rhetorical analysis essay assesses how an author uses persuasive techniques in non-literary contexts. 
  • An argumentative essay aims to present a clear viewpoint on a specific topic supported by evidence and reasoning.

These essays demand critical thinking, but they serve different communication and expression purposes.

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How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay?

Writing a strong literary analysis essay can be tricky. Many students often fall into the trap of sharing their own thoughts or simply summarizing the text. 

To avoid this and write a more effective literary analysis essay, follow the steps below:

Step 1: Select a Text

To begin your literary analysis essay, pick a piece of writing that you like and is suitable for analysis. This could be a poem, a short story, a novel, a play, or any similar written work.

Tips for Choosing Your Text

  • Take it slow. Read them more than once.
  • Pay attention to the words used and their meanings.
  • Think about the emotions or ideas the author is trying to convey.
  • Look at the way it's structured, like how a poem is divided into lines and stanzas.
  • Give yourself enough time to read the whole thing.
  • Take notes on important events, characters, and themes.
  • Think about the author's choices in writing and how they affect the story.
  • Consider the overall structure and how the parts fit together.

Explore Language Choices: 

  • Look for words or phrases that stand out. They might have special meanings or create certain feelings.
  • Consider how the author uses language to describe things, characters, or emotions.

Understand Narrative Voice:

  • Think about who is telling the story. Is it one of the characters (first-person) or someone outside the story (third-person)?
  • The narrative voice can shape how you perceive the events and characters.

Analyzing Structure: 

  • Examine how the text is organized. For example, poems have lines and stanzas, while novels have chapters.
  • Structure can affect the flow of the story and the reader's experience. Pay attention to how it's used in the text you've chosen.

Step 2: Brainstorm a Topic

Once you've chosen your text, the next step is to come up with a topic for your literary analysis essay. Think about what aspect of the text you find most interesting or want to explore. 

It could be a theme, a character's development, the use of symbolism, or anything else that stands out to you.

Tips for Brainstorming a Topic:

  • Consider what questions you have about the text. What do you want to understand better?
  • Look for patterns or recurring elements in the text. Is there something that keeps coming up, like a symbol or a particular theme?
  • Think about the author's choices. Why did they write the text this way? What message are they trying to convey?
  • Don't rush this step. Take your time to explore different ideas, and choose a topic that genuinely interests you. It will make the writing process more engaging and enjoyable.

Step 3: Collect the Evidence and Write a Thesis

Now that you have your topic, it's time to gather evidence from the text to support your analysis. Look for quotes, passages, or examples that relate to your chosen topic. Once you have your evidence, use it to craft your thesis statement . 

This statement should be a concise summary of the main point or argument you'll explore in your literary essay.

Tips for Collecting Evidence and Writing a Thesis:

  • Your thesis should be a single sentence that presents your analysis or interpretation of the text. It's your main argument.
  • Your evidence should directly support your thesis. It's the proof that your analysis is based on.

Step 4: Develop the Outline

Creating an outline is like making a roadmap for your literary analysis essay. It helps you organize your thoughts and decide how to structure your essay. Here's how to develop a literary analysis essay outline :

Tips for Developing the Outline:

  • Start with your introduction: Write down the main points you want to cover in the introduction, such as introducing the text, the author, and your thesis statement.
  • Plan your body paragraphs: Decide how many body paragraphs you'll have and what each one will focus on. Will you analyze characters, themes, symbols, or something else?
  • List your supporting points: Under each body paragraph, jot down the key ideas or arguments you'll discuss.
  • Consider your conclusion: Think about how you'll sum up your analysis and restate your thesis in the conclusion.

Step 5: Craft Your Introduction

Your introduction sets the stage for your literary analysis essay. It should grab the reader's attention and provide essential information about the text you're analyzing. 

Tips for Crafting Your Introduction:

  • Begin with a hook : Start with an intriguing question, a captivating quote, or an interesting fact related to your text.
  • Introduce the text and the author: Provide some background information about the literary work and its creator. Mention the title, author's name, and any relevant context.
  • Present your thesis statement: Clearly state the main point or argument you'll explore in your essay.
  • Give a brief overview: Provide a snapshot of what your analysis will cover, mentioning the key elements or aspects of the text you'll discuss.

Step 6: Write Body Paragraphs and Analysis

Now that you've laid the groundwork with your outline, it's time to dive into writing the body of your literary analysis essay. Each paragraph should focus on one of the main points or arguments you outlined in the previous step.

Here is how to write body paragraphs: 

  • Topic Sentence: Start each body paragraph with a clear topic sentence that relates to your thesis. This sentence should introduce the main point you'll discuss in the paragraph.
  • Provide Evidence: Use quotes or specific examples from the text to support your topic sentence. Make sure the evidence directly relates to your argument.
  • Analysis: After presenting evidence, analyze it. Explain how the evidence supports your argument and contributes to your overall thesis. What does it reveal about the text and its meaning?
  • Transition: Use transition words and sentences to smoothly connect your ideas and guide the reader through your analysis. These sentences help create a logical flow between paragraphs.

Step 7: Literary Devices and Techniques

In this step, you'll explore the literary devices and techniques used by the author in the text. These devices, such as symbolism, imagery, foreshadowing, and irony, play a crucial role in conveying the author's message and creating a deeper layer of meaning.

You can dedicate specific paragraphs or sections of your essay to discuss these literary devices.

How to Analyze Literary Devices and Techniques:

  • Identify Devices: Begin by identifying the literary devices used in the text. Look for symbols, metaphors, similes, imagery, alliteration, personification, and more. Note where and how they appear.
  • Examine Their Purpose: Consider why the author used these devices. What do they add to the story or poem? How do they contribute to the overall message or theme?
  • Impact on the Reader: Explain how these literary devices enhance the narrative and reinforce the themes or messages within the work.
  • Provide Examples: Use specific examples from the text to illustrate and reinforce your analysis.

Step 8: Conclude your Essay

Concluding your literary analysis essay is the final step in wrapping up your analysis and leaving a lasting impression on the reader. Here's how to craft a strong conclusion:

Key Elements of a Strong Conclusion:

  • Key Findings Recap: Summarize your key findings and restate your thesis statement in a rephrased manner.
  • Significance Emphasis: Emphasize the significance of your analysis and highlight its broader implications for understanding the literary work as a whole.
  • Thought-Provoking Closing: Leave the reader with a thought-provoking or insightful concluding statement that ties together your analysis.
  • Avoid Introducing New Ideas: Your conclusion should not introduce new topics or evidence that wasn't discussed in the body of your essay.

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Types of Literary Analysis Essay

When it comes to literary analysis essays, there isn't just one approach to fit all. The type of literary analysis essay you write depends on your specific goals and the literary work you're analyzing. 

Here are some common types:

Theoretical Literary Analysis (Aesthetic or Formalist Analysis) 

This type of analysis focuses on the text's form, structure, and aesthetics. It explores how literary elements like symbolism, imagery, and narrative style contribute to the overall meaning.

Close Reading Literary Analysis (Textual Analysis)

Close reading involves a detailed examination of a specific passage or section within the text. It dissects the language, syntax, and word choice to uncover deeper meanings.

Applied Literary Analysis (Practical or Real-World Analysis)

This analysis applies the lessons or insights gained from literature to real-life situations, social issues, or practical concerns. It explores how literature can inform or influence the world.

Comparative or Synergistic Literary Analysis

This type of analysis explores connections and contrasts between different texts, genres, or forms of art. It considers how literature interacts with other disciplines, such as history, psychology, or visual arts.

Contextual or Historical Literary Analysis

This analysis examines a text within its historical, cultural, or social context. It considers how the time period and societal influences shape the themes, characters, and narrative.

Literary Analysis Essay Example

In this section, we provide literary analysis examples that help students better understand and apply literary analysis. These examples cover various aspects, including examining text, exploring themes, and using literary devices. 

Let’s check out some literary analysis essay examples pdf below

Literary Analysis Essay Example PDF

Sample Literary Analysis Essay

Literary Analysis Essay Format

Literary Analysis Essay Topics

Choosing a strong topic is important to draft a good literary essay. Following are some topic examples that you can use for your literary essays:

  • The Symbolism of the Green Light in 'The Great Gatsby.'
  • The Role of Gender and Identity in Shakespeare's Sonnets.
  • Exploring the Themes of Love and Fate in 'Romeo and Juliet.'
  • The Use of Magical Realism in Gabriel García Márquez's 'One Hundred Years of Solitude.'
  • Analyzing the Motif of War in Hemingway's 'A Farewell to Arms.'
  • The Metaphorical Layers of George Orwell's 'Animal Farm.'
  • The Complexity of Morality in J.D. Salinger's 'The Catcher in the Rye.'
  • The Historical Context of Haruki Murakami's 'Kafka on the Shore.'
  • The Portrayal of Race and Identity in Zora Neale Hurston's 'Their Eyes Were Watching God.'
  • The Significance of Nature in the Poetry of Emily Dickinson.

Looking for more topic ideas? Our literary analysis essay topics blog has plenty of ideas for you!

Wrapping Up!

We hope this guide has provided you with the insights, and clarity you need to start on your literary essay with confidence.

However, if you find yourself short on time remember that professional help is just a click away. At MyPerfectWords.com , we offer reliable essay writing service at the best price. 

Our team of expert writers is well-equipped to handle a diverse range of literary analysis topics. So, if you're ready to take your literary analysis to the next level, don't hesitate to place your order. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What should a literary analysis essay include.

A good essay will have an explanation of the author's ideas and evidence from their text (short story, poem) to support those thoughts. Textual information includes a summary, paraphrase as well specific details like direct quotations in summaries or extracts where they are relevant for clarification on certain points.

Why literary analysis is important?

By analyzing literary work, students can see that successful art is more than just self-expression. It may serve a purpose beyond the creator's intent whether it be to inform or evoke empathy in its audience and even inspire them at times.

Cathy A. (Literature, Marketing)

Cathy has been been working as an author on our platform for over five years now. She has a Masters degree in mass communication and is well-versed in the art of writing. Cathy is a professional who takes her work seriously and is widely appreciated by clients for her excellent writing skills.

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Humanities LibreTexts

12.14: Sample Student Literary Analysis Essays

  • Last updated
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  • Page ID 40514

  • Heather Ringo & Athena Kashyap
  • City College of San Francisco via ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative

The following examples are essays where student writers focused on close-reading a literary work. 

While reading these examples, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the essay's thesis statement, and how do you know it is the thesis statement?
  • What is the main idea or topic sentence of each body paragraph, and how does it relate back to the thesis statement? 
  • Where and how does each essay use evidence (quotes or paraphrase from the literature)?
  • What are some of the literary devices or structures the essays analyze or discuss?
  • How does each author structure their conclusion, and how does their conclusion differ from their introduction?

Example 1: Poetry

Victoria Morillo

Instructor Heather Ringo

3 August 2022

How Nguyen’s Structure Solidifies the Impact of Sexual Violence in “The Study”

Stripped of innocence, your body taken from you. No matter how much you try to block out the instance in which these two things occurred, memories surface and come back to haunt you. How does a person, a young boy , cope with an event that forever changes his life? Hieu Minh Nguyen deconstructs this very way in which an act of sexual violence affects a survivor. In his poem, “The Study,” the poem's speaker recounts the year in which his molestation took place, describing how his memory filters in and out. Throughout the poem, Nguyen writes in free verse, permitting a structural liberation to become the foundation for his message to shine through. While he moves the readers with this poignant narrative, Nguyen effectively conveys the resulting internal struggles of feeling alone and unseen.

The speaker recalls his experience with such painful memory through the use of specific punctuation choices. Just by looking at the poem, we see that the first period doesn’t appear until line 14. It finally comes after the speaker reveals to his readers the possible, central purpose for writing this poem: the speaker's molestation. In the first half, the poem makes use of commas, em dashes, and colons, which lends itself to the idea of the speaker stringing along all of these details to make sense of this time in his life. If reading the poem following the conventions of punctuation, a sense of urgency is present here, as well. This is exemplified by the lack of periods to finalize a thought; and instead, Nguyen uses other punctuation marks to connect them. Serving as another connector of thoughts, the two em dashes give emphasis to the role memory plays when the speaker discusses how “no one [had] a face” during that time (Nguyen 9-11). He speaks in this urgent manner until the 14th line, and when he finally gets it off his chest, the pace of the poem changes, as does the more frequent use of the period. This stream-of-consciousness-like section when juxtaposed with the latter half of the poem, causes readers to slow down and pay attention to the details. It also splits the poem in two: a section that talks of the fogginess of memory then transitions into one that remembers it all.

