How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay

Knowing how to write an analysis is one of the most essential skills a college student should have. Whether you are fond of academic writing or not, you simply will not get your degree without learning how to analyze literature. Not only does such writing help you improve your communication skills, but also stimulates your critical thinking and teaches you objectivity, which is why a literary analysis essay format is something you will not evade. Luckily, there are some easy expert tips that will help you harness this type of writing in no time!

How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay

If you do not know how to write a literary analysis essay, start by answering these questions after reading the text:

  1. What implied message was the author trying to convey? When writing a literary analysis paper, you have to keep asking yourself what core message the author was hoping to tell his/her readers.
  2. Who are the characters in the story? Try to understand their personalities, intentions, circumstances they are in, etc. A close reading of a text requires you to take into consideration all external factors, including the plot, symbols and imagery, and any literary devices the author applied to make the depiction of the characters more precise.
  3. What is the reason behind the author’s choice of literary devices? A good literary research paper does not simply describe the author’s decisions but also tries to understand why they were made. What was the author’s intention? What literary techniques did the author use to communicate his/her message? To what effect?

Remember that a strong literature analysis is much more than a mere plot summary. Rather, it is a precise and objective description of how the story is told and why.

Literary Analysis Outline

A literary analysis outline is not different from the outline of most other essay formats since it also must have an introduction with a strong argument expressed in the thesis statement, body paragraphs and conclusion. The following format will help you properly organize your essay:

The context of the paper has to be explained in the INTRODUCTION. Even if you already know how to start a literary analysis, remember to:

  • include the author’s full name, the title of the book/story/poem etc. that you are analyzing. Add any background information that you think will help the reader understand the analysis and will make your central argument stronger;
  • clearly explain your theme. In other words, make a thematic statement relating the main ideas of your essay to the author’s message (it should answer the question ‘Why?’);
  • create a strong thesis statement. A thesis statement is typically found at the end of an essay introduction. A good thesis in a clear manner communicates the how, what, and why of your essay. Mention the main ideas you will be discussing in the body paragraphs.

To put it briefly, an introduction includes:

Who? – The author’s full name.

What? – The response to the essay prompt.

How? – The techniques the author used.

Why? – How the meaning relates to the broader context or which implicit message the author was trying to convey.

The thesis statement is discussed in the BODY PARAGRAPHS. How to write an analysis paragraph? Each paragraph should discuss one topic, so try to answer your literary analysis questions in separate paragraphs.

  1. Each paragraph has to begin with a topic sentence – an argument that relates to one point of your thesis statement.
  2. Discuss only one point of view per paragraph.
  3. Remember to back up your claims with textual evidence to establish credibility. The evidence should be related to how the meaning is conveyed in terms of the essay prompt.
  4. Use both direct quotes and paraphrase (either has to be cited).
  5. Instead of simply listing various literary techniques, explain how each of them supports your answer to the questions.
  6. Ending a paragraph with a sentence that restates the main idea of the paragraph will make it stronger.
  7. Incorporate ample evidence but refrain from including redundancies. Each sentence you write should be related to the thesis statement.

Once you have finished discussing the topic, create a CONCLUSION. A few helpful tips on how to write a literary analysis conclusion:

  1. Reiterate the thesis statement but do not copy it word for word.
  2. Briefly explain how the ideas discussed in the body of the essay relate to the general theme. In other words, the concluding paragraph should elucidate the author’s implied message as well as remind the reader how it relates to your discussion.

How to Write a Thematic Statement

After enrolling on a literature course, be prepared to learn a lot about academic wiring, including how to organize a standard essay, how to write a thematic statement, etc. During the course, you will be reading, analyzing, and discussing numerous books on different topics. As a student, you are expected to notice and interpret the techniques used by the authors.

However interesting it might sound, there is one small problem: much as eager the professors might be to assign literary analysis essays, they will not be even thinking about explaining the writing process step by step. Many students unreasonably assume that paraphrasing Goodreads reviews will save the day and that the emotional and informal language of various blog reviews might satisfy their tutors. Nevertheless, this kind of academic papers should strictly follow a standard format. In addition, academic language is different from what people use in everyday written communication. In short, you simply cannot use informal writing style and copy reviews found online. Eventually, you will have to read the assigned book / short story / poem and write a well-researched analysis if you want your academic performance to meet your expectations.

