A literary analysis essay is a document that allows a student to read a novel, poem, short story, or other text to examine how the author utilizes some knowledge, such as literary devices, and interpret its significance to society. Principally, this article is a guideline on how to write a literary analysis essay because it offers valid insights, including possible topics, a sample outline, and step-by-step technical details, which one should observe to produce high-quality work.
General Aspects for Writing an Outstanding Literary Analysis Essay
The academic activity of writing provides students with the intellectual capacity to produce various documents to meet the requirements of educational institutions, including high schools, colleges, and universities. As such, gaining insights into how to write all types of papers is critical to their academic success. Practically, different papers have unique essay structure, essay outline, and content, explaining why individuals must embrace a culture of reading guidelines on how to write various academic texts. Reading this article is essential because it equips learners, scholars, researchers, and anyone who uses writing to communicate ideas and concepts about how to write a literary analysis essay.
Definition of What Is a Literary Analysis Essay
A literary analysis essay is a scholarly document that analyzes a text to explore the author’s writing approach and interpret the meaning of their work. In this case, students must understand that a literary analysis essay is different from other types of essays, including an analytical essay and a cause and effect essay, because it explores a written text to interpret its implication to society. Typically, individuals may not see a direct connection between poems, novels, and plays and what happens in real life in their communities. Therefore, a literary analysis essay helps students to analyze the information that authors put across in such texts to draw a connection between their content and real-life scenarios like immorality.
The Focus of a Good Literary Analysis Essay
Students should focus on how the author utilizes literary devices to emphasize the plot, themes, and protagonists’ attitudes and behavior when writing literary analysis essays. The primary devices include allegory, metaphor, simile, symbolism, flashbacks, foreshadowing, hyperbole, imagery, personification, and motif. Because each device makes a poem or short story relevant in exploring a societal issue, focusing on each helps to shape a literary analysis essay. Ideally, students writing such papers must educate readers about rhetorical devices and how it empowers the author to contextualize an issue in contemporary society.
Top 10 Literary Devices for Writing Analysis Essays
Authors utilize allegory to incorporate a deeper meaning, concept, or idea. As such, readers may fail to grasp its application in the text if they do not analyze the work from a literary perspective. An example of an allegory is George Orwell’s depiction of animals fighting for equality in his novel “Animal Farm.” A casual reading may result in a different interpretation of this text from the author’s intention of depicting the Russian Revolution. Therefore, when writing a literary analysis paper, students should highlight how the text they are analyzing uses this device to hide the deeper meaning of an idea or concept.
Metaphor is standard in short stories and other texts because authors use it as a figure of speech to describe an object or action in a manner that defies literal understanding of nature or the world. An example of a metaphor is, “I could observe a white blanket of snow running into the horizon along the streets of New York.” While it is true that snow can cover entire streets, it is a lie to conclude that the snow is a blanket. Therefore, when writing a literary analysis essay, students must address how the author of the text uses metaphors to express ideas better. They should discuss how this device gives readers a striking image that arouses their intellectual curiosity.
When reading a specific text for analysis, students must notice how the writer utilizes similes as figures of speech that compare two things by emphasizing their similarities. One can identify this device by assessing contexts where the text uses the terms ‘like’ or ‘as’ to establish a relationship. An example of a simile is when a paper includes: “He ran as fast as a cheetah.” In this case, the author compares the individual’s ability to run with a cheetah, which humanity considers the fastest animal on Earth. When conducting a literary analysis of a document, individuals should explain how the author uses the characteristics of one object to compare it with another.
Symbolism depicts authors’ traditions of using symbols to emphasize deeper meanings and qualities within their texts. When writing a text for a literal analysis essay, students should focus on how the writer uses words to depict hidden ideas and concepts. An example of symbolism is an author’s statement, “Tears of joy flowed freely in the faces of everyone who witnessed the wedding.” While people associate tears with sadness, this statement depicts them as evidence of happiness in a multitude. From this perspective, students performing a literary analysis of a novel should emphasize how the author uses words to symbolize deeper meanings.
