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How To Write A Literary Essay: A Comprehensive Guide

Literature essay writing

Literature is a remarkable form of art that can inspire, challenge, and transform humans. But, how to analyze literature in a way that truly captivates its essence? That’s where a literary analysis essay comes in.

Crafting exemplary literary essays enables a writer to delve deep into the themes, characters, and symbols of a specific literary piece. It offers an opportunity to engage with the literature deeply and to discover crucial insights. It also allows you to comprehend links between small sections of the text and the whole literary work. By composing this kind of essay, you can grasp the true meaning of the literature remarkably and effectively.

If you’re unsure of how to write a literary analysis essay or how to write a conclusion for a literary essay, you have landed on the right page. In today’s well-detailed post, we will walk you through the process of crafting an incredible literary analysis essay, step by step, along with unique examples that will help you nail the next paper like a champion.

 Let’s dive right in!

What is a Literary Essay?

Before you delve deep to learn how to write a literary essay, it is crucial to develop a deeper understanding of what is a literary essay.

Literary analysis denotes the process of investigating literary works in detail to uncover their significance and meaning. It involves breaking down the different elements of a work, like the plot, setting, character, and theme. And, then evaluating how they work together to create a specific impact on the reader.

So, to put it simply, a literary analysis paper is not a rhetorical analysis, nor is it a mere summary of the plot, a book review, or a book report.  It is a kind of argumentative essay where you need to evaluate elements like the language, point of view, and structure of the text and describe how the author utilized literary devices to create effects and convey ideas.

Before you plunge deep into the world of analysis, it’s crucial to have a profound knowledge of the purpose of the essay and how it works. Only then can you get started!

Hoping to Capture Your Professor's Attention with Your Essay? Here's How!


The Purpose of a Literary Essay

A literary or literature essay has one major objective - to demonstrate that you understand and have done close reading of the literary piece or text from numerous perspectives. The process entails breaking down the text into the smallest core components and evaluating every component to draw a bigger picture.

For instance, your teacher has given you the academic assignment to analyze ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It is a highly popular book with innumerable reviews spread all over the web. When you take a close look at these reviews, you’ll understand that they’re highly personal. They are all about the way the reader perceives the story. You can completely share your impressions in the analysis, but they need to be a part of the structured format. Most of all, you’ll need to focus on the evaluation of the components of the book.

Further, to get a perfect essay written,  it is crucial to find out in what era, under what scenarios the literature was created and how it impacted the development of the literary world. When you are conducting the analysis, always try to incorporate the following information -

  • The author’s perspectives on the work
  • The ways the author’s creative knowledge was formed
  • The literature genre of the work
  • The literary direction of the work
  • The composition, symbolic elements, and the sharpness of the plot

Then, you need to convey your academic approach in the essay rather than just your thoughts and opinions. The key purpose of the piece is to prove to your readers that you have written a strong point or case concerning the analysis piece in question.

What are the Types of Literary Essays?

There are different kinds of literary or literature essays. It is an integral part of various disciplines like social studies, communication, history, literature, marketing, and management, among many others. The way you will approach the essay depends hugely on the field of study.

Let’s now take a look at different kinds of literary essays written along with their crucial characteristics that will enable you to choose your pattern to analyze the work -

  • Close Reading- This is a remarkable method that includes reading with attention and further interpretation of the text. Hence, in this case, you won’t require ample inspiration and in-depth knowledge to comprehend how to write a literary argument essay. In this kind of essay, it’s crucial to address details and describe how the parts of the text form the entire paper and describe core ideas.
  • Theoretical- In this kind of paper, it is crucial to use the theories related to the topic. For instance, if you are asked to analyze a short story and describe how social opinions are developed, you will need to apply the agenda-setting theory.
  • Comparative or Synergistic- Comparative writing is based on the comparison of two or more alternatives in a poem or a  For instance, if you are asked to write on a comparison topic of socialist and democratic systems, your analysis should demonstrate the differences between the two systems on the basis of the decomposition of their core elements. 
  • Applied -This type of essay will require a writer to offer an in-depth analysis of the issue from a practical point of view.
  • Historical or Contextual -  This kind of literary piece is written to demonstrate specific arguments proving a specific thesis. The arguments are completely based on history and should prove insight by utilizing both primary and secondary historical sources to prove the essay’s thesis statement.

You will be asked to write any one of these kinds of essays based on the discipline you’re pursuing. Knowing the correct kind of essay will enable you to generate a strong piece with a clear focus.

How to Start Writing the Best Literary Analysis Essay?

