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Literary Analysis Essay: Learn More About This Writing Assignment

Wondering how to write a literary analysis essay? Indeed, it's one tricky assignment that can leave lots of students stunned. When you read something non-academical, you do it for pleasure. But sometimes, especially in English class, teachers can give a task to read some story and conduct its analysis. And getting any amusement while writing such an assignment can be pretty questionable.

But don't worry. We are here to give a helping hand. Keep reading this guide, and you will understand the literary paper basics. You will learn how to write such an essay and make it striking. Pull up your socks as we are ready to roll!

What Is a Literary Essay?

First of all, let's think of what a literary essay definition is and its specific purpose. It is an assignment that requires argumentative analysis of a particular work of literature. One cannot write such an essay on something not actually written by an author, like a film or series. Literary analysis implies doing close study of a piece of literature to decipher its intention and figure out the author's choices.

We cannot consider this paper as a simple summary. Instead, it requires more precision in analyzing the language used and how the text is arranged. It also appeals to reviewing literary devices that the author used to express their thoughts. Your goal is to discover which effects the author's writing has created. Also, analyze the way how ideas of that written piece are uncovered.

How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay?

As you start writing your first literary analysis essay, keep in mind its common structure which consists of:

  1. Introduction.It should inform your reader about your essay's point of focus.
  2. Body paragraphs.They let your reader know more details with corresponding evidence from your source of analysis.
  3. Conclusion.It outlines the main idea you've brought throughout your paper.

Analyze the Source

The first step of literary analysis is a thorough text breakdown. While going through a written piece, take notes of curious, puzzling, and other exciting words and word combinations. Also, pay attention to different conflicts or twists. You will later use them when you start delving into your analysis.

Bear in mind that you shouldn't simply retell the content. Truth is way deeper under the surface. Try recognizing literary elements the author uses throughout their text. Those are special techniques theyoperate with to create specific consequences and show particular implications. Additionally, keep an eye on plot analysis and characters. Try noticing and describing any symbolism hidden between the lines.

To ease the process, think of what questions appear while you read. Those can be something like:

  • What confused me?
  • How does the word choice that illustrates the subject differ from what I've heard before?
  • Are there any specific sequences worth attention?
  • How is the author telling their story?
  • What is the author's approach in expressing tragic or comic events?
  • What main characters' actions are weird or worth attention?

Find Evidence

Once you review the text and find out points to work around, it's necessary to find supporting evidence for your literary analysis paper. It's not just some random fact or data from another source. In our case, use quotations from the work of literature you are analyzing. They will help back up arguments you are introducing later. You might not use every quote or phrase you collected, but overall process will assist you in taking out the most convincing ones.

It's also helpful to learn more about the author. Being acquainted with their biography may shed more light on their intentions about the literary piece. This way, you won't make assumptions or blind guesses regarding their thoughts.

Form a Literary Analysis Essay Thesis

Now it's time to develop a literary analysis essay thesis. It is the main argument that you are making in your paper. You can consider it as a point that grants your essay one specific direction. Working around the thesis statement will ensure that you do not simply throw some random remarks in your work. You will be trying to prove your claim throughout your entire literary analysis essay. Therefore, make sure that your thesis statement is:

  • Topic-specific
  • Debatable
  • Confirmed by textual evidence

Don't try to make your thesis simple. After all, you need to make an impression on your readers and not bore them right from the beginning. That's why you've conducted careful source analysis before and found exciting refinements for your main argument.

Here is an excellent thesis statement example in an essay analyzing Ray Bradbury's "The Happiness Machine":

Example on Image: "The short story “The Happiness Machine” by Ray Bradbury illustrates how determination and focus on the right thing can result in an achievement regardless of how others perceive one’s idea."

Develop a Literary Analysis Essay Outline

The literary essay outline will help you structure your thoughts to make writing process much more manageable. Think of what you will include in each paragraph. Arrange quotations that you will use as evidence in order of importance. Make notes accordingly. Write the literary analysis paper outline carefully, bearing in mind all milestones of the analyzed work of literature.

At this stage, you can also think of a good title. An excellent example contains a quote from the text, a direct reference to your chosen topic, and the author's name and work being analyzed. In case you have troubles with titling your literary essay, have no worries. You will be able to do that as soon as you finish writing the entire piece. It will be much easier to do as you will have more awareness of the arguments used.

Write the Literary Essay Introduction

The literary analysis essay introduction should present an overview of your intentions about the paper. Show where your main point is going. The first paragraph should also specify a brief recap of the essay's structure. These are the standard features of a good opening:

  • Provides background context
  • Introduces the thesis statement
  • Clarifies the "So what?" question
  • Grants knowledge and expectations about your essay

Typically an introduction begins with a general comment about work of literature. It can be used to bring your audience closer to the thesis and get its immediate attention. You can start with a provocative question or a shocking statement. Also, make sure you include author's name and work title here.

Lastly, specify the thesis and end the whole opening with a transition that shows what readers should expect later in the paper's main body. There is no specific requirement for introduction length. But if you work with a standard 5-paragraph essay structure, it should be no longer than a single paragraph.

Check this example of a good introduction below – it includes the thesis statement we've mentioned before:

Example on Image: "People must keep pushing hard to achieve what they want in life. The journey of success is not for faint-hearted individuals. The most significant thing that an individual should do is not to lose hope. Sometimes, the challenges that people encounter in life convert them into  better versions of themselves. The short story “The Happiness Machine” by Ray Bradbury illustrates how determination and focus on the right thing can result in an achievement regardless of how others perceive one’s idea."

Work on Body Paragraphs

The next to come in a literary essay structure are body paragraphs. This part usually includes all your arguments and supporting evidence. Let's say you have 3 good ideas to demonstrate. In this case, you should write 3 paragraphs – 1 for each issue.

Each section should start with a clear and coherent topic sentence. Make sure to establish connection with your thesis statement every time. Then, explain your findings. Outstanding literary analysis essays should always include textual evidence. Such evidence consists of a thought summary, relevant details, and a direct quote. However, if you discuss the story plot, it's not obligatory to use quotations unless you can find a narrow one that fits the context. You can also paraphrase a quote to make it shorter.

Once you've written the body paragraphs, reread them once again and make sure they:

  1. Directly relate to your thesis
  2. Have smooth transitions between each other

Make a Literary Analysis Essay Conclusion

Now this question appears: "How to write a conclusion for a literary essay?". Your closing paragraph should give your readers some sense of fulfillment. They should realize that your paper has ended and gave them something new and exciting they can think about.

The best option to achieve this is to make a summary of all arguments you presented. After that, show to which thoughts your ideas have brought you. And illustrate why your points matter in understanding the significance of a literary piece.

Here is how we are going to conclude an essay on Ray Bradbury's "The Happiness Machine":

Example on Image: "To sum up, “The Happiness Machine” shows that determination leads to success. People should not lose hope in life as long as they are doing the right thing. Society is full of negativities from individuals surrounding oneself. Besides, when Aufmann started inventing the machine, even his family was against him. However, he achieved his objective with the right attitude and determination, where his family was the first to celebrate."


Things just got more manageable now, right? Learning how to write a literary analysis essay might be a thorny way, but we managed to deal with it together. Hopefully, from now on, you will be able to see this task without even blinking. Follow our recommendations, and you'll write an essay that will deserve the highest grade.

Although sometimes students feel comfortable writing one or another task, the only problem they have is time. Professional writing agencies, like we are, will back them up in such cases.

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Daniel Howard is an Essay Writing guru. He helps students create essays that will strike a chord with the readers.

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