How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay Step by Step

Some students find writing literary analysis papers rather daunting. Yet, an English class cannot go without this kind of work. By the way, writing literary analysis essays is not that complicated as it seems at a glance. On the contrary, this work may be fascinating, and you have a chance to study your favorite works of literature more in-depth.

Making a Literary Anaysis Includes Three Main Steps: Critical Reading, Making a Thesis, and Writing the Essay.

Literary analysis implies that you read a certain piece of literature in a particular way. You need to break it into parts and see how each of these parts work. How to do this exactly? How to start a literary analysis essay? Continue reading this article by Custom-writing experts, and soon you’ll become an expert too!

❔ What Is a Literary Analysis Essay?

It is one of the types of an argumentative essay in which you carry out an in-depth investigation of a novel, story, poem, play, or any other literary creation. The purpose is to explore the reasons for certain technical and artistic choices of the author and interpret their meaning.

What Is the Purpose of a Literary Analysis Essay?

This academic assignment aims to examine and evaluate a literary work or its aspect. The definition of a literary analysis essay presupposes the study of literary devices, choice of language, perspective, imagery, and structure of the text. These techniques are examined to understand the ideas the author intended to convey.

📑 Literary Analysis Outline

Feel free to use the following literary analysis outline. It will make your work much easier!

Writing an Introduction to a Literary Analysis Essay

✔️Start with the title of your work and its author’s name. One or two sentences will suffice. Stress on the main idea of the analyzed work to make these sentences more hooking.
✔️Briefly tell what the work is about or how it influenced the world literature. Why is it worth the analysis? What conflicts are raised by the author?
✔️Make a thesis statement for your literary analysis essay. Explain your main idea and the major points you make. This is the most substantial sentence in your analysis.

Writing Body Paragraphs for a Literary Analysis Essay

✔️Come up with a paragraph for each point that you make in the thesis. Three paragraphs are enough for a 500-750 word essay.
✔️Start each paragraph with a concise and meaningful topic sentence. For a smooth flow of the body paragraphs, use transition words “moreover,” “however,” “in addition,” etc.
✔️Then you need to give detailed explanations of your main idea. Everything should be supported with evidence from the text (quotations, descriptions, paraphrases, substantiations, etc.)
✔️Finish each paragraph with a concluding sentence answering the question: what does this paragraph prove?

Writing a Conclusion for a Literary Analysis Essay

✔️This is the final paragraph of your literary analysis paper that will give it a sense of completeness. Here, you can summarize all major points, give your comments on the work, share your feelings, etc.
Never introduce new topics here.
✔️Emphasize why your point of view is viable and how the body paragraphs prove it.

Find more details and a step-by-step guide on writing your literary analysis in the next section.

👣 How to Write a Literary Analysis Step by Step

Step 1. Read Critically

If you wonder how to start the literary analysis, the answer is careful reading. At this stage, you need to find out the main themes of the novel. Make a list of them and note the pages where you can find evidence of the main ideas later. This method can be applied for all the references, as an academic paper requires you to indicate pages in the text for any quotations and paraphrases.

At this stage, the text’s events are important since they convey the main theme or the principal idea. You should rather focus on literary devices, choice of language, structure, and narrative voice. These are the elements of the text that create visual and emotional effects and convey the meaning.

  • Literary devices. This aspect of your essay is the most theory-based one. Literary devices comprise the three following elements:
    • Literary techniques (allusion, allegory, exposition, anthropomorphism, foil, foreshadowing, repetition, and parallelism)
    • Figurative language (metaphor, onomatopoeia, understatement, symbolism, personification, simile, pun, cliche, analogy, proverb, hyperbole, alliteration, idiom, assonance, irony, and oxymoron)
    • Literary elements (plot, theme, setting, imagery, mood, tone, point of view, protagonists, antagonists, conflict, climax, characterization, diction, motifs, and narrator)
  • Language. Here you should analyze the length of sentences, the complexity of grammatical structures, use of poetic or high-flown language, recurring to vulgar words, etc.
  • Structure. Does the structure impact the flow of the story, novel, or poem? What are the structural elements used by the author (chapters, stanzas, lines, acts)? This aspect is essential in the analysis of poetry. Rhyme pattern, punctuation, pauses, and meter shape the reader’s perception of verses and convey the author’s thoughts and feelings, just as the words do.
    Some of the items mentioned in the literary devices can be discussed as well in terms of structure. Foreshadowing and repetition can create suspense or generate dramatic irony. Climax can be located in the middle or at the end of the narration. The plot timeline influences action development, accelerating, and slowing down the in-text time. You don’t need to discuss all these factors, but if something strikes your eye while reading, note it.
  • Conflict. Almost any text has a conflict. Mention which of the following applies to your analysis, and how it is implemented through the plot:
    • Person vs. person
    • Person vs. nature
    • Person vs. self
    • Person vs. supernatural forces, fate, or God
    • Person vs. society
    • Person vs. technology
  • Narrative voice. In the course of reading, the narrator becomes the reader’s friend. What kind of person are they? Are they omnipresent and omniscient as a supernatural force, or are they in the same situation as the other protagonists? The narration can be first-person (fully involved in the plot and subjective) or third-person (distanced and objective).
    The tone of the narrator’s voice defines your perception of the text. Is it comic, realistic, or tragic? Is the narrator’s figure reliable, and do their words sound plausible?

