Like any Bachelor of  English can tell you, finding what the author of a work is trying to say to readers is the study of literature. Literary analysis is the first tool for us to understand that. It will help us answer the challenging and mystery inside, and sometimes a painful effort effort.

You will likely write a series of essays [Narrative, Example, Definition, Argumentative, Classification, Comparison/Contrast, Definition, Process, and Description, Literary Criticism, ] required in high school and then again in college.  I don’t correct everything on the paper!  But my comments will help your writing.                        —-Miss McCulla

Sometimes it is a mistake to try to analyze an entire book all at once. (Good advice).  After all, you only have a limited amount of time and space to work with, but the author of the book almost certainly had more of both and definitely had the advantage of access to the background and future of his story.When you are writing a literary analysis or criticism, think of yourself as a detective: you have a bunch of clues that the author has left you and you are trying to figure out the mystery of the author’s mind.  So, it is wise to zero in on one particular aspect of a book: what does it say about love? How does character X represent the fractured state of modern man? Why did the author bother to write the book at all? These are the sort of questions that you must answer for a complete appreciation of the book.  In a good short story, nothing is an accident.  (Good transition strategy:  short, powerful, to-the-point statement.)

Luckily, your detective’s toolbox has some handy gadgets that will help you answer these questions. These gadgets are words like theme, motif, setting, characterization, foreshadowing, flashback, and imagery. In order to write a literary analysis, you will need to understand these terms.

The theme is the underlying point of a book, the thing that it is about. A theme is likely to be abstract, such as love will always win or courage is developed through tragedy.  A motif is a recurring element of the work that helps to illustrate the theme. A motif might be something like a butterfly that shows up every few chapters, or it could be an expression that characters keep saying or it could be simple, like a certain color.

Extremely well-written essay!!  -Miss McCulla

When writing your literary analysis, illustrate your points with examples from the text. You need to provide support for the things that you say, but be comforted that all of literary analysis is somewhat subjective. Two people can look at the same sentence and see two completely different meanings, and your job is convincing the reader that your interpretation is valid and logical.


Miss McCulla is a retired English teacher of 32 years.  She has Mastery of the grammar and mechanics of English, and has taught expository, fiction writing, and rhetorical skills to hundreds of students and aspiring writers throughout her career.  She has written/edited/self-published five books, and currently manages a writing blog called The Underground Tutor where she gathers essays, articles, entries, papers, manuals, profiles, criticisms, analyses of literature, just like those asked of students and writers in the university and publisher houses, and years of “teacher tips” and “general interest examples,” and passes them on to interested writers.

March 15, 2019   69   mary    Help With Student Essays, Informative Essay  
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