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Learn the Basics of a Literary Analysis Essay

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Reading a story, the first experience you might feel is traveling through the author’s imagination, right? Living in the transition of a fairy tale or a historical novel will give you the feel of the story. 

Now, it’s time to come back to reality, understand the purpose, and question the methods that the author used in his work. That’s when you prepare a literary analysis.

However, in academics, writing a literary analysis essay can be challenging because it takes time to come out of the fictional world and be unbiased about the author’s portrayal. 

For that, you need a guide that will spill all the secrets! Hence, follow this blog and learn to be critical of writing any literary analysis essay

Types of Literary Analysis Essay

You have gotten the answer to what is a literary analysis essay. However, you also need to be aware of its types. 

Yes, literary analysis essays are written in three formats.

Below are those –

Contrast and compare

It’s the popular method of analyzing a literary work. So, suppose you want to make a paradoxical argument. This technique shows how ‘two seemingly unrelated objects’ are very similar in crucial ways (or vice versa) and can be quite powerful. 

Here is an example of such a title – ‘Who has more strength: Hamlet or Oedipus Rex?’

Trace

Here, you must sort and classify your instances to bring them into order. Your focus should be on the entire impact. This means after selecting and analyzing your samples, you should have a better grasp of the work and how your chosen phrase, image, or symbol contributed to the development of the main ideas and stylistic devices used in that work.

Here is an example of such a title – ‘Presence of Wit in Waiting of Godot’

Debate

Two things are crucial to remember when writing this style of essay. Here, you cannot simply base your arguments on your emotions and reactions. Instead, you must present your debate on the work by presenting evidence and your notion of the literary piece.

Here is an example of such a title – ‘Why is marriage an issue and not a celebration in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice?’

Elements of Literary Analysis Essay

The 6 Elements of the Story

Plot 

It’s every action and occurrence in the sequence of a story.

Characters 

Characters are the individuals in a literary work act and are acted upon. Moreover, the protagonist of a story is the title given to the main character.

Conflict

The main dispute within the piece basically the conflict. In most stories, you will see the protagonist trying to achieve a goal while hampered by antagonistic forces.

Setting

The setting denotes the time and location under which the story forms. In fact, location, period, time of day, weather, social environment, and economic circumstances are all examples of setting factors.

Narrator

The speaker of the narrative is the one you call as a narrator. This person can either present a simple account of what occurs; express the subjective opinions and impressions of one or more characters, or offer commentary and opinion in their own words.

Themes

Themes are the major concepts or ideas of the piece—are typically abstract notions about individuals, society, or life in general. A work may contain a variety of topics, some of which may conflict with one another.

The 7 Elements of Style

Structure and organization

Understanding how the work’s component elements are put together.

For example, you can consider whether the story is told in five acts or in linear order.

Point of view

Putting the focus on the viewpoint from where the story is presented.

For instance, the first-person narrator integrates himself or herself into the narrative.

Diction 

Use of a particular set of words to express.

It reveals a lot about a character’s attitude and personality, whether they employ flowery prose with lots of exclamation points or dry, clinical language. 

Syntax

Study the order of words and sentence structure. Establishing an author’s narrative voice requires careful consideration of syntax. For example, James Joyce typically wrote in long, highly complex lines, but Ernest Hemingway is known for writing in short, simple words.

Tone

The tone or atmosphere of the text. The tone is frequently influenced by diction and syntax in written works. Suppose, in some novel, the plot is written in brief and uncertain phrases with little, basic vocabulary may come off as cold, harsh, or matter-of-fact.

Imagery

The study of how language uses images to convey things that can be perceived through sight, sound, smell, taste, or touch.

Figurative language

Particular linguistic expressions should not be taken literally.

In fact, commonly used techniques are ‘metaphors’ and ‘similes’ that compare two dissimilar objects to infer a likeness between them, the most popular examples of figurative language.

For instance, “All the world’s a stage.”

The Steps of Writing a Literary Analysis Essay

Now that you know, the ingredients that form a literary analysis essay writing one will not be difficult. 