In tandem with the fluctuating nature of memory,  the utilization of line breaks and word choice help reflect the damage the molestation has had. Within the first couple of lines of the poem, the poem demands the readers’ attention when the line breaks from “floating” to “dead” as the speaker describes his memory of Little Billy (Nguyen 1-4). This line break averts the readers’ expectation of the direction of the narrative and immediately shifts the tone of the poem. The break also speaks to the effect his trauma has ingrained in him and how “[f]or the longest time,” his only memory of that year revolves around an image of a boy’s death. In a way, the speaker sees himself in Little Billy; or perhaps, he’s representative of the tragic death of his boyhood, how the speaker felt so “dead” after enduring such a traumatic experience, even referring to himself as a “ghost” that he tries to evict from his conscience (Nguyen 24). The feeling that a part of him has died is solidified at the very end of the poem when the speaker describes himself as a nine-year-old boy who’s been “fossilized,” forever changed by this act (Nguyen 29). By choosing words associated with permanence and death, the speaker tries to recreate the atmosphere (for which he felt trapped in) in order for readers to understand the loneliness that came as a result of his trauma. With the assistance of line breaks, more attention is drawn to the speaker's words, intensifying their importance, and demanding to be felt by the readers. 

Most importantly, the speaker expresses eloquently, and so heartbreakingly, about the effect sexual violence has on a person. Perhaps what seems to be the most frustrating are the people who fail to believe survivors of these types of crimes. This is evident when he describes “how angry” the tenants were when they filled the pool with cement (Nguyen 4). They seem to represent how people in the speaker's life were dismissive of his assault and who viewed his tragedy as a nuisance of some sorts. This sentiment is bookended when he says, “They say, give us details , so I give them my body. / They say, give us proof , so I give them my body,” (Nguyen 25-26). The repetition of these two lines reinforces the feeling many feel in these scenarios, as they’re often left to deal with trying to make people believe them, or to even see them.

It’s important to recognize how the structure of this poem gives the speaker space to express the pain he’s had to carry for so long. As a characteristic of free verse, the poem doesn’t follow any structured rhyme scheme or meter; which in turn, allows him to not have any constraints in telling his story the way he wants to. The speaker has the freedom to display his experience in a way that evades predictability and engenders authenticity of a story very personal to him. As readers, we abandon anticipating the next rhyme, and instead focus our attention to the other ways, like his punctuation or word choice, in which he effectively tells his story. The speaker recognizes that some part of him no longer belongs to himself, but by writing “The Study,” he shows other survivors that they’re not alone and encourages hope that eventually, they will be freed from the shackles of sexual violence.

Works Cited

Nguyen, Hieu Minh. “The Study” Poets.Org. Academy of American Poets, Coffee House Press, 2018, https://poets.org/poem/study-0 .

Example 2: Fiction

Todd Goodwin

Professor Stan Matyshak

Advanced Expository Writing

Sept. 17, 20—

Poe’s “Usher”: A Mirror of the Fall of the House of Humanity

Right from the outset of the grim story, “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Edgar Allan Poe enmeshes us in a dark, gloomy, hopeless world, alienating his characters and the reader from any sort of physical or psychological norm where such values as hope and happiness could possibly exist. He fatalistically tells the story of how a man (the narrator) comes from the outside world of hope, religion, and everyday society and tries to bring some kind of redeeming happiness to his boyhood friend, Roderick Usher, who not only has physically and psychologically wasted away but is entrapped in a dilapidated house of ever-looming terror with an emaciated and deranged twin sister. Roderick Usher embodies the wasting away of what once was vibrant and alive, and his house of “insufferable gloom” (273), which contains his morbid sister, seems to mirror or reflect this fear of death and annihilation that he most horribly endures. A close reading of the story reveals that Poe uses mirror images, or reflections, to contribute to the fatalistic theme of “Usher”: each reflection serves to intensify an already prevalent tone of hopelessness, darkness, and fatalism.

It could be argued that the house of Roderick Usher is a “house of mirrors,” whose unpleasant and grim reflections create a dark and hopeless setting. For example, the narrator first approaches “the melancholy house of Usher on a dark and soundless day,” and finds a building which causes him a “sense of insufferable gloom,” which “pervades his spirit and causes an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart, an undiscerned dreariness of thought” (273). The narrator then optimistically states: “I reflected that a mere different arrangement of the scene, of the details of the picture, would be sufficient to modify, or perhaps annihilate its capacity for sorrowful impression” (274). But the narrator then sees the reflection of the house in the tarn and experiences a “shudder even more thrilling than before” (274). Thus the reader begins to realize that the narrator cannot change or stop the impending doom that will befall the house of Usher, and maybe humanity. The story cleverly plays with the word reflection : the narrator sees a physical reflection that leads him to a mental reflection about Usher’s surroundings.

The narrator’s disillusionment by such grim reflection continues in the story. For example, he describes Roderick Usher’s face as distinct with signs of old strength but lost vigor: the remains of what used to be. He describes the house as a once happy and vibrant place, which, like Roderick, lost its vitality. Also, the narrator describes Usher’s hair as growing wild on his rather obtrusive head, which directly mirrors the eerie moss and straw covering the outside of the house. The narrator continually longs to see these bleak reflections as a dream, for he states: “Shaking off from my spirit what must have been a dream, I scanned more narrowly the real aspect of the building” (276). He does not want to face the reality that Usher and his home are doomed to fall, regardless of what he does.

Although there are almost countless examples of these mirror images, two others stand out as important. First, Roderick and his sister, Madeline, are twins. The narrator aptly states just as he and Roderick are entombing Madeline that there is “a striking similitude between brother and sister” (288). Indeed, they are mirror images of each other. Madeline is fading away psychologically and physically, and Roderick is not too far behind! The reflection of “doom” that these two share helps intensify and symbolize the hopelessness of the entire situation; thus, they further develop the fatalistic theme. Second, in the climactic scene where Madeline has been mistakenly entombed alive, there is a pairing of images and sounds as the narrator tries to calm Roderick by reading him a romance story. Events in the story simultaneously unfold with events of the sister escaping her tomb. In the story, the hero breaks out of the coffin. Then, in the story, the dragon’s shriek as he is slain parallels Madeline’s shriek. Finally, the story tells of the clangor of a shield, matched by the sister’s clanging along a metal passageway. As the suspense reaches its climax, Roderick shrieks his last words to his “friend,” the narrator: “Madman! I tell you that she now stands without the door” (296).

Roderick, who slowly falls into insanity, ironically calls the narrator the “Madman.” We are left to reflect on what Poe means by this ironic twist. Poe’s bleak and dark imagery, and his use of mirror reflections, seem only to intensify the hopelessness of “Usher.” We can plausibly conclude that, indeed, the narrator is the “Madman,” for he comes from everyday society, which is a place where hope and faith exist. Poe would probably argue that such a place is opposite to the world of Usher because a world where death is inevitable could not possibly hold such positive values. Therefore, just as Roderick mirrors his sister, the reflection in the tarn mirrors the dilapidation of the house, and the story mirrors the final actions before the death of Usher. “The Fall of the House of Usher” reflects Poe’s view that humanity is hopelessly doomed.

Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Fall of the House of Usher.” 1839. Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library . 1995. Web. 1 July 2012. < http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/PoeFall.html >.

Example 3: Poetry

Amy Chisnell

Professor Laura Neary

Writing and Literature

April 17, 20—

Don’t Listen to the Egg!: A Close Reading of Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky”

“You seem very clever at explaining words, Sir,” said Alice. “Would you kindly tell me the meaning of the poem called ‘Jabberwocky’?”

“Let’s hear it,” said Humpty Dumpty. “I can explain all the poems that ever were invented—and a good many that haven’t been invented just yet.” (Carroll 164)

In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass , Humpty Dumpty confidently translates (to a not so confident Alice) the complicated language of the poem “Jabberwocky.” The words of the poem, though nonsense, aptly tell the story of the slaying of the Jabberwock. Upon finding “Jabberwocky” on a table in the looking-glass room, Alice is confused by the strange words. She is quite certain that “ somebody killed something ,” but she does not understand much more than that. When later she encounters Humpty Dumpty, she seizes the opportunity at having the knowledgeable egg interpret—or translate—the poem. Since Humpty Dumpty professes to be able to “make a word work” for him, he is quick to agree. Thus he acts like a New Critic who interprets the poem by performing a close reading of it. Through Humpty’s interpretation of the first stanza, however, we see the poem’s deeper comment concerning the practice of interpreting poetry and literature in general—that strict analytical translation destroys the beauty of a poem. In fact, Humpty Dumpty commits the “heresy of paraphrase,” for he fails to understand that meaning cannot be separated from the form or structure of the literary work.

Of the 71 words found in “Jabberwocky,” 43 have no known meaning. They are simply nonsense. Yet through this nonsensical language, the poem manages not only to tell a story but also gives the reader a sense of setting and characterization. One feels, rather than concretely knows, that the setting is dark, wooded, and frightening. The characters, such as the Jubjub bird, the Bandersnatch, and the doomed Jabberwock, also appear in the reader’s head, even though they will not be found in the local zoo. Even though most of the words are not real, the reader is able to understand what goes on because he or she is given free license to imagine what the words denote and connote. Simply, the poem’s nonsense words are the meaning.

Therefore, when Humpty interprets “Jabberwocky” for Alice, he is not doing her any favors, for he actually misreads the poem. Although the poem in its original is constructed from nonsense words, by the time Humpty is done interpreting it, it truly does not make any sense. The first stanza of the original poem is as follows:

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;

All mimsy were the borogroves,

An the mome raths outgrabe. (Carroll 164)

If we replace, however, the nonsense words of “Jabberwocky” with Humpty’s translated words, the effect would be something like this:

’Twas four o’clock in the afternoon, and the lithe and slimy badger-lizard-corkscrew creatures

Did go round and round and make holes in the grass-plot round the sun-dial:

All flimsy and miserable were the shabby-looking birds

with mop feathers,

And the lost green pigs bellowed-sneezed-whistled.

By translating the poem in such a way, Humpty removes the charm or essence—and the beauty, grace, and rhythm—from the poem. The poetry is sacrificed for meaning. Humpty Dumpty commits the heresy of paraphrase. As Cleanth Brooks argues, “The structure of a poem resembles that of a ballet or musical composition. It is a pattern of resolutions and balances and harmonizations” (203). When the poem is left as nonsense, the reader can easily imagine what a “slithy tove” might be, but when Humpty tells us what it is, he takes that imaginative license away from the reader. The beauty (if that is the proper word) of “Jabberwocky” is in not knowing what the words mean, and yet understanding. By translating the poem, Humpty takes that privilege from the reader. In addition, Humpty fails to recognize that meaning cannot be separated from the structure itself: the nonsense poem reflects this literally—it means “nothing” and achieves this meaning by using “nonsense” words.

Furthermore, the nonsense words Carroll chooses to use in “Jabberwocky” have a magical effect upon the reader; the shadowy sound of the words create the atmosphere, which may be described as a trance-like mood. When Alice first reads the poem, she says it seems to fill her head “with ideas.” The strange-sounding words in the original poem do give one ideas. Why is this? Even though the reader has never heard these words before, he or she is instantly aware of the murky, mysterious mood they set. In other words, diction operates not on the denotative level (the dictionary meaning) but on the connotative level (the emotion(s) they evoke). Thus “Jabberwocky” creates a shadowy mood, and the nonsense words are instrumental in creating this mood. Carroll could not have simply used any nonsense words.

For example, let us change the “dark,” “ominous” words of the first stanza to “lighter,” more “comic” words:

’Twas mearly, and the churly pells

Did bimble and ringle in the tink;

All timpy were the brimbledimps,

And the bip plips outlink.

Shifting the sounds of the words from dark to light merely takes a shift in thought. To create a specific mood using nonsense words, one must create new words from old words that convey the desired mood. In “Jabberwocky,” Carroll mixes “slimy,” a grim idea, “lithe,” a pliable image, to get a new adjective: “slithy” (a portmanteau word). In this translation, brighter words were used to get a lighter effect. “Mearly” is a combination of “morning” and “early,” and “ringle” is a blend of “ring” and "dingle.” The point is that “Jabberwocky’s” nonsense words are created specifically to convey this shadowy or mysterious mood and are integral to the “meaning.”

Consequently, Humpty’s rendering of the poem leaves the reader with a completely different feeling than does the original poem, which provided us with a sense of ethereal mystery, of a dark and foreign land with exotic creatures and fantastic settings. The mysteriousness is destroyed by Humpty’s literal paraphrase of the creatures and the setting; by doing so, he has taken the beauty away from the poem in his attempt to understand it. He has committed the heresy of paraphrase: “If we allow ourselves to be misled by it [this heresy], we distort the relation of the poem to its ‘truth’… we split the poem between its ‘form’ and its ‘content’” (Brooks 201). Humpty Dumpty’s ultimate demise might be seen to symbolize the heretical split between form and content: as a literary creation, Humpty Dumpty is an egg, a well-wrought urn of nonsense. His fall from the wall cracks him and separates the contents from the container, and not even all the King’s men can put the scrambled egg back together again!