So how do you do it? If there is no on to explain the writing process in detail, is there at least some guideline to follow? Fortunately, you can easily create an essay that impresses your professor by simply taking into account the following step-by-step guide:

  • Figure out the purpose of your analysis
  • Read the book and come up with a literary analysis thesis statement
  • Learn the peculiarities of the format
  • Plan
  • Write the essay
  • Proofread and revise

Of course, this is a very simplified guide and you need a more tangible description to learn how to cope with a thesis statement literary analysis. We are happy to help you with this! Our experts have prepared a workable plan to help you create a strong essay from scratch.

How to Write a Literary Criticism Essay

In order to understand how to write a literary criticism essay, you have to keep in mind the purpose of this type of writing. Your task is to show that you have carefully read the assigned text and fully evaluated it from various points of view. The work you are about to do is called ‘analysis’ for a reason ‒ you are expected to divide the text into structural elements, explain them, and show how each component contributes to the overall effect.

For example, let us imagine you are requested to analyze Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, an extremely popular book frequently discussed in literary classes. The first thing you are tempted to do is search for reviews online. However, soon you will discover that all of them are highly emotional and personal. It is only logical, since reviewers usually describe how they perceive the book. Although in a literary analysis you are allowed to share your opinion, it has to be incorporated into a more structured discussion with the primary focus on the book components and the writing style.

Knowing that you will have to write an analysis, you will be reading the book in a different manner. Reading for pleasure, we are mostly concentrated on the plot, characters, and our emotions as we try to imagine the events and become a part of them. Being more analytical towards the book, you will still be noticing those things, but your perception will change as you become more objective. Now that you read and analyze, you will also take into account:

  • The subject
  • Formal elements
  • The author’s style
  • The central theme
  • The connection between the content and form
  • The dynamism of the plot
  • Character development
  • The merits and demerits of the storyline

As a rule, professors provide the students with an essay prompt that asks them to explore in depth one aspect of the analysis. For example, you might be tasked with the discussion of the strengths of the main protagonist. The structure of an overall analysis is more similar to that of a research paper as it is more complex and voluminous.

In summary:

  1. The purpose of the essay is to analyze a particular aspect of the assigned reading.
  2. The paper has to be concise, clear, and focused. Refrain from describing your emotions and feelings.
  3. Think of yourself as of a professional literary critic. Your analysis has to be objective and supported with evidence.
  4. Your goal is to establish credibility and prove that your points are valid.

The Components of a Literary Analysis Essay

There is one common mistake you should avoid at all costs: free writing. This type of writing is unacceptable. Instead, you should properly organize your essay. This checklist might help:

  1. An essay must adhere to a specific topic.
  2. An essay must have a strong and concise thesis statement. Every sentence in the body of the paper should be related to it.
  3. An essay must have an introduction, body, and conclusion.

The INTRODUCTION should capture the readers’ attention and inform them about the topic of the essay. To achieve this, explain which aspect of the book / short story / poem, etc. you will be analyzing and include the thesis statement.

In the BODY PARAGRAPHS, you will be explaining your thesis statement in detail. If you are writing a five-paragraph essay, include three body paragraphs. However, for other essay types, the number of paragraphs can vary but there should not be fewer than three body paragraphs. The only rule to follow is making sure that one paragraph is dedicated to a single idea. The body of a typical essay should have 500-700 words.

Every body paragraph should commence with a topic sentence, which relates to some aspect of the thesis statement. Be sure to include textual evidence to support your claims.

Your literary analysis essay should end with a CONCLUSION, a final paragraph of the paper which makes it complete. In this paragraph, remind the readers your point. You can relate the topic of your discussion to a broader context but do not bring up any new ideas. Restate and summarize the main claims but beware of repetitions. The rule of thumb is to comment on the topic from a different perspective or paraphrase the thesis statement.