How to write a literary analysis essay

When writing a literary analysis, you need to read closely for the author’s choices and style. You simply imagine yourself as the writer or critique.

Although this type of essay requires a different and close approach, it usually follows a traditional essay structure. Now let’s follow the steps to writing a great literary analysis! 

essay outline structure

Step 1: Read the literary text closely

Say you’re writing a literary analysis of 1984 by George Orwell; you need to read that book closely. This is the first step.

Remember, you’re not simply reading; you’re reading as a critique. So, you should consider the type of writing, surprising facts and linguistic elements (word choice, phrasal words, first-person pronouns, etc.), and intriguing points in Orwell’s writing. Your primary target is analyzing the text. So, pay attention not to summarize the text when you’re writing. 

During your close reading, there are specific areas to focus on, as shown below.

Language

While analyzing the language of your source text:

Narrative voice

For the narrative voice, analyze the following points:

Structure

The structure of the source text is also important when analyzing different types of literary works. There are quite different type of literary texts as shown below. 

For the structure, pay attention to why the author divides the text at certain points. What was the motive? 

Also ask yourself these questions: 

Step 2: Think of your thesis statement

In every essay, a thesis statement is the center of your argument. Without  it, your essay would be a random selection of your ideas. So, it’s quite essential. Your instructor may give you a topic, and you need to write your paper according to the instructions. 

Let’s see the following topic and build a thesis statement on it.

In this case, your thesis statement should be interrelated with the topic, one way or another. An example thesis statement to this topic would be:

Thesis statement example

Introduction

....(introduction starts)
....(introduction continues)
....(introduction continues)
George Orwell's 1984 is a dystopic novel that includes post-romanticist and gothic elements.​ Thesis statement, which is usually the last sentence of your introduction

Qualities of a good thesis statement

Remember that your thesis statement should be:

The primary target of your thesis statement is to keep you organized as you write. Remember that you can always modify your existing thesis statement when you finish writing.

Literary analysis thesis statement example

Introduction

....(introduction starts)
....(introduction continues)
....(introduction continues)
Although Frankenstein is considered the first example of science fiction, it is also a masterpiece of romanticism as it includes all the characteristics of the genre, such as the glorification of nature, awareness of emotions, artistic creativity, aesthetic beauty, solitude, and supernatural elements in its different chapters. Thesis statement, which is usually the last sentence of your introduction

Step 3: Write an introduction

The title and introduction generally set up your entire essay. This is where you present your topic. You mention what you’ll include in your essay. A well-thought title and introduction are quite necessary to prepare an excellent literary analysis.

“The Story of an Hour” is a short story in which Kate Chopin, the author, presents an often unheard-of marriage view. Opening sentence: You broadly speak about the topic. Mrs. Louise Mallard, Chopin’s main character, experiences the exhilaration of freedom rather than the desolation of loneliness after she learns of her husband’s death. Later, when Mrs. Mallard learns that her husband, Brently, still lives, she knows that all hope of freedom is gone. Context: You highlight the key incidents in the source text. The crushing disappointment kills Mrs. Mallard. Published in the late eighteen hundreds, the oppressive nature of marriage in “The Story of an Hour” may well be a reflection of, though not exclusive to, that era. Background: Give more detail about the incidents in the text. This essay begins by analyzing Mrs. Lousie Mallard’s experiences, then moves on to the book’s drastic incidents, and finally discusses her disappointment. Signposting: You mention the general structure of your literary analysis.

Literary analysis introduction tips

Things to avoid in your introduction

Step 4: Continue with body paragraphs

You’ll present your arguments, evidence, and details in your body paragraphs: simply everything between your introduction and conclusion.

Though Chopin relates Mrs. Mallard’s story, she does not do so in first person. Topic sentence: Imply the issues that the paragraph will talk about. Chopin reveals the story through a narrator’s voice. The narrator is not simply an observer, however. The narrator knows, for example, that Mrs. Mallard, for the most part, did not love her husband (paragraph 15). It is obvious that the narrator knows more than can be physically observed. Chopin, however, never tells the reader what Mrs. Mallard is feeling. Evidence and analysis: You evaluate the literary elements. Instead, the reader must look into Mrs. Mallard’s actions and words in order to understand what Mrs. Mallard feels. Concluding sentence: This part summarizes the analysis.

Paragraph structure

A typical literary analysis is 5 paragraphs long: an introduction and conclusion and three body paragraphs. However, if you’re writing a long paper, you’ll have more body paragraphs.

Each paragraph should have no more than one topic sentence. If you’re writing a 5 paragraph essay, try to divide your arguments into three points and mention each in a single paragraphWhen writing longer essays or research papers, apply the same principle on a longer scale.

Topic sentences

Topic sentences are like door signs in a big office. You’ll show your reader which topic you’re covering in a specific paragraph. It is the first sentence of a body paragraph where you allow readers what to expect with a topic sentence.

Making use of transition

Remember that transition sentences and transition words are necessary to provide a smooth transition between paragraphs.

In a good literary essay, each paragraph must be strongly and explicitly linked to the whole essay. Your reader needs to find your essay smooth and easy to read.

Presenting textual evidence

Presenting evidence is essential in body paragraphs. Presenting quotes and relevant evidence in literary analysis essays are extremely significant as they back up your arguments. 

You need to inform your reader regarding your textual evidence by introducing and analyzing it. In other words, tell them why you’re using it. 