Through the odd characters of a little girl and a foolish egg, “Jabberwocky” suggests a bit of sage advice about reading poetry, advice that the New Critics built their theories on. The importance lies not solely within strict analytical translation or interpretation, but in the overall effect of the imagery and word choice that evokes a meaning inseparable from those literary devices. As Archibald MacLeish so aptly writes: “A poem should not mean / But be.” Sometimes it takes a little nonsense to show us the sense in something.

Brooks, Cleanth. The Well-Wrought Urn: Studies in the Structure of Poetry . 1942. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1956. Print.

Carroll, Lewis. Through the Looking-Glass. Alice in Wonderland . 2nd ed. Ed. Donald J. Gray. New York: Norton, 1992. Print.

MacLeish, Archibald. “Ars Poetica.” The Oxford Book of American Poetry . Ed. David Lehman. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. 385–86. Print.

Attribution

  • Sample Essay 1 received permission from Victoria Morillo to publish, licensed Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International ( CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 )
  • Sample Essays 2 and 3 adapted from Cordell, Ryan and John Pennington. "2.5: Student Sample Papers" from  Creating Literary Analysis.  2012. Licensed Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported ( CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 )

How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay: Purposes, Outline, Samples

literary analysis

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.

how to start a literary analysis essay example

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.

Literary Devices

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.

Narrative Voice

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:

  • analytical;
  • argumentative;
  • explanatory.

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.

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.

Write A Literary Analysis Essay

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.

Baobab Trees

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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Literary Analysis Essay

Literary Analysis Essay Writing

Last updated on: May 21, 2023

Literary Analysis Essay - Ultimate Guide By Professionals

By: Cordon J.

Reviewed By: Rylee W.

Published on: Dec 3, 2019

Literary Analysis Essay

A literary analysis essay specifically examines and evaluates a piece of literature or a literary work. It also understands and explains the links between the small parts to their whole information.

It is important for students to understand the meaning and the true essence of literature to write a literary essay.

One of the most difficult assignments for students is writing a literary analysis essay. It can be hard to come up with an original idea or find enough material to write about. You might think you need years of experience in order to create a good paper, but that's not true.

This blog post will show you how easy it can be when you follow the steps given here.Writing such an essay involves the breakdown of a book into small parts and understanding each part separately. It seems easy, right?

Trust us, it is not as hard as good book reports but it may also not be extremely easy. You will have to take into account different approaches and explain them in relation with the chosen literary work.

It is a common high school and college assignment and you can learn everything in this blog.

Continue reading for some useful tips with an example to write a literary analysis essay that will be on point. You can also explore our detailed article on writing an analytical essay .

Literary Analysis Essay

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What is a Literary Analysis Essay?

A literary analysis essay is an important kind of essay that focuses on the detailed analysis of the work of literature.

The purpose of a literary analysis essay is to explain why the author has used a specific theme for his work. Or examine the characters, themes, literary devices , figurative language, and settings in the story.

This type of essay encourages students to think about how the book or the short story has been written. And why the author has created this work.

The method used in the literary analysis essay differs from other types of essays. It primarily focuses on the type of work and literature that is being analyzed.

Mostly, you will be going to break down the work into various parts. In order to develop a better understanding of the idea being discussed, each part will be discussed separately.

The essay should explain the choices of the author and point of view along with your answers and personal analysis.

How To Write A Literary Analysis Essay

So how to start a literary analysis essay? The answer to this question is quite simple.

The following sections are required to write an effective literary analysis essay. By following the guidelines given in the following sections, you will be able to craft a winning literary analysis essay.

Introduction

The aim of the introduction is to establish a context for readers. You have to give a brief on the background of the selected topic.

It should contain the name of the author of the literary work along with its title. The introduction should be effective enough to grab the reader’s attention.

In the body section, you have to retell the story that the writer has narrated. It is a good idea to create a summary as it is one of the important tips of literary analysis.

Other than that, you are required to develop ideas and disclose the observed information related to the issue. The ideal length of the body section is around 1000 words.

To write the body section, your observation should be based on evidence and your own style of writing.

It would be great if the body of your essay is divided into three paragraphs. Make a strong argument with facts related to the thesis statement in all of the paragraphs in the body section.

Start writing each paragraph with a topic sentence and use transition words when moving to the next paragraph.

Summarize the important points of your literary analysis essay in this section. It is important to compose a short and strong conclusion to help you make a final impression of your essay.

Pay attention that this section does not contain any new information. It should provide a sense of completion by restating the main idea with a short description of your arguments. End the conclusion with your supporting details.

You have to explain why the book is important. Also, elaborate on the means that the authors used to convey her/his opinion regarding the issue.

For further understanding, here is a downloadable literary analysis essay outline. This outline will help you structure and format your essay properly and earn an A easily.

DOWNLOADABLE LITERARY ANALYSIS ESSAY OUTLINE (PDF)

Types of Literary Analysis Essay

  • Close reading - This method involves attentive reading and detailed analysis. No need for a lot of knowledge and inspiration to write an essay that shows your creative skills.
  • Theoretical - In this type, you will rely on theories related to the selected topic.
  • Historical - This type of essay concerns the discipline of history. Sometimes historical analysis is required to explain events in detail.
  • Applied - This type involves analysis of a specific issue from a practical perspective.
  • Comparative - This type of writing is based on when two or more alternatives are compared

Examples of Literary Analysis Essay

Examples are great to understand any concept, especially if it is related to writing. Below are some great literary analysis essay examples that showcase how this type of essay is written.

A ROSE FOR EMILY LITERARY ANALYSIS ESSAY

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD LITERARY ANALYSIS ESSAY

THE GREAT GATSBY LITERARY ANALYSIS ESSAY

THE YELLOW WALLPAPER LITERARY ANALYSIS ESSAY

If you do not have experience in writing essays, this will be a very chaotic process for you. In that case, it is very important for you to conduct good research on the topic before writing.

There are two important points that you should keep in mind when writing a literary analysis essay.

First, remember that it is very important to select a topic in which you are interested. Choose something that really inspires you. This will help you to catch the attention of a reader.

The selected topic should reflect the main idea of writing. In addition to that, it should also express your point of view as well.

Another important thing is to draft a good outline for your literary analysis essay. It will help you to define a central point and division of this into parts for further discussion.

Literary Analysis Essay Topics

Literary analysis essays are mostly based on artistic works like books, movies, paintings, and other forms of art. However, generally, students choose novels and books to write their literary essays.

Some cool, fresh, and good topics and ideas are listed below:

  • Role of the Three Witches in flaming Macbeth’s ambition.
  • Analyze the themes of the Play Antigone,
  • Discuss Ajax as a tragic hero.
  • The Judgement of Paris: Analyze the Reasons and their Consequences.
  • Oedipus Rex: A Doomed Son or a Conqueror?
  • Describe the Oedipus complex and Electra complex in relation to their respective myths.
  • Betrayal is a common theme of Shakespearean tragedies. Discuss
  • Identify and analyze the traits of history in T.S Eliot’s ‘Gerontion’.
  • Analyze the theme of identity crisis in The Great Gatsby.
  • Analyze the writing style of Emily Dickinson.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What should a literary analysis essay include.

A good literary analysis essay must include a proper and in-depth explanation of your ideas. They must be backed with examples and evidence from the text. Textual evidence includes summaries, paraphrased text, original work details, and direct quotes.

What are the 4 components of literary analysis?

Here are the 4 essential parts of a literary analysis essay;

No literary work is explained properly without discussing and explaining these 4 things.

How do you start a literary analysis essay?

Start your literary analysis essay with the name of the work and the title. Hook your readers by introducing the main ideas that you will discuss in your essay and engage them from the start.

How do you do a literary analysis?

In a literary analysis essay, you study the text closely, understand and interpret its meanings. And try to find out the reasons behind why the author has used certain symbols, themes, and objects in the work.

Why is literary analysis important?

It encourages the students to think beyond their existing knowledge, experiences, and belief and build empathy. This helps in improving the writing skills also.

What is the fundamental characteristic of a literary analysis essay?

Interpretation is the fundamental and important feature of a literary analysis essay. The essay is based on how well the writer explains and interprets the work.

Cordon J.

Law, Finance Essay

Cordon. is a published author and writing specialist. He has worked in the publishing industry for many years, providing writing services and digital content. His own writing career began with a focus on literature and linguistics, which he continues to pursue. Cordon is an engaging and professional individual, always looking to help others achieve their goals.

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Literary Analysis Essay

Cathy A.

Literary Analysis Essay - Step by Step Guide

15 min read

Published on: Aug 16, 2020

Last updated on: Jan 29, 2024

Literary Analysis Essay

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Literary Analysis Essay Outline Guide with Samples

Interesting Literary Analysis Essay Topics & Ideas

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Literature is an art that can inspire, challenge, and transform us. But how do we analyze literature in a way that truly captures its essence? 

That's where a literary analysis essay comes in. 

Writing a literary analysis essay allows you to delve into the themes, characters, and symbols of a literary work. It's a chance to engage with literature on a deeper level and to discover new insights. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will take you through the process of writing a literary analysis essay, step by step. Plus, you’ll get to read some great examples to help you out!

So let’s dive in!

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What is a Literary Analysis Essay?

Literary analysis is a process of examining a literary work in detail to uncover its meaning and significance. 

It involves breaking down the various elements of a work, such as plot, character, setting, and theme. And then analyzing how they work together to create a specific effect on the reader.

In other words, literary analysis is an exercise in interpretation. The reader of a work asks questions about what the author means to say, how they are saying it, and why. 

A literary analysis essay is an essay where you explore such questions in depth and offer your own insights.

What is the Purpose of a Literary Analysis Essay?

In general, the purpose of a literary analysis essay is as follows: 

  • To gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the work.
  • To be able to think critically and analytically about a text. 

Content of a Literary Analysis 

A literary analysis essay delves deep into the various aspects of a literary work to examine its meaning, symbolism, themes, and more. Here are the key elements to include in your literary analysis essay:

Plot Analysis 

Plot refers to the sequence of events that make up the storyline of a literary work. It encompasses the main events, conflicts, and resolutions that drive the narrative forward. 

Elements of Plot Analysis 

The elements of a plot typically include:

  • Exposition: The introduction of the story that establishes the setting, characters, and initial circumstances.
  • Rising action: A set of events or actions that sets the main conflict into motion, often occurring early in the story.
  • Conflict: The series of events that build tension and develop the conflict, leading to the story's climax.
  • Climax: The turning point of the story, where the conflict reaches its peak and the outcome hangs in the balance.
  • Falling Action: The events that occur after the climax, leading towards the resolution of the conflict.
  • Resolution: The point in the story where the conflict is resolved, providing closure to the narrative.

Character Analysis 

Character analysis involves studying the role, development, and motivations of the characters in a literary work. It explores how characters contribute to the overall narrative and themes of the story.

Elements of Character Analysis 

  • Identification of major and minor characters.
  • Examination of their traits, behaviors, and relationships.
  • Analysis of character development and changes throughout the story.
  • Evaluation of the character's role in advancing the plot or conveying themes.

Symbolism and Imagery Analysis 

Symbolism and imagery analysis focuses on the use of symbols, objects, or images in a work. It analyzes and explores the use of literary devices to convey deeper meanings and evoke emotions. 

Elements of Symbolism and Imagery Analysis 

  • Identification of key symbols or recurring motifs.
  • Interpretation of their symbolic significance.
  • Analysis of how imagery is used to create vivid mental pictures and enhance the reader's understanding and emotional experience.

Theme Analysis 

Analyzing the theme involves exploring the central ideas or messages conveyed in a literary work. It examines the underlying concepts, or messages that the author wants to convey through the story.

Elements of Theme Analysis 

  • Identification of the main themes or central ideas explored in the text.
  • Analysis of how the themes are developed and reinforced throughout the story.
  • Exploration of the author's perspective and the intended message behind the themes.

Setting Analysis 

The Setting of a story includes the time, place, and social context in which the story takes place. Analyzing the setting involves how the setting influences the characters, plot, and overall atmosphere of the work.

Elements of Setting Analysis 

  • Description and analysis of the physical, cultural, and historical aspects of the setting.
  • Examination of how the setting contributes to the mood, atmosphere, and themes of the work.
  • Evaluation of how the setting shapes the characters' actions and motivations.

Structure and Style Analysis 

Structure and style analysis involves studying the organization, narrative techniques, and literary devices employed by the author. It explores how the structure and style contribute to the overall impact and effectiveness of the work.

Elements of Structure and Style Analysis 

  • Analysis of the narrative structure, such as the use of flashbacks, nonlinear timelines, or multiple perspectives.
  • Examination of the author's writing style, including the use of language, tone, and figurative language.
  • Evaluation of literary devices, such as foreshadowing, irony, or allusion, and their impact on the reader's interpretation.

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How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay?  

Writing a great literary analysis piece requires you to follow certain steps. Here’s what you need to do to write a literary essay:

Preparing for Your Essay 

The pre-writing process for writing a literary analysis essay includes the following:

  • Choosing a literary work to analyze
  • Reading and analyzing the work
  • Taking notes and organizing your thoughts
  • Creating an outline for your essay

Choosing a Work to Analyze 

As a student, you would most probably be assigned a literary piece to analyze. It could be a short story, a novel, or a poem.  However, sometimes you get to choose it yourself.

