How to start a literary analysis essay？Most times, when people pick up a book to read, it’s solely about getting entertainment (or acting like they are book lovers). Most times, you may find yourself reading to gain knowledge or something deeper from the story. However, in a literature class, you would most likely be asked to read a book in a very special way. Usually, you may be asked to perform a literary analysis of the novel or text. his article provides you with relevant writing literary analysis essay tips, steps and examples for your reference.
一．what is the purpose of a literary analysis essay
A literary analysis essay has one major purpose: to show that you understand and have carefully examined a literary work or text from several perspectives. It entails breaking down the text into the smallest core components and then analyzing each component to paint a bigger picture.
For instance, let’s assume you’ve been asked to analyze George Orwell’s Animal Farm. For any student, the first point of action might be to look up reviews of the book online. However, even though reviews may offer you a slightly deeper insight into the book’s message, they are completely different from a literary analysis essay.
In this essay, you are not supposed to simply plaster your opinions all over a document and click “send”. Rather, you should focus mainly on the analysis of all the components of the book. Express your studious approach to the text, rather than just your personal thoughts and opinions.
Sure, you could sneak in your opinions but keep them limited. Your writing should be clear, focused, and objective. The main goal is to prove to the reader that you have a strong point or case regarding the literary work in question.
二．How to start a literary analysis essay
Writing a literary analysis essay is quite simple once you start off on the right path. If you’re looking to write this type of essay for a class project or assignment, here’s how to start:
1. Read the book
If you’re trying to write a literary analysis essay, an obvious first step would be to read the book before penning down your points. Reading to analyze a literary text is quite different from reading for entertainment.
Here, you have to read closely to pick up any hidden details or themes that the ordinary reader may have missed. It is advisable to have a pencil when reading the text. This way, you can easily make notes, underline important words or point out confusing details.
Study the subject and form of the text and then write down your observations in a small note.
2. Ask the necessary questions
Starting a literary analysis essay may seem confusing at first, especially when you have multiple ideas rushing at you simultaneously. However, you could always start by asking yourself several pertinent questions such as:
What part of the text had a striking effect on you?
Did any scene, line or event strike you? If it did, you can always expand on the scene to draft a great essay. For instance, in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, many readers were struck by the “Battle of the Cowshed” scene where the animals bravely fought off an attempt to retake the farm by humans.
What confused you?
In some cases, you may stumble upon a confusing character, theme or event in the book. Explore these confusing elements and try to get to the root of their presence in the text.
Were there any noticeable patterns?
Is there a pattern to be noticed in the text? If there is, follow the pattern closely to find out its significance and thematic implications. For instance, in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus, there was a pattern of abuse in the Achike family. This pattern was linked to Eugene’s religious fanaticism and his inherent need to control his family members.
Did you notice any contradictions?
In some cases, complex novels may contain several contradictory themes or events that you would need to explore. For instance, in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the mantra, “All animals are equal” is contradicted by Napoleon’s treatment of Boxer after the latter’s usefulness has elapsed.
Examples of good questions
Some examples of good questions to explore in your essay include:
What does Boxer’s death represent?
Who is the real Lord of the flies?
What does the conch symbolize?
3. Collect evidence
Once you have outlined the questions you want your essay to answer, you can then go through the book to find evidence that will help you answer the questions. Pay close attention to certain symbols and images that correlate with your topic.
The evidence for your literary analysis essay often lies in the elements of the text which you will need to analyze. Here are some of the core elements to look out for:
Elements of the story
This involves the major framework of the text – the plot, major characters, and other supporting elements. They include:
Plot: This is the narration of events in the text. What happened? How did it happen?
Characters: This involves the people around whom the plot is centred. The main character is known as the protagonist while their opponent is known as the antagonist.
Setting: This refers to the time, place and conditions where the literary text took place. Did the actions take place in 18th century London?
Conflict: This refers to the major tension or bone of contention in the text. In most cases, the protagonist may be trying to achieve a goal while the antagonist stands in their way.
Themes: The theme is the main idea or message that the text is trying to pass across. Usually, there may be one or two central themes and several supporting or underlying themes.
Narrator: The narrator is the person telling the story or reporting events that took place in the text. The narrator may be one of the characters or the author.
Literary elements of style
The elements of style refer to all other elements that the author used to create the story. Think of it as the colors or spice of the story.
The elements of style in any literary text include:
Point of view
Structure and organization
Figures of speech
4 Construct a solid thesis statement
After collecting and examining all relevant evidence, the next step will be to create a solid thesis statement that will shape the direction of your essay. The thesis is a claim about the literary text and should be supported by sufficient facts, evidence and arguments in order to convince your readers.
Your thesis statement should be:
Provable: You should be able to prove your thesis statement through evidence from the text itself. This explains why you should never frame your personal opinion as a thesis statement. For instance, a thesis like “Arms and the Man is Bernard Shaw’s greatest play” is weak because it can’t be proven by any evidence or facts from the text.
Arguable: Readers should be able to argue your thesis statement if they wish to do so. As such, avoid using facts like “Animal Farm is a critique of the Russian Revolution and Soviet Union” as a thesis statement. Instead, you could say something like: “Even though Snowball was painted as a traitor by Napoleon and Squealer, he displayed several heroic qualities at the Battle of the Cowshed, proving himself to be a hero with higher leadership capabilities than the two of them“.