Step 2. Formulate the Thesis

World classics and modern professional literature are valuable because of their multifaceted conflicts, well-thought structure, and abundant literary devices. Even the long research thesis cannot comprise all of them. Choose an aspect that stroke you the most in the course of critical reading. Formulate the intention of your analysis in one sentence. Make it succinct and to the point. The thesis tells your readers what you will tell them, but it also implies what you are not going to discuss.

A thesis statement should clearly describe the topic scope and the writer’s approach to it. It is a claim about the text that will be proved in the essay. A thesis can be argumentative, analytical, or explanatory. The samples given below will make the difference clear.

breaks down an idea into analyzable parts; should provide an answer to the question of “how” or “why.” presupposes that you need to take a position on a debatable topicis based on factual information and does not include the author’s opinion
“In Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea, Santiago is portrayed as a Christ-like character through the multiple allusions to the Bible.”“The restrictions and limitations of female characters in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice define their behavior and attitude to life.”“George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a historical allegory of totalitarian countries.

Your thesis statement requires sufficient textual evidence. In the previous step, you gathered much information, so now, it will be easier to find passages and quotations that refer to the subject. You may not use everything you have discovered in your writing, but having enough material at hand will help to structure the arguments.

Step 3. Write Your Essay

  • Write the title. It should be an abridged version of the thesis. This is the best place to be creative, witty, and brief. If you don’t know how to start the title, begin with a short quote followed by a colon, and then explain how it relates to your thesis. For example, “He’s more myself than I am”: the Destructive Nature of an Ego Blurred by Love in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. This is the easiest and the most compelling way to entitle an essay.
  • Write the literary analysis introduction. In brief, it consists of background information about the author and the book, leading to the thesis. You can refer to popular opinion on the subject and state your thesis as a contradiction to it. Alternatively, you can limit out the literary devices or a theme you are going to analyze. The introduction paragraph can be concluded with an indication of what is going to be discussed in the essay. However, in a five-paragraph essay, this summary should be condensed into a single sentence.
  • Write the body. Each body paragraph shall concentrate on one topic or aspect. Use the following template for all the body paragraphs:
    • Start with a topic sentence stating what the paragraph is about. Avoid long phrases with complex grammar in the first sentence. It gives the reader a glance at the section and helps to orient in your text. Transition words can smooth the transition from one idea to another.
    • Continue with evidence and substantiation. Using quotes is reasonable when the quote is one sentence long, not more than 30 words. Otherwise, paraphrase or summarize the quote, leaving only the essential information. Never use quotes or paraphrases without providing a proper explanation.
    • Finish each paragraph with a one-sentence conclusion of the discussed idea.

Step 5. Prepare the Conclusion

Wrap up the essay without introducing any new ideas and avoiding direct quotations. Summarize everything you have mentioned above in different words. Then stress the thesis once again, highlighting the new perspective the essay has opened.

