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How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay

Published by at November 1st, 2021 , Revised On October 21, 2022

The literary analysis includes a thorough review of a text, evaluation of its context, and investigation of the author’s language selection. It is used in stories, novels, plays, poetry, or other literary mediums.

What is a literary analysis?

A literary analysis is neither a rhetorical critique nor a synopsis of the plot nor a novel description. Instead, it is an argumentative essay that evaluates the text’s language, perception, and form. It also explores the literary components used by the writer to generate effects and communicate ideas.

It is essential to read the text carefully and craft a literary analysis thesis statement to concentrate on your article before starting your literary analysis essay.

Also read: How to write a narrative essay.

Like any other essay, a literary analysis outline also has the following structure:

Literary analysis essay sections What does it include?
An introduction It informs the reader about the subject of your article.
Body paragraphs It uses text proof to construct a case.
A conclusion It concludes the critical argument you showed in your review.

Also read: How to write an argumentative essay

How to write a literature analysis?

Step # 1 – read the text and identify literary components

It is essential to read the text and make notes. While reading, pay attention to items that are really intriguing, shocking, or even confounding in your review.

Your goal is to interpret the text and explore how the text functions at a deeper level. Your interpretation should clarify what the text defines and also analyse it.

You are primarily looking for literary instruments — texts authors use to express meaning and influence. You will need to find similarities and differences when comparing various texts.

There are some primary areas you can concentrate on during your literary analysis essay. When you study every aspect of the text, strive to see how they interact. To track essential passages and quotations, you can use highlights or notes.

Also read: How to write an expository essay

Identify the language and symbols used by the author

Think about the vocabulary style used by the writer.

  • Are the phrases short and plain or more poetic?
  • How fascinating or uncommon are the choices made for words?
  • Do words signify anything other than their literal meaning figuratively?

The figurative speech contains stuff like

Figurative speech Example
Metaphor She is an angel
Simile: She is beautiful like an angel
Personification Lightning danced across the sky
Alliteration (repetition) Betty Botter bought some butter, but she said this butter was bitter, and she bought some extra butter to make the butter better.

Symbols

An author uses symbols like objects, characters, locations, images, and motifs to describe a specific point or emotion, or situation.

Keep an eye on images in the text – repeated images which build or simplify a certain environment. Recall that in literary texts, vocabulary is used to mean more than that on the surface.

Example:
“I knew you would be astonished,” laughed Désirée, “at the way he has grown. The little cochon de lait! Look at his legs, mamma, and his hands and finger-nails—real finger-nails. Zandrine had to cut them this morning. Isn’t it true, Zandrine?”

Also read: types of arguments in essay writing

Identify narrative voice

Pay attention to

Who’s the narrator?

What’s the way of narration?

A first-person narrator (“I”) is concerned directly with this story, or is a third-party narrator telling us the distant characters?

  • Note the viewpoint of the writer.
  • Is the writer all-knowing (where he knows all of the characters and events), or has he just partial knowledge?
  • Are they untrustworthy narrators that we need not pay attention to? Writers often indicate that their narrator can give us a biased or misleading account of events.

Often worth noting is the tone of the narration.

Example:
Will the story be humorous, tragic, or actionable?

Identify the text’s structure

You need to consider the structure of the text and how the structure applies to the plot.

Various written pieces are broken down in the following way:

  • Novels: chapters and parts.
  • Poems: stanzas, cantos and lines.
  • Plays/dramas: scenes

Find out in what manner the author has chosen to break the text.

Structural elements that are less formal often have to be considered.

  • Is the plot developed chronologically, or is it springing back and forth in time?
  • Does it start in the media res—in the centre of the action?
  • Should the storyline proceed to an intense climax?

Consider in poetry how the interpretation of the text shape rhyme and meter

Also, in a play, you should understand:

  • how connections between characters are created across various scenes
  • how the environment is connected to the action

You should note the dramatic irony, in which viewers know every detail the actors don’t, giving their words, ideas, and acts a double sense.

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Step # 2 – Write a literary analysis thesis statement

Your thesis in a literary review essay is the argument you want to make about the text. The central point gives your article direction, keeping it from merely a series of random remarks about a text.

You must answer your thesis or respond to the pace if you are given a prompt for your essay. For instance:

Example of the test query
Is this story based on real incidents?