In such a case, you should choose a work that you find interesting and engaging. This will make it easier to stay motivated as you analyze the work and write your essay.

Moreover, you should choose a work that has some depth and complexity. This will give you plenty of material to analyze and discuss in your essay. Finally, make sure that your choice fits within the scope of the assignment and meets the expectations of your instructor.

Reading and Analyzing 

Once you’ve chosen a literary work, it's time to read the work with careful attention. There are several key elements to consider when reading and analyzing a literary work:

  • Plot - The sequence of events that make up the story. Analyzing the plot involves examining the structure of the story, including its exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
  • Characters - The people or entities that populate the story. Analyzing characters involves examining their motivations, personalities, relationships, and development over the course of the story.

Want to learn more about character analysis? Head to our blog about how to conduct character analysis and learn easy steps with examples.

  • Setting - The time, place, and environment in which the story takes place. Analyzing the setting involves examining how the atmosphere contributes to the story's overall meaning.
  • Theme - The underlying message or meaning of the story. Analyzing themes involves examining the work's central ideas and how they are expressed through the various elements of the story.

Moreover, it's important to consider the following questions while analyzing:

  • What is the central theme or main point the author is trying to make?
  • What literary devices and techniques has the author used?
  • Why did the author choose to write this particular work?
  • What themes and ideas are present in the work?

These questions will help you dive deeper into the work you are writing about.

Take Notes and Gather Material 

As you read and analyze the literary work, it's important to take notes so you don’t forget important details and ideas. This also helps you identify patterns and connections between different elements of the piece.

One effective way to take notes is to list important elements of the work, such as characters, setting, and theme. You can also use sticky notes, highlighters, or annotations to mark important passages and write down your ideas.

Writing Your Literary Analysis Essay 

Once you have read a piece of literature and taken notes, you have all the material you need to write an essay. Follow the simple steps below to write an effective literary analysis essay.

Create an Outline for Your Essay 

Firstly, creating an outline is necessary. This will help you to organize your thoughts and ideas and ensure that your essay flows logically and coherently.

This is what your literary essay outline would look like: 

Writing the Introduction 

Writing your essay introduction involves the three following parts:

  • Begin the introductory paragraph with an engaging hook statement that captures the readers' attention. An effective hook statement can take many different forms, such as a provocative quote, an intriguing question, or a surprising fact. 

Make sure that your hook statement is relevant to the literary work you are writing about. Here are a few examples of effective hooks:

  • Afterward, present the necessary background information and context about the literary work. For instance, 
  • Talk about the author of the work or when and where it was written. 
  • Give an overview of the work or why it is significant. 
  • Provide readers with sufficient context so they can know what the work is generally about.
  • Finally, end the introduction with a clear thesis statement . Your thesis statement should be a concise statement that clearly states the argument you will be making in your essay. It should be specific and debatable, and it should provide a roadmap for the rest of your essay.

For example, a thesis statement for an essay on "Hamlet" might be: 

Watch this video to learn more about writing an introduction for a literary analysis essay:

Writing the Body 

Here are the steps to follow when writing a body paragraph for a literary analysis essay:

  • Start with a topic sentence: 

The topic sentence should introduce the main point or argument you will be making in the paragraph. It should be clear and concise and should indicate what the paragraph is about.

  • Provide evidence: 

After you have introduced your main point, provide evidence from the text to support your analysis. This could include quotes, paraphrases, or summaries of the text.

  • Explain and discuss the evidence:

Explain how the evidence supports your main point or argument or how it connects back to your thesis statement.

  • Conclude the paragraph: 

End the paragraph by relating your main point to the thesis and discussing its significance. You should also use transitions to connect the paragraph to your next point or argument.

Writing the Conclusion 

The conclusion of a literary analysis essay provides closure to your analysis and reinforces your thesis statement. Here’s what a conclusion includes:

  • Restate your thesis statement: 

Start by restating your thesis statement in a slightly different way than in your introduction. This will remind the reader of the argument you made and the evidence you provided to support it.

  • Summarize your main points: 

Briefly summarize the main points you made in your essay's body paragraphs. This will help tie everything together and provide closure to your analysis.

  • Personal reflections:

The conclusion is the best place to provide some personal reflections on the literary piece. You can also explain connections between your analysis and the larger context. This could include connections to other literary works, your personal life, historical events, or contemporary issues.

  • End with a strong statement: 

End your conclusion with a strong statement that leaves a lasting impression on the reader. This could be a thought-provoking question, a call to action, or a final insight into the significance of your analysis.

Finalizing your Essay

You’ve completed the first draft of your literary analysis essay. Congratulations!

However, it’s not over just yet. You need some time to polish and improve the essay before it can be submitted. Here’s what you need to do:

Proofread and Revise your Essay 

After completing your draft, you should proofread your essay. You should look out for the following aspects:

  • Check for clarity: 

Make sure that your ideas are expressed clearly and logically. You should also take a look at your structure and organization. Rearrange your arguments if necessary to make them clearer.

  • Check for grammar and spelling errors: 

Use spelling and grammar check tools online to identify and correct any basic errors in your essay. 

  • Verify factual information:

You must have included information about the work or from within the work in your essay. Recheck and verify that it is correct and verifiable. 

  • Check your formatting: 

Make sure that your essay is properly formatted according to the guidelines provided by your instructor. This includes requirements for font size, margins, spacing, and citation style.

Helpful Tips for Revising a Literary Essay 

Here are some tips below that can help you proofread and revise your essay better:

  • Read your essay out loud:

Reading your essay out loud makes it easier to identify awkward phrasing, repetitive language, and other issues.

  • Take a break: 

It can be helpful to step away from your essay for a little while before starting the editing process. This can help you approach your essay with fresh eyes and a clearer perspective.

  • Be concise:

Remove any unnecessary words or phrases that do not add to your argument. This can help to make your essay more focused and effective.

  • Let someone else proofread and get feedback: 

You could ask a friend or a teacher to read your essay and provide feedback. This way, you can get some valuable insights on what you could include or catch mistakes that you might have missed.

Literary Analysis Essay Examples 

Reading a few good examples helps to understand literary analysis essays better. So check out these examples below and read them to see what a well-written essay looks like. 

How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay

Literary Analysis Essay Example

Sample Literary Analysis Essay

Lord of the Rings Literary Analysis

The Great Gatsby Literary Analysis

Literary Analysis Example for 8th Grade

Literary Analysis Essay Topics 

Need a topic for your literary analysis essay? You can pick any aspect of any work of literature you like. Here are some example topics that will help you get inspired:

  • The use of symbolism in "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
  • The theme of isolation in "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger.
  • The portrayal of social class in "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen.
  • The use of magical realism in "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
  • The role of women in "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood.
  • The use of foreshadowing in "Lord of the Flies" by William Golding.
  • The portrayal of race and identity in "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison.
  • The use of imagery in "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy.
  • The theme of forgiveness in "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini.
  • The use of allegory in "Animal Farm" by George Orwell.

To conclude,

Writing a literary analysis essay can be a rewarding experience for any student or writer, But it’s not easy. However, by following the steps you learned in this guide, you can successfully produce a well-written literary analysis essay. 

Also, you have got some examples of essays to read and topic ideas to get creative inspiration. With these resources, you have all you need to craft an engaging piece. So don’t hesitate to start writing your essay and come back to this blog whenever you need.

The deadline is approaching, but you don’t have time to write your essay? No worries! Our analytical essay writing service is here to help you out!

At CollegeEssay.org, we have a team of professional and experienced literature writers who can help you craft a compelling literary essay. Our affordable and reliable essay writing website focuses on providing high-quality essays and deliver them timely.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 4 components of literary analysis.

The four main components of literary analysis are: 

  • Conflict 
  • Characters 
  • Setting 

What is the fundamental characteristic of a literary analysis essay?

Interpretive is the fundamental characteristic of a literary analysis essay. 

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how to start a literary analysis essay example

The Subtle Art of Writing an Literary Analysis Essay

29 July, 2020

12 minutes read

Author:  Tomas White

When studying at school, college, or university, you get dozens of writing tasks, and a literary analysis essay is one of them. You have to study a piece of literature and write about the core idea, characters, or the author’s intentions. In some cases, it’s necessary to explore style, plot, structure, and other elements to explain how they complement or weaken each other.

Literary Analysis Essay

Although it’s an interesting task, students often don’t have enough time or writing skills to craft a literary analysis essay excellently. Our article will help you cope with the assignment and compose a flawless paper. Discover how to craft an outline, start a literary analysis essay, and many more.

how to start a literary analysis essay example

What is a Literary Analysis Essay?

Paper quality depends not only on the writer’s skills or the presence of fresh ideas in a text but also on their understanding of what is a literary analysis essay. Many students make the same mistake and compose reviews or just describe what they’ve read, but it’s not the purpose of this task. Take a look at the explanation of a literary analysis below to avoid the confusion:

Literary analysis essay definition

A literary analysis essay involves studying the text, evaluating the plot, analyzing characters, and determining devices used by the author to engage and influence readers. A novel, tale, poem, play, or another piece of literature can become the object of your research. When composing a literary analysis essay, a writer explores the text form, style, perspective, and characters.

What is the purpose of a literary analysis essay?

An excellently composed literary analysis essay demonstrates that you’ve looked at the events described in the literature piece from different perspectives. Examination of all the major elements, including a text structure, plot, author’s style, characters’ qualities, main theme, and form is an essential stage of the writing process. After you study all the important components, provide a conclusion on how they interact with each other and influence your overall impression.

How to Start a Literary Analysis Essay?

Now that you know a literary analysis essay definition, you’re ready to move further and discover the secrets of writing the paper. When reading the text, you must be very attentive. Notice the tricks the author uses to engage the reader, surprising details, and uncommon character’s features. Use these elements for your analysis.

It’s also necessary to answer a few important questions to discover the essence of the literature piece you’ve just read:

  • Which parts are the most essential ones?
  • What literary devices did the author use, and why did they choose them?
  • Do characters change somehow?

After you’ve answered these questions, you’ll have to determine the relationships between the ideas and storyline, the characters’ behavior, and how their roles change in a piece. Conduct comprehensive research to get information about the text, its background, and the author. These materials will help you understand the writer’s intentions and ideas better.

Literary Analysis Essay Outline

Crafting a literary analysis essay outline is an efficient method to organize your materials and structure a paper. An outline will contain all the core thoughts of your research. It helps an essay writer figure out whether they’ve studied all the essential elements and mentioned all the points.

Before you design an outline, it’s necessary to write a thesis statement that shortly describes your paper’s content. Usually, it contains one sentence and presents the entire sense of the essay. Crafting an outline is the next step after composing a thesis statement. Traditionally, it consists of 3 sections:

  • Introduction . This part is the most important one, as it should explain the main points of the body text and grab the reader’s attention. However, it’s not only a brief description of the essay’s content – you have to compose a catchy introduction that engages the audience. It’s necessary to use a hook to grab the reader’s attention and make them wonder what happens in the next literary analysis essay’s section. You can add a quote, an interesting fact connected with the book or the author, or write a question and promise to provide the answer in the next part.
  • Body text . After you’ve composed the introduction, it’s necessary to move to the next step in your writing. Body text will contain all your statements, arguments, and important details supporting your analysis. Usually, this section has 3 paragraphs, but you can extend it depending on the task complexity and the professor’s requirements. When designing an outline, use the columns or bullet points to present the main ideas. These lists will help you figure out which details are unnecessary in your essay.
  • Conclusion . Your final thoughts will shape the entire paper and influence the reader’s impression. At this point, the audience gets the overall impression of your analysis and decides whether you’re right or wrong. Name the paper’s core thoughts and write your final statement. You can write a sentence or two about the significance of the author’s idea or the impact made by the piece.

Literary Analysis Essay Examples

Check this short list of literary analysis essay example to get the idea:

  • http://web.cocc.edu/cagatucci/classes/eng104/midtermexamples.htm
  • https://www.unm.edu/~aobermei/Eng200/sonnet95a.html

20 Literary Analysis Essay Topics

Sometimes professors allow students to pick topics themselves, and it’s a lucky ticket in the academic world. You can choose your favorite book or novel, research it, and provide excellent analysis. If you’ve written about the piece you love before or want to impress the professor, we recommend you to check our list of literary analysis essay topics for more ideas:

  • Examining the structure of Kurt Vonnegut’s “ Slaughterhouse-Five. ”
  • Explaining the importance of Ray Bradbury’s “ Fahrenheit 451. ”
  • Analyzing the changes in Ebenezer Scrooge’s character over the course of “ A Christmas Carol. ”
  • The importance of symbolism in “ Wuthering Heights .”
  • Examining Ernest Hemingway’s writing style.
  • The connection of plot lines in “ Froth of Days ” by Boris Vian.
  • The lasting influence of “ The Catcher in the Rye .”
  • Literary devices used by George Orwell in “ 1984. ”
  • The use of humor in Mark Twain’s short stories.
  • The impact of “ To Kill a Mockingbird .”
  • Analyzing the allegory in William Golding’s “ Lord of the Flies .”
  • “ Pride and Prejudice ” character analysis.
  • “ Love in the Time of Cholera ”: Florentino Ariza character analysis.
  • The significance of Herman Melville’s “ Moby-Dick .”
  • Plot analysis of William Shakespeare’s “ Hamlet. ”
  • The influence of Jack London’s life on his works.
  • The analysis of Jane Eyre’s personality.
  • Mysticism in Edgar Allan Poe’s novels.
  • Language analysis in Haper Lee’s “ To Kill  Mockingbird .”
  • Stylistic analysis of “ The Great Gatsby .”