However, before you learn about how to start a literary analysis essay, here is a table to give a sketch of the process works –

Literary ElementsDefinitionSample Analytical Questions
· CharactersEvery individual in the story  · How do the characters evolve throughout the chapters?   · Do the characters represent any universal ideas or common qualities?    
· DialogueThe conversations characters exchange in the story  · How does the dialogue influence the reader’s understanding of the characters?   · How does the dialogue influence the shape of the plot?
· Figurative languageThe use of certain words beyond their literal definitions. For example, the use of simile, metaphor, and personification.  · How does figurative language affect the meaning of the text?   · How are types of figurative language related to other literary elements?  
· PlotThe events of the story  · What is the main cause of conflict?   · How does the author build feelings like suspense and confusion in the plot?  
· Point of viewThe perspective the story is told from· Is the story narrated from the first, second, or third point of view?
· ThemeThe universal idea the author explores in the story  · What themes does the author explore in this text?   · How does the author use literary elements for exploring the theme?  
· ToneThe attitude the author expresses through writing  · Does the tone keep changing in the text?  
· SettingWhere the story takes place·  How does the setting relate to other elements like the theme?   · Does the setting impact the characters’ feelings or arises conflicts?  
· StructureThe order the events of the story take place in· Is the narrative linear or in nonlinear form?  

Gathering the information

Examining the text to spot literary devices

Reading the text(s) carefully and making preliminary notes is the first step. So, consider writing the most fascinating, unusual, or perplexing aspects as you read.

In literary analysis, your objective should be to examine the writing and evaluate how the text functions deeper rather than just explaining the events mentioned. 

In fact, your focus should be on literary devices, which are linguistic components that authors utilize to express meaning and produce effects. You can also hunt for links between other texts if you’re contrasting and comparing several texts.

There are a few important areas you might concentrate on to begin your analysis, such as –

  • Evaluate how each text element relates to the others as you analyze it. 
  • To remember significant quotes and sections, utilize highlights or notes.

Understand the choice of the author’s language

Take note of the author’s language style. Are the phrases brief and straightforward or long and poetic?

Which word choices jump out as unique or interesting? Do words have figurative meanings that differ from their literal meanings? 

Here are two phrases –

Metaphor – “her eyes were oceans” and 

Simile – “Her eyes were like oceans”

These phrases are examples of figurative language. You have to observe such aspects according to the writing behavior or pattern of the author.

Storytelling voice

Here are questions that you might wonder during a critical analysis –

  • Who is narrating the tale?
  • How do they convey it?

This is basically understanding the writer’s perspective.

Is the narrator a first-person (“I”) who is directly involved in the narrative or a third-person (“You”) who describes the characters from a distance?

Think about the narrator’s point of view. 

Is the narrator omniscient—that is, do they have a complete awareness of every character and every event—or do they merely have limited information? 

Are they unreliable narrators whose words you shouldn’t trust outright? It’s possible that the narrator provided a skewed or dishonest account of events alluded to by the authors.

Understand The structure

To learn the flow of the story, you must study the text’s organization and how it ties to the narrative.

Here are some areas you must focus on –

  • Chapters and parts are frequently used to split up novels.
  • Lines, stanzas, and occasionally cantos are used to split up verses.
  • Acts and scenes are used to segment plays.
  • Consider the rationale behind the author’s decision to divide the work into several sections.

Less formal structural components must also be considered. 

For example, does the plot develop in order of events or skip around in time? Does the storyline build to a certain climax?

Meanwhile, evaluate how the rhyme and meter affect how you interpret the text’s meaning and sense of tone when reading poetry. To get a sense of this, try reading the poem aloud.

You can also think about how the play’s several scenes develop character interactions and how the environment affects the action. 

But, you must not overlook dramatic irony, which occurs when the audience is aware of information that the characters are not, giving their words, thoughts, or actions a double meaning.

Writing the case for the analysis

Developing a thesis

Your opinion or question about the text will serve as your thesis statement in a literary analysis essay. Hence, it must provide focus on the issue of the analysis and avoid being just a collection of haphazard observations on a text.

Moreover, the thesis statement must address information that relates to the essay prompt in case you have been provided one.

Here is an example of an essay question –

Why is “Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens a representation of self-sacrifice?

For this, your thesis statement should provide a response to the following query—not just a yes-or-no answer, but a justification for why this is or isn’t the case:

Here is an example of a thesis statement for the question mentioned above –

“Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens illustrates the idea of suffering and selflessness through the ultimate sacrifices of Sydney Carton”.

