Instruction, Formatting, Writing Tips For Literary Essay

By: Max Malak

17 min



Instruction, Formatting, Writing Tips For Literary Essay

There are poetry, novels, and fairy tales in a vast array of fiction works for which you need to write an essay and conduct analysis. That is why such a task raises the most questions among students. Knowledge of the scheme for analyzing a work of art is also necessary for students studying at the Faculty of Philology. And if earlier this question was in the shadows, today it is very relevant. Indeed, in the modern school, college, university teachers require writing an essay.

The ability to express thoughts in a simple and straightforward language without grammatical and stylistic mistakes is an inherent part of a good education. Learning speech skills begin in adolescence, but the main stage of speech development starts in the student years.

Most of the essays are based on the knowledge of English classical and modern literature. The deeper you know the material, the easier it is to work over creation. To fully cover the topic, it is necessary to read the entire text and not several common applications. Therefore, we have created a guide to teach every student how to write a literary analysis essay quickly and not waste a lot of time.

What Does It Mean To Write A Literary Essay?

A literary essay is a paper in which the author expresses his own opinion on the work read. Also, each word of the essay writer must be confirmed with arguments and examples from the literature. The teacher gives this academic assignment to assess the student's knowledge of artistic production. And also, find out how the student understands the plot, structure, content, theme and characters.

While writing such an essay, a student has to analyze many literature, sometimes whole books. It would also help if you did not look so narrowly at the literary essay concept since it covers books and music, poetry, etc. For example, Joanne Rowling is a versatile writer, and you will be able to appreciate her works, which were created in both large volumes and small poems. The result is a literary essay that encompasses a variety of arts and expresses your experience on paper.

Let's take a look at a specific example. You've been asked to analyze Loewe's musical drama, My Fair Lady. It is worth noting that this piece of music did not arise by itself, but the authors took Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw as the basis of the plot. This book is trendy and has many reviews. If you read at least one of them, you will understand that people write a review not to tell the story of creation but to share their impressions. Accordingly, you should know that your essay must contain an objective opinion, and for this, it is imperative to analyze all the information on the topic.

What Is The Purpose And Main Idea Of Literary Analysis Essay?

A literary analysis essay's primary purpose is to prove to the teacher or reader that you have all the knowledge about analyzing artwork. But for this, it is necessary to become well acquainted with the subtle concept of "analysis." This term in the essay means that it is essential to find out in what era, under what circumstances, the text was created and how it influenced the development of the literary world.

The analysis includes the following information:

  • information about the author's views on the work;
  • information about how the author's creative knowledge was formed;
  • information to what genre of literature the work belongs to;
  • information to what literary direction the work belongs to;
  • information about what features the composition, symbolic elements, the sharpness of the plot.

Also, the main goal of this idea is to read thoughtfully and not to ignore any detail. When you read for pleasure, you completely forget about analysis. But we also want to note that teachers often ask you to write an essay for a specific chapter or character. Therefore, most likely, you will not need to spend a lot of time reading. Stories can be read short, but you should know the chapters perfectly well for essays.

Which Elements of Literary Analysis Essay Must Be Included?

When students start writing this type of essay, they completely forget about the structure and create freewriting. This term means the process by which the author writes everything that comes to mind or what he knows about the book, that is, retells the content. Therefore, you should not be a freewriting student and learn the basics of the elements that a literary analysis essay should contain:

  • depending on the book, story, play, novel, you need to create a theme and idea that you will develop in your essay;
  • form a thesis that you need to prove or disprove in the central part. This sentence should be exact and make sense. Thanks to such a sentence, the reader should understand why you are writing an essay. Also, the proposal should develop logically; that is, if you create a thesis, then it should exactly fit the central part and not stand out as a separate piece of text;
  • form questions to which you will give answers;
  • write the main components of the essay: introduction, body, conclusion. This structure is standard for all academic papers, and if you adhere to it, you will get at least a few points. The only exception to the rule is the 5 paragraph format. If you want to add more, then check with the teacher, but not less.

How to Write a Literary Essay Correctly

It would seem that everything in the essay is obvious - work according to the proposed scheme, and you will not be mistaken. But there are nuances. Retelling in the essay should be kept to a minimum. Replace it with meaningful quotes from the text, the placement of accents, value judgments, your vision of the situation outlined in the text.

