Literary Analysis Essay – Guide For Students

The task and purpose of literary education is to familiarize students with the best examples of native and world literature, form students’ spiritual and aesthetic culture, and develop their creative abilities. 

Thanks to a literary analysis essay, they begin to perceive a book as the art of words. Students take it as a reproduction of reality, as a figurative expression of the world. Through the conscious reading of a work of art, they reach spiritual satisfaction. 

Understanding of the work’s meaning passes through literary knowledge and prepares students for the aesthetic perception of beauty. Then, the formation of the moral and aesthetic worldview of students, and an intuitive understanding of the artistic interpretation of the author’s idea, is achieved.

Literary Analysis Definition

Literary analysis is the analysis and interpretation of a literary work as a unit of literature. The analysis is the most crucial method of keeping an eye on a literary work. 

Scientists and literary scholars offer different methods and algorithms for analysis, depending on their current views.

Literary analysis usually includes:

  • study of the context
  • genre definition
  • analysis of the structure, plot, and composition of the piece
  • conflict detection in the book
  • explanation of topics and problems of work
  • analysis of the title
  • analysis of the author’s image and determination of its role in the work
  • analysis of the images of the main heroes
  • analysis of other images in the piece
  • analysis of details and methods used 
  • definition of the main idea of ​​the work

How to write a literary analysis

A work of art is a complex, diverse unity of interrelated, interdependent, and interacting components. It makes up the work’s artistic integrity. 

The problem of scientific analysis of a work of art is one of the most difficult theoretical issues of literary science. 

Methods for writing a critical analysis essay in classes have been developed by many scientists – literary critics and methodologists. In literary science, the following types of analysis are observed: 

  • holistic analysis, 
  • structural analysis, 
  • immanent analysis,
  • problem analysis.

Possessing theoretical knowledge of literary analysis, students find it difficult to delve deeper into the work’s artistic fabric. But while analyzing the poetic syntax, they must determine:

  • the author’s style 
  • the linguistic wealth of the language 
  • the plot and composition of the work 
  • the symbolic system 
  • the portrait characterization of the hero 
  • the speech of the characters
  • the functions of the landscape 
  • the genre nature of the work 
  • the peculiarities of the formation of the author’s artistic method 

Therefore, to avoid mistakes in literary writing and the historical-literary concept, a system-functional approach is needed. 

For this, an elementary definition of the artistic whole follows as a complex unity of its constituent parts, taking into account the individual characteristics of each work and each author’s style. 

By learning how to write an analysis essay, students can reveal the individual characteristics of the author’s style with the help of the acquired knowledge of theoretical material.

The current state of the artwork’s analysis methodology requires a more sensitive approach to this problem, since many students sometimes limit themselves to retelling the content and enumerating images of the work. 

Thanks to the knowledge gained during lectures, they can independently work on the text since independent reading and analysis of a work of fiction develops their creative thinking ability, and influences the formation of analytical literary skills which they need in the subsequent stages of their education at the university. 

The themes of the literary analysis essay are very diverse. The teacher can formulate the topic as a question. For example, “What is to be done? “(Based on the works of modern literature and journalism). A quote can represent the theme: “The world dies every time with a dead person” S. Marshak (based on the works of Russian literature of the XX century).” 

The topic can likewise offer a comparative description of the characters. Sometimes a theme requires a generalized characterization of the characters, for example: “The female character in the image of Mark Twain.” 

The literary analysis essay can refer to the book’s general characteristics and cover the writer’s work.

Writing survey, “cross-cutting” topics causes incredible difficulty. If you decide to write an essay on a survey topic, for example: “The Image of a Wanderer in American Literature of the Second Half of the 19th Century,” first of all, try to define the starting positions in the introduction. 

The type of wanderer can be interpreted in different ways: wanderers as pilgrims, believers who collect donations to construct new churches. Or contemplators wandering around the world with the sole purpose of enjoying its beauty. Or truth seekers, anxious to find the truth, to reveal the secret of being. 