Useful Tips for Literary Analysis Essay

A literary analysis essay requires time, patience, and attentiveness. When reading a piece, don’t be lazy to write down all the important details connected with characters, plot, author’s style, ideas, etc. You also must be very attentive to notice important elements. However, attentiveness isn’t the only thing that will help you craft a paper. Read our tips to learn how to write a literary analysis essay flawlessly and get the best grade:

1. Read carefully

Choose a cozy place for reading – it’s where no one will disturb you, and noise won’t interrupt the process. Only in this case, you’ll notice the most important details. If you pick the right environment, you’ll be able to concentrate on a story. You can choose a quiet place in a park, stay in your room, or go to a library.

2. Take notes

Do characters have specific features? What makes the writer’s style special? How does symbolism influence text comprehension? Write down all the interesting or intriguing details you notice. You can use this information in your literary analysis essay.

3. Determine literary devices

Writers use literary devices to create special effects that help readers understand their intentions, interpret their works, and analyze them. Besides, these elements often become the author’s identifying feature that helps them stand out from the crowd. Here’s the list of literary devices you have to know:

  • Personification
  • Alliteration
  • Foreshadowing

4. Consider language style

It’s necessary to pay attention to the length of sentences, terminology, descriptions, presence of metaphors, etc. Does the writer use simple words to describe an object or go poetic? Is it easy to understand the text? Does the author use slang or conventional terms?

The writer’s style tells a lot about their piece – even more than you can imagine. Besides, the characters’ language style is one of their most important features. It helps readers understand their personalities. If your topic is connected with the character analysis, taking notes about language is a must for you.

5. Determine the narrator

Who’s telling the story? It can be told by a character or by an author watching the course of events from a distant perspective. You have to determine the role of the narrator in a story. Do they know everything about other characters? Is their role important for story development? Of course, if an author is a narrator, you won’t have to wonder whether they influence the piece somehow. If a character tells the story, the chances are that they hide some information or don’t know much about different events. In this case, some details may become evident in the end.

Write a Literary Analysis Essay with HandmadeWriting

If you need someone to help you craft a literary analysis essay, it’s necessary to choose a reputable service. You can rely on HandmadeWriting whenever assignments seem too difficult to cope with solely. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have enough time for the task completion because a professional writer will compose a flawless paper within the tightest timeframes.

HandmadeWriting has over 700 experienced writers specializing in different fields. They cope even with the most complicated tasks and deliver original papers in time. Writers at HandmadeWriting do their best to help students compose excellent essays. They’re passionate researchers who use many credible sources where they get the necessary information from. All the papers are also checked for plagiarism and edited.

Writing a literary analysis essay is an exciting yet time-consuming process. It’s necessary to read the piece of literature carefully to notice all the essential details. Composing a thesis statement, outlining an essay, and writing a meaningful paper are the next steps. If you aren’t sure about your skills or simply don’t have time because of the academic overload, you can address HandmadeWriting for professional help.

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Aug 25, 2023

Literary Analysis Essay Examples: Discover How to Analyze Literature and Improve Your Writing Skills

Discover the allure of literature with our literary analysis essay examples. Uncover the hidden meanings, symbolisms, and develop your writing skills. Let's dive into these examples and master the art of literary analysis together!

Literary analysis essays offer a critical examination of a literary work, exploring how various elements contribute to an overarching theme. While crafting an impactful essay can be challenging, especially when identifying unique themes or accumulating adequate knowledge, it's entirely achievable with fundamental essay writing principles and a solid plan. This form of essay is prevalent in high school and college and plays an integral role in literary criticism. In this guide, we'll equip you with practical tips and a sample to steer your writing process. Let's delve deeper.

What is Literary Analysis?

Writing a literary analysis may sound intimidating, but it's entirely attainable even for beginners. It involves the careful evaluation of a written piece to unearth its deeper meanings and understand the author's choices. It's not simply a summary or book review; rather, it shares similarities with an argumentative essay, providing a detailed examination of the work's language, perspective, and structure.

Furthermore, it includes an exploration of how the author employs literary devices to generate specific effects and convey ideas. Gaining inspiration for a literary analysis essay may involve understanding the work's historical context, themes, and symbolism. With these guidelines, anyone - beginners and seasoned writers alike - can create a thoughtful literary analysis essay that offers insightful interpretations of a literary work.

Writing a Literary Essay: A Step-by-Step Guide

Learning from other literary analysis essays can facilitate the writing process. This method helps understand different approaches and ways to analyze a subject. Furthermore, exploring the work of scholars and critics on your chosen literature can provide fresh perspectives and novel ideas for your essay. Here's a simplified guide of eight crucial steps to help you compose a thoughtful and well-crafted literary analysis essay.

Carefully Read the Text: Familiarize yourself with the literature you'll analyze. Understand its message by reading it multiple times, especially for shorter pieces like poetry.

Brainstorm a Topic: After comprehensively studying the work, generate a unique topic for your essay. A few probing questions can stimulate creative ideas.

Collect and Interpret Evidence: Analyze the available evidence supporting your proposed topic. Highlight key sections as you read, including contradicting evidence that could support your argument.

Write a Thesis: This is the central argument guiding your essay. Choose a debatable topic, rather than stating something universally acknowledged.

Develop and Organize Your Arguments: Organize your evidence and create a robust thesis statement . Modify your argument as needed to match the evidence.

Write a Rough Draft: Focus on delivering a thorough argument supported by textual evidence. Don't worry about perfect grammar or complex sentences at this stage.

Refine Your Arguments and Review: Be ruthless while editing. Pay attention to grammar, sentence structure, and ensure your essay aligns with your thesis.

Get Another Opinion and Finalize: Seek feedback on your essay. Analyze your writing carefully and ensure it aligns with your thesis.

In summary, following these steps will not only make your literary essay writing process more structured, but will also enhance your analytical thinking and writing skills . Keep practicing, and each essay will be a step towards mastery in literary analysis.

How to write an outline of a Literary Essay

Embarking on the journey of writing a literary analysis essay requires a roadmap to ensure a logical and coherent argument. One effective way to organize your thoughts and ideas is by creating an outline. This outline not only structures your essay, but it also guides your analysis, helping to illuminate the path from your introduction to your conclusion.

Think of your outline as a skeleton: the backbone of your essay, providing structure and support. It allows you to arrange your points systematically, ensuring you don't overlook essential elements and maintain a logical flow throughout your analysis. The following sections are the key components of this framework, each having a specific role and purpose in your essay:

Introduction: This initial section draws your readers into the world of your analysis. Providing the author's name and the work's title lays the groundwork. A thematic statement then broadens this base, offering a glimpse into the wider theme of your analysis. As your introduction unfolds, provide some contextual information about the work to highlight its relevance. Nearing the end of this section, present your readers with your thesis statement—an unambiguous declaration that encapsulates the purpose of your analysis.

Body: The body serves as the battlefield of your essay, where you tackle the issues stated in your thesis. Your primary goal is to demonstrate how the author utilized the techniques discussed in your thesis. Use persuasive evidence such as quotes and literary devices to fortify your arguments. Always keep your thesis as the central pillar of your discussion, wrapping up each paragraph with a robust statement that fortifies your argument.

Conclusion: Here, you reaffirm your thesis and show how the ideas discussed in the body support its claims. Your conclusion recaps your main points, reinforcing their significance and leaving a lasting impression on your readers regarding the depth and relevance of your analysis.

3 Literary Analysis Essay Examples

This segment presents three instances of literary analysis essays on acclaimed pieces of literature. Studying these examples will offer you insights into the various methods and strategies employed by proficient writers for literary evaluation, focusing on the elucidation of thematic undertones, symbolism interpretation, and character motivation exploration.

God Help the Child by Toni Morrison: An Analysis of Childhood Trauma

Introduction:

Toni Morrison's novel 'God Help the Child' is a powerful exploration of childhood trauma and its implications. It probes the intricate layers of the trauma experience by centralizing the narrative around an African American character, Bride.

Morrison unravels the theme of childhood trauma via Bride's life experiences. The early abandonment by her mother due to her dark skin color manifests in Bride's adulthood, influencing her relationships and self-worth. Morrison uses vivid symbolism and imagery to convey the depth of Bride's trauma, such as her white attire representing her longing for purity and acceptance. Bride's interpersonal relationships, strained by her past trauma, are realistically portrayed, aiding readers in empathizing with her experiences.

Conclusion:

In 'God Help the Child', Morrison seamlessly explores the impact of childhood trauma on individuals and society. The novel's potent imagery and symbolism simplify the complexities of trauma, making it an essential read for those interested in this theme.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker: An Examination of Gender and Identity

Alice Walker's 'The Color Purple' delves into the intricate web of gender, race, and identity during the early 20th century American South.

The novel uniquely presents the theme of gender by depicting the struggles of African American women against oppression. It also discusses the theme of identity through the protagonist Celie's life journey. Walker's symbolism, such as the color purple signifying strength and resilience, contributes to the novel's potent portrayal of gender and identity. Walker's epistolary format and colloquial language use immerse the reader in the experiences of African American women of that era.

'The Color Purple' provides a compelling narrative about gender and identity struggles. Walker's distinct use of symbolism, imagery, and language gives the novel a multifaceted perspective on these themes, securing its place in African American literature.

The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe: A Study of the Supernatural

Edgar Allan Poe's short story 'The Fall of the House of Usher' examines the supernatural's influence on the human psyche.

The story is replete with supernatural elements contributing to its eerie Gothic atmosphere. These elements, such as the haunted mansion and its inhabitants' bizarre behaviors, elicit fear and unease in the reader. Poe masterfully uses these supernatural components to underline fear and terror's psychological effects. The haunted mansion symbolizes the Usher family's decay and societal decline, while the blood-red moon during the mansion's final collapse underlines the events' supernatural nature.

'The Fall of the House of Usher' successfully explores supernatural themes and their psychological implications. Poe's atmospheric storytelling and symbolism use underscore the themes of death and decay, solidifying the story's place in the Gothic tradition.

Final Thoughts

Conclusively, to craft a compelling literary analysis essay, you should select a captivating topic, meticulously evaluate the text, and present a well-organized argument. The inclusion of textual evidence and considering the broader context are equally vital. Proficient writing skills are indispensable for formulating an influential essay that manifests a profound comprehension of the text and engages the readers.

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A Short Guide to Close Reading for Literary Analysis

Use the guidelines below to learn about the practice of close reading.

When your teachers or professors ask you to analyze a literary text, they often look for something frequently called close reading. Close reading is deep analysis of how a literary text works; it is both a reading process and something you include in a literary analysis paper, though in a refined form.

Fiction writers and poets build texts out of many central components, including subject, form, and specific word choices. Literary analysis involves examining these components, which allows us to find in small parts of the text clues to help us understand the whole. For example, if an author writes a novel in the form of a personal journal about a character’s daily life, but that journal reads like a series of lab reports, what do we learn about that character? What is the effect of picking a word like “tome” instead of “book”? In effect, you are putting the author’s choices under a microscope.

The process of close reading should produce a lot of questions. It is when you begin to answer these questions that you are ready to participate thoughtfully in class discussion or write a literary analysis paper that makes the most of your close reading work.

Close reading sometimes feels like over-analyzing, but don’t worry. Close reading is a process of finding as much information as you can in order to form as many questions as you can. When it is time to write your paper and formalize your close reading, you will sort through your work to figure out what is most convincing and helpful to the argument you hope to make and, conversely, what seems like a stretch. This guide imagines you are sitting down to read a text for the first time on your way to developing an argument about a text and writing a paper. To give one example of how to do this, we will read the poem “Design” by famous American poet Robert Frost and attend to four major components of literary texts: subject, form, word choice (diction), and theme.

If you want even more information about approaching poems specifically, take a look at our guide: How to Read a Poem .

