How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay

Literary analysis has proven to be a serious cause of headache for many students and in today’s post, we are going to examine how to write a literary analysis.

What is literary analysis?

​The literary analysis examines all novels, plays, short stories, and small parts of poetry. Its components: character, background, tone, and imagery. A literary analysis is a special way to break down into smaller parts and then examine how those parts work, both individually and together.

​A literary essay is not a book review. It is not about whether you like or dislike the book or whether you recommend it to others. A literary essay also isn’t like the kind of book report you wrote when you were younger, where your teacher wanted you to summarize the book’s action. A literary review simply wants you to pick the mind of the author.

However, being a literary analyst is not genetic or hereditary. It is a skill you learn and master. The more you sharpen your thinking and writing, the more you can practice and craft a method that works best for you. In the meantime, here are some basic steps to writing a well-constructed literary essay.

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Write a Literary Analysis

1. Ask Questions

The first thing to do is to choose an interesting topic. This will help you have a much better and easier time in accomplishing this task. Then proceed by asking yourself the following questions.

  • What Stuck with you from the passages: Did a particular image, storyline, or scene stick in your mind for a while? If so, then you can develop a fascinating essay from the book.
  • Did you get any mixed feelings? Were you surprised to see a character act in a certain way, or maybe you didn’t understand why the book ended the way it did? Ask yourself why the author chose to write about that character or scene the way he or she did, and you may discover some important insights into the work as a whole.
  • Noticed any pattern: Are there phrases that the protagonist constantly used, or imagery that were repeated throughout the book? If you can figure out how the pattern makes up your work and what the significance of the pattern is, then you can confidently say you have your whole essay mapped out for you.
  • Did you notice any contradictions: The best questions invite critical debates and discussions, not just a rehashing of the summary. Note, you’re looking for something you can prove or argue based on the evidence you find in the text. So, remember to keep the scope of your question in mind: is this a topic you can adequately address within the word or page limit you’ve been given?

2. Collect Evidence

​Once you know what question you want to answer, it’s time to score the book for things that will help you answer the question. Keep track of passages, symbols, images, or scenes that deal with your topic. Eventually, you’ll start making connections between these examples and your thesis will emerge.

Here you put together each piece of literature and the various parts that make up every piece of it. These are the elements you will analyze in your essay, and the elements you will present as evidence to support your argument.

3. Write a Thesis Statement

When you’ve examined all the evidence you’ve collected and known how you want to answer the question, the next line of action is to write your thesis statement. The thesis statement is the heart of a literary essay, and much of your essay will be used to substantiate this claim.

4. Develop and Organize Arguments

The reasons and examples that support your thesis form the middle paragraph of your essay. There is no single method of argumentation that works in every context. You may be comparing two characters or tracing an image through a given work of literature, these scenarios require different kinds of answers and therefore different kinds of arguments.

5. Write the Introduction

​Your introduction sets up the entire essay. It’s where you present your topic and articulate the issues and questions you’ll be addressing. It’s also where you, as the writer, introduce yourself to your readers. A persuasive literary essay immediately establishes its writer as a knowledgeable authority in the field.

An introduction can vary in length depending on the overall length of the essay, but in a traditional five-paragraph essay it should be no longer than one paragraph. However long it is, your introduction needs to:

Provide the necessary context: Your introduction should put the reader at ease and tell him what to expect of him or her. What book are you discussing? what character and what topic will you be addressing?

Why is the topic relevant: Why is this topic important, and why is your position on the topic noteworthy? Ideally, your introduction should arouse the reader’s interest by suggesting how your argument is surprising or otherwise counterintuitive. Literary essays create unexpected connections, revealing hidden truths.

As much as possible, simplify your introduction and bring it to the point but do not skip the necessary steps just to quickly get to the point.

6. Write the Body Paragraphs

Once you’ve written your introduction, take the argument you developed earlier and turn it into a body paragraph. The structure of this middle part of your essay will be largely determined by the argumentation strategy you use. However, ensure that the body of the paragraphs covers the following:

  • ​Start with a strong topic sentence: Subject sentences are like signs on a highway, they tell readers where they are and where they are going. A good topic sentence not only alerts the reader to the issue that will be discussed in the next paragraph but also tells you what arguments might be raised on that issue
  • Build a single idea: Don’t skip paragraphs or put too much material. Body paragraphs are like building blocks. Each should be strong and sturdy. Otherwise, the entire structure will collapse. Before moving on to the next step, make sure you have emaciated your claim.
  • Transition smoothly: Good literary essay writers know that each paragraph must have a clear and strong connection to the material around it. Think of each paragraph as a response to the paragraph that precedes it. But similarly, on the contrary, and we use transition words and phrases to indicate what kind of correspondence we are making. Good literary essay writers know that each paragraph must be clearly and strongly linked to the material around it. Think of each paragraph as a response to the one that precedes it. Use transition words and phrases such as however, similarly, on the contrary, therefore, and to indicate what kind of response you’re making.

7. Write the Conclusion

Just as you used the introduction to convince your readers about a topic, you’ll use the conclusion to quickly summarize the specifics learnt so far, then hint at the broader implications of your topic. A good conclusion will:

  • Do More: Do more than restate the topic of your essay and make sure your assertion is well constructed.
  • Connect the dots of the argument: do not repeat the details of the body paragraph in the conclusion. Readers have already read your essay, and it doesn’t take long for them to forget all your points. So do well to elicit how these points relate to each other.
  • Keep it relevant: Your conclusion should give new directions of thought, but it should not be treated as an opportunity to add all the extra, interesting ideas you came up with during your brainstorming stage but couldn’t fit into the essay proper. Don’t stuff it with irrelevancies.​