How to Write Literary Analysis Essay Step-By-Step With Examples

how to write literary analysis essay

Literary analysis essay is a familiar assignment for high-school students and college students, who chose literature as their major at the university. After reading this article, you will know everything that you might need to write a literary analysis essay.

What is Literary Analysis Essay?

Literary analysis essay is a type of writing assignment that aims at analyzing a piece of literature. ­Writers always raise certain problems, introduce interesting characters and use techniques in their works, that could be analyzed in your essay. In order to better understand what literary analysis essay is, we will consider several essay types:

Problematic Literary Analysis Essay

The goal of this essay is to analyze major or minor problem in the piece of literature. The piece of literature is used as a foundation for analysis of social, ethical or research problem. You are also welcome to express your own opinion (of course, supported by the arguments) on the problem of the novel or story. For example, it could be “Generation conflict in Romeo and Juliet”.

Comparison Literary Analysis Essay

This essay can be either focused on two pieces of literature (compare how two authors raise the same problem) or on one work (compare two characters or two events in one novel or story). The final goal is to make some conclusions from your comparison. A possible topic for this essay type is “Comparison of Mr.Darcy and Charles Bingley in Pride and Prejudice”.

Review Literary Analysis Essay

Topics for this essay type are usually quite broad. You should write how the object is portrayed in the work of the author, provide different examples as well as be attentive to details. This essay type is less analytical and more similar to a summary within the topic. It could be “The image of war in For Whom the Bell Tolls».

Quotation Literary Analysis Essay

You can also be asked to write an essay on the quotation from a novel or story. You need to understand the meaning of the quotation that might not be clear from the first sight. This essay is less related to the work itself, however, you should regard the quotation in the context of the piece of literature.

How to Write Literary Analysis Essay Step-By-Step

literary analysis essay

  • Introduction

The goal of this part is to explain your reader what your paper is going to be about. You should definitely include the name of the author, the name of his work as well as provide some additional information on the novel or story. Here you also try to attract interest of your reader to your paper, that could be done by asking rhetorical question, providing relevant quote or revealing an unknown fact about the problem or the work. Don’t forget to formulate your statement – the main idea of your paper. It is usually the last sentence of the introduction.

  • Body

Body is the central part of this essay. Looking at the content of the body, you can say whether the topic is covered fully. One of the most important thing in the body is how you divide it by paragraphs. Each paragraph should be dedicated to a particular minor idea, that will support your statement from the introduction. Those paragraphs should be connected between each other. We can suggest you to use chronological order or “from general to the specific” order in the body of your literary analysis essay. Remember: body could not be just the summary of the work!

  • Conclusion

Conclusion is the final part of your essay. To make your readers remember your essay, you should work to make it catchy.

There are several types of conclusion that will make your essay more valuable:

1) Summary

This is the most typical and common type of conclusion. You just summarize all the ideas stated in the body and connect them with your statement from the introduction.

2) Rhetorical question

Rhetorical question will take your reader back to the major problem of your essay, this way underlining its relevance.

3) ”Call” to your reader

You could also use more persuasive and emotional tone in your conclusion. It will make your reader to change his mind on the problem of an essay.

4) Quote

You could finish your essay with the quote from either a piece of literature that you are writing an essay about or any other source. However, be careful here, the quote you provide should express your thought clearly.

Literary Analysis Essay Outline


  • The major problem of an essay
  • The name of a novel/story/poem etc.
  • The name of the author
  • Attract readers’ attention


  • Paragraph 1
  • Minor idea
  • Arguments (reference to the text)
  • Analysis of text
  • Paragraph 2
  • Minor idea
  • Arguments (reference to the text)
  • Analysis of text


  • Restate the major problem
  • Summary OR
  • Rhetorical question OR
  • Call to action OR
  • Quote

Examples Of Literary Analysis

examples of literary analysis

Literary analysis example of a short story

The old man and the sea – is a short novel, the last major work of Ernest Hemingway. As the years go by, people start thinking more about being old and about loneliness as a part of it. That was the central problem of this story by Hemingway. The main hero of the story is Santiago, an aged fisherman. Most of his time he spends alone in the sea. He used to speak to marine inhabitants as if they were his friends. How does the main hero face the problem of loneliness?

Hemingway is elaborating the problem of loneliness using symbolism. We could find the moment, where Santiago is struggling to save the fish. He is struggling till the very end, he is putting all his forces to achieve the goal. In such a way Hemingway wants to show that a person is stronger than circumstances. Despite that Santiago did not manage to save the fish, he doesn’t give up and he fights till the very end.

The author shows us that Manolin, a young boy, who wants to be a fisherman, behaves as Santiago’s friend. He is the only one who does not call Santiago “salao”. All the actions of Manolin prove that really deep human relationship exists between them.

The central idea of this work is that “a man can be destroyed but not defeated” and that is proved by strong character of Santiago on the example of his fight in the sea and a sincere attitude of a young boy to him.

Literary analysis essay example Romeo and Juliet

Love is amazing and the most mysterious feeling that encourage people from all over the world to do great things. Love is happiness, love is a gift, if you have love, nothing else really matters. «For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo…» – that is what the author of the greatest love story says about it. So, how could love cause such a tragedy? Was love the reason of death of two main heroes of William Shakespeare’s work?

The action is happening in the Middle-Aged Italy, in a small city Verona. Two clans – Montague and Capulet – live here for a long time. Despite the fight existing between two families for many years, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet fall in love with each other. This love has influenced both of them dramatically. Romeo is amazed by his feelings. Juliette, who was really attached to her parents, becomes more brave and independent. However, their love does not have an influence on the relationship between their family members and even causes several deaths. Even such tragedies don’t break strong feelings existing between Romeo and Juliet. They are sure that their love is stronger than anything else, they don’t care where it goes, if they are together.

Moreover, we could also see the role of fate. A vicious twist breaks their marriage plans. Lorenzo’s emissary doesn’t manage to reach Romeo on time and he receives fake news about Juliette’s death. Even a small action might influence our life.

Thus, we see that love was not the reason of tragedy. We could blame aimless fight and prejudice existed in those times that costed Romeo and Juliette the lives. Besides, they had their chance to be saved, but the destiny had other plans. We might add that by their deaths, wise and cruel fate showed their relatives how blind they were in their fight.

Good luck with your literary analysis essay!

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