Flashback allows authors to emphasize the significance of past events or experiences to the present. An example of this device is when a writer of a novel claims, “She stood on the podium, reflecting on how her childhood experience with domestic violence had shaped her illustrious career as an activist.” In this statement, the author introduces the activist’s past as essential in understanding why they chose their career path. In this respect, individuals conducting a literary analysis essay should explain how the author uses past events to convey to the audience important information that helps one to understand a character’s background and how it shaped their present reality.
Foreshadowing is a writing technique that allows authors to inform the audience about an event yet to happen in the story. An example of a flashback in a novel is when the author states, “As the boys retreated to their respective rooms, the vocal one vowed to revenge the abuse visited upon them by the school bully.” This statement prepares readers for a later event where one person acts to punish another individual who occasionally bullies students. Therefore, when writing a literary analysis essay, learners should highlight how the author speaks of events that will unfold later in the story.
When writing stories, authors often use hyperboles to exaggerate or stretch the truth to express a feeling or emphasize an idea or concept. However, what they put across is literary impossible. An example of this writing technique is when a novelist claims, “Students were dying of thirst.” While the writer intends to emphasize the deep thirst that students had, probably because of going for long without drinking anything, the literal meaning of the text is that students were dying because of thirst, which is not valid. As such, when undertaking a literary analysis of a novel, writers should explain how the novelist uses words to exaggerate ideas or concepts, defying literal understanding of the scenario.
Imagery is a writing technique where authors use powerful sensory language to evoke the reader’s imagination or emotions. An example of imagery is when a poet states, “The odor from his sweaty shirt was a sufficient repulsive agent.” Upon reading this line, one imagines a shirt stinking because of sweat to the point of making someone avoid it. So, when writing a literary analysis essay, students should emphasize how the writer uses words that compel the audience to visualize an imaginary world and feel part of the story.
Authors use the literary device of personification when they want to give an object, animal, or something nonhuman human-like qualities. An example of personification in a sentence is when an author of a short story writes, “The flowers in the decorated pots were begging for water.” This sentence equates flowers with human beings by describing them using the human-like quality of begging. Naturally, plants do not beg because they cannot speak or gesture. Therefore, when writing a literary analysis essay, people should describe how the author utilizes personification by identifying sentences describing objects, animals, and other things using qualities that nature assigns to humans.
Novelists utilize motifs when they incorporate a recurring pattern, such as an idea, throughout the story to reinforce their plot or a particular theme. An example of a motif is when the author of Harry Potter highlights Harry’s scar several times throughout the text. In this respect, readers get the idea that the scar is central to understanding the story, specifically the role of Harry and his experiences. Therefore, when students are literary analyzing a short story, they should explain how the author utilizes motifs in the story to reinforce an idea, a theme, or the plot.
Examples of Top 6 Conflicts for Writing a Literary Analysis Essay
Conflict is a theme that novelists, poets, and authors of short stories or poems often use to make their literary work relevant to the audience. In a simple definition, conflict is a literary device that writers use to depict a struggle between opposing forces. Moreover, its purpose is to create contrast in the story. From this view, conflict in literature includes privilege versus lack, nature versus humanity, protagonist versus society, human versus technology, hero versus fate, and person versus self.
1️⃣ Privilege Versus Lack
In most short stories, authors contrast people from a wealthy background who appear privileged and those from a poor background who suffer from lack. Typically, this contrast happens when writers emphasize the significance of material things in the story, such as a car and a house, or social status, like a good education and a secure neighborhood.
2️⃣ Nature Versus Humanity
When writing a short story, authors may create a scenario where nature conflicts with humanity, such as when natural events, like floods and earthquakes, cause irreversible damage to communities. Essentially, this contrast emphasizes the danger of human encroachment into natural habitats, including forests through deforestation and oceans through offshore oil drilling.