As our guide to reading poetry suggests, have a pencil out when you read a text. Make notes in the margins, underline important words, place question marks where you are confused by something. Of course, if you are reading in a library book, you should keep all your notes on a separate piece of paper. If you are not making marks directly on, in, and beside the text, be sure to note line numbers or even quote portions of the text so you have enough context to remember what you found interesting.

how to start a literary analysis essay example

Design I found a dimpled spider, fat and white, On a white heal-all, holding up a moth Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth— Assorted characters of death and blight Mixed ready to begin the morning right, Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth— A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth, And dead wings carried like a paper kite. What had that flower to do with being white, The wayside blue and innocent heal-all? What brought the kindred spider to that height, Then steered the white moth thither in the night? What but design of darkness to appall?— If design govern in a thing so small.

The subject of a literary text is simply what the text is about. What is its plot? What is its most important topic? What image does it describe? It’s easy to think of novels and stories as having plots, but sometimes it helps to think of poetry as having a kind of plot as well. When you examine the subject of a text, you want to develop some preliminary ideas about the text and make sure you understand its major concerns before you dig deeper.

Observations

In “Design,” the speaker describes a scene: a white spider holding a moth on a white flower. The flower is a heal-all, the blooms of which are usually violet-blue. This heal-all is unusual. The speaker then poses a series of questions, asking why this heal-all is white instead of blue and how the spider and moth found this particular flower. How did this situation arise?

The speaker’s questions seem simple, but they are actually fairly nuanced. We can use them as a guide for our own as we go forward with our close reading.

  • Furthering the speaker’s simple “how did this happen,” we might ask, is the scene in this poem a manufactured situation?
  • The white moth and white spider each use the atypical white flower as camouflage in search of sanctuary and supper respectively. Did these flora and fauna come together for a purpose?
  • Does the speaker have a stance about whether there is a purpose behind the scene? If so, what is it?
  • How will other elements of the text relate to the unpleasantness and uncertainty in our first look at the poem’s subject?

After thinking about local questions, we have to zoom out. Ultimately, what is this text about?

Form is how a text is put together. When you look at a text, observe how the author has arranged it. If it is a novel, is it written in the first person? How is the novel divided? If it is a short story, why did the author choose to write short-form fiction instead of a novel or novella? Examining the form of a text can help you develop a starting set of questions in your reading, which then may guide further questions stemming from even closer attention to the specific words the author chooses. A little background research on form and what different forms can mean makes it easier to figure out why and how the author’s choices are important.

Most poems follow rules or principles of form; even free verse poems are marked by the author’s choices in line breaks, rhythm, and rhyme—even if none of these exists, which is a notable choice in itself. Here’s an example of thinking through these elements in “Design.”

In “Design,” Frost chooses an Italian (or Petrarchan) sonnet form: fourteen lines in iambic pentameter consisting of an octave (a stanza of eight lines) and a sestet (a stanza of six lines). We will focus on rhyme scheme and stanza structure rather than meter for the purposes of this guide. A typical Italian sonnet has a specific rhyme scheme for the octave:

a b b a a b b a

There’s more variation in the sestet rhymes, but one of the more common schemes is

c d e c d e

Conventionally, the octave introduces a problem or question which the sestet then resolves. The point at which the sonnet goes from the problem/question to the resolution is called the volta, or turn. (Note that we are speaking only in generalities here; there is a great deal of variation.)

Frost uses the usual octave scheme with “-ite”/”-ight” (a) and “oth” (b) sounds: “white,” “moth,” “cloth,” “blight,” “right,” “broth,” “froth,” “kite.” However, his sestet follows an unusual scheme with “-ite”/”-ight” and “all” sounds:

a c a a c c

Now, we have a few questions with which we can start:

  • Why use an Italian sonnet?
  • Why use an unusual scheme in the sestet?
  • What problem/question and resolution (if any) does Frost offer?
  • What is the volta in this poem?
  • In other words, what is the point?

Italian sonnets have a long tradition; many careful readers recognize the form and know what to expect from his octave, volta, and sestet. Frost seems to do something fairly standard in the octave in presenting a situation; however, the turn Frost makes is not to resolution, but to questions and uncertainty. A white spider sitting on a white flower has killed a white moth.

  • How did these elements come together?
  • Was the moth’s death random or by design?
  • Is one worse than the other?

We can guess right away that Frost’s disruption of the usual purpose of the sestet has something to do with his disruption of its rhyme scheme. Looking even more closely at the text will help us refine our observations and guesses.

Word Choice, or Diction

Looking at the word choice of a text helps us “dig in” ever more deeply. If you are reading something longer, are there certain words that come up again and again? Are there words that stand out? While you are going through this process, it is best for you to assume that every word is important—again, you can decide whether something is really important later.

Even when you read prose, our guide for reading poetry offers good advice: read with a pencil and make notes. Mark the words that stand out, and perhaps write the questions you have in the margins or on a separate piece of paper. If you have ideas that may possibly answer your questions, write those down, too.

Let’s take a look at the first line of “Design”:

I found a dimpled spider, fat and white

The poem starts with something unpleasant: a spider. Then, as we look more closely at the adjectives describing the spider, we may see connotations of something that sounds unhealthy or unnatural. When we imagine spiders, we do not generally picture them dimpled and white; it is an uncommon and decidedly creepy image. There is dissonance between the spider and its descriptors, i.e., what is wrong with this picture? Already we have a question: what is going on with this spider?

We should look for additional clues further on in the text. The next two lines develop the image of the unusual, unpleasant-sounding spider:

On a white heal-all, holding up a moth Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth—

Now we have a white flower (a heal-all, which usually has a violet-blue flower) and a white moth in addition to our white spider. Heal-alls have medicinal properties, as their name suggests, but this one seems to have a genetic mutation—perhaps like the spider? Does the mutation that changes the heal-all’s color also change its beneficial properties—could it be poisonous rather than curative? A white moth doesn’t seem remarkable, but it is “Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth,” or like manmade fabric that is artificially “rigid” rather than smooth and flowing like we imagine satin to be. We might think for a moment of a shroud or the lining of a coffin, but even that is awry, for neither should be stiff with death.

The first three lines of the poem’s octave introduce unpleasant natural images “of death and blight” (as the speaker puts it in line four). The flower and moth disrupt expectations: the heal-all is white instead of “blue and innocent,” and the moth is reduced to “rigid satin cloth” or “dead wings carried like a paper kite.” We might expect a spider to be unpleasant and deadly; the poem’s spider also has an unusual and unhealthy appearance.

  • The focus on whiteness in these lines has more to do with death than purity—can we understand that whiteness as being corpse-like rather than virtuous?

Well before the volta, Frost makes a “turn” away from nature as a retreat and haven; instead, he unearths its inherent dangers, making nature menacing. From three lines alone, we have a number of questions:

  • Will whiteness play a role in the rest of the poem?
  • How does “design”—an arrangement of these circumstances—fit with a scene of death?
  • What other juxtapositions might we encounter?

These disruptions and dissonances recollect Frost’s alteration to the standard Italian sonnet form: finding the ways and places in which form and word choice go together will help us begin to unravel some larger concepts the poem itself addresses.

Put simply, themes are major ideas in a text. Many texts, especially longer forms like novels and plays, have multiple themes. That’s good news when you are close reading because it means there are many different ways you can think through the questions you develop.

So far in our reading of “Design,” our questions revolve around disruption: disruption of form, disruption of expectations in the description of certain images. Discovering a concept or idea that links multiple questions or observations you have made is the beginning of a discovery of theme.

What is happening with disruption in “Design”? What point is Frost making? Observations about other elements in the text help you address the idea of disruption in more depth. Here is where we look back at the work we have already done: What is the text about? What is notable about the form, and how does it support or undermine what the words say? Does the specific language of the text highlight, or redirect, certain ideas?

In this example, we are looking to determine what kind(s) of disruption the poem contains or describes. Rather than “disruption,” we want to see what kind of disruption, or whether indeed Frost uses disruptions in form and language to communicate something opposite: design.

Sample Analysis

After you make notes, formulate questions, and set tentative hypotheses, you must analyze the subject of your close reading. Literary analysis is another process of reading (and writing!) that allows you to make a claim about the text. It is also the point at which you turn a critical eye to your earlier questions and observations to find the most compelling points, discarding the ones that are a “stretch.” By “stretch,” we mean that we must discard points that are fascinating but have no clear connection to the text as a whole. (We recommend a separate document for recording the brilliant ideas that don’t quite fit this time around.)

Here follows an excerpt from a brief analysis of “Design” based on the close reading above. This example focuses on some lines in great detail in order to unpack the meaning and significance of the poem’s language. By commenting on the different elements of close reading we have discussed, it takes the results of our close reading to offer one particular way into the text. (In case you were thinking about using this sample as your own, be warned: it has no thesis and it is easily discoverable on the web. Plus it doesn’t have a title.)

Frost’s speaker brews unlikely associations in the first stanza of the poem. The “Assorted characters of death and blight / Mixed ready to begin the morning right” make of the grotesque scene an equally grotesque mockery of a breakfast cereal (4–5). These lines are almost singsong in meter and it is easy to imagine them set to a radio jingle. A pun on “right”/”rite” slides the “characters of death and blight” into their expected concoction: a “witches’ broth” (6). These juxtapositions—a healthy breakfast that is also a potion for dark magic—are borne out when our “fat and white” spider becomes “a snow-drop”—an early spring flower associated with renewal—and the moth as “dead wings carried like a paper kite” (1, 7, 8). Like the mutant heal-all that hosts the moth’s death, the spider becomes a deadly flower; the harmless moth becomes a child’s toy, but as “dead wings,” more like a puppet made of a skull. The volta offers no resolution for our unsettled expectations. Having observed the scene and detailed its elements in all their unpleasantness, the speaker turns to questions rather than answers. How did “The wayside blue and innocent heal-all” end up white and bleached like a bone (10)? How did its “kindred spider” find the white flower, which was its perfect hiding place (11)? Was the moth, then, also searching for camouflage, only to meet its end? Using another question as a disguise, the speaker offers a hypothesis: “What but design of darkness to appall?” (13). This question sounds rhetorical, as though the only reason for such an unlikely combination of flora and fauna is some “design of darkness.” Some force, the speaker suggests, assembled the white spider, flower, and moth to snuff out the moth’s life. Such a design appalls, or horrifies. We might also consider the speaker asking what other force but dark design could use something as simple as appalling in its other sense (making pale or white) to effect death. However, the poem does not close with a question, but with a statement. The speaker’s “If design govern in a thing so small” establishes a condition for the octave’s questions after the fact (14). There is no point in considering the dark design that brought together “assorted characters of death and blight” if such an event is too minor, too physically small to be the work of some force unknown. Ending on an “if” clause has the effect of rendering the poem still more uncertain in its conclusions: not only are we faced with unanswered questions, we are now not even sure those questions are valid in the first place. Behind the speaker and the disturbing scene, we have Frost and his defiance of our expectations for a Petrarchan sonnet. Like whatever designer may have altered the flower and attracted the spider to kill the moth, the poet built his poem “wrong” with a purpose in mind. Design surely governs in a poem, however small; does Frost also have a dark design? Can we compare a scene in nature to a carefully constructed sonnet?

A Note on Organization

Your goal in a paper about literature is to communicate your best and most interesting ideas to your reader. Depending on the type of paper you have been assigned, your ideas may need to be organized in service of a thesis to which everything should link back. It is best to ask your instructor about the expectations for your paper.

Knowing how to organize these papers can be tricky, in part because there is no single right answer—only more and less effective answers. You may decide to organize your paper thematically, or by tackling each idea sequentially; you may choose to order your ideas by their importance to your argument or to the poem. If you are comparing and contrasting two texts, you might work thematically or by addressing first one text and then the other. One way to approach a text may be to start with the beginning of the novel, story, play, or poem, and work your way toward its end. For example, here is the rough structure of the example above: The author of the sample decided to use the poem itself as an organizational guide, at least for this part of the analysis.

  • A paragraph about the octave.
  • A paragraph about the volta.
  • A paragraph about the penultimate line (13).
  • A paragraph about the final line (14).
  • A paragraph addressing form that suggests a transition to the next section of the paper.

You will have to decide for yourself the best way to communicate your ideas to your reader. Is it easier to follow your points when you write about each part of the text in detail before moving on? Or is your work clearer when you work through each big idea—the significance of whiteness, the effect of an altered sonnet form, and so on—sequentially?

We suggest you write your paper however is easiest for you then move things around during revision if you need to.

Further Reading

If you really want to master the practice of reading and writing about literature, we recommend Sylvan Barnet and William E. Cain’s wonderful book, A Short Guide to Writing about Literature . Barnet and Cain offer not only definitions and descriptions of processes, but examples of explications and analyses, as well as checklists for you, the author of the paper. The Short Guide is certainly not the only available reference for writing about literature, but it is an excellent guide and reminder for new writers and veterans alike.

how to start a literary analysis essay example

Academic and Professional Writing

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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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Making a Literary Anaysis Includes Three Main Steps: Critical Reading, Making a Thesis, and Writing the Essay.

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

🔗 References

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.

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👣 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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How to Write an Introduction for a Literary Analysis Essay

Erica sweeney.

The introduction to a literary analysis essay has to hook the reader.