Specify in the introduction your understanding of wandering as one of the aspects of the US folklife. Also, stipulate literary works, the plots of which can be used to reconstruct this type of hero. 

In the central part of the literary analysis essay, analyze at least two of the texts named in the introduction. Try to determine the features of the depiction of wanderers by each author and build your presentation on these features (and not on the retelling of the plot).

In conclusion, it would be appropriate to speculate why this type of hero became relevant in American literature precisely in the second half of the 19th century.

Work out literary analysis outline

The composition of a literary analysis essay consists of three elements: 

  • the introduction 
  • the main part
  • the conclusion

The absence of one of the composition elements in the essay is considered a mistake and is taken into account during the assessment.

The main part of the essay is an analysis of a literary work in the theme’s aspect. The main thing to avoid when writing the main body is to retell the literary work. The retelling of the story’s plot instead of the theme’s interpretation, supported by references to the work’s relevant episodes, lacks content and leads to a decrease in the score.

The second common drawback of the main part is a departure from the topic. To avoid such a misunderstanding, you need to comprehend the issue you have chosen carefully and not lose sight of it.

When analyzing the artistic theme of a work, one should proceed both from the ideological nature and its structure as a whole. It can be revealed by applying synthesized styles of contextual and immanent analysis, which we also use when interpreting the work’s text.

Methods of analyzing a work of art, which are used mainly in literary science and school practice, are as follows:

  • holistic, 
  • analysis of the system of images,
  • analysis of problems.

Many scientists use these methods of literary essay writing, including researchers, critics, and methodologists. 

For each type, analysis and synthesis of a part of the work are used. 

However, it should be noted that when using any type of analysis in the literary analysis essay, the interpreter does not get the desired result (accurate perception of the work) right away. 

Scientists came to the following conclusions:

  • holistic analysis can make it difficult to understand a general concept of the work,
  • analysis by images, not correctly applied, leads away from the integral side of the book, 
  • problem analysis can lead to a “separation” from the book, a departure from the text’s direct aesthetic experience in the field of abstract ideas.

It is vital to formulate the question so that a complete answer to it is obtained without failing due to the study of the artistic structure of the work in close unity with its content. 

Problem analysis, activating the classes’ participants, helps raise and solve tough questions of the writer’s creative consciousness, and the development of the literature at particular times.

How to determine the artistic specificity in the literary analysis

To determine a particular work’s cultural specificity, it is also necessary to analyze it in a comparative context. 

In the Dictionary of Literary Terms, the composition is distinguished as the construction of a work of art, an individual system of means of disclosing, organizing images, connections, and relations that characterize the process shown in the book. 

The logical sequence of the arrangement of the plot components – exposure, setting, development of action, culmination, and denouement – refers to the composition of the work. 

As you can see, the literary analysis essay of the plot outside the composition, and composition without disclosing the plot is unthinkable. They are connected and harmoniously embodied in the work.

How to introduce a book in an essay

Now we’ll learn how to introduce a book in an essay and find out how to start an analysis essay and, of course, how to end it.

It isn’t easy to write the introduction and conclusion. These two parts play a similar role in the composition of the literary analysis essay.

The first paragraphs of the literary analysis essay serve to introduce a book and the topic, give preliminary, general information about the problem behind the proposed theme. 

The conclusion’s task is to summarize, conclude what has been said, complete the text, once again drawing attention to the most important thing – the story subject.

The most common flaws when writing an introduction and conclusion include:

  • presentation of general information that is not directly related to the topic;
  • an expression of your enthusiastic attitude towards work or author;
  • your desire to be like the author or hero. In this case, the conclusion is filled with exclamation sentences and looks like a spell;
  • very long, protracted introduction.

When writing an introduction and conclusion, you need to be guided by considerations of common sense and always ask yourself questions: “How does my writing relate to the topic? For what purpose am I writing all this?” 