Your statement of study should be a reply to this question — not a straightforward “yes” or “no,” but a statement of why:

Example of thesis
This story is based on the young actress’s real-life experience who died in her late 20’s due to cancer.

Sometimes you have the freedom to choose your own subject; in this case, you should create an original thesis. Pay attention to what was in the text for you. Ask yourself about the elements you were interested in, and see if you could respond.

Say that you analyse a short story Désirée’s Baby. You could begin by asking:

How is Armand’s character depicted?

Your first response could be a summary of the surface level.

You should build the response in a more complex and argued thesis argument following reading the text and considering its narrative voice and structure.

Use textual evidence

Your essay will construct a case with textual proof to justify your literary analysis thesis statement—specific pieces of the document that show your claim. You must cite this proof to justify the arguments.

It might be helpful to review the text and find appropriate quotes before you start writing. You can’t finish using what you found, but gathering written proof at an early stage can help you formulate your points to determine if they are compelling. You may also use this document to gather additional proof while you write.

Step # 3 – composing and adding a title

You will need two items to launch your literary review article.

The heading

Your title should explicitly show the emphasis of the study. It normally includes the author’s name of the text that you study. You need to maintain it as straightforward and attractive as possible.

A typical approach to the title consists of using a quote from the text, a colon, and the title’s rest.

Example:
“The edge of knowing”: Anne Caston’s “Anatomy.”

Don’t hesitate if you want to get a decent title in the first place. It will be smoother when you begin to write the essay as you’ll get ideas depending on your essay’s argument.

Introduction

The introduction to the literary analysis essay outline gives a short overall picture of your point. It should include the topic and a description of the structure of the essay.

An introduction begins with standard information about the text, followed by a thesis statement. You can respond with your understanding of the text, demonstrate how your study contradicts it, or talk about a particular component you want to focus on.

You should then finish off with a short indication of the central section of the essay. This is known as signage. While the signage can be more detailed in extended essays, it can’t be more than one sentence in a simple five-paragraph format.

Many students prefer composing the introduction later, and this is alright. After all, once you start writing your claims, you can better view the ultimate form.

When you first write the introduction, you can always go back to it later to ensure it is consistent with what you wrote and edit when appropriate.

Also read; How to shorten an essay

Step # 4 – the body paragraphs of the essay

The body of your essay includes everything from start to finish. It includes the most significant points and supporting textual evidence.

Structure of the paragraph

A secondary school’s standard literary analysis essay format consists of five paragraphs: the three main body paragraphs, an introduction and a conclusion.

You should concentrate on one subject in each paragraph of the main body. Always try to divide your essay into three major analytical fields in the five-paragraph format.

The same template can be used for longer essays. For instance, you may have 2 or 3 parts of several paragraphs in your main body. If the main body consists of several paragraphs, you will want to ensure that each paragraph is neither too short nor too long. Every paragraph should address a specific and different aspect of the main argument.

Also read: How to write a SAT essay

The sentences and phrases 

It is essential to use a thematic expression at the beginning of each paragraph to keep your points focused.

A robust subject phrase encourages a reader to see what the paragraph is all about at a glance. It can enter and link or contrast a new line of argument with the previous paragraph. For seamless transitions, use transitional words like always, moreover, nevertheless, and however.

Usage of textual proof

An essential part of literary interpretation is to support the claims with valid textual evidence, including clarifications and explanations for quotations from the text.

To make quotation context crystal clear for the reader and clarify why you used them, it is essential to correctly implement and interpret quotations, not treat them as self-explicit:

You shouldn’t use a quote every time, however. Quoting is helpful when referring to the original author’s words, but you will also need to refer to plot points or narrative features that cannot be contained in a brief quotation.

In such cases, paraphrasing or a summary of the text is more fitting.

Also read: Why do academic essays require strict formatting

Step # 5 – write conclusion

You should not use fresh quotes or claims at the end of the analysis. It’s just about completing the essay instead. Here should summarise the main points, and you strive to stress their importance to the reader.

A good approach is to outline the core points quickly and then emphasise the point that has taken you to highlight the new viewpoint that your study gives on the entire text.

About Ellie Cross

I am Content Manager at this prestigious organization who has been assisting students for a long time. I have been part of Essays UK since its inception and have seen all the ups and downs it has faced in all those years. I manage a growing team of great writers and content marketers who are contributing to a great extent to help students with their academics.

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