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meaning of literary analysis

Literary Analysis

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Close your eyes for a second and imagine unpacking a bag. As you take out each item, you see the inside of the bag more clearly. Eventually, when you have taken out and examined each item, the bag is crystal clear. Readers can unpack literature in a similar manner. Analyzing literature is the process of examining the text in detail to interpret it thoroughly. When readers examine various literary elements in a story, they reveal deep meaning in the text.

Analysing Literature, Unpacking, StudySmarter

Literary Analysis Definition

Literary analysis is the examination and evaluation of a literary work. When people analyze literature, they consider how the author used literary techniques to create meaning. Readers first critically read the text and examine elements like figurative language, syntax, diction, and structure. When looking at these elements, readers consider how the author used them to create meaning. They then make analytical claims about the text they can support by discussing specific evidence from the work.

Interpreting Literature

Analyzing literature allows readers to articulate their interpretation of a text. To interpret literature, readers should consider elements like the following:

Analyzing literature is a key task of l iterary criticism , which is the study and interpretation of literature. Literary critics conduct literary analyses that consider historical and sociocultural contexts and apply theoretical lenses to literary works. For example, critics in the field of feminist literary criticism analyze literary works through a feminist lens, meaning they investigate notions like gender inequality and the social construction of gender as they appear and operate in literature. Other famous types of literary criticism include Marxist criticism, postcolonial criticism, and deconstructionism.

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Literary Analysis Essay

Students often have to write literary analysis essays. These are essays in which a writer evaluates a literary text. For example, the following prompt asks the writer to craft a literary analysis essay:

In the second chapter of Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), the protagonist Janie has a meaningful experience under a pear tree. Write an essay analyzing how Hurston uses literary elements and techniques in this scene to convey Janie's dreams for her future.

The above prompt evaluates the writer's knowledge of literary devices and how authors use them. It also tests the writer's ability to analyze the passage from Their Eyes Were Watching God, so it partly depends on the writer's interpretation of the book.

Writing a Literary Analysis Essay

To write a literary analysis essay, readers should follow the following steps.

Read and Understand the Prompt

First, writers should read the prompt several times and ask themselves the following questions:

What is this prompt asking writers to write about?

Does the prompt specify any literary elements that should be considered?

Does the prompt articulate more than one task for writers?

Is this prompt asking about the text as a whole or a specific part of the text?

Use a pen or pencil to highlight keywords in the prompt. This will help you remember the main objective of the literary analysis essay.

Analysing Literature, Highlighter, StudySmarter

Critically Read the Text

Once writers understand the task they must complete for the literary analysis essay, they should carefully read the text they must write about. If the prompt is on an exam, they might have to consult a short passage of text. If the prompt is for an English class, they might have to turn to a book they have already read and review relevant parts.

While reading a text, make notes of essential literary elements. For instance, if you notice that an author consistently uses the same symbol, note all the places in the text where you see that symbol. This will make writing an analysis of the text easier because you will easily find evidence of how the author uses literary elements to create meaning.

Craft a Thesis Statement

Next, writers should construct a thesis statement that addresses all aspects of the prompt. A thesis statement is a defensible claim about the topic that can be supported with evidence. When writing a literary analysis essay, the thesis statement should be about the author's use of literary techniques in the text. You can find an example of a quality thesis statement related to the above prompt on Their Eyes Were Watching God further down.

A strong thesis stands alone as a summary of the whole argument. Readers should be able to read the thesis statement by itself and understand the main point of the essay. The above thesis statement is effective because the writer mentions the title and author of the text, the literary elements they will analyze in the essay, and a claim about the impact of those literary elements on the author's message.

Outline the Essay

Once writers establish their main claim, they can begin outlining how they will support their argument. If they are writing a five-paragraph essay, they should strive to find three distinct supporting points for their thesis and devote body paragraphs to each point. They should then try to find at least two pieces of evidence from the text to support each point.

Choosing short, significant pieces of evidence allows for more in-depth analysis than including long quotes. If you are running low on time when writing a literary analysis essay for an exam, skip the second piece of evidence in a body paragraph and move on to the next paragraph. That way, you at least have at least three supporting points.