Literary Analysis Essay Topics

  1. Thematic analysis of The Black Cat by Edgar Alan Poe. 
  2. Analyze the literature techniques used by W. Shakespeare in his tragedy Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
  3. Discuss the central theme of the play Beautiful Thing by Jonathan Harvey.  
  4. Describe the conflict of Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire.
  5. The topic of illegal immigration in Just Like Us by Helen Thorpe.
  6. Explore how Steven E Ambrose describes the building of transcontinental railroad in Nothing Like It in the World.
  7. Analyze the literary devices in The Red Convertible by Louise Erdrich.
  8. Analyze the plot of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.
  9. Examine the symbols used by William Wymark Jacobs in his horror story The Monkey’s Paw.
  10. The importance of integral human sentiments in The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
  11. Discuss how McDonald described the conditions that lead to degradation and loss of humanity in his autobiography All Souls.
  12. Analyze Kafka’s short story A Hunger Artist.
  13. Interpret the use of stylistic devices in The Minister’s Black Veil by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  
  14. Explore Hemingway’s ideas about life in his story A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.  
  15. The symbolism in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.  
  16. Study the core motif of the Sophocles’ Oedipus the King.   
  17. Analyse the topics of The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.
  18. Examine the literary elements used by Lisa Ko in The Leavers.
  19. Allegory in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been by Joyce Carol Oates.
  20. Interpret the idea behind Herman Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener.
  21. Discuss how Alice Munro describes issues in marriage and relationships in How I Met My Husband.
  22. Analyze the main themes of Jack London’s To Build a Fire.
  23. The central topic of Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. 
  24. The connection between past and future in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway.  
  25. Describe the rhetoric means used by August Wilson in the play Fences.  
  26. Discuss the idea behind Jon Krakauer’s novel Into the Wild.  
  27. Interpretation of Why I Live at the P.O. Eudora Welty.
  28. Compare the topic of women’s rebellion in Ibsen’s A Dollhouse and Glaspell’s Trifles
  29. Analyze the rhetoric used by Chinua Achebe in Things Fall Apart. 
  30. Gender biases and marginalization in Girl by Jamaica Kincaid.
  31. Analyze the main character in A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner. 
  32. Examine the theme of tragic fate in Homer’s Iliad.  
  33. Discuss the message to society in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.  
  34. Analyze the stylistic devices used by Tennessee Williams in The Glass Menagerie. 
  35. Interpret the theme of George Orwell’s The Hanging.  
  36. Jealousy and lasting love in Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe.
  37. Analyzing the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelly.
  38. Describe the rhetoric techniques used by Jesmyn Ward in Sing, Unburied, Sing.
  39. Examine the symbolism of John Updike’s A&P.
  40. Literary elements used by James Joyce in Ulysses.
  41. Discuss the themes of appearance and reality in Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare. 
  42. Examine the characters of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  
  43. Literary analysis of the poem The Man He Killed by T. Hardy.
  44. Analyze the central theme of Matsuo Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Interior
  45. The role of an individual in the protection of the environment in The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono.
  46. Describe Hemingway’s rhetoric in Hills Like White Elephants.
  47. Discuss the role of allegory in Beloved by Toni Morrison.
  48. Analyze the elements of Charles Brockden Brown’s gothic novel Wieland.
  49. The significant features of Summer by David Updike.
  50. Examine the depiction of the contemporary society’s issues in Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.

Good luck with your assignment! Note that the information that you will find in articles about a literary criticism essay and Lady Macbeth essay can also also be useful.

✏️ Literary Analysis FAQ

❓ What is a literary analysis essay?

Here is a possible definition: a description of some peculiarities of a literary text in a structured and cohesive way. It should include some elements of a research report. There are countless examples of such essays available online and in books.

❓ How to write a literary analysis?

It is always a good idea to create an essay outline first. Write a minimum of 3-4 key ideas for the body part. Then, exemplify those points (you may cite the text). Then, add an appropriate introduction and a corresponding conclusion.

❓ How do you start a literary analysis essay?

If you need to write a literary analysis, begin with an outline. It will help you proceed step by step without losing the structure. Think about the peculiar features of the literary text you analyze. Brush up the principles of analytical writing, too.

❓ What is a book analysis essay?

A book analysis essay summarizes literary research and includes examples, review elements, etc. The purpose of such a paper is to help readers understand the book better. Just like any other essay, it should be appropriately structured: an appropriate introduction, several body paragraphs, a logical conclusion.

🔗 References

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Comments (4)

Hailey Levy
Hailey Levy

I have to type out an essay over this story “everyday use” but how would I start off the paragraph so that it can flow good??? Please help


This was really useful. Thank you so much!

Nina Goldstein
Nina Goldstein

Love your blog and all posts. They helped me write many of my academic assignments. This post on writing literary analysis essays is what I need right now! Thanks!

Perry L.
Perry L.

Thanks for the steps to write an excellent literary analysis essay! I’m thrilled to find your blog! There is always something really useful for students writing various papers.