In addition to these nuances, we also want to give some tips on how to write a literary essay correctly. Judging by past years, these tips have helped many students:

  • more underline, mark data in the very text you are reading. Then you can return to essential details at any time, instead of wasting time re-reading;
  • write down in short sentences in a blank pad, which needs to be written in the text;
  • write an essay first on a draft;
  • the essay does not have a border, but it is still advisable not to exceed the essay's volume by more than 250-300 words since a large volume is always the risk of an increase in the number of mistakes. If you have set a word limit higher than we wrote, then also adhere to the framework. Otherwise, there is a possibility that if you write more, the teacher will not read the text to the end;
  • do not use words and constructions that you are not sure how to spell. You can act according to the rule, "I don't know - I don't write!"

Ideal Structure Literature Essay

Before writing a literary essay, it is necessary to draw up an approximate structure of the work. This is necessary to direct your thoughts in the right actions. It is not essential to adhere strictly to the structure, but the basic elements are required. If you suddenly see a new twist on a topic that you find exciting but doesn't fit the structure, don't worry about it. Just adjust the structure, but don't give it up at all. Try to stick to the form that we described below.

The first part is an introduction, or it is also called a narrative paragraph. In the introduction, the thesis is formulated, which is then revealed in the essay's central part. The introduction prepares for the beginning of the literary work analysis, which will be placed in the second part. In the first part, it is essential to formulate the purpose of the essay or problem.

The second part of the essay, the largest in volume, is called the body. This part is supposed to be followed by full and comprehensive disclosure and proof of the thesis stated in the introduction. The second part may contain several items and sub-items. The central element is the content of your essay.

The third part is just as important as the central part. In conclusion, it is necessary to draw a general ending, to which the reasoning from the central part led. The ability to summarize your thoughts to draw the correct conclusion is essential when working on an essay's finale. The conclusion should be short. Now let's look at the step-by-step instructions for creating this essay.

Examine the Text and Find the Literary Devices Used by the Author

The first step to perfect writing is to read the literary work carefully. Take notes while reading. It is necessary to emphasize those moments and situations that, in your opinion, seem riveting, intriguing, fascinating, or phrases that hide a double meaning. With the help of such notes, you can conduct a more detailed analysis of the work.

Your goal is to read or retell the events and convey to the reader what meaning the author strikes into a work of art. Then analyze how the text affected your mind and what feelings you received. To describe the features of a book, you need to find literary devices. These can be artistic elements that the author used to describe the plot or convey the characters' emotions vividly. If you have set yourself the task of comparing two similar works, it is best to find a connection and then point out the differences.

When analyzing, we recommend paying attention to several key points. You are reading a chapter or a paragraph, thinking about connecting between them and finding lines of logical explanation, referring to examples from the text. In this case, notes will also help you since interesting points often point to a literary work's main idea. It can be a denouement, a climax, or an exposition.

Language Choices

When you read a book or poem, you need to think about what language style is presented in work. For example, you may see simple sentences or complex poetic art techniques. Then it is much easier to distinguish between simple and complex languages.

You can also pay attention to the words. Perhaps some of them seem exciting and with a complex meaning. Maybe you will find words in a symbolic meaning with which the author described the event. Then you, too, use these words in your essay and explain what the author meant by them. Do not forget to pay attention to metaphors, comparisons, antonyms, hyperboles, as writers often use these elements in their works.

Images in the text also play an essential role. Images can be both in the book and described using words. Therefore, if you read the description of a place, then think about how it impressed you. And remember, with the help of artistic language, it is much more convenient for the author to convey thoughts, so you need to find such features.

Narrative Voice

After reading the text, ask yourself two questions:

  1. With what voice does the story go?
  2. How does the author tell the story: with the help of a character or from himself?

To answer these questions, you must clearly distinguish the story from the first and third person. The first person (I) is a character who tells about himself and his adventures. A third person is most often an author who himself describes characters and events.

Also, pay attention to the point of view of the narrator. The author can be involved in full or in part in history. That is, the author himself describes the first part, and then the characters speak for themselves. Follow the events, sometimes the author wants to hide some details, but you have to find a secret meaning.