3️⃣ Protagonist Versus Society
Authors of various texts, particularly novels and short stories, depict a struggle between the protagonist and society. In this conflict, the main character challenges acceptable societal norms, practices, or values, although they are against humanity’s progress. As such, an example is where a protagonist fights against corruption in public service or immorality in society despite everyone else being comfortable with the status quo.
4️⃣ Human Versus Technology
In today’s age of technology, writers produce texts that highlight a conflict between humans and various systems. An example is where the author emphasizes the drawbacks of social media by emphasizing their negative impact on adolescents’ academic performance and sociability. While some authors may hail technology as critical to human progress, they pinpoint its harmful impacts on individuals’ physical, mental, or social well-being.
5️⃣ Hero Versus Fate
Most novels and short stories have a hero who defies nature or the status quo and suffers a painful fate at the end, such as death. This scenario depicts conflict because society expects heroes to survive anything that comes their way, including battles and disease. Therefore, by showing heroes as subject to fate, authors emphasize that humans are limited and no one can defy nature.
6️⃣ Person Versus Self
When writing fiction, authors tend to depict individuals’ struggles with some aspects of their personality, such as greed for material wealth or hunger for power. This conflict helps readers to understand human frailty and its implications on individuals, their families, and society. In most instances, people utilize this writing approach to emphasize a moral lesson to readers.
Upraising a Literary Text
After reading novels or short stories, students can upraise the author’s literary work by evaluating their effectiveness in communicating a central idea, the relevance of plot twists, the choice of characters, and the relevance of their texts to contemporary society. In essence, upraising a literary work involves judging it across various dimensions to show whether the writer produced a text of good quality and relevance.
Communicating a Central Idea
Authors make their literary work relevant and impactful when effectively communicating a central idea, such as the value of sacrifice. Notably, effective communication entails many things, including using the correct language, incorporating examples, establishing a background, and making the audience feel part of the story.
Relevance of Plot Twist When Writing a Literary Analysis Essay
The plot of a story is the guideline that directs the audience’s intellectual engagement with the literary work. Simply put, the plot is what the story is all about. However, authors often introduce a plot twist in their work for various reasons, including intensifying the audience’s emotions. While such twists are essential to make the story captivating, they should be relevant to avoid disrupting the logical flow of the text or having logical fallacies. For example, a plot twist where the protagonist develops a severe sickness should not end with their death because it would disrupt the entire story. However, such a twist can enrich the story by depicting the main character as resilient.
The Choice of Characters
Characters make any literary text, like a novel or short story, riveting because they are action figures. Authors assign different characters various roles, although some of them take on multiple roles. When writing a literary analysis essay, students should explain whether the author has assigned every role to the character it deserves. It would be frustrating for the audience to encounter a scenario where a particular hero in a story is cowardly and naïve. In such a scenario, people should judge the choice of characters as inappropriate.
Relevance of the Text
Although fiction depicts unreal situations, it aims to stimulate the readers’ intellect by allowing them to draw certain conclusions. Essentially, this outcome involves drawing a connection between some ideas in the text and what happens in real life. Hence, a novel or short story that does not allow readers to make such connections fails to stimulate the intellect because it is irrelevant to the real world.
10 Most Common Types of Literary Analysis Essays
When reading a text for literary analysis, students should decide what type of paper they want to produce. Generally, students focus on two outcomes when writing a literary analysis essay: interpreting or evaluating the text. The focus that students choose determines the type of analysis they will conduct. The following literary analyses are the most common because they focus on the text (the first four) and its relevance to society (the last six).
- Character analysis
- Theme analysis
- Structure analysis
- Style analysis
- Discourse analysis
- Cultural analysis
- Psychological analysis
- Reader response analysis
- Feminist analysis
- New criticism
Examples of Literary Analysis Essay Topics
When writing a literary analysis essay, students should choose a topic relevant to the work they seek to analyze. Doing so requires them to read the text and determine what theme most likely fits their purpose of writing an analysis. While it is common for students to pick a theme that the author of the work highlights in the title, one can choose literary analysis essay topics. The following topics are appropriate for a good literary analysis essay because they suggest the concept of investigation, evaluation, or interpretation.
