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Literary Analysis

Sep 6, 2022
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When you read for pleasure, your sole objective is to have fun. You may find yourself reading to escape into an intriguing narrative, learn about a fascinating time or location, or simply pass the time. Perhaps you’re seeking for motivation, advice, or a personal perspective. There are as many valid methods to read a book as there are books on the planet. 

However, when you read a work of literature in English class, you are being asked to read in a unique way: you are being expected to undertake literary analysis. Breaking something down into smaller bits and examining how those parts perform separately and collectively is the definition of analysis. Literary analysis entails looking at all of the elements in a novel, play, short story, or poem—things like character, setting, tone, and imagery—and analyzing how the author employs them to achieve specific results. 

Now, let us try to define what the term literary analysis means: 

A literary analysis is more than just a synopsis of a piece of literature. Instead, it is a discussion of the work that expresses a writer’s personal viewpoint, interpretation, judgement, or critical appraisal of the work. This is done by looking at the author’s literary devices, word choices, and writing structures in the work. A literary analysis’ goal is to show why the author chose certain ideas, words, or writing structures to deliver his or her point. 

Let us take a look at some points to take care while writing a critical analysis:

1. Ask Questions

It is normal that you are stuck with too many ideas after reading a text. But being packed with these many ideas can come back to bite you while writing a critical analysis of the text.  

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Don’t worry! Just start by asking these questions to yourself which can help you write your analysis effortlessly: 

What struck you? 

Did a specific image, line, or scenario stick with you for a long time? If it piqued your interest, you could probably use it to produce an interesting essay. 

What confused you? 

Perhaps you were taken aback by a character’s actions, or perhaps you didn’t understand why the book concluded the way it did. Confusing moments in literature are like a stray thread in a sweater: if you pull on it, the whole thing unravels. If you ask yourself why the author chose to write about that character or scenario in the way he or she did, you can learn something new about the work as a whole. 

Did you notice any patterns? 

Is there a word or an image that the main character utilizes repeatedly throughout the book? You’ve almost sketched out your entire article if you can figure out how that pattern weaves through the text and what the relevance of that pattern is. 

2. Collect Evidence

It’s time to examine the book for things that will assist you answer the question once you’ve decided what question you want to answer. Don’t stress if you haven’t decided what you want to say yet; you’re just gathering information and ideas at this point. Keep track of any texts, symbols, images, or scenes that pertain to your subject. You’ll eventually begin to see connections between these cases, and your thesis will emerge. 

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To back your points with solid evidence, you should be well-acquainted with the elements of a story: plot, character, conflict, setting, point of view, themes, and tone. A literary analysis would be incomplete without mentioning these elements.  

Last, but not the least, it is very important to take note of the structure the text follows and the way it is organized, as it is quite vital to mention it in your analysis. Some novels are told in chronological, straight order, while others jump around in time. Some plays have a three-or five-act structure, while others are made up of a sequence of loosely related episodes. Some authors purposefully leave gaps in their writings, leaving readers to fill in the blanks. The organization and structure of a work can reveal a lot about the message it wishes to express. 

3. Construct a Thesis

After you’ve gone through all of your data and decided how you want to respond to the inquiry, proceed to create your thesis statement. A thesis is a claim about a piece of literature that must be backed up with facts and arguments. The thesis statement is the heart of any literary essay, and you’ll spend the majority of your time trying to prove it. 

4. Develop and Organize Arguments

The middle paragraphs of your essay will contain the reasons and instances that support your thesis. You’ll probably wind up working on steps 3 and 4 at the same time because you can’t really compose your thesis statement until you know how you’ll arrange your argument. 

There is no single argumentation approach that will work in every situation. One essay question can ask you to contrast and compare two characters, while another would ask you to trace an image through a piece of literature. These questions necessitate various types of responses and, as a result, various types of arguments. 

5. Write the Introduction

The entire essay is set up by the introduction you give it. It’s where you establish your topic and specify the issues and topics you’ll be addressing. It’s also where you identify yourself to your readers as the author. A persuasive literary essay establishes the author as a learned and authoritative figure right away. 

The length of an introduction depends on the overall length of the essay, although it should not exceed one paragraph in a standard five-paragraph essay. Your introduction, no matter how long it is, must: 

Provide the necessary context: 

The reader should be placed in context and know what to expect in your introduction. What book are you talking about? Which characters are they? What will you be speaking about? 

Answer the “So What?” question: 

Why is this topic significant, and why is your perspective on it noteworthy? Your beginning should ideally catch the reader’s curiosity by indicating how your argument is unexpected or otherwise counterintuitive. Literary essays expose less-than-obvious facts and offer surprising connections. 

Present your thesis: 

This usually happens at the end of your introduction or very close to it. 

Indicate the shape of the essay to come: 

After reading your introduction, your reader should have a decent idea of the breadth of your essay as well as the path you’ll take to prove your thesis. You don’t have to detail every step, but you should indicate the organizational structure you’ll use. 

6. Write the Body Paragraphs

After you’ve finished your introduction, you’ll write your body paragraphs using the arguments you outlined in step 4. The organization of this area of your essay will be primarily decided by the argumentation method you employ, but your body paragraphs must accomplish the following: 

Fully and completely develop a single thought: 

Do not jump around in your paragraph or try to cram too much information in. Body paragraphs are like bricks: if each one isn’t robust and sturdy, the whole construction will fall apart. Before moving on to the next one, make sure you’ve demonstrated your case. 

Use transitions effectively: 

Each paragraph in a literary essay should be clearly and powerfully linked to the information surrounding it. Consider each paragraph to be a response to the one before it. To express what kind of response you’re making, use transition words and phrases like however, similarly, on the contrary, consequently, and additionally

7. Write the Conclusion

You’ll utilize the conclusion to briefly review the information learnt thus far and then hint at the broader ramifications of your issue, much as you did in the introduction to ground your readers in the topic before giving your thesis. A successful conclusion will: 

Do more than simply restate the thesis: 

If you argued that The Catcher in the Rye can be read as a Christian allegory, in your thesis, don’t just state, “And that is why The Catcher in the Rye can be viewed as a Christian allegory,” at the end of your article. This type of statement will be unnecessary if your arguments have been well-constructed. 

Synthesize the argument, not summarize them: 

Similarly, in your conclusion, don’t repeat the details from your body paragraphs. The reader has already read your essay, and it is unlikely that they have forgotten all of your ideas. 

Revisit the “So What?” question: 

You established why your topic and perspective are significant in your introduction. You should make a similar gesture at the end of your essay. What have your readers learned that they didn’t previously know? How would such understanding assist them in better appreciating or comprehending the work as a whole? 

Move from the specific to the general: 

Most likely, your article focused on a single character, a tiny group of images, or a particular piece from the work. Try to illustrate how this specific subject has broader ramifications for the work as a whole in your conclusion. If your essay on To Kill a Mockingbird concentrated on Boo Radley’s character, for example, you could want to include a section in your conclusion discussing how he fits into the novel’s greater message about children, innocence, or family life. 

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