How to write a literary analysis essay: major concerns


A word combination - a literary analysis - awakes fear among many students which is also mixed up with the feeling of confusion and despair. College students tell that they are dismayed when hearing these two words together and think they will scarcely be able to craft at least a third-rate essay of this type. Let’s discover whether it is so difficult to write a literary analysis paper as it seems to be at the first sight.

Frankly speaking, the analytical thinking is the ability of a few people. However, high order thinking can be trained quite effectively provided that a teacher uses the right approach. Why are we writing all this stuff? Our reply is to convince you that a skill to analyze things can be acquired by everyone only if they take a bit more effort and be diligent. So leave your fears behind and conquer you literary analysis with our helping hand.

In the literary analysis essay, you are supposed to demonstrate the ability to identify the issue based on associations, trends and cause-effect relationships between the given options.

This type of paper serves the purpose to find out what the author thinks about the plot, settings, theme, and characters of the story. Sometimes, you are expected to discover how the message of the book is created through these components. Also, your objective might be to criticize the author’s message and the methods used to reveal it to the readers.

A great literary analysis explains how a plot, characters, and themes are used by the writer. Sometimes, you may want to explore how the author creates meaning through these elements; otherwise, you may want to criticize the author’s methods and ideas of the literary piece analyzed.

A literary analysis helps improve your writing skills as well as develop your analytical thinking.

If you are going to master the art of analyzing literary works, you will surely complete your college literature course successfully. So that’s the point to start learning!

What you need to know about a literary analysis

Everyone who is assigned this essay type should know that the main goal of it is a careful examination of a literary work. While reading, your mind and eyes are to mention every smallest event, comment or actions that make significance to the point of your essay. We do hope that you understand that an analysis has nothing in common with a plot summary. The papers that deal with a summary are book reviews and reports while a literary analysis requires much more than exposition.

A gentle reminder: you write a report or a summary to show that you have read the book. As for analysis, you make a thesis and keep writing to support it. A literary analysis is more like an argumentative essay where you prove your own claim using the evidence collected during the research.

So the first rule says: do not retell but explain and analyze.

Now you are ready to absorb some more info on how to write a literary analysis essay. Let’s get down to it!

How to analyze


Your work begins as follows:

  • Read thoroughly. Let us clarify: you should read the original text. No cut-down versions, no summaries and no book-based movies. Even if your novel is 500 pages long.
  • Understand the instructions. Most often, an assignment to analyze a book means to read it through and think analytically about the conclusion without referring to additional sources. However, in rare cases, a professor may ask you to draw some outside expert opinion on the book.
  • Take notes. Write down the details that seem important for your analysis as it is impossible to keep everything in your head. So that to avoid pouring through the text again, you have to uses all ways to highlight the significant information. Put down or underline quotes, literary terms and devices. Save your time doing the same with the ideas that come to you while reading.
  • Write a snappy introduction and a concise thesis statement. A good decision for a catching introduction of your essay will be a question or a quote. By a question, you will sharpen the readers’ attention to the topic and make them wonder what the answer will be. By a quote, which might be either shocking or compelling, you can hook the readers effectively. Finish the opening paragraph with a clear thesis. A thesis is a must in your literary analysis as it shows what you are going to tell in the body paragraphs. More tips on writing a thesis statement you can easily find on our matchless paper writing service.

The pre-writing phase is over and it is time to start analyzing.

What to analyze

A literary analysis is mostly about dealing with the language of the text.

Your literary essay may discuss a bunch of concepts, for example:

  • How literary components interrelate
  • How some stylistic devices function in the story
  • How literary devices work for larger contexts, that means how they serve to unveil certain aesthetic, social, religious political and other issues.

Not to miss a single literary device or technique, you should check basic terms in appropriate handbooks. Here is a prompt with the most common literary terms:

  • Allegory
  • Character
  • Conflict
  • Context
  • Genre
  • Metaphor
  • Irony
  • Plot
  • Repetition
  • Setting
  • Symbol

Knowing how they function and how they look, you will easily identify them in the text. There is no need to explain the fact that if you are not familiar with something, you will never have a chance to spot it. In order to search for them effectively, you had better break a literary work into smaller pieces. Analyze each part individually and then compose a larger picture and finally put all elements together.

Along with style and language, you have to examine and evaluate these important elements carefully.


Look more closely at this part as it may prompt the writer’s opinion through places or characters.


It is hard to imagine the analysis of a literary piece without its characters’ portrayal. You can examine everything: their appearances, beliefs, backgrounds, clothes, manners, location, actions, etc. You are obliged to study the personages well because writers almost always use them to express their personal opinions about gender, cultures, values, religion, history and other things.


A plot is a storyline of the literary composition. Most commonly, a literary analysis essay does not analyze the plot. However, if there is a need, you may include this information in your paper.


This is a component that an analysis essay cannot do without. Conflict can appear in different forms. Typically it is a “duel” between the antagonist and protagonist. There may be external or internal conflicts or the struggle between natural and off-world forces. A conflict can also come in the form of the writer’s opinion about the key issues of the day.

Other essentials for writing a smart analysis paper

Writing a literary analysis requires a meticulous critical approach. Also, this process needs to be properly planned and organized. In this section, we have collected useful ideas and tips for conquering an analysis paper without rewriting it over again.

Tip 1. Write your notes using this question-like formula:

  • Who wrote the book?
  • What are the main events of the story?
  • Where does the scene take place?
  • When does the story happen?
  • Why do you prove your claim? How do you justify it?

Tip 2. Compose the essay strictly in this order – introduction, body, and conclusion. The body paragraphs should be argumentative and cohesive. Each paragraph must follow this scheme: a topic sentence, a context, an introduction of the quote, a quote, an explanation and analysis.

Tip 3. Use MLA format. Observe the citing rules that this format suggests.

Tip 4. Use academic voice. Your entire paper should sound confident, concise, logical and critical.

Tip 5. Review for accuracy. Ideal papers are flawless and that is a fact!

If you feel that your editing skills leave much to be desired, we will competently finalize your paper. Want more constructive comments? Contact us right here!

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