The Literary Analysis Essay

The Literary Analysis Essay
Standard Guidelines for Literary Analysis
The Intro Paragraph:
For the most part, the essays you write for this class will follow the traditional five-paragraph format. The first
paragraph is an introduction to the paper and should contain the following things:
1. an attention-getter (hook)
2. theme with background information you are analyzing
3. a thesis statement
 The attention-getter should be a very general statement about the topic of the paper. Asking a
rhetorical question is ok, but a better option is to begin with a quote. For example, if the topic of your
paper is hatred you might begin your paper like this:

British poet Thomas Gray once stated that “Ignorance is bliss.” This phrase by
perfectly describes the state of mankind in Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Because people in
this futuristic world of banned books are kept uninformed and constantly entertained, they
are kept from the harsh realities of their world…
The second sentence (in bold) is essential, as it transitions from the quote to the topic of the essay.
 The theme in your introduction should bridge the gap between the very general attention-getter and
the thesis statement, which is the most specific sentence in your paper.
The thesis statement is essential to a well written paper. Without a clear thesis, the paper has nowhere to go
and nothing to say. Think of a thesis as the engine that drives your paper. A good thesis has two parts: a topic
and a position. The topic is what you have chosen to write the paper about. The position is the original
statement you have chosen to make on that topic. Your first step in this is to go to your notes and highlight
ideas, themes, or literary techniques you have been tracking. Then proceed to pull them out, reflect on them
and set up your thesis. Here’s an example of the standard 3-part thesis:
Ex: In Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury demonstrates how censorship causes a loss of societal growth, individual
thought, and personal happiness.
However, you can also explain theme without breaking your thesis up into 3 parts:
Ex: Bradbury reveals the destructive effects of censoring knowledge throughout Montag’s journey to
enlightenment in Fahrenheit 451.
You can also focus on a literary technique and how it affects:
Literary Technique creates Ideas which create an Effect (rational or emotional) on the reader.
Ex: Through the use of the metaphor of fire, the speaker in the novel Fahrenheit 451 demonstrates the
creative power of the inner flame of passion and forces the reader to question what imprint they may one day
leave on the world.

Ex #2: Religious symbolism of baptism and wandering in the wilderness shows that Montag has been reborn
into the fullness of being and the reader is left to juxtapose the new Montag and the old to determine the
magnitude of his evolution.
The Body Paragraphs:
In general, the body section of your paper should have three paragraphs, but it is not inconceivable that you
might have to have more than that on occasion. Everybody paragraph should contain the following elements:
1. a topic sentence which relates to the thesis
2. between 2-3 pieces of support for that topic (textual evidence)
3. a closing sentence

 Each topic sentence should identify a part of the thesis that will be examined in a paragraph. It is very
important that each topic sentence begin with a transition so the reader can easily see the
relationships between each paragraph. While transitions such as “First. . . Next. . . and Finally” are
acceptable, mature writers should be striving for more sophisticated transitions.
Example: “When the motif of hands first appears in the novel, it serves as a metaphor for
Montag’s buried self.”

 The evidence to support your topic sentences will come in the form of quotes from the text. Summary
and paraphrase should be avoided, as it weakens your arguments. You must deal with the author’s
exact words to show how your thesis is accurate.
 Quotes must be copied exactly as they appear in the original text, but, whenever possible, you
should excise unnecessary material. In a paragraph which attempts to prove Captain Ahab’s
(from Melville’s Moby Dick) larger-than-life stature, one might use this quote from the book:

“His whole high, broad form seemed made of solid bronze and shaped in an
unalterable mold, like Cellini’s cast Perseus” (Melville 119).
Though this is not a long quote, only the last part of it is really needed. In a paper you might
say, Captain Ahab is described as looking “like Cellini’s cast Perseus.” This is all that is really
necessary, and allows you to deal specifically with the most important words in the quote.
 While it is of vital importance to choose relevant quotes to prove your thesis, it is of equal
importance to then explain how the quote you have chosen does what you say it does.
Therefore, you need to follow up the quotes you include with explanations — NOT A
SUMMARY– OF WHAT THE QUOTE SAYS. These explanations should be more than 1 sentence.
Look at the example below (related to Melville’s Moby Dick) that relates to the previous

BAD example: Captain Ahab is described as looking “like Cellini’s cast Perseus”
(Melville 119). This is saying that he looked like a statue.
GOOD example: Captain Ahab is described as looking “like Cellini’s cast Perseus”
(Melville 119). By comparing Ahab to a statue of a hero of Greek mythology, the

author imbues Ahab’s physical appearance with heroic characteristics. This allows the
reader to see him, at least in his physical presence, as a larger-than-life character.
 Every paragraph should end with a summary/closing statement that wraps up the ideas presented in
the paragraph.
 Works of literature are always referred to in the present tense. The action in a novel or short story is
suspended in time and is, therefore, ongoing rather than completed.
“Reverend Hooper wears (not ‘wore’) his black veil in an attempt to teach his parishioners a
The Conclusion:
The conclusion paragraph is the reverse of the introduction paragraph and should contain the following
1. restatement of thesis
2. summary of main points
3. clincher
 Your thesis restatement should be the FIRST SENTENCE of your conclusion paragraph. When you
restate your thesis, it should NOT appear exactly the same as in the introduction. You take the ideas
presented there and rephrase them.
 The summary of main points should briefly summarize each paragraph.
 The clincher is an important but much neglected element in a paper. NEVER end your paper with a
question. A clincher should be some kind of statement that leaves the reader with a strong impression
of your main point. It is often helpful to go back to your attention-getter and write something that
refers to it. To begin and end a paper in the same place shows the work of an organized mind. Using
the attention-getter used earlier in this guide (related to F451), a possible clincher might be:
“The sad truth is that a society without any complications or options is one that is easily
controlled and doomed to fail.”