And the last factor to pay attention to is the tone of the text. It would help if you distinguished between comic, dramatic, narrative stories. Perhaps with the help of humor, the author wanted to convey something serious and precisely the opposite.

Remember to write about whether this story is based on real events or fiction.


Do not forget about the structure of the text itself that you are analyzing. And think about whether the structure fits the work. The structure of the work should be approximate as follows:

  • If a novel, then the author must divide the text into chapters, paragraphs, parts;
  • If it is a verse, then it must be divided into lines, stanzas, or in the form of a song;
  • If this is a performance, then there must be scenes, characters, actions.

When analyzing, think about what was the reason that the author provided the composition in this form. You also need to know the formal and structural elements. For example, the story can be written in chronological order, or go back in time, jump into the future. Do not forget to evaluate the text for such a detail as a climax. If the author missed it, then perhaps there is another part of the story.

If you are analyzing poetry, then think about whether the author has chosen the rhyme well, whether the text is easy to read, whether the sentences are long, and the composition's overall impression. For useful analysis, you can read poetry out loud.

As for the play, attention should be paid to the characters' play, how they interact with each other, what decorations are involved, and whether they correspond to the theme. It is unnecessary to evaluate the play too strictly since sometimes it is impossible to fit the book's history into a few hours completely; the emotions you get from watching are essential here.

Coming Up With a Thesis

A thesis is a judgment that serves as the basis for reasoning about a topic/problem and requires consistent explanations, argumentation. The thesis must be formulated clearly and understandably since the quality of other considerations, the ease of searching for arguments and examples, and the logical conclusion depend on this.

You can go a simple way - to re-read the main idea of the work and convey in your own words those sentences that are suitable for the thesis. But it should be borne in mind that the it must be started with special sentences:

  • "Yes, I agree with the opinion that ... (further express the main idea of the work in your own words)". That is, your thesis, framed in this way, is an option for supporting thought with the author.
  • "I do not agree with the opinion that ... (and then in your own words, express the main idea of the work)." If it is framed in this way, your thesis is one option for refuting the author's thoughts.
  • "This is a difficult question for me: on the one hand ... and the other hand ...". That is, your thesis, framed in this way, is an intermediate position according to the author's thought. This type of start is considered difficult because it also requires a middle position in arguments and examples.

Finding Textual Evidence

To confirm the thesis or refute, you need arguments that can be found in the text. Choose specific pieces that support the point of view that has been advanced. This way, you create examples and arguments simultaneously, thereby not wasting time looking for fragments to illustrate the event.

We recommend that while reading the text, write down quotes in a notebook later on, and you can create an essay based on them and not waste time searching. We do not exclude the fact that you may have to return to re-reading the text, but only in case that you have come up with an interesting idea and cannot find evidence. But the most effective option is to write down the quotation at the beginning of the reading.

Introduction and Title Are Two Important Components

To get your article read from start to finish, you need to create a compelling title and an intriguing introduction. Let's take a look at these separate parts and understand how to write them.

The Title

You need to come up with a title to keep the reader interested. Many students believe that simply rewriting the book title and author is sufficient. This opinion is erroneous. You have to create intrigue so that as many people as possible want to read your essay. Hence, it takes time to come up with an intriguing headline.

The name should be formulated after the work is completely ready. You will know what it is about, so you can create the most exciting headline.

The algorithm for creating a title for an essay is as follows:

  1. You need to reread the text of the finished work several times carefully.
  2. You must correctly identify the main idea of your essay.
  3. If your work is dedicated to some hero, then it is necessary to determine this character.
  4. You need to formulate the plot of your essay briefly.
  5. Start coming up with essay titles that match the storyline presented.

You need to come up with 5-10 titles to find the best. The resulting ideas can be combined to form titles.

The Introduction

For this part to be successful, formulate in it those problematic questions that can be answered within the framework of your topic, and then justify your choice. Do not be afraid of question marks; feel free to formulate interrogative sentences. Sometimes the introduction briefly characterizes the era of creating the work or the work itself, if the work topic involves analyzing some particular aspect.