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Write the Essay

Writers can then begin writing their analytical essays. They should use a formal academic tone and avoid slang, conjunctions, and colloquialisms. The focus should be on their unique analysis of the evidence they include.

If you are writing a literary analysis essay for a timed exam, you likely won't have time to create a detailed outline. Instead, once you have your thesis, quickly identify three supporting points. Jot them down on scratch paper, followed by page numbers or some keywords from relevant evidence. This will give you a loose idea of the flow of the essay without wasting too much time.

Literary Analysis Example

Imagine you are writing a literary analysis essay on the prompt about Their Eyes Were Watching God .

First, you should identify what this prompt is asking. The prompt asks writers to focus on a specific scene in the second chapter. You should underline that part of the prompt to remember the focus. The prompt also asks the writer to focus on the use of literary elements to comment on the protagonist's dreams. This tells you that your thesis should make a statement about specific literary elements and make a claim about Janie's dreams.

Next, you should turn to the text and identify the scene the prompt is referring to. You should closely read the text to unpack the meaning of individual literary elements. To do this, annotate the text, underlining key terms and literary techniques. Also, jot down notes about what you think the literary elements mean and how the scene connects to larger ideas in the text, such as Janie's character development or the themes of love and identity.

Analysing Literature, Pear Tree, StudySmarter

Consult your notes from the previous step to construct your thesis. What literary elements stuck out to you when you read the text? What do they seem to be suggesting about Janie's dreams? For instance, a strong thesis statement that addresses this prompt would look something like this:

In Chapter 2 of Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston uses vivid imagery, symbolism, and personification to portray Janie's idealistic dreams of a loving marriage.

Why is this a strong thesis? What does the writer do to make it stand alone as a summary of the argument and outline distinct supporting points?

Once you have your thesis statement, you can quickly arrange an outline to follow when writing. For instance, an outline based on the above would include a body paragraph for imagery, one for symbolism, and one for personification.

Finally, you can start writing. Select small pieces of relevant evidence and extract as much meaning as possible from each piece. For example, an excerpt would look like this:

In Chapter 2, the narrator explains that Janie spends all her time under the pear tree. She felt "called" to watch it turn "from barren brown stems to glistening leaf buds; from lead-buds to snowy virginity of bloom. It stirred her tremendously" (42). The imagery of the tree turning from barren to in bloom connects the pear tree to Janie's emerging sexuality. Hurston's choice to use words associated with sex in her description, like "virginity" and "stirred," reinforces that the tree symbolizes Janie's womanhood and reminds the reader of Janie's naivete and inexperience at this point in the novel. The way the tree and the intimate bees under it captivate Janie also suggests that at this point in her life, she has an optimistic viewpoint that marriage guarantees a tender, genuine connection.

Note how the above writer used short quotes and focused on the meaning surrounding specific words. This allows them to connect various literary elements and unpack how these literary choices create a specific meaning.

Literary Analysis - Key Takeaways

Frequently Asked Questions about Literary Analysis

--> what does a literary analysis look like.

Literary analysis involves critically reading and annotating a text and reflecting on how authors used literary elements to create meaning. 

--> What is good literary analysis?

Good literary analysis involves interpreting the meaning of short, significant pieces of evidence from a literary text. 

--> How do you write a literary analysis example?

To write a literary analysis, critically read the text and examine the meaning of literary elements setting, structure, and figurative language. 

--> How do you start a literary analysis essay?

To start a literary analysis essay, critically read the text and note the potential meaning of literary elements. Then construct a defensible claim that addresses the prompt.  

--> How do you start an analysis?

To start an analysis, identify literary elements like setting, text structure, and imagery. 

Final Literary Analysis Quiz

True or False? When a reader analyzes literature it means they explain the plot.

Show answer

False. While reflection on the plot can be an aspect of literary analysis, analyzing literature involves a thorough examination of literary elements like theme and structure.

Show question

Deconstructionism is an example of what?

A literary element 

What is tone in writing?

The attitude the author expresses through writing

Rachel is analyzing her favorite book and asks herself: “Is the narrative linear or non-linear?” What literary element is she analyzing?

Text structure  

What is the first step when writing a literary analysis essay for an exam?