 Your essay must have a title. It should be the same font as the rest of the text, and it should be
 All papers should be typed, double-spaced, 12pt Times New Roman Font, one inch margins all the way
 Novel and book titles are italicized in print; Articles, poem, and essay titles are in quotes
 NEVER, EVER USE “I” OR “YOU” IN A FORMAL ESSAY (no 1 st /2 nd person pronouns)
 Never refer to an author by his/her first name. You may use the last name or the full name, but it is
disrespectful to refer to someone by his/her first name when you haven’t been asked by that person
to do so. As most of these authors are dead, you cannot receive that permission.

 All papers should have the proper MLA heading on the top, left hand side of the page:
Napoleon Dynamite(your name)
Mrs. Bragg (teacher’s name)
English 12 Period 2 (class name)
March 31, 2021 (date in this order)
Lastly, remember these SIX IMPORTANT RULES when constructing your paragraphs:
1. You may note use a quote until at least 3 sentences into the body paragraph where it will appear.
This gives you a sentence for your topic sentence and a sentence to introduce the text before it
actually appears.
2. You must transition to a quote by introducing it; it cannot be “dropped in” without anything
leading up to it or following it (that’s called an ‘island quote’). It is often best if you can actually lay
the quote in a sentence you write that begins with the transition.
3. You MUST comment, analyze, explain, and give insight for textual evidence/quotes you provide!
NEVER, EVER let them speak for themselves!!!
4. Be sure you try to plug the insight you are making about a particular quote into the topic sentence
it is proving.
5. Never end a paragraph or an essay with a question!
6. Do not use large pieces of text simply to take up room in your essay. Use only the textual evidence
that is needed to support the point you are making. You can use different parts of the same quote by
putting “…” where you leave out parts of the quotation.
7. The page number in parentheses followed by the period must follow all quotations for citations!
Remember this order QUO (quotation) PAR (parentheses) PUNC (punctuation).

You may use the outline template below to organize your essay. Examples of how you might
construct your sentences are in green. Notice the formal, academic tone that is used.
I. Introduction
A. Attention-getter
B. Orient reader- (link between attention-getter and topic)(Example: Fahrenheit 451, by Ray
Bradbury, is a novel about . . .
C. Thesis Statement (Example: Bradbury want readers to understand that . . .)
D. Supporting Points (what three points will you make to support your thesis?)
Example: The author conveys this important message through . . .1, 2 and 3.

II. First Body Paragraph
A. Topic Sentence (stay focused on thesis): Ray Bradbury uses 1 to show readers . . . through
the character Mildred.
B. Example #1
1. Context of example (set-up/background to quote): Here you would briefly describe
a few details about the example you will use. For example, on page 13 of the novel, readers see
Mildred . . .

2. Page number and quotation: Mildred says, “Insert direct quote here” (13).
3. Explanation/analysis of example: This shows that Mildred . . .
C. Example #2
1. Context of example (set-up): Another way that Mildred helps Bradbury show

readers . . . is when she . . .

2. Page number and quotation: Mildred says, “insert direct quote here” (42).
3. Explanation/analysis of example: Similar to when Mildred . . ., this example shows . .
. which further proves Bradbury believed . . .

D. Example #3 (optional)
1. Context of example (set-up):
2. Page number and quotation:
3. Explanation/analysis of example:
E. Summary/Closing Sentence: The character of Mildred helps Bradbury to make this
significant point about . . .

III. Second Body Paragraph-Follow template for First Body Paragraph
A. Topic Sentence: “In addition to 1, Ray Bradbury also uses 2 to show readers . . .”
B. Example #1
1. Context of example (set-up):
2. Page number and quotation:
3. Explanation/analysis of example:
C. Example #2
1. Context of example (set-up):
2. Page number and quotation:
3. Explanation/analysis of example:
D. Example #3 (optional)
1. Context of example (set-up):
2. Page number and quotation:
3. Explanation/analysis of example:
E. Summary Sentence:

IV. Third Body Paragraph- Follow template for First Body Paragraph
A. Topic Sentence: “Finally, Ray Bradbury uses 3 to show readers . . .”
B. Example #1

1. Context of example (set-up):
2. Page number and quotation:
3. Explanation/analysis of example:
C. Example #2
1. Context of example (set-up):
2. Page number and quotation:
3. Explanation/analysis of example:
D. Summary Sentence

V. Conclusion (will need to be more than 2 sentences!)
A. Restate thesis artfully: Through 1, 2 and 3, Ray Bradbury shows readers that . . .
B. Tie back to attention-getter:
C. Clincher statement/meaningful thought:


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