According to top essay writing stalwarts, no one is born knowing how to evaluate literature. It is a remarkable skill that you learn with time. As you practice this kind of thinking and writing, you’ll be able to have a method that works best for you. However, until then, here is a literary essay step-by-step guide to get started on writing the perfect analytical piece of literature -

Read the Text

Before you start writing, the obvious first step would be reading the short story, poem, or novel carefully and then penning down the crucial points. Reading to evaluate a literary text is quite distinct from reading for pleasure.

Here, you need to read closely to pick up any hidden details or themes that any ordinary reader may have missed. It is wise to have a pencil when reading the text. You can also use sticky notes to make important notes, underline significant words, or point out perplexing details.

Ask Essential Questions

Beginning an essay may seem baffling at first, especially when you have countless ideas rushing through your head simultaneously. However, you could always begin by asking yourself numerous pertinent questions like -

  • What part of the text had a striking effect on you?

Did any scene, line, or event in the novel or poem strike you? If it did, you can always expand on the scene to craft an exceptional paper.

  • What confused you?

In certain cases, you can stumble upon a confusing character, situation, or event in the literary piece. Reading and exploring these baffling elements will enable you to get to the root of their presence in the text.

  • Were there any noticeable patterns?

Is there a pattern that should be noticed in the novel you’re analyzing? Are there any patterns in character development? If there is, ensure to follow the pattern closely to find out its importance and thematic implications. 

  • Did you notice any contradictions?

In certain cases, a complex novel may consist of multiple contradictory themes or events that you would need to investigate.  For example, in ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell, the mantra ‘All animals are equal’ is contradicted by Napoleon’s treatment of Boxer after it no longer proved to be useful.

Assimilate Enough Evidence

Once you’ve outlined the essay question you want to answer, you can go through the story or novel to find evidence that will help you answer these essential questions effectively. Go through symbols, images, figurative language, a relevant quote, or different scenes that correlate with your topic.

The evidence for your literary analysis piece often tends to lie in the elements of the literature that you will need to analyze. Here are certain core elements you need to look out for -

  • Story Elements - This involves the major framework of the text, like the plot, characters, setting, conflict, themes, and the narrator.
  • Literary Elements of Style - The style elements indicate all other elements that the author chose to create the story. Consider it to be the spice or the colors of the story. The style elements in any literary piece are perspectives like the first-person narrator third-person narrator, structure and organization, syntax, diction, tone, imagery, and figures of speech.

Formulate a Strong Thesis Statement

After assimilating and investigating all relevant evidence, the next step in writing an exceptional literary analysis piece is to craft a strong thesis statement. It should be written in a way that shapes the direction of your introduction as well as your essay. The thesis in the introduction should be a claim about the literary text and must be supported by ample facts, evidence, and arguments to convince your readers. 

A good thesis statement in the introduction  is always -

  • Provable - You should be able to prove your thesis statement in the introduction through evidence from the text itself.  For example, a thesis statement like “The greatest play of G.B.Shaw is Arms and the Man” is weak as any evidence or facts from the text can’t prove it.
  • Arguable - Readers should be able to argue your thesis statement if they desire to do so.
  • Surprising - The thesis in your essay introduction should never state the obvious. Instead, it must point at hidden themes or interpretations within the text.
  • Specific- Resist the urge to craft a vague thesis in the introduction that points in no specific direction. Try to be as specific as possible and leave no room for misinterpretations for your  

Develop and Organize Arguments  

Once you have established your thesis in the introduction, you can then start to organize the examples and arguments that will back up the central idea. These examples will form the body paragraphs of your essay and persuade the reader that your thesis is believable and credible.

It is crucial to remember there exists no clear-cut way of forming and organizing your arguments in the body paragraph of your essay. It all depends on the essay prompt and what it asks you to do. Some literary analysis piece prompts may need you to compare and contrast certain characters or elements in the text, while others may ask you to debate a certain statement.

Literary Argument Essay Outline 

Now that you are well-versed in how to start writing the best literary analysis piece, it is crucial to know how to create a detailed outline. If you are wondering how to write a literary criticism essay, then it is significant to know that crafting the perfect outline for your literary works will enable you to organize all your thoughts and ideas in the body paragraph and ensure that your piece flows logically and coherently.