Read and understand the prompt  

What is a thesis statement?

The first sentence of a paragraph that states the topic of the paragraph  

What type of language should writers use when writing a literary analysis essay?

Formal academic language  

Simile, metaphor, and personification are all examples of what?

Figurative language  

What is theme in literature?

The universal idea

Strong literary analysis involves interpreting the meaning of _, significant pieces of evidence from a text.  

of the users don't pass the Literary Analysis quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

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What is Literary Analysis?

"Literary Analysis" is an unfortunate term in some respects. It sounds technical and complicated, and evokes images of scientific dissection, as if a story were being torn apart and impersonally scrutinized under a microscope. We don't mean any of those things by the term "Literary Analysis," and until we think of a better phrase, we use this one in our own peculiar way. To analyze something is to examine it closely so that you can understand it. When applied to literature, this simply means reading carefully to find out what the author is trying to say. The trouble is, "reading carefully" is easier said than done, especially before we have much experience with great literature. Here's where "analysis" comes in. True analysis is simply recognizing the structural elements that make up any story (things like exposition, rising action, climax, denouement, and conclusion) and seeing how an author weaves them together to emphasize his main ideas. The process can dramatically deepen our understanding of his book, while also helping us enjoy it - after all, who can fully enjoy what he doesn't understand? This doesn't mean we will ever come to the end of our understanding of a book, but careful attention helps us experience, delight in, or be moved by a work of art in the way the artist intended. There is danger in refusing to understand an author on his own terms: we may speak over him and come away touting our own opinions instead of engaging with his. As C.S. Lewis says in An Experiment in Criticism , we will only meet ourselves instead of expanding our experience. In the same way that paying close attention to a neighbor during a friendly conversation requires effort by the listener, reading carefully to uncover an author's meaning requires concentration and patience. The truth is, Literary Analysis is neither impersonal, technical, nor complicated - though it can be demanding! But the rewards are well worth the effort.

Literary Analysis

During their learning, students evaluate entire or an aspect of a work in literature. Basically, teachers require students to assess plots, character traits, events, and the overall message conveyed by an author. In this case, students prepare a literary analysis, which should have a clear structure and a flow of ideas. Hence, a literary analysis close examines sections of writings to discover their significance and requires an introduction, thesis statement, a body, and a conclusion.

The Definition of a Literary Analysis

The literary analysis is a close examination of sections of various writings. For example, students analyze any work of literature, like poems, novels, or songs, to have a deeper understanding of literary and rhetorical devices . Along these lines, this type of paper focuses on how various aspects affect the work as a whole. For instance, this analysis may focus on the theme, plot, setting, and characters, among other elements in literature. Hence, the paper focuses on literary devices used by an author to give meaning to his or her work. Thus, the literary analysis is a careful evaluation of the components used by an author and follows specific rules.

Literary analysis

Rules for Papers

The literary analysis relies on specific rules that enhance its quality. For example, this type of paper must focus on one particular topic. In this case, it must have a unique title that reflects on the content. Moreover, the second rule focuses on the structure of a thesis statement . As a rule, the paper should have a clear and declarative thesis statement that recapitulates the entire paper. Basically, the thesis statement must convey the main point of the work. In turn, the third rule requires the paper to follow rules on how to write an introduction , how to write a paragraph , and a conclusion. The three sections ensure that an author gives a clear description of the topic. Thus, the three rules provide that literary analysis has a well thought out structure.  

Introduction in a Literary Analysis

The excellent literary analysis should start with an introduction that forms its context. For instance, the submission should contain the name of the author and the title of the analyzed work. Basically, these details help to inform the reader about the focus of the literary analysis and the overall concept. Also, the introduction should contain a thematic statement. In this case, the presentation should provide the whole idea as it relates to the work under analysis. Besides, the introduction should end with a thesis statement. Thus, an excellent literary essay should have an informative introductory paragraph that guides the body paragraphs. 