- Exploring Symbolism and Other Themes in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”
- The Significance of Gender in William Shakespeare’s Play “Macbeth”
- Imagery in William Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet”
- The Structural Features of the Poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost
- How William Shakespeare Uses Language in “Romeo and Juliet”
- Betrayal in Mary Shelley’s Novel “Frankenstein”
- The American Dream Through the Lens of “The Great Gatsby”
A Sample Outline for Writing a Literary Analysis Essay
II. First body paragraph
- Topic sentence 1: A sentence that emphasizes an idea in the thesis statement that the writer supports or defends in the rest of the paragraph.
- Evidence 1: A quote from the text.
- Analysis 1: Explaining who says the quote and the context of their words.
- Concluding sentence 1 with a transition to the next paragraph.
III. Second body paragraph
- Topic sentence 2: A sentence that emphasizes an idea in the thesis statement that the writer supports or defends in the rest of the paragraph.
- Evidence 2: A quote from the text.
- Analysis 2: Explaining who says the quote and the context of their words.
- Concluding sentence 2 with a transition to the next paragraph.
IV. Third body paragraph
- Topic sentence 3: A sentence that emphasizes an idea in the thesis statement that the writer supports or defends in the rest of the paragraph.
- Evidence 3: A quote from the text.
- Analysis 3: Explaining who says the quote and the context of their words.
- Concluding sentence 3 with a transition to the next paragraph.
Note: Repeat the above pattern for the first, second, and third body paragraphs and add other paragraphs depending on the college essay length of a literary analysis.
- Restate the thesis
- Summarize the main points presented in body paragraphs
- Show why the text is important by relating its ideas to society.
Example of a Literary Analysis Essay
Topic: Fear as a Central Theme in William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies”
I. Sample Introduction
Fear is a strong emotion that helps humans to avoid danger. As such, it is an eloquent characteristic of most people’s personalities, meaning it is a foundation for personal weaknesses or strengths. In “Lord of the Flies,” William Golding makes fear a central theme by depicting the main characters, Jack, Ralph, and Piggy, as individuals living in a constant unease state.
II. Example of Body Paragraph 1
Jack is uneasy throughout the story because he believes a beast lives amongst them. For example, he confirms his fear by saying, “We’ll close in and beat and beat and beat—!” While this statement depicts someone ready to face a beast, reading through the text reveals that Jack spoke the words out of fear. In this case, he uses his fear of the beast to control and manipulate his peers. Arguably, he exploits others’ fear to conceal his own.
III. Example of Body Paragraph 2
Although Ralph is also fearful, the cause of his fear is different. While his peers fear the beast, what makes him uneasy is the fear of never being rescued after the boys failed to keep the rescue fire burning. For instance, he exclaims, “I’m chief… There’s no signal showing. There may be a ship out there. Are you all off your rockers?” Basically, he is visibly angry at his peers for failing to realize the importance of fire to their well-being. In essence, Ralph’s attempt to see the fire as a savior is based on his fear of the beast.
IV. Example of Body Paragraph 3
On his part, Piggy is more afraid of Jack than the beast. For example, he says about Jack, “I’m scared of him…but if you stand out of the way he’d hurt the next thing. And that’s me.” His avoidance of Jack is a convenient way of dealing with his uneasiness. To a greater extent, Piggy’s fear of Jack creates another fear: his friends shunning him. Hence, fear is a powerful emotion that shapes Piggy’s experiences in the story.
V. Sample Conclusion
Golding’s novel depicts fear as a powerful influence on the behavior and experiences of the three main characters. Many people can relate the story to their individual lives by seeing how each boy deals with his fear. Ultimately, the novel is relevant to society because it depicts fear as a powerful influence on people’s personalities.
