Literary Analysis Essay Writing Guide

July 17, 2018

The Stages Algorithm for Performing a Literary Analysis:

How To Write a Literary Analysis Essay

Literature is an integral part of life for any educated person. Even with different tastes, all the students read the imaginative writing with the purpose to get some enjoyment. Our initial aim while reading is to get pleasure from this activity. In the books we are looking for inspiration, answers to our personal questions, exciting emotions, new experience or just interesting way to pass the time. And the boundless library world allows any reader to find the satisfaction.

Although in the college this purpose can change. When you get a task to write a literature analysis, you will have to focus on the text not only in the role of a reader but also to put yourself into the position of an author. By such an analysis you see into the processes of creation, examine the individuality of an author, the circumstances (time, place, surroundings) of composing, the literature means of expression and their impact on the audience, etc.

The Stages Algorithm for Performing a Literary Analysis

To make the assignment more clear, achieve more efficiency and save the time, try to follow particular steps while analyzing. Before sitting down to fulfill this task, it is advised to clarify the structural elements of your work. This guidance offers a convenient way to organize the content for this kind of essay.

  1. Answer the questions
  2. Collect evidence
  3. Construct a thesis
  4. Develop and organize arguments

Leading questions

When you get such an assignment, there are two possible variants: the teacher/professor gives you a list to choose the presumptive topic, or you are free to pick it yourself. In the first scenario stop on a matter that attracts you more and it would be interesting for you to examine it not just because you need, but because you want. You will manage the task easier and show better results if you are enthusiastic about the work and enjoy the process by itself. If you face the possibility to come up with the choice of topic on your own, choose the theme that you adore and can speak about for hours. If it is still hard to start writing the introduction, try to answer the next questions not to lose yourself in the variety of ideas.

  1. Which fragment caught your attention?
  2. What image, character, scene made a strong impression on you?
  3. What has confused you?
  4. Which point gave you a cause for reflection?
  5. Which turn of events surprised you and why?
  6. Did you reveal any contradictions in the text?
  7. Did you notice any regular patterns of characters’ behavior?

Collect evidence

After composing the list of questions, it would be easier for you to find the answers. Keeping these questions in mind while reading will help you to focus on the parts that direct you to the right answers and prove your thesis. Don’t worry if it is difficult for you to formulate them at once. Give yourself time to process the material, build a general vision of the whole situation, get the more profound understanding of the things that become clear only after you finish the reading. Eventually, you will start to collect the ideas and ways to shape them in a text of your essay. Here is a short outline of the elements that are present in any piece of literature that you will need to analyze in your writing task and which will serve as evidence to prove your arguments.

Elements of the Story

  1. Plot. The events and actions of the story.
  2. Character. The participants of a literary work. They divide into protagonists and antagonists.
  3. Conflict. The tense opposition of interests.
  4. Setting. All the circumstances and surroundings of the story – time, place, politics, economic conditions, etc.
  5. Narrator. The person who voices the story.
  6. Themes. The ideas, statements, suggestions that the author develops.

Elements of Style

  1. Structure and organization. The novel can be stated in the chronological order, have a linear development of the events or loose time connections between chapters.
  2. Point of view. Personal attitude of the author about the problem. The author can express it openly from the name of a narrator or veil it through the characters.
  3. Diction. The main features of the character’s language that help to describe his personality.
  4. Syntax. The length of the sentence and the word order that characterizes the author’s style.
  5. Tone. The general spirit of the literary work, its mood – easy, serious, heavy, funny.
  6. Imagery. Vivid reflection caused through the body receptors – sight, smell, hearing, taste, tactile sensations.
  7. Figurative language. The literary expression means – metaphor, hyperbole, simile, allegory, synecdoche, anaphora, etc.

Construct a thesis

After you have made a plan of questions and examined the text searching for the answers, you should be ready to state a thesis. In this statement, you will need to support with the evidence and arguments you have found in the literature work. It is the central part of your literary essay that will occupy quite a big chunk of your paper. Try to choose the strongest starting points and the most convincing arguments to keep within limits. A good thesis must be controversial, surprising, provable, involving and intriguing.

Develop and organize arguments

The sequence of the given arguments influences their persuasiveness. The most convincing is the following order of arguments: strong – medium – one of the strongest (do not use weak arguments at all, they bring just harm, but no benefit). Strong arguments do not cause criticism, they can not be disproved, destroyed, not taken into account. Established and interconnected facts belong in strong arguments and judgments that follow them.

The methods of argumentation don’t have any template since they depend on the context. If in one task you will be asked to give arguments of pros and cons, then in another one the arguments can serve to compile the characteristics of some phenomenon on the basis of a literary work. These tasks have completely different goals and accordingly require different approaches to the selection and construction of the arguments. Below we present three types of argument organization, which are most often used in writing an essay.


This kind of essay supposes the arguing about one of the ideological, moral, philosophic, aesthetic or ethical problems. The task can require a judgment of the whole work, a group of characters or a single person. The debate usually presumes that you are not indifferent to the topic, you might have a lot to say in support of your meaning. In this situation try not to go far away from the original. While expressing your personal vision and attitude, do not forget to acknowledge them with the persuasive arguments from the text. The other necessary point you need to keep in mind while writing an essay is that your arguments should be controversial but not assertive. Deep themes and questions may not have a univocal answer. Your opinion is only yours, but it is not the only one that matters. Try to offer not only supporting arguments but also counterarguments (at least one). It will present you as a wide-minded person and give you more confidence.

Compare and contrast

Some features become more visible when they are shown on the contrast. The subject of comparison can be attitude, actions, image, social status of the characters of the story or even of different stories. You may present your arguments working through each trait one by one or devote the whole paragraph to one person and then turn to another. Both strategies are working good if you want to create an effective comparison. After such an contradistinction it’s preferable to draw a small conclusion where you can write how these features impact the life; which traits of the character you would like to develop by yourself and why; come to an understanding that despite obvious contrast differences people are still very similar. Your essay is a field for new discoveries, interesting observations, and ideas.


For this kind of argument, you are asked to do the following: choose one symbol from the literary work and trace every place of its appearance in the text. It can be an animal, a piece of furniture or clothes, plant, part of the human body and many other things. This can be not only materialistic things that have literal meaning but also figurative meaning. The purpose of this task is not just collect all these moments but to conduct an analysis of them. After having made such a list try to understand if there are some connections, contradictions, regularity? Try to classify and organize them in some order. Such an analysis will bring you to an in-depth understanding of the message that an author put into the work.

Interesting Points and Tips about Strong Literary Analysis Essay

  1. There is no final, unique and correct guide for the literary work. It is possible to be engaged in the analysis through all the life from very different points of view and receive new results.
  2. To get a more profound understanding of the piece of literature it is worth to get acquainted briefly with the biography of an author, era when he lived, the structure of society, social processes of that time.
  3. Every reader has his own interpretation and conclusions in the different periods of life. Rereading the book after several years may force a person to pay attention to different things and find the answers to his current internal questions.