Simply put, a literary analysis essay is an analysis of literature. Generally, literary analysis essays have 3 formats: (1) how multiple decisions in one work influence the whole, (2) how similar/different decisions in two worlds set them apart or bring them together, or (3) how outside theories influence a piece of literature. When writing a literary analysis, it is important to remember to speak about the book in present tense, to avoid needless plot summaries, to select specific and solid evidence and to make sure to actually analyze, not just recount.
Perhaps the most popular essay that you'll have to write in high school is, the literary analysis essay. And this is one where you are going to look specifically at how and why literature was written. So I want to talk about some of the common topics and then give you some pointers to keep in mind as you are writing. So really the important thing to focus on is that, you are not just retelling a story here, you are really thinking about author intentions. So why did the author choose certain things to happen or put things in a certain order or use certain devices in his or her writing. Some of the common topics that you might be asked to look at in literary analysis, are looking at the characters and how they develop or why certain ones are round and certain ones are flat, things like that. Certain sound devices especially in poetry, you are going to be looking maybe alliteration, onomatopoeias and how that changes a poem.
Figurative language; similes, metaphors, personification. These are choices that an author makes and you maybe asked to analyze why you think he or she made the choice. Symbols, irony, why they picked a particular studying, the sequence of the plot, why certain things happen in certain orders. Themes are a big one where you are really looking at author intention, what is the message that he or she is trying to get across. Point of view, why they have a certain narrator or what impact that particular narrator had on the story and then outside literary theory or literary criticism. So all of these things are literary analysis where you are taking the book and then you are really digging into it on a deeper level.
Let's talk about some pointers here, since this is something you guys are probably going to be writing quite often. The first one I have is that when you are speaking about a book or a piece of literature, you always want to talk about it in the present tense and I know it seems kind of unnatural because typically you are writing your paper after you've read the book, so to you it feels like all that stuff happened in the past but a book exist always in the present. So write about it in a present tense; Ralph run not Ralph ran. Another thing that I see quite often is once you've referred to an author by the first and the last name like William Golding, refer to him or her by last name only not by first name only. So don't call William Golding, William or Bill or Billy because you are probably not on the first name basis like that.
Here's another big one, avoid needless plot summary. So usually the teacher whose assigning this literary analysis has a good idea of what is going on in the book and while you are going to have recount some details, you certainly don't want spend an entire page of your essay giving me a summary of everything that happened in the book. So really think about where summary is appropriate and where it's not appropriate. You want to set up your quotes but we don't need a whole separate paragraph that tells me everything that happened and then finally and this is obviously the key to literary analysis, is to make sure that you analyze. Go beyond just telling me what happened or how the characters developed and think about why it happened that way or why it sat where it is. Really think about what the author would say if you ask the questions. So analysis is really the key to a literary analysis essay. So hopefully this would get you started on that prolific literary analysis essay in your high school career.
What is a Literary Analysis Essay?
College and high school lecturers give to students the task to write literary essays in order to check students’ ability to examine, analyze, and sometimes evaluate a work of literature. Creation of a good literary essay seems sophisticated and time-consuming. We want to bust this myth by providing you with a simple scheme, which contains tried and tested plan of actions. This will serve you as a guide through the whole writing process. As the main goal in creating a literary analysis essay is to convince you potential readers that you have supported the idea you are developing. You don’t need just to recount the plot as your professor evaluates the way you’re analyzing the main ideas and conflicts of the book.
If you want to make the process of writing a literary analysis productive, consequent plan of actions is a must-have for every student. When you know the structure, verbalizing your idea becomes easy.
How to Start Writing a Literary Essay?
PREPARATION: Are going to analyze a novel, a play, a poem or a short story? - Be sure that you know the peculiarities of the citation style of your future literature essay. Quotes have to be properly attributed with the correct page numbers and lines. It is better to specify this information at the very beginning.
TOPIC: It is a notion you should take into consideration at first as the given topic contains a central idea in it. Your future literary essay must cover the topic you are writing about. Check out the basic themes that may be given to students:
- Darkness and Light in Anne Caston’s Narrative Poem “Anatomy”.
- “The Great Gatsby”: An Emotional Journey
- Chaos and Structure in 'A Clockwork Orange' and 'Paradise Lost'
- Transrealism as the first literary movement of 21st century aiming to kill off ‘consensus reality’. Describe the process of establishment of the genre.
- “The Picture of Dorian Gray”: the Conflict Between Morality and Aestheticism
THESIS: It conveys a unique idea about the work. Make your thesis about the text and spend your essay supporting your ideas using evidence from the book. Thesis for a literary essay must:
- relate to the theme of the piece
- suggest how this idea is revealed by the author
Steps to Writing a Successful Literary Essay
INTRO: Introduction is the first paragraph with a HOOK, which catches the interest of a reader. It includes the author and the title of the piece and prepares for the major thesis.
BODY: Body paragraphs are the support paragraphs of a literary essay. It has to combine a support sentence, commentary, and a concluding sentence. Use literary techniques and devices in order to prove your thesis. Use specific quotes and examples to maintain your idea and cite them.
How to Conclude a Literary Essay
CONCLUSION: It is more than a typical summary as it has to synthesize the elements of the analyzed text. The importance of your literary essay should be illustrated in your conclusion and demonstrate that you have defended your literary argument. To cut a long story short, it is the last paragraph in your literary essay which answers the “so what?” question your reader may have after reading your essay.
Main Tips for the Whole Writing Process:
Remember that writing a literary essay resembles the writing of many college essays. Use your previous experience and organize the time and the whole working process wisely. Check out the following essential tips:
- Follow the 5 W’s before the beginning of your literary essay: Who, what, where, when, why.
- Know the exact requirements of your professor.
- Follow the structure: Intro+Body+Conclusion.
It is high time to proofread your work. Done!