4 Easy Steps for Writing a Literary Analysis Essay
Writing a perfect literary analysis essay is a technical process that requires writers to observe certain procedures. Most importantly, this writing approach helps students to avoid mistakes that may affect the quality or relevance of literary analysis essays. Some of the silent rules that people should observe include preparing oneself for the literary work, setting up the stage for writing a literary analysis essay, starting the writing process, and wrapping up the paper to perfect it.
Step 1: Preparation
At this stage, students prepare to write a literary analysis essay by defining their essay topics. The most important thing that they should consider is the title of the literary work they seek to analyze and its purpose or significance to society. The next action is to prepare ideas for their papers, which requires them to understand their intentions. Typically, ideas come from reading the text one seeks to evaluate or interpret. Furthermore, students should proceed to consider their audience by focusing on their level of education and other characteristics that make them critique the literary work. As a result, this step aims to give students the proper mindset before writing a literary analysis essay.
Step 2: Stage Set Up
In the second step of writing a literary analysis essay, students are ready to begin writing. At this stage, people know their missions and need to make the right arrangements. The first task is to read the text they seek to analyze critically. They should not only reread the text but also make notes of the concepts, ideas, and themes they find useful or relevant to their literary analysis essays. The next task is to create a clear and well-organized outline to guide their writing. In turn, people can improve their literary analysis essays by incorporating research into this stage, which is vital in producing an annotated bibliography to ensure all evidence and quotes taken from credible sources are cited properly to avoid plagiarism.
Step 3: The Writing Process
Writing the first draft of a literary analysis essay is the third step in this journey. In this case, students can write the first draft prone to countless mistakes. The idea of this initial document is to allow writers to capture all the ideas they believe will make their papers impactful. At this stage, students add or delete information and alter the paper’s outline to fit their work. People should ensure the introduction sets the paper’s background and defines its purpose through a strong thesis statement. Then, the body should critically analyze the text by addressing the central themes, characters, and literary devices. In turn, the conclusion should restate the thesis and interpret the literary work by relating its ideas to contemporary society.
How to Construct a Thesis for a Literary Analysis Essay
The purpose of a good literary analysis thesis statement is to give the audience the writer’s agenda: what they seek to accomplish in the text, such as defend an argument, challenge a concept, or critique the text by focusing on the structure or any other quality. Notably, students can choose from different types of theses depending on the type of analysis they seek to undertake. The first type is an argumentative thesis, which applies to an argumentative essay or a persuasive essay with controversial research topics or ideas. The second is an analytical thesis applicable in an analytical essay where learners seek to analyze a concept or idea, such as characters. The third is an explanatory thesis, which is used in an explanatory essay where writers explain a phenomenon, such as technology’s influence on healthcare.
Step 4: Wrapping-Up
This step is the last stage when writing a literary analysis essay, where students focus on perfecting their work. As such, the first task is to read and reread the document to identify mistakes and inconsistencies. They should revise a literary analysis essay to correct such errors, which includes editing and ensuring all essential components are addressed: topic sentences, concluding sentences, transitions, proper style (APA, MLA, Harvard, or Chicago/Turabian) formatting, and proper citations. Simply put, students should ensure their final documents are perfect by eliminating grammatical and formatting mistakes and logical inconsistencies.
Summing Up on How to Write a Perfect Literary Analysis Essay
An excellent literary analysis essay evaluates other works to provide a new perspective on their significance. As a rule, a good literary analysis should have an introduction, thesis statement, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Moreover, body paragraphs should have evidence to support the central concept under investigation. Finally, by considering the conclusion examples, it should summarize the ideas presented in the paper.
- Based on the information above, students require valid knowledge to write a high-quality literary analysis essay.
- The first task is to choose a good topic.
- The second aspect is to read the text under analysis to understand the plot, central themes, characters, and other essential information, including plot twists, literary devices, and climax.
- Narrow the topic by focusing on one or two elements, such as plots, characters, themes, structures, or concepts.
- Perfect a literary analysis essay by eliminating all mistakes: grammar, formatting, and illogical flow of ideas and thought.
- Proofread the final paper before presenting it to readers.