How to write a literary analysis: The ultimate guide
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Writing a literary analysis is fun.
Simply read a literary piece.
Then reread it again and again to evaluate the
Write down what you’ve noticed. That's it.
This guide will make it as easy as it sounds.
The first step is to become a critical reader.
That is a reader who X-rays what s/he’s reading.
To achieve that goal, you might answer the
1)What are the main characters, events, mood
and/or plot lines?
2) What's your personal first reaction?
3) What are the authors’ main ideas and
4) What are the techniques used by the author?
Check the literary piece for the following techniques:
• Back story - a story preceding the main plot line which adds meaning to it.
• Chekhov’s gun - an irrelevant item that appears right from the start for a
purpose which becomes clear only much later.
• Flashbacks - an alteration of time sequence in narration.
• Frame story (a story within a story) - a main story which helps organize smaller
• Plot twist - an unexpected turn in narration which changes the meaning of the
• Stream of consciousness - a narration based on associations and memories.
• An unreliable narrator - a story is told by someone who clearly has biased
• Allegory - a symbolic story.
• Hyperbole - a literary exaggeration.
• Oxymoron - a combination of words which mean each other's
opposite: terribly beautiful.
• Parody - a humorous imitation of another author’s style.
• Irony - a discrepancy between the expectations and events.
• Onomatopoeia - the use of words imitating sounds (ding-dong,
• Metaphor - a direct shift of meaning from one word to another
one, without using the comparison words ‘like’ or ‘as’.
• Simile - a milder form of a metaphor, a comparison using
words 'as' or 'like'.
When you've already mastered the art of critical
reading, it’s high time to write a literary analysis
introduction. The main components to include:
• the title and the author’s name;
• genre and context;
• a strong thesis statement, expressing your attitude and
If you want to include an attention hook, you
might also add a quote from the text, a joke or a
The main body usually consists of at least three
paragraphs. Good literary analysis essays require
detailed explanation of your position and much
evidence from the text for defending it.
E.g. Shakespeare said: “I always feel happy. You know
why? Because I don’t expect anything from anyone!
The textual evidence can include:
• specific details from the text;
• direct quotes from the text;
• brief summary;
The proven formula for each paragraph of the
main body is ‘a hamburger paragraph’, consisting
- a topic sentence (expressing the main point),
- explanatory details (supporting and developing
the main point)
- and a concluding sentence (restating the main
point in different words).
All you need for writing a literary analysis
conclusion is getting back to your introduction,
finding your thesis statement (it’s usually at the
end of the introduction) and repeating it in
different words as something that has already
• When writing your literary analysis, you may
want to use some (or even all) of the following
phrases: the fate of the main characters
• the imagery demonstrates the ambiguity of
• a character analysis reveals…
• through this internal dialogue, the author was
trying to show…
In case you still need help with writing a literary
analysis or any other assignment type, feel free
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Stay inspired! Be happy!