You may occasionally be allowed to select your own subject, in which case you must develop a unique thesis. Think about the parts of the text that struck you; ponder questions you might have about the topics that piqued your interest.

Your thesis should be debatable, which means it should be something you believe to be true about the book but is not just a matter of fact. It must be intricate enough to be supported by evidence and arguments throughout your article.

Marking the textual proof

Your essay will develop an argument using textual evidence—certain passages from the text that prove your point—to support your thesis statement. 

So, before you begin writing, go through the text for pertinent quotations. 

Collecting textual evidence from the start can help you arrange your arguments and determine whether they are persuasive. 

Include an Appealing Title

Your analysis’s main subject should be made visible in your title.

Now, an ideal analysis title includes the author’s name and the text or part of the text you are analyzing. To do so, make it as succinct and interesting as you can.

Using a pertinent quote from the book, a colon, and the rest of your title are usually the typical approaches to titles.

Do not worry if you first struggle to come up with being creative; it will get simpler as you start writing the essay and better understand your arguments.

An illustration of a literary analysis essay title is provided here:

The Presentation of Social Injustice through Charles Dickens’s Eye in ‘Oliver Twist’.

Present an overview in the introduction

The essay’s beginning gives a brief summary of your argument’s development.

Now, an introduction typically starts with a broad statement about the material and author, which serves as a bridge to the thesis statement.

For this, you may highlight a specific device you plan to focus on or reference a widely held assumption about the text and demonstrate how your thesis will refute it.

Finally, write a brief preview of what you will cover in the essay throughout.

Put your arguments in the body paragraph

You have gathered your data and created a thesis statement. It’s time to get to work organizing everything into a coherent paper. Determine where each piece of evidence fits within your main argument by creating an outline. At this point, you may need more evidence to back your claims. 

Now, the important part of a great essay is the body paragraphs each of which should concentrate on a single subject. This means each paragraph will discuss a new issue.

Hence, separate your argument into three primary areas of analysis that are all connected to your thesis for the five-paragraph format. Also, add analysis that supports your thesis; avoid covering everything you can think of to say about the text.

Note – Your main body might be divided into two or three sections, each with several paragraphs. You should start new paragraphs to show logical transitions, such as breaking the paragraph when the argument changes or a new topic is introduced.

Conclude precisely

The conclusion of your analysis should not have any new quotes or arguments. Instead, it focuses on completing the essay. Here, you should highlight the reader’s importance of your main points by summarising them.

A decent strategy for this is to briefly summarise your main points, emphasize the conclusion you’ve reached as a result, and then emphasize the fresh viewpoint your thesis offers on the material as a whole.

Bonus Point – 

Include In-Text Citation

In literary analysis, you will need to write the analysis with reference to some quotes, dialogues, and everything from the text for which you don’t hold credit.

That’s why you must include in-text citations in all those areas where you copied parts of the text. 

Apart from that, even if you are proving a point, add an in-text citation to show that the point exists and is a truth.

You can prefer the in-text citation styles of Chicago, MLA, APA or the one chosen by your instructor.

Do’s & Don’ts of Literary Analysis Essay

Do’s of Literary Analysis Essay

Write Content That Is Focused and Relevant

One of the reasons why students don’t get the best grades for their literature review chapters is that they stuff the assignment with unrelated information.

The likelihood that your work isn’t as concentrated as it should be in the first place is high if the reader asks the “so what?” inquiry after reading your review.

Make sure you begin on-topic and not a mixture of ideas

Analysis of a vast piece of literary work is quite a stress. You may end up writing two different opinions on the same topic. 

Hence, do not skip to review your research question, goals, and objectives to ensure your material is on point. Then, re-evaluate your theoretical framework to determine if it is relevant to these elements.

For example, compare if you have justified your claims as mentioned in the introduction.

To ensure that your literature is up to date

Many students fail to include contemporary literature in their work, which is simply the wrong approach to completing the assignment by today’s standards. While mentioning influential research and studies in your writing is important, you should also incorporate contemporary literature essay.

Suppose you only mention only the rise of female writers in literature, your research won’t be complete. You also have to put light on the later years, the contemporary part, the influences, etc.

By incorporating current literature into your work, you can contrast and compare old and new study findings and express your opinions on evolution.