Body Paragraphs and Conclusion

An excellent literary analysis should have body paragraphs that have concise argument supported with evidence and a summative conclusion. For instance, each body paragraph should start with a topic sentence followed that focuses on a single point of view. In this case, people need to know how to write a topic sentence . Along these lines, the evidence provided should support the idea in the topic sentence. Besides, every paragraph should end with a strong statement that restates its primary focus. In turn, the last section of the literary analysis is a summative conclusion. The concluding part should summarize the content without adding new ideas. Thus, the body paragraphs and the conclusion should have a good organization.

Conclusion on a Literary Analysis

In conclusion, the literary analysis evaluates other works to provide a new perspective of their significance. As a rule, the literary analysis should have an introduction, thesis statement, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Also, body paragraphs should have the evidence to support the central concept under investigation. Finally, by considering the conclusion examples , it should summarize the ideas presented in the paper.

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What is analysis and what is literary analysis.

meaning of literary analysis

The word analysis is thrown around often and appears to imply numerous ways to understand one particular thing and in no particular discipline, which is okay because academia is all about how you define a term as long as you define it.

Unfortunately, though, analysis is one of the words that reminds me of a scientist in a lab coat who has a vial of blue liquid.

“Yes,” he says, rubbing his chin. “This analysis is going well.”

Yet, outside of the strange connotative qualities, analysis is integral to more communities than just stereotypical scientists in big-budget, end-of-the-world pictures. In fact, if you read and write, analysis is a big part of your life; that is, every short story and every novel and every poem that you read or write is analyzed by you yourself whether you know it or not. Our brain is always analyzing , but sometimes it doesn’t know what to look for when in the moment.

So, today I want to look at the definition of this word to see if it can help some of us think or reflect on our own analyses with a little more clarity…especially if we know what to look for in the text.

The definition of analysis

The definition of analysis as defined by Merriam-Webster is, “a careful study of something to learn about its parts, what they do, and how they are related to each other.” Likewise, the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy defines analysis as, “The process of breaking a concept down into more simple parts, so that its logical structure is displayed.”

As such, we already have a definition that might defy some of your understandings. Analysis isn’t an umbrella term that covers just studying something and poking it with the eraser of a pencil. In fact, according to definitions, it’s about learning about a particular subject’s moving parts and how they relate.

What does this mean in the context of literary analysis?

Understanding analysis helps us understand something you are probably aware of that appears in academia: literary analysis.

As literary analysis has been defined, it is “not merely a summary of a literary work,” but rather “an argument about the work that expresses a writer’s personal perspective…” Thus, it’s not just our opinion, but our perspective on a work using our own background and understanding.

“This is accomplished by examining the literary devices, word choices, or writing structures the author uses within the work. The purpose of a literary analysis is to demonstrate why the author used specific ideas, word choices, or writing structures to convey his or her message (Germanna).

Think about it.

We could analyze a single author’s works just by looking at literary conventions such as form and tone .

I am unabashedly a big fan of Ray Bradbury, and I know that his work and tone differ from book to book because I have read a great deal of his work. For example, if you read The Martian Chronicles, then you will know that this book is a collection of short stories (form) that is filled with curiosity and imagination (tone). However, if you read Something Wicked this Way Comes by the same author then you will see that it’s a full-length novel (form) that is dark and mysterious (tone). This is a surface-level interpretation but I can also use my own experiences with imagination, wonder, horror, and mystery to inform my analysis.

Our quick examination, and comparisons and contrasts, help us analyze the text by understanding a subjects’ form and tone (short stories, novels, or poems); yet, we can look at any literary conventions of a text (aside from form and tone), whether that be the characters, the plot, or the theme (or whatever) to conduct our own analysis.

Works Cited

Academic Center for Excellence. “Writing a Literary Analysis Paper.” Germanna Community College, Feb. 2AD,     

Analysis > Definitions and Descriptions of Analysis (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

Definition of ANALYSIS. 20 Nov. 818,

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What Is Analysis?

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How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay | A Step-by-Step Guide

Published on January 30, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on September 2, 2022.

Literary analysis means closely studying a text, interpreting its meanings, and exploring why the author made certain choices. It can be applied to novels, short stories, plays, poems, or any other form of literary writing.

A literary analysis essay is not a rhetorical analysis , nor is it just a summary of the plot or a book review. Instead, it is a type of argumentative essay where you need to analyze elements such as the language, perspective, and structure of the text, and explain how the author uses literary devices to create effects and convey ideas.