Specific: Resist the temptation to draft a vague thesis statement that points in no particular direction. Be as specific as possible and leave no room for assumptions or misinterpretations on the part of your readers.
Surprising: Your thesis statement should not state the obvious. Rather, it should point at hidden themes or interpretations within the text.
5 Develop and organize arguments
Once you have formed your thesis statement, you can then begin to organize the examples and arguments that will back it up. These examples will form the middle of your essay and convince the reader that your thesis is credible and believable.
It is important to note that there is no clear-cut way of forming and organizing your arguments. It all depends on the essay prompt and what it asks you to do. Some essay prompts may require you to compare and contrast certain characters or elements in the text while others may ask you to debate a certain statement.
三．literary analysis essay example
Prompt:Have you ever thought of death as an opportunity to live? Tuesdays With Morrie is a unique piece of work that obtains a deep explanation on the meaning of life.
In Mitch Albom’s nonfiction novel Tuesdays with Morrie, Morrie Schwartz was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Morrie is diagnosed Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS. ALS is a disease that melts your body from well in Morrie’s case, the legs up. As the disease progresses it kills more of Morrie’s body as the days go on, but the lessons he learns continually seems to grow. Both the book and the movie will leave you with a completely different outlook on life and death.
Mitchell David ‘Mitch’ Albom (born May 23, 1958) among many other titles is best known for being a best selling author. 35 million copies of his books have been sold worldwide which have also achieved a national recognition for sports writing in the earlier part of his career. He is best known for the inspirational stories and themes that are displayed in his books, plays and films.
Another distinctive feature in Mitch Albom’s writing style, is revealed by an analysis of Tuesdays with Morrie. Albom uses a generous amount of figurative languages, metaphors and similes. Mitch Albom has a very particular language style that makes his novels unique. Albom mostly writes his novels in a past-to-present-back to -past type of author. In this novel, and in the other books of Albom’s that I’ve read, for example the Five People You Meet in Heaven he usually starts the stories from the past, then skips right to the present, then back to the past and so-on.
In between all of Albom’s work, ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ can be one of the most relevant stories that uses his unique language style. The language is simple and natural, and has the effect of directness, clarity and freshness. This is because Albom always manages to choose words that are more concrete, specific, and more commonly found as casual and conversational. The short sentences he uses are loaded with the tension, that he notices in throughout life. In the circumstance that he does not use a simple and short sentence, he connects the different parts of the sentence in a straightforward way. Example is below:
“I was in demand. I stopped renting. I started buying. I bought a house on a hill. I bought cars.” In Morrie’s task of portraying actual people, Mitch Albom uses his dialogue as a very efficient device.
“Have you ever seen my program?” Morrie shrugged. “Twice, I think.” “Twice? That’s all?” “Don’t feel bad. I’ve only seen ‘Oprah’ once.” “Well, the two times you saw my show, what did you think?”
In the examples I gave above we notice that these additions as “he said” have very often been expunged and the words are extremely common which makes his speeches “come to the reader” as if he were listening. Mitch Albom has caught the closeness of dialogue pretty accurately and has made the economical speech connotative. But it is good to note that Albom’s style seems so natural as it is
The novel is written as a simple, easy to read style, there are no literary illusions that take the reader away from the reality. Throughout this book are real life lessons, lessons that will make one a better person, lessons that would help us throughout real life and how to appreciate the time we have with the people we love. People now a days take everything and anything for granted and we need to learn to live every day to the fullest. This book will help to open one’s eyes about life. The tone of this novel is extremely intimate, and the format contributes himself and also to the readers involvement. Mitch and Morrie reveal themselves in simple dialogue and the reader quickly gets to know them as friends.
Mitch Albom’s Tuesday’s with Morrie is a true story told mainly in a first-person narrative by Albom. Mitch Albom is the author and two of the main characters throughout the story. Albom composed the plot so that it is actually straightforward and has very little confusion and also made sure that he didn’t use a lot of complicated historical references. He tends to include flashbacks from his college years from when he was a student of Morrie’s. He does this to give enough background on one of his slightly naïve and less materialistic self, so the readers can have a clear conception of the person he has become in the following sixteen years. He also does this to emphasize Morrie’s loving and compassionate values that he has always tried to express through his teachings.
Some of the many techniques that are used by Mitch Albom are flashbacks, narrative structure, repetition, symbolism, and foreshadowing are only some of the techniques used by Mitch Albom to show the main themes in the novel which are love and death, which also leads the story into acceptance through integrity and separation. Repetition is a very important technique that is used to help characterize the characters of Morrie and Mitch. Mitch refers to Morrie as “Coach” because he views him as a “teacher of life”. Coach is used repeatedly throughout the text that helps to illustrate the impact that Morrie has on Mitch’s life and what he learns from him through the remainder of his life.
The emergence of any literary trend of thought, literary phenomenon and classic works is closely related to social change and philosophical trend of thought. The exploration of any literary classic cannot be separated from the historical background of the work, the author's experience and psychological process. Furthermore, everything develops with certain regularity.
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