Don't forget about the thesis. In the introduction, this is the main element because thanks to it, the reader will understand what will happen in the main paragraphs. The introduction should consist of 3-5 sentences and should not be too long, as the reader may lose interest in further reading.

Body Parts

The body is the main content of the essay. In this part, you need to assess the object under study, answer the questions, and confirm the thesis that you formed in the introduction. It would help if you convinced the reader that your opinion has a place to be and is worth listening to with the help of evidence. In terms of volume, this part is the largest and should be three paragraphs.

Paragraph Structure

You must remember that this essay contains five paragraphs. The first is the introduction, the next three are the central part, and the last one is the conclusion.

Each paragraph you write in the main body should contain a new micro-topic and information while adhering to logical transitions. To get enough words for these three paragraphs, you need to develop three arguments that support your thesis. It would help if you did not retell the analyzed work's text in these paragraphs, only your own opinion on the topic.

Let's consider the option if you decide to increase the number of paragraphs of the central part of the essay since the analyzed work is too large. In this case, we advise you to divide the central part into chapters, and these chapters, in turn, to divide into paragraphs. The inside of these chapters should also contain new information, which at the same time complements each other.

Topic Sentences

To focus the reader's attention on the essay's idea, write one topic sentence for each paragraph.

Thanks to this sentence at the beginning of each paragraph, the reader will understand what is being said and not lose the main meaning of the essay. This sentence should easily pass into the argumentation and supplement the following paragraphs. You can use these words for a successful transition: however, moreover, also. Let's take an example:

"However, the elder sister from the book" Little Women" cherished family values most of all. Accordingly, she was a leader and listened to her opinion, which testifies how strong connections the sisters had."

This proposal is perfect for the topic of family values.

Textual Evidence

To confirm your thoughts, you need to find specific passages in the text that are ideal as an argument. You can use both direct quotes (but do not forget to arrange them according to the rules so that your text will not be accepted as plagiarism), as well as rephrase sentences.

Do not forget to explain why the selected example from the text confirms your words. Do not choose any sentences; analyze them carefully, as your goal is to convince the reader that you are right in your statements.

You can also do it without quizzes. This element can be used if you want to show what artistic techniques the author used. As for the plot or events, it is better to describe them in your own words since you are unlikely to fit a large passage in an essay unless you have an unlimited number of words.

Writing a Conclusion

The purpose of this part is to summarize your thoughts on the questions or ideas that you formulated in the introduction. It will help if you outline your findings using the keywords or terms that go into the wording of the chosen topic. If you used words such as "characters," "place of events," "plot," while writing the introduction and the central part, then we advise you to use them in the conclusion. It would help if you also remembered that, according to the content, the introduction and conclusion are very similar. In the end, you need to summarize everything and write about the results you came to. Perhaps you will not be so confident in the thesis initially, but when in the central part you give examples, arguments, then in the final, you need to prove that you were right in your statements. The conclusion should not be extended and contains 3-5 sentences.

Expert Tips on How to Choose a Subject for Literature Essay

The topic for essays can be any, and to choose it, you need to turn on your imagination and associate the future topic with your knowledge. It is easier to write a text on a known subject. Let's look at a few topics for reasoning.

In the direction of kindness and cruelty, you can touch on all the nuances of morality and attitude towards living beings. Many literary characters desire to relate to these extremes; they are either very kind or cruel.

Parents and children allow you to build discussions based on generations' flow and their relationship, whether they are conflicting or vice versa. It is necessary to highlight both the reasons for nonsense and the ways to achieve peace between them.

Discussion on designing a dream in reality and what generates it. In literature, you can find three types of heroes, those who dream and are ready to apply everything in life, and those who are forever in captivity of the dream but do not realize anything in practice. There is also a category of people deprived of the ability to dream.

Revenge and generosity allow us to talk about the fact that there are two opposites: those for good and those for evil in all forms. In addition to morality, heroes can be distinguished who acted generously or not, depending on their beliefs and society's requirements.

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Max Malak

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Here at Studybay, I work as a Head of Affiliates in the marketing department. I studied Liberal Arts and took related classes at Tokyo Sophia University. I believe that challenges are what make my job fun and exciting. That's why I like completing complex, complicated, and even weird tasks and then sharing my experience with colleagues.

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