You should remember that the teacher (examiner) asks such questions when reading the literary analysis essay. 

Writing the literary analysis essay introduction

The introduction should not contain all the information we know about the author and their work. It can introduce the topic and analysis of the book.

The author of the essay does not waste time on general conversations and thus proceeds to the analysis of the work from the first sentence.

If the title of the topic includes literary terms, then it makes sense in the introduction to formulate your understanding of these terms. This will help you select material for the central part, strictly following your theoretical premise.

So, for example, the term “image of a hero” assumes the analysis of such components as a character, ideological characteristics, participation in a plot story, relationships with other heroes, the opinion of different characters and the author, the most basic relationship between the image of a hero and the concept of a work.

You can formulate in the introduction the main thesis that you intend to develop to prove in the presentation.

Things to remember:

  • the introduction may contain an answer to the question asked in the topic; 
  • your opinion can be presented if the title of the case contains a reference to the idea of the student; 
  • a fact from the author’s biography of a literary work can be given;
  • a feature of the historical period can be characterized if this information is essential for the text’s subsequent analysis.

To summarize: there is no one-type, ideal, exemplary introduction that would fit any topic. The introduction, like the rest of the essay, is written individually. 

Writing the literary analysis essay output

The literary analysis essay ends with a conclusion. The main requirement for the conclusion is that it should not be purely formal. The teacher (examiner) reading the essay should not doubt its necessity. The conclusion should be organically linked to the previous presentation.

In conclusion, it is sometimes appropriate to give an overview of all the points you comprehended in the main part, especially if the topic required various material or a long chain of evidence.

Some topics suggest a possible overlap of historical eras: some decades of the 19th century may be associated with modernity. Then it will look natural in conclusion to appeal through the problematics of a literary work to contemporary reality.

In conclusion, the writer’s attitude to the work, its heroes, and the problem can be expressed. It must be stated correctly, without affectation and excessive enthusiastic assessments. It should also have a clearly defined meaning and be prepared using the main part’s material. Otherwise, it would help if you refrained from expressing your opinion.

Conclusion

When learning how to analyse literature, students need diverse pedagogical support in their search and mastery of techniques and effective work methods on a literary text

The independently educational and cognitive activity includes a semantic, target, and performance components. 

Mastering more and more complex intellectual actions, the student comes to a semantic orientation that allows them to work out their approaches to analyzing a work of art. 

Target and executive components include:

  • goal setting 
  • task definition 
  • action planning
  • choice of methods and means of their implementation 
  • self-analysis and self-control of results, which contribute to the development of students’ creative thinking ability

Comprehending a work of art, reading it, appropriating its meaning, receiving artistic pleasure and appreciating a masterpiece means becoming agreeable to the author of a masterpiece, and being its co-creator while entering into communication with them, into a dialogue “on equal terms.” 

A written work is an artistic and communicative means of such a dialogue. Criticism is the mediator of this dialogue. It is intended to fulfill its role and contribute to disclosing the artistic concept and assessment of a work. Criticism must be armed with a tool for its interpretation and evaluation, a method of comprehending it, and identifying its value status.

The method of criticism is a tool for analyzing art. Of course, given the critic’s sharpened artistic taste, their intuitive judgment can reveal the essential features of the work, but not always and not completely.

The paradox of this literary analysis essay method is that it allows one to follow the predecessors and think based on the experience of predecessors who dealt with phenomena of a similar type while investigating even an unknown phenomenon.

The above plan is undoubtedly one of the possible paths that can be followed when writing a literary analysis essay. For you, the main thing will be to determine the direction, its main milestones, and follow them when writing an essay.

Let us remind you once again that when writing an essay, a student should rely on the analysis of the text of a literary work without replacing this analysis with abstract reasoning that has nothing to do with the analysis of a literary work (the so-called reasoning about life).