What Is a Literary Analysis Essay?
A literary analysis essay is an argumentative analysis that carefully examines a piece of literature by looking at the characters of the story, theme, tone, setting as well as the plot and other literary devices used to narrate the story. It encourages a reader to think about how and why a novel, poem or play was written. It’s meant to be an analysis of a key element in the literature thus you should refrain from writing a paper that explains every single point of the plot of the story. An argument can be raised by looking at the author’s intentions and attempting to explain their significance or from a personal perspective in which case the original text has to defend and account for the argument to the reader.
The Purpose of a Literary Analysis
The purpose of a literary analysis is to demonstrate why the author used specific characters, themes, settings, imagery, etc. to persuade the reader in a story. It tries to identify an important theme and then investigates the literary devices that the author used to reveal that theme. A literary analysis also helps to develop critical thinking skills in students by challenging them to look beyond the literal meanings by dissecting the story to see how the pieces fit together.
Literary Analysis vs. Reading Analysis
From a general view, literal analysis delves into the why and tries to understand the obvious and hidden meanings that lurk beneath the main plot. It causes one to not only reflect on the story itself but to understand the bigger picture of history, human condition etc. Reading analysis, on the other hand, is the act of reading to extract information.
5 Steps on How to Create an Excellent Literary Analysis
The process of learning how to write literary analysis can be daunting and overwhelming at first, but as you gain more practice with this kind of thinking, you can craft a method that works best for you. Here is a guide that outlines everything you need to know to write a good literary analysis.
Step One: Choose and focus the topic
First, you need to read the work thoroughly and ensure you understand the plot of the play, poem or novel and who the characters are. An analysis is only possible when you have a clear understanding of the story. Always pick a topic that interests you as it is easier to start off with something you enjoy. Brainstorm a list of potential topics (themes) by asking yourself questions like, ‘what was striking in the text? Why did the author write this? How are characters developed? How are the literary devices used? and try to look for connections and patterns by mapping out the different aspects of the chosen element.
Step Two: Gather Evidence
It’s important for students to research the topic before or text before writing. Collect enough material to help you answer or support your question.
Step Three: Introduction
The introduction makes the first impression on a reader so it’s essential that you bring it out in a clear and concise manner. A good introduction to a literary analysis essay should provide relevant information about a particular aspect of a work of literature and orientate the reader to what will follow. The introduction must, therefore, include a hook, author, title, main characters, short summary and thesis. A thesis appears as the last sentence in the first paragraph and will mainly allude to the three main points you wish to address in the main body of the essay.
Here is an example of a good thesis statement for literary analysis.
In a Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens demonstrates the process by which an unfruitful and wasted life can be redeemed. Sidney Carton’s intense love for Lucie Manette transforms him from a hopeless man into a hero and star whose life and death bring so much meaning.
Step Four: The Body
After the introduction, you will move towards the body of your essay where you present the paragraphs ( usually three paragraphs for a 500-750 word essay) that support your thesis statement. Each paragraph in the body should include a topic sentence, textual evidence(paraphrase or quotation), commentary/explanation and a concluding sentence.
Step Five: Conclusion
This is the last paragraph in your essay which should reflect how your essay topic relates to the book as a whole. You will need to summarize all that you have discussed in the essay without introducing any new ideas.
Formatting a Literary Analysis
Literary analysis papers are generally written using MLA citation style formatting guidelines unless specified otherwise by your professor.
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