A literary analysis essay explains the significance of a specific aspect of a literary work. Literary analyses are scholarly essays and should be written more conservatively than other types of essays. An introduction for a literary analysis should provide relevant information about the work of literature, include a thesis statement and orientate the reader to what will follow.

Start out with a clear topic. The topic should be an interpretation of a specific aspect of a work of literature, such as racism in "To Kill a Mockingbird" or foreshadowing in "Lord of the Flies." Understanding what you are writing about is vital to writing a good introduction and essay.

State the title and author of the literary work in the first sentence. This is essential so that the reader knows which poem, short story or novel you are discussing. Do not start out discussing characters before telling the reader in which work of literature they appear.

Hook the reader in the first sentence, just as you would in any other essay. What is something interesting about the work that you can tell the reader in the first line? The piece of interesting information must also be relevant to the topic and to the literary element being discussed.

Assume that the reader has read and is familiar with the work of literature that you are writing about. Keeping this in mind will stop you from including too much plot summary in the introduction and the rest of the essay.

Make clear what it is you are analyzing in the essay. Explain a bit about this aspect in the introduction so that the reader is clear about what is being analyzed.

Do not start analyzing the work. Acquaint the reader with what will be analyzed, but save the actual analyzing for the body.

State the thesis in the last sentence of the introduction. The thesis should clearly state what the essay will analyze and should be very specific. It also must argue something. For example: "Although Harper Lee has been criticized for being too sympathetic of white racists in 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' her honest portrayal of the setting has aided anti-racism efforts."

Use transitions throughout the introduction. Because there are so many things that have to be included, the introduction can end up a clump of sentences stuck together. Make sure that it makes sense on its own as a paragraph.

About the Author

Erica Sweeney is a freelance writer and editor based in Little Rock, Ark. She has a master's in journalism from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Her work has been published at SaidIt.org, Arkansas Times, Aging Arkansas and Arkansas Business.

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Exploring Literary Analysis Essay Examples: 20 Insightful Examples

May 20, 2023 | 0 comments

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May 20, 2023 | Blog | 0 comments

What is Literary Analysis Essay

A literary analysis essay example is an academic assignment that examines and evaluates a work of literature or a given aspect of a specific literary piece. It tells about the big idea or theme of a book you’ve read. The literary essay may be about any book or any literary topic imaginable.

The purpose of a literary analysis essay is to give the reader a full perspective on the major idea or theme of the literature work. It just presents the main intention of the writer in constructing the piece.

In a literary analysis essay, the writer shares their opinion about the theme and other literary elements of writing .

These views are supported with textual evidence from relevant work to back up what is being said. It may not have a thesis statement depending on whether it’s an informative or argumentative essay type.

Let me break it up into two stages to start the journey. Your job is to synthesize a claimed or thematic statement about the passage and use your essay to support your ideas.

Your professor always reads the text you’re studying, so you don’t have to talk about what happened in the plot.

You reread most of the books before, and you know about them that if they are simply because you merely recite a book’s major characters as proof that you reread them, but the analysis would need more.

There can be many sections in this style, including but not limited to the introduction, body paragraphs supporting claims for your point-of-view (argument), conclusion where these points converge into one strong consensus called “claim.”

The following are the features that distinguish a literary analysis essay from other types of papers:

  • A narrative is included in a literary analysis essay.
  • It is interpretative;
  • It does not contain an argumentative thesis;
  • It is a report.

Writing a literary analysis essay is an essential part of academics.

High school and college students often get assigned this type of paper.

A literary essay is one of the different types of essays that require good analyzing skills, strong analytical abilities, and the ability to write well to be successful as something people want to read.

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What is the Purpose of a Literary Analysis Essay?

The purpose of a literary analysis essay is to carefully examine and sometimes evaluate a work of literature or an aspect of a work of literature. As with any analysis, this requires you to break the subject down into its component parts.

Examining the different elements of a piece of literature is not an end in itself but rather a process to help you better appreciate and understand the work of literature as a whole.

For instance, an analysis of a poem might deal with the different types of images in a poem or with the relationship between the form and content of the work. If you were to analyze a play, you might analyze the relationship between a subplot and the main plot, or you might analyze the character flaw of the tragic hero by tracing how it is revealed throughout the play.

You can choose from many approaches when analyzing a piece of literature. Common literary analysis essay focuses include characterization, structure, setting, language, theme, and symbolism.

Elements of Literature 

Literature is the ideas or devices that make up a story.

These elements are used to develop literary works, and without them, no essay can be complete.

Some of these elements have more prominence than others, which do not play a significant role when it comes down to choosing literature for analysis purposes like I am doing now with this piece called “The Elements Of Literature.”

True analysis means examining the text as if as an investigator.

Set, characters, and setting each leave details of deeper meaning, and the only thing you do is find these out. Characters are useful to analysis because they act to cause and react to an event in a story.

Conflict is the fight between two opposing forces, usually the main protagonist and antagonists.

You may easily understand the setting because authors usually express opinions through character representation of races, religions, or gender.

The author may express some opinions through their characters can have provocative and revealing thoughts as well. In any analysis, sometimes a character gets started.

The plot is one of the essential elements in a literary essay because it provides insight into how the story unfolds and discusses patterns of events that make up a story.

Sometimes authors use nonlinear plots, such as flashbacks or future events- these can help make your work captivating to readers who want more than just an overview.

Make sure you pay attention to this point when writing an analysis paper.  

In most situations, students finish up writing a summary of the plot instead of analyzing and explaining an assertion or developing an argument.

This is one very common mistake, and it fails students since simply retelling stories.

Rather than just using the summary, supporting the claims would be the right approach.

In theory, you should learn to share your impressions in examining literary analysis, which becomes difficult for most students to learn efficiently since instruction and practice are needed. It is typically difficult to know how best to use the plot synoptic because it becomes hard.

2 Point Of View

You can’t get through life without a point of view.

And in the world of literature, your perspective tells us who’s narrating and what their story is all about.

Having a point of view is essential in the work of literature. It communicates to the readers who are narrating the story. This section attempts to explain why the author has selected a particular perspective.

The importance “point-of-view” has on storytelling should not be underestimated because it communicates so much more than just an idea or opinion–it lets readers know which character they are following around as they go about his day (or night).

In other words, you don’t have any control over how someone else sees the world if that person happens to be telling your story from their own experiences.

During a literary analysis – one should have a clear understanding of the point of view and the writer’s ideas.

Assume that links between the ideas and a plot are found between characters’ behavior and character role changes in the text.

Read both if needed. What does the reader think about the characters in this book? What do you know about characters?

The setting of a story is integral to the development and progression, especially when it comes time for Analysis.

The reader can see how characters are affected in certain regions while also understanding their opinion about those areas as well through this technique.  

4 Characters

Characters are the backbone of any piece of literature, and no story is complete without them.

While writing a literary essay, you need to concentrate on how these characters develop throughout the work and how different authors portray them.

There are three sorts of characters in most literary works.

  • Hero is the protagonist.
  • The antagonist is often known as the villain or the evil guy.
  • Catalyst:  A pivotal figure who is neither the protagonist nor the adversary.

The use of imagery in literature is an essential factor, where the author draws pictures and creates scenes for readers to experience through their imagination.

These images are usually used as symbols throughout literary work that often helps convey deeper emotions or messages, which you cannot do with mere words alone.

Without these essential elements, a story would lose its identity much as it did without sound before movies were invented.  

6 Symbolism

Symbolism is a way to represent ideas through objects.

It’s not explained in words but can be found throughout the text, and it’s decoded by looking at other parts of the work.  

One of the most impactful elements that leave an impression on readers’ memories is irony.

It can be just as surprising to a reader, for example, when they find out their favorite character dies in some unexpected way or when something terrible happens despite all their efforts.

One thing about life and storytelling is you never know what will happen next – death comes unexpectedly without warning sometimes, so it’s best not to get too attached.

8 Foreshadowing

The authors often try to hint at the future or anticipated events by making references through their descriptions.

This is called foreshadowing, and it provides hints to readers so they can expect what’s coming for characters, stories, plots. Impress your teacher with your perspectives on this incident in an essay format.

Literary Analysis Essay Outline

A well-written literary analysis essay outline should contain the following elements:

Introduction

  • Body paragraphs

The introductory part of your paper gives an overview of your argument in detail. It shall contain your thesis statement and summarize the essay’s structure. Sometimes some students prefer to write an introduction more later. It’s a decent idea to do so.

This section includes information to catch the readers’ attention. Writing a good essay introduction is essential when drafting up an engaging essay.

Ensuring that your introductory part is engaging can make or break what it feels like to read a paper. The first thing an essay should do when writing the opening paragraph, typically in the form of one sentence, establishes relevance and context for their audience by hooking them with interesting information.

A strong beginning sets up the tone for how you want readers to feel throughout reading your work.

The introduction is the best way to hook your reader.

It’s also a place where you can make sure they know what this essay is about! Let me show you how in three steps:

  • Introduce my topic and thesis statement (the main point of this paper). I’ll let them see it early, so they don’t get lost later when all those words start getting thrown around like crazy.
  • State points from books or other sources proving why my position makes sense – to make arguments strong, we need good textual evidence for our ideas.
  • Tell them one thing more before closing off with an ending sentence. This will seal the deal because now readers are totally hooked.

Body Paragraphs

After writing the introductory part, you move to the body section of a literary analysis essay, where you present ideas and statements that support your argument.

You can use quoting or paraphrasing methods depending on your preference.

The main points in every body paragraph should refer back to the general thesis statement for continuity throughout the paper.

Essay writing is a process that requires not only skill but the right mindset. The first step to writing an outstanding paper is creating a topic sentence for it- this will be used as the foundation and main argument of your essay.

Each paragraph should start with a topic sentence.

This is the first sentence of your paragraph that introduces which part of the thesis this paragraph will tackle.

After presenting your argument, provide textual evidence. Textual evidence may be a scene that you recount, a small detail or object, or a quote (you should cite this).

Most importantly, explain how the textual evidence supports the topic sentence or the thesis statement. The commentary is your interpretation, analysis, or insight into the text.

Generally speaking, a topic sentence makes it easy for a reader to know about the content a good sentence is about.

It allows new arguments in the argument line and combines with the earlier points or compares them with the preceding one in the argument line. Transition words such as “however” will give a more smooth transition.

Your subpoints will look at different aspects of your subject matter on their you can discuss them in detail before coming back together again with the theme statement you created earlier.

Without these individual arguments being developed fully before bringing them all back into one cohesive unit, readers might miss out on important details about what’s been discussed.

You might think that in literary analysis essays, a different structure of the text would be applied. However, it is essential to make your arguments as convincing as possible by providing enough textual evidence and making sure all claims refer to the thesis statement.

The body of your paper should contain three major sections: introduction (where you establish an argument), middle section with supporting facts or examples from text/literary critic’s review), conclusion (to summarize what has been said).

Sometimes, the text can be hard to define which parts are definite proof of your points.

So don’t forget that literary devices used in a book have motives and deeper meanings, while they might lead you to understand what the author was trying to say.

You should also pay attention not only to metaphors but other figures as well; there is no shortage on this list – allusions, alliterations (think about The Catcher in Rye), hyperboles (exaggerating people’s emotions or actions), and antithesis (a figure where two differing ideas oppose each other).

Keeping track of stylistic devices when reading through any piece, including these few simple ones mentioned above, will help uncover different aspects.

Writing a conclusion

A conclusion is the last and most crucial section of an essay.

It presents your argument about how a literary work reflects its plotline and ideas from the author’s perspective.

Still, it can only do so effectively if kept within a reasonable length limit.

Many people find the conclusion to be one of the most challenging parts of writing a paper.

But actually, it’s not! Your job is to summarize your key arguments and show how they relate to your thesis statement from earlier in the essay.

To write an effective concise conclusion, you needn’t make any new conclusions as all points have been made already; this means that if somebody were reading through what you’ve written so far, they shouldn’t have any unanswered questions about what has just been said – only answers.

The formula for knowing when you’re done with an excellent concluding paragraph is:

if there are no more points left over, then the reader should still feel satisfied at having read everything even though some things may seem unclear.

When moving on to writing this main part after having finished outlining all aspects of your chosen text, take help where you need it- even experts have limits.

Make sure that when working with such significant detail to make an understandable case for what makes up some piece of literature or art, always seek assistance.

Expert writers could aid in making something complex simple enough for anyone else reading quickly to see through their eyes as well as yours.

Following is an example provided by our experts to help you draft a good outline effectively.

Literary Essay Outline Example (PDF)

Literary analysis topics.

Choosing a topic for your essay can be tough. It’s important to know that topics are the backbone of essays, making it easier when you decide what to write about.