Let’s have a look at a generic literary analysis piece outline -

Literary Analysis Writing Outline Template

  • Hook statement
  • Background information or context
  • Thesis Statement
Body Paragraphs- Paragraph 1 - Analysis of Plot & Setting
  • Topic sentence
  • Overview of the events and plot
  • Analysis of the setting
  • Discussion of the importance of the setting
Paragraph 2 - Detailed Analysis of Characters
  • Topic sentence
  • Overview of the main characters
  • Analysis of key character traits and development of a specific character
  • Description of the relationships between characters
Body Paragraph 3 - Analysis of Theme
  • Topic sentence
  • Overview of themes present in the literary piece
  • Analysis of the way the themes are developed and portrayed
  • Explanation of the importance of the themes
  • Restatement of the thesis statement in conclusion in a new and compelling way
  • Final thoughts and reflections on literature

In most cases, you can structure your essay as per the outline given above unless specified otherwise by your professor. Let’s now take a look at every essential component of the literary writing outline template and how to structure it in detail -

Writing the Introduction

The introduction is the first part of the essay, where you need to present your thesis, address the issue at hand, and establish yourself as an authoritative and credible analyst in front of your readers.

Your introduction is also meant to ease your readers into the rest of the paper. As such, you must pique the readers’ interest and offer them a hint of the direction the paper will take. This can be successfully achieved by including a hook.  If you are asking how to write a hook for a literary essay, know an effective hook can be of different forms like a provocative quote, an intriguing question, or a surprising fact.  Additionally, be specific in your introduction without making any overbearing assertions or claims.

Writing Body Paragraphs

Now that you know how to write a hook for a literary essay effectively, let’s focus on the best ways to structure the perfect body paragraphs.

The body of the literary argument essay includes three paragraphs that come right after the introduction. Here, you need to offer key points, evidence, and arguments to support your thesis. In this segment, how you organize your main point or main points depends mainly on the essay prompt or question.

Furthermore, while crafting the body of the essay, it is crucial to always start with a good topic sentence. Writing strong topic sentences offers the reader an idea of the main points that will be discussed in the paragraph. For example, a topic sentence like - “Domestic abuse and fanaticism are the dominant themes in the Purple Hibiscus”  is incredibly weak and vague. So, you need to always go for a stronger topic sentence. For example, “Eugene’s desire for indoctrination and abuse crops from the traumatic childhood experiences he went through at the hands of the Catholic priests.”

Writing the Conclusion

If you find yourself frantically typing ‘How to write a conclusion for a literary essay,’ worry not. We can help you with that, too.

Eventually, your essay is coming to an end where all the final words will be written. But how should the writer go about writing the final words? First, remind your readers of the essay question in the conclusion. Secondly, the conclusion should include the main point or central idea along with your main arguments briefly. Thirdly, make a relevant comment about the literary work you are analyzing.

In your conclusion, it is also crucial to suggest a new perspective on the subject matter. However, don’t overdo it by adding too many or irrelevant details. You’d end up writing an entirely new essay in the conclusion.

Literary Argument Essay Topics

We’ve now arrived at the final phase of how to write a literary criticism essay in the best ways possible. Before you set off to buy essay papers, know the success of your analysis essay mainly depends on the topic. An excellent literary analysis topic is the key to crafting an incredible essay. 

To aid you, we’ve compiled an endless list of spectacular topics to spark your creativity and inspire your reading and writing journey. So, let the exploration begin!

  1. Explore symbolism in Emily Dickinson’s poetry in the English language
  2. Write about the social satire in Sense and Sensibility of Jane Austen
  3. Explore the theme of isolation in ‘Metamorphosis’ of Franz Kafka
  4. Discuss spiritual growth in Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha
  5. Write about obsession in Oscar Wilde’s picture of Dorian Gray
  6. Explore the role of memory in Beloved of Tom Morrison
  7. Write about the portrayal of love in the poetry of Pablo Neruda
  8. Discuss the influence of society in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park
  9. Explore the survival in Life of Pi
  10. Describe justice in the Sherlock Holmes series of Arthur Conan Doyle
  11. Explore the usage of historical detail in Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall
  12. Describe the theme of class struggle in Oliver Twist of Dickenson
  13. Discuss maturation in Jane Eyre of Charlotte Bronte
  14. Write about the role of honesty in ‘The Secret Garden’
  15. Explore power and corruption in Animal Farm
  16. Explore the concept of feminism and gender roles in ‘The Yellow Newspaper.’
  17. Discuss dreams and omens in Romeo and Juliet
  18. Write about morality and ethical decision-making in Hamlet
  19. Write about the perils of unchecked ambition in Frankenstein
  20. Discuss the representation of kingship in Beowulf

Literary Essay Example

We also thought of providing an inspiring literary argument essay example so that you have a remarkable visual understanding of the structure, outline, as well as writing style.