Although you don’t have to use a quote, they’re generally useful in a literary analysis essay, as seen below:

Textual evidence in a paragraph

Introduction

....(paragraph starts)
Orwell highlights that "no one could do anything against Big Brother," stressing the collective pessimism of the zeitgeist. You give evidence from the text to support your claim
....(paragraph continues)
....(paragraph ends)

 If you want to refer to a whole chapter, you need to summarize or paraphrase. Don’t just copy, you need to describe it in your own words.

In case you are struggling to write in your own words, then consider getting help from a paraphrasing tool. It will quickly paraphrase your given writing in a totally unique way without changing its original meaning. When it comes to summarization, you can also use a summarizing tool to get the job done quickly and efficiently.

Textual evidence in a paragraph (on chapter)

Introduction

....(paragraph starts)
The last chapter of Orwell's masterpiece reflects a dynamic pursuit between the lovely couple and the brutal companions of Big Brother. While the reader intrinsically expects an optimistic turn in the storyline, the author shocks the reader with the bitter truth of the ongoing dystopia. You highlight the chapter of a source to support your claim
....(paragraph continues)
....(paragraph ends)

Step 5: Write a conclusion

Typically, a conclusion doesn’t include any new information or evidence. It’s simply a closing speech of your literary essay. When writing a conclusion:

Below, you’ll see a good example of a literary analysis essay conclusion. Feel free to analyze and observe the elements in the final paragraph.

Mrs. Louise Mallard experiences the exhilaration of freedom after learning of her husband’s death in “The Story of an Hour”. Later, when Mrs. Mallard learns that her husband still lives, she knows that all hope of freedom is gone. The crushing disappointment kills her. Summary: You briefly summarize what happened in the essay. The oppressive nature of marriage in “The Story of an Hour” may well reflect, though not exclusive to the late eighteen hundreds. Concluding remarks: You create a concluding sentence by highlighting your thesis statement.

5-Paragraph Literary Analysis Example

Game of Thrones: A World of Fantasy and Intrigue

Introduction

The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a novel that captures the glamour, decadence, and disillusionment of the Roaring Twenties. Set in the fictional town of West Egg on Long Island, the novel follows the wealthy and mysterious Jay Gatsby as he tries to win back the love of his life, Daisy Buchanan, and achieve the American Dream. Through its vivid portrayal of the Jazz Age and its complex characters, the novel explores themes of love, wealth, and the corrupting influence of ambition. Background information This essay will analyze the character of Jay Gatsby, specifically his obsession with Daisy and the ways in which it leads to his downfall. Thesis statement

Body paragraphs

Gatsby's obsession with Daisy is also detrimental to his relationships with other characters in the novel. He is so consumed by his desire for Daisy that he fails to form genuine connections with those around him.Discussion of the early hints of Gatsby's obsession This is exemplified in his relationship with Nick Carraway, the narrator of the novel. While Nick initially admires Gatsby's wealth and charm, he eventually realizes that Gatsby's obsession with Daisy is all-consuming and prevents him from forming authentic relationships.Examination of Gatsby's inability to see the reality Gatsby's obsession with Daisy also leads him to associate with unsavory characters such as Meyer Wolfsheim, who is involved in organized crime. This association ultimately leads to Gatsby's downfall.Analysis of Gatsby's obsession

Gatsby's obsession with Daisy is also detrimental to his relationships with other characters in the novel. He is so consumed by his desire for Daisy that he fails to form genuine connections with those around him.Exploring how obsession leads to isolation This is exemplified in his relationship with Nick Carraway, the narrator of the novel. While Nick initially admires Gatsby's wealth and charm, he eventually realizes that Gatsby's obsession with Daisy is all-consuming and prevents him from forming authentic relationships.Gatsby's association with unsavory characters Gatsby's obsession with Daisy also leads him to associate with unsavory characters such as Meyer Wolfsheim, who is involved in organized crime. This association ultimately leads to Gatsby's downfall.How obsession led to his ruin

Despite Gatsby's efforts to win back Daisy, their relationship is doomed from the start. Gatsby's obsession with Daisy is not based on a genuine connection but rather a desire for what she represents: wealth, status, and the American Dream. This is evident in their reunion, which is awkward and strained.Examination of the character of Daisy Buchanan Daisy is not the idealized version that Gatsby has built up in his mind, and their relationship ultimately fails because it is based on a fantasy rather than reality. Analysis of Daisy's flaws In the end, Gatsby's obsession with Daisy leads to his tragic downfall, as he is unable to let go of his past and move on with his life. Daisy and Gatsby's obsession

Conclusion

After all, The Great Gatsby is a novel that explores the dangers of obsession and the corrupting influence of the American Dream. Jay Gatsby's obsession with Daisy is a central theme of the novel and is ultimately his undoing.Summary of key points His desire for wealth, status, and the idealized version of Daisy he has created in his mind prevents him from forming authentic connections with those around him and leads him down a path of destruction.Restatement of thesis The novel serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of obsession and the importance of living in reality rather than in a fantasy world.Final thoughts and closing sentence

Key takeaways for literary analyses

Now you’re ready to write a perfect literary analysis. 

If you need further information, feel free to have a look at our essay samples or contact us in one of our communication channels. 

Deniz Akcaoglu
Deniz Akcaoglu
Content editor and writer. Probably out there trying to get into an obscure band she actually hates the sound of.