Choosing an interesting, engaging, or creative topic is key if you want your essay to succeed in grabbing readers’ attention. Here are some good example ideas:

  • Effect of peer pressure on a child’s personality
  • How can education standards be increased?
  • The significance and analysis of a particular piece of literature.
  • How upbringing and personality are related?
  • How single parenting affects the physical and psychological well-being of a child?
  • Analyze the main plot of a novel
  • Can inequality be avoided?
  • Advantages and disadvantages of playing video games for children
  • Is addiction a personal choice or disease?
  • Analyze the main character of a book

Literary analyses essay Examples

Sample literary analysis essay example for middle school.

This sample essay focuses on the character development of Laura in the book  By the Shores of Silver Lake  by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The thesis statement for this literary analysis essay is, “When her eldest sister loses her sight, Laura Ingalls Wilder must suddenly take on the role of the oldest child in the family and grow in maturity.”

A Rose For Emily Literary Analysis Essay

To kill a mockingbird literary analysis essay, the great gatsby literary analysis essay, the yellow wallpaper literary analysis essay, literary analysis example for 8th grade, the lord of the rings, chopin’s artistry in “the story of an hour”, impressions of ordinary life, plot and character in maupassant’s “the necklace”, the true lord of the rings, the mystery of the mastery, plot vs. point of view in chopin’s “story of an hour”, literary analysis of maupassant’s “the necklace”, a cure for temporary depression, hidden labyrinth ,  untitled: on chekhov’s “the lady with the little dog, get help from the experts with your literary analysis essay.

Are you looking for literary analysis essays? Well, your search is over! We have the best experts in writing literary analysis essays. Our writers are qualified and experienced in writing such kinds of essays. They understand what you need in your essay, and they will deliver a perfect essay according to your specifications.

 Frequently Asked Questions

How do you write a literary analysis essay.

  • An introduction that tells the reader what your essay will focus on.
  • The main body is divided into paragraphs that build an argument using evidence from the text.
  • A conclusion that clearly states the main point that you have shown with your analysis.

  What is a literary analysis essay?

The purpose of a literary analysis essay is to carefully examine and sometimes evaluate a work of literature or an aspect of a work of literature

How do you start a literary analysis paper?

Writing an Introduction to a Literary Analysis Essay.

Start with the title of your work and its author’s name. One or two sentences will suffice. Stress on the main idea of the analyzed work to make these sentences more hooking. Briefly tell what the work is about or how it influenced the world literature.  

What is a literary analysis essay in middle school?

A literary analysis is more than a book report; it goes deeper into the text, examining the themes, literary devices, characters, and more. To write a great literary analysis essay , you need a good thesis and a good grasp of the novel, story, poem, or other literary work you’re discussing.  

What are the 5 components of literary analysis?

The elements to be analyzed are plot, setting, characters, point of view, figurative language, and style.

Jamie Boone

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The Classroom | Empowering Students in Their College Journey

‌How to Title an Essay with Literary Analysis Examples

Kori Morgan

How to Write a Controlling Idea Essay

You may have spent hours brainstorming your thesis, searching for quotations and polishing your final draft, but a good title can make the difference between someone reading your literary essay and tossing it aside. Good literary essay titles not only capture your reader's interest, but they also preview the argument you'll be making in the paper itself. They capture the central idea that is presented in your work, and entice the viewer to read. Creativity, humor and innovative plays on the work you're writing about can transform a dull title into one that piques your audience's curiosity.

Include the Subject and Focus

Your title should not just name the literary work that is the ​ subject ​ of your essay but also describe its ​ focus ​, the target idea, literary device or theme that the piece explores. This is sometimes referred to as a "working title" as well, since it focuses heavily on the main part of your essay, and can remind you of your focus as you read. In an essay about morality in "To Kill a Mockingbird," for example, Harper Lee's novel would be the subject of the paper, while morality would be the essay's focus. Including the phrase "Morality in 'To Kill a Mockingbird' " somewhere in your title would clearly indicate to audiences what themes your essay will deal with. This is a more basic example of an essay title, but effective in most all cases.

Link Two Ideas With a Colon

While including the subject and focus in the title gives a good summary of your essay topic, it's not enough to pull readers in. Using a colon to punctuate the subject with a catchy explanation of the focus can not only add an air of professionalism to your paper but also give a more in-depth, eye-catching preview of your topic for readers. An essay about Holden Caulfield's painful transition to adulthood, for example, might be titled "The Precarious Edge of the Cliff: Loss of Innocence in J.D. Salinger's 'The Catcher in the Rye.' "

This title choice also allows you to present two ideas that are key parts of your essay, if you choose to. Maybe you can't decide on just one, because both are equally important. This choice would be a good tool for featuring both ideas and connecting them to each other. Displaying a longer, more developed essay title, can also give you the freedom to discuss these ideas in your essay with more detail since they are featured in the title.

Include a Quotation from the Work

Sometimes, a quotation from the book can provide inspiration for your essay's title. Try adding a brief, snappy portion of this quote to your title's focus statement. For example, the title for an essay about mother-daughter relationships in Flannery O'Connor's short stories might borrow from a quote in the story "Good Country People," in which the central character, Hulga, tells her overbearing, critical mother, "If you want me, here I am -- like I am." The title of this essay might read, "Like I Am: Mother-Daughter Dysfunction in Flannery O'Connor's Short Stories."

Use Wordplay

While the tone of your literary essay should ultimately be professional and credible, using puns or humor to play off an aspect of the title can be a friendly way to entice your audience to read further. For example, an essay about the symbolic villages of East and West Egg in "The Great Gatsby" might be titled "The Eggs Came First: Settings as Symbols in F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby.' "

You can be assured your teacher, or whoever is viewing your paper, is going to sift through many boring and unoriginal essay titles, so making sure that yours will pop is important.

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How to Write a Lab Report Title

How to Write Conclusions for Expository Papers

How to Write Conclusions for Expository Papers

How to Write an Anecdotal Essay

How to Write an Anecdotal Essay

  • Dawson College: Some Tips on Titling Your Critical Essay
  • Bucks County Community College: How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay

Kori Morgan holds a Bachelor of Arts in professional writing and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and has been crafting online and print educational materials since 2006. She taught creative writing and composition at West Virginia University and the University of Akron and her fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals.

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  1. Literary Analysis Essay: Tips to Write a Perfect Essay

    how to start a literary analysis essay example

  2. Literary Essay

    how to start a literary analysis essay example

  3. How to Write a Literary Analysis (Outline & Examples) at KingEssays©

    how to start a literary analysis essay example

  4. How to Write a Literary Analysis (Outline & Examples) at KingEssays©

    how to start a literary analysis essay example

  5. Literary Essay

    how to start a literary analysis essay example

  6. How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay Step by Step

    how to start a literary analysis essay example

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  1. Writing Literary Analysis Essay final drafts examples grade 10

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  4. Planning the Literary Analysis Essay The Awakening

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  6. Explaining the 4 types of essays

COMMENTS

  1. How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay

    Step 1: Reading the text and identifying literary devices 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.

  2. PDF HOW TO WRITE A LITERARY ANALYSIS ESSAY

    The Introduction The introduction to your literary analysis essay should try to capture your reader‟s interest. To bring immediate focus to your subject, you may want to use a quotation, a provocative question, a brief anecdote, a startling statement, or a combination of these.

  3. How to Write Literary Analysis

    Contents 1. Ask questions 2. Collect evidence 3. Construct a thesis 4. Develop and organize arguments 5. Write the introduction 6. Write the body paragraphs 7. Write the conclusion 1 Ask Questions When you're assigned a literary essay in class, your teacher will often provide you with a list of writing prompts. Lucky you!

  4. Beginner's Guide to Literary Analysis

    Here are some examples of literary analysis and its oft-confused counterparts: Summary: In "The Fall of the House of Usher," the narrator visits his friend Roderick Usher and witnesses his sister escape a horrible fate.

  5. How To Write A Literary Analysis Essay Outline With Examples

    1. How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay Outline? 2. Literary Analysis Essay Format 3. Literary Analysis Essay Outline Example 4. Literary Analysis Essay Topics How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay Outline? An outline is a structure that you decide to give to your writing to make the audience understand your viewpoint clearly.

  6. Example of an Insightful Literary Analysis Essay

    To write a great literary analysis essay, you need a good thesis and a good grasp of the novel, story, poem, or other literary work you're discussing. You also need examples for inspiration. Sample Literary Analysis Essay for Middle School or High School At the middle school level, a literary analysis essay can be as short as one page.

  7. 8 Steps to Write a Perfect Literary Analysis Essay

    1. What is a Literary Analysis Essay? 2. How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay? 3. Types of Literary Analysis Essay 4. Literary Analysis Essay Example 5. Literary Analysis Essay Topics What is a Literary Analysis Essay?

  8. How to Write a Literary Analysis: 6 Tips for the Perfect Essay

    These 4 steps will help prepare you to write an in-depth literary analysis that offers new insight to both old and modern classics. 1. Read the text and identify literary devices. As you conduct your literary analysis, you should first read through the text, keeping an eye on key elements that could serve as clues to larger, underlying themes.

  9. How to Write a Literary Analysis: Guide with Examples

    How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay: Types, Structure, Example Updated 09 Jun 2023 A literary analysis essay is writing, in which you examine a piece of literature and understand links between small parts of texts and the whole work, and put it onto the paper.

  10. 12.14: Sample Student Literary Analysis Essays

    Thus "Jabberwocky" creates a shadowy mood, and the nonsense words are instrumental in creating this mood. Carroll could not have simply used any nonsense words. For example, let us change the "dark," "ominous" words of the first stanza to "lighter," more "comic" words: 'Twas mearly, and the churly pells.

  11. How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay: Definition, Formats, Examples

    Blog / How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay: Purposes, Outline, Samples How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay: Purposes, Outline, Samples Tia February 23, 2022 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.

  12. Literary Analysis Essay

    Literary Analysis Essay - A Complete Guide With Example A detailed guide on how to write a literary analysis essay. It also includes sample essays and different writing tips that will help you improve your skills.

  13. A Comprehensive Guide to Writing a Literary Analysis Essay

    Literary analysis is a process of examining a literary work in detail to uncover its meaning and significance. It involves breaking down the various elements of a work, such as plot, character, setting, and theme. And then analyzing how they work together to create a specific effect on the reader. In other words, literary analysis is an ...

  14. How To Write a Literary Analysis Step by Step

    Create a rough outline. The first part of the actual process of how to write a literary analysis is to create a synopsis of the entire examination of the work. This will act as a framework for your analysis and help make it more coherent and keep it focused on the point you're trying to make. 4. Formulate a thesis.

  15. Tips and Tricks on Writing Literary Analysis Essay

    A literary analysis essay involves studying the text, evaluating the plot, analyzing characters, and determining devices used by the author to engage and influence readers. A novel, tale, poem, play, or another piece of literature can become the object of your research. When composing a literary analysis essay, a writer explores the text form ...

  16. Literary Analysis Essay Examples: Discover How to Analyze Literature

    Keep practicing, and each essay will be a step towards mastery in literary analysis. How to write an outline of a Literary Essay. Embarking on the journey of writing a literary analysis essay requires a roadmap to ensure a logical and coherent argument. One effective way to organize your thoughts and ideas is by creating an outline.

  17. A Short Guide to Close Reading for Literary Analysis

    To give one example of how to do this, we will read the poem "Design" by famous American poet Robert Frost and attend to four major components of literary texts: subject, form, word choice (diction), and theme. If you want even more information about approaching poems specifically, take a look at our guide: How to Read a Poem

  18. Literary Analysis Essay: 5 Steps to a Perfect Assignment

    1. Read and analyze the text. In order to understand how to start a literary analysis essay, you need to realize the importance of strong research. Before you begin writing your essay, make sure to thoroughly go through your text and take detailed notes. Observe and note the words used by the author, the structure and tone of the piece, the ...

  19. How to Write a Literary Analysis

    There are seven steps to writing a literary analysis. First, choose a text. Second, decide on a focus (or lens). Third, design the thesis. Fourth, complete research and collect evidence. Fifth ...

  20. How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay Step by Step

    8 min Updated: September 25th, 2023 Print How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay Step by Step (46 votes) 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.

  21. How to Write an Introduction for a Literary Analysis Essay

    A literary analysis essay explains the significance of a specific aspect of a literary work. Literary analyses are scholarly essays and should be written more conservatively than other types of essays. ... Start out with a clear topic. The topic should be an interpretation of a specific aspect of a work of literature, such as racism in "To Kill ...

  22. Literary Analysis Essay Example: 20 Insightful Examples

    What Will I Learn? show What is Literary Analysis Essay A literary analysis essay example is an academic assignment that examines and evaluates a work of literature or a given aspect of a specific literary piece. It tells about the big idea or theme of a book you've read. The literary essay may be about any book or any literary topic imaginable.

  23. ‌How to Title an Essay with Literary Analysis Examples

    Use Wordplay. While the tone of your literary essay should ultimately be professional and credible, using puns or humor to play off an aspect of the title can be a friendly way to entice your audience to read further. For example, an essay about the symbolic villages of East and West Egg in "The Great Gatsby" might be titled "The Eggs Came ...