Go through it diligently to comprehend how to compose the perfect essay in a compelling way -

The Island of Fear

As humans, we all are afraid of something. And all of us tend to tackle those fears in ways that align with our personalities.  In ‘Lord of the Flies,’ William Golding portrays the fears of Ralph, Jack, and Piggy and chooses particular ways to tackle those fears effectively. Hence, each of the three boys reacts to fears uniquely.

Jack, the first boy, strongly believes that the beast truly exists. He is afraid and admits it. So, he tackles his fear with aggressive violence. He is determined to hunt the beast down, arms himself with a spear, and starts practicing. He also leverages the fear of the beast to control and manipulate other children.

Further, he is afraid of Ralph’s power over the entire group and the rational thoughts of Piggy. This is because he knows that both directly conflict with his thirst for gaining absolute power. To get over his fear, he abuses Piggy physically and verbally abuses Piggy and argues with Ralph questioning his authority to such an extent that he ends up leaving the group.

Next, Ralph, the boy’s leader, has his own fears. He is afraid that the boys will never be rescued due to the inability of the group to keep the fire lit. His fears remain valid throughout most of the book, yet his efforts to express the urgency of the fire to the group are destroyed by Jack.

Piggy, the last boy fears Jack - and with good reasons. He handles his fear by completely avoiding Jack and remaining loyal to Ralph. He is also afraid of being ignored or shunned by others. Throughout most of the story, he seeks refuge from his fears in both Ralph and the conch.

To conclude, the ‘Lord of the Flies novel exposes the reader to three characters with distinct personalities and fears. Each boy tries to combat their fear in a distinct way. Fear is a natural emotion encountered by everyone, but each of them tackles it in a way that best fits his/ her individual personality.

Final Thoughts

Writing a literary argument essay can be a rewarding experience, but it’s not easy to write. They say the best critics are geniuses. They know how to penetrate deep into the book’s essence; they read, analyze, and comprehend the author’s intentions for every element of their writing.

No one expects a college or school student to accomplish that level of literary criticism, but the least you can do is try. If you follow the guide above and implement the strategies, you can get started with the writing as soon as you are done with the reading. So go through it and start writing today. Good luck!

Struggling with Literary Essays? We Can Help!


FAQs On Literary Analysis Essay

How do you write the best literary paragraph? arrow

Writing the best literary paragraphs involves a combination of language proficiency, creativity, and a remarkable attention to detail. Here are certain strategies that will enable you to craft compelling literary paragraphs -


  • Start with a clear theme or key idea that you aim to convey
  • Use descriptive language and vivid imagery
  • Use precise and evocative language to convey your main ideas
  • Experiment with sentence structure to create a rhythm and flow in the paragraph
  • Pay attention to the tone and mood you want to convey
  • Instead of explicitly stating facts, show them through actions, sensory details, and dialogue

How do I choose a topic for my literary work? arrow

Finding ideal literary analysis essay topics can be as complicated as studying the literature. Here are certain effective guidelines that will enable you to choose an excellent topic -


  • Read and reflect
  • Ask questions about the book
  • Look for links in the text - between characters, themes, or even historical context
  • Keep it focused
  • Find a new angle

How do I revise and edit my literary paper? arrow

Before you hit the ‘Submit’ button, it is crucial to revise and edit your literary piece to deliver a stellar paper. Have a look at  certain crucial aspects you need to keep in mind while pruning your literary work to perfection -


  • Ensure your ideas are expressed logically and clearly
  • Consider your essay structure and organization
  • Check for grammar and spelling mistakes
  • Verify factual information
  • Check paper is formatted as per the guidelines
  • Remove any unnecessary words or phrases
  • Let someone else proofread and get feedback

What should I do if I am struggling with my literary work? arrow

If a challenging literary work on a tricky topic is driving you up the wall, it’s always wise to get in touch with We have roped in 5000+  well-skilled and highly experienced stalwarts who work round the clock to provide information-rich, accurately formatted, and flawlessly cited solutions on any topic. You will never fail to score a straight A+ with our unmatched guidance.

How do I write a strong thesis statement for a literary argument essay? arrow

The thesis statement of a literary paper is a one to two-sentence summary of the main interpretations. Here are certain techniques to write a good thesis statement for your next literary work -


  • Ensure to have a clear understanding of the work you’re analyzing
  • Determine the main idea or core argument
  • Use specific language to craft your thesis statement
  • Make a claim about the work that you’re analyzing
  • Take a stance on the work and support it with textual evidence
  • Make it focused and to the point
  • Revise and refine until it is clear, compelling, and concise
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