It needn’t be hard to locate contemporary literature and incorporate it into your writing. These two steps will help you to do that –

  • Go to Google Scholar and type in your topic to search.
  • To filter the results based on a certain date, click one of the “Since…” links in the top left corner.

Don’ts of Literary Analysis Essay

Instead of descriptions, restrict to integrate and synthesize

One of the major challenges in writing a literature review is providing descriptions. Too frequently, students limit the scope of their literature reviews by concentrating on summarising the researchers’ findings.

Note that your literature review needs to integrate several pieces of prior research and demonstrate how everything works together.

So, don’t be afraid to go the extra mile and point out the gaps and the areas that just don’t add up, as well as why you think scholars have differing views on those regions.

Moreover, by integrating a variety of viewpoints in your work, you show that you completed sufficient research to provide a balanced evaluation of the subject and a clear perspective of the state of the art.

Avoid sources of low quality

Relying on low-quality materials, such as daily news items, opinion pieces, and regular blog posts, to write literature reviews is one of the most frequent errors students make. 

Even if you think a recent news story or an interesting blog post you read would be a good fit for your literature review project, it’s probably not going to be as important as you think. You should therefore choose your sources with greater skepticism.

The most crucial guideline here is to avoid using daily news items, op-eds, and consistent blog entries as sources of knowledge. If you must, use them very infrequently.

In actuality, the most reliable references support the development of a solid theoretical framework. You can’t emphasize enough the importance of using peer-reviewed articles in your research.

Furthermore, you are free to peruse books authored by well-known, academically regarded authors who are authorities in the field you’re researching. 

Avoid Writing and Stylistic Mistakes

You must avoid certain grammatical and writing errors when composing a literary review. 

For this, you must note the below point –

Avoid using sentimental language in your writing. 

With your analysis, your purpose is to show both old and new research on the subject of your study. Because you depend on existing knowledge, you don’t have room for sentimental or subjective language in your writing.

However, you can take a logical stand for all the emotions used. But that must only inform the author’s reason and the character’s role.

Frequently Asked Questions By Students

What is the most significant element in a literary analysis essay?

The most important aspect of literary analysis is supporting your claims with pertinent textual evidence. This entails introducing passages from the book and elaborating on their relevance to your argument. While doing the analysis, you must also ensure that the statement you have raised in the introduction connects with your final observation. Else, the evidence will not get value in the context.

Do literary analysis essays require evidence?

Yes, every literary analysis essay requires evidence to back up the argument. The evidence will explain your points and provide logical reasoning. Moreover, adding factual evidence to the analysis proves the authenticity of your work. In fact, summary, paraphrasing, exact details, and direct quotations are all types of textual evidence. 

Does a literary analysis essay need a title?

Yes, your literary study will require an intriguing title. You must highlight the main subject and keep it obvious in your title. The author’s name and the text(s) you are examining are typically included. For the title, it’s also important to use a pertinent quote from the book, a colon, etc.

What are some questions for literary analysis?

Here are some questions usually raised in literary analysis –

  • How do the story’s characters further the topic or support it?
  • How does the story’s conflict advance or accentuate the theme?
  • How do the story’s symbols advance or accentuate the theme?
  • How does the story’s tone help the topic or plot advance?

How do you make a literary analysis essay interesting?

Here are some popular ways you can never fail to make your literary analysis interesting –

  • The detailing of genre and style in the literary work 
  • A thorough analysis of all the main characters.
  • A synopsis of the key themes and plot points of the work.
  • A review of the text’s overarching theme.
  • A breakdown of the symbolism found in the work.

How do you assess literary analysis essays?

When assessing a literary analysis, you must take into account variables like the background, setting, characters, storyline, literary devices, and themes when analyzing a novel or short story. Remember that a literary analysis involves more than just a summary or review; it also involves an interpretation of the work and a justification for your position based on the text.

Henry Lee

Hi, my name is Henry Lee. I am 26 and an active tech blogger based in Adelaide. Well, that’s something I do out of passion. To earn a livelihood, I work as a full-time English writing expert at myassignmenthelp.com. I write academic blogs, mainly focused on English and Literature writing. I have 4+ years of experience of guiding students on essays writing on different categories of topics. Apart from this, I love to keep myself updated on the latest happenings in technology. I love new gadgets as much as I love writing. So, when I am not writing, you’ll probably find me indulged in a gaming session or researching about the latest trend in technology. 

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