Literary Analysis Essay Format

Ask yourself why the author chose to write about that character or scene the way he or she did and you might tap into some important insights about the work as a whole. Is there a phrase that the main character uses constantly or an image that repeats throughout the book?

If you can figure out how that pattern weaves through the work and what the significance of that pattern is, you’ve almost got your entire essay mapped out. Great works of literature are complex; great literary essays recognize and explain those complexities.

These are the elements that you will analyze in your essay, and which you will offer as evidence to support your arguments.

For more on the parts of literary works, see the Glossary of Literary Terms at the end of this section.

If it fascinated you, chances are you can draw on it to write a fascinating essay. Maybe you were surprised to see a character act in a certain way, or maybe you didn’t understand why the book ended the way it did.

Confusing moments in a work of literature are like a loose thread in a sweater: if you pull on it, you can unravel the entire thing.

Maybe the title Happy Days totally disagrees with the book’s subject matter (hungry orphans dying in the woods).

Maybe the main character acts one way around his family and a completely different way around his friends and associates.

These are the whats of the work—what happens, where it happens, and to whom it happens.

When you’ve examined all the evidence you’ve collected and know how you want to answer the question, it’s time to write your thesis statement.

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