How to write a literary analysis essay


When you’re assigned to write a literary analysis, you need to read closely for the author’s choices. When you’re asked to write such a type of essay, you imagine yourself as a writer or critique.

Before beginning your analysis, read the source text carefully and create a thesis statement for your analysis essay. Although this type of essay requires a different and close approach, the structure is usually the same, as shown below.


Step 1: Read the 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 to analyze rather than summarize. So, pay attention not to summarize the text when you’re writing. Instead, analyze the book from different perspectives such as language, narrative voice (see narrative essay), and structure. These are called literary devices.

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


While analyzing the language of your source text:

Narrative voice

For the narrative voice, analyze the following points:


The structure of the source text is also important when we analyze different types of literary works. There are extreme differences:

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

You should also do the following:

Step 2: Thesis statement

In every type of essay, a thesis statement is the center of your argument. Without a thesis statement, 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. See the following topic and let’s 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:

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.

Step 3: Write a title and 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 title of your essay

In the title, you need to mention the scope of your analysis: what will you discuss? Also, the name and the author of the source text should be included. Keep it precise and short.

Here, it is often a good idea to use a quote mentioned in your source text.

Things to do in your introduction

Things to avoid in your introduction

Below, you’ll find an example of a literary analysis introduction.

“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.

Step 4: Write 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 paragraph.

When writing longer essays or research papers, apply the same principle on a longer scale.
In other words, you’ll have different sections, including multiple paragraphs. You need to follow the same logic to have an organized essay. Don’t just randomly throw ideas.

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.

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

Making use of transition words

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.

However, it includes complex literary elements and figurative language. So, feel free to make use of the transition words given below:

Presenting textual evidence

Presenting evidence is essential in the writing process. Presenting quotes and relevant evidence in literary analysis essays is 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. 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.

Below, you’ll see a short example of a body paragraph.

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 find 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Thank you for reading. If you need further information, feel free to have a look at our essay samples or contact us at live chat.

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

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