Before beginning a literary analysis essay, it’s essential to carefully read the text and c ome up with a thesis statement to keep your essay focused. As you write, follow the standard structure of an academic essay :

Table of contents

Step 1: reading the text and identifying literary devices, step 2: coming up with a thesis, step 3: writing a title and introduction, step 4: writing the body of the essay, step 5: writing a conclusion.

The first step is to carefully read the text(s) and take initial notes. As you read, pay attention to the things that are most intriguing, surprising, or even confusing in the writing—these are things you can dig into in your analysis.

Your goal in literary analysis is not simply to explain the events described in the text, but to analyze the writing itself and discuss how the text works on a deeper level. Primarily, you’re looking out for literary devices —textual elements that writers use to convey meaning and create effects. If you’re comparing and contrasting multiple texts, you can also look for connections between different texts.

To get started with your analysis, there are several key areas that you can focus on. As you analyze each aspect of the text, try to think about how they all relate to each other. You can use highlights or notes to keep track of important passages and quotes.

Language choices

Consider what style of language the author uses. Are the sentences short and simple or more complex and poetic?

What word choices stand out as interesting or unusual? Are words used figuratively to mean something other than their literal definition? Figurative language includes things like metaphor (e.g. “her eyes were oceans”) and simile (e.g. “her eyes were like oceans”).

Also keep an eye out for imagery in the text—recurring images that create a certain atmosphere or symbolize something important. Remember that language is used in literary texts to say more than it means on the surface.

Narrative voice

Ask yourself:

Is it a first-person narrator (“I”) who is personally involved in the story, or a third-person narrator who tells us about the characters from a distance?

Consider the narrator’s perspective . Is the narrator omniscient (where they know everything about all the characters and events), or do they only have partial knowledge? Are they an unreliable narrator who we are not supposed to take at face value? Authors often hint that their narrator might be giving us a distorted or dishonest version of events.

The tone of the text is also worth considering. Is the story intended to be comic, tragic, or something else? Are usually serious topics treated as funny, or vice versa ? Is the story realistic or fantastical (or somewhere in between)?

Consider how the text is structured, and how the structure relates to the story being told.

Think about why the author chose to divide the different parts of the text in the way they did.

There are also less formal structural elements to take into account. Does the story unfold in chronological order, or does it jump back and forth in time? Does it begin in medias res —in the middle of the action? Does the plot advance towards a clearly defined climax?

With poetry, consider how the rhyme and meter shape your understanding of the text and your impression of the tone. Try reading the poem aloud to get a sense of this.

In a play, you might consider how relationships between characters are built up through different scenes, and how the setting relates to the action. Watch out for  dramatic irony , where the audience knows some detail that the characters don’t, creating a double meaning in their words, thoughts, or actions.

Your thesis in a literary analysis essay is the point you want to make about the text. It’s the core argument that gives your essay direction and prevents it from just being a collection of random observations about a text.

If you’re given a prompt for your essay, your thesis must answer or relate to the prompt. For example:

Essay question example

Is Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” a religious parable?

Your thesis statement should be an answer to this question—not a simple yes or no, but a statement of why this is or isn’t the case:

Thesis statement example

Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” is not a religious parable, but a story about bureaucratic alienation.

Sometimes you’ll be given freedom to choose your own topic; in this case, you’ll have to come up with an original thesis. Consider what stood out to you in the text; ask yourself questions about the elements that interested you, and consider how you might answer them.

Your thesis should be something arguable—that is, something that you think is true about the text, but which is not a simple matter of fact. It must be complex enough to develop through evidence and arguments across the course of your essay.

Say you’re analyzing the novel Frankenstein . You could start by asking yourself:

Your initial answer might be a surface-level description:

The character Frankenstein is portrayed negatively in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein .

However, this statement is too simple to be an interesting thesis. After reading the text and analyzing its narrative voice and structure, you can develop the answer into a more nuanced and arguable thesis statement:

Mary Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as.

Remember that you can revise your thesis statement throughout the writing process , so it doesn’t need to be perfectly formulated at this stage. The aim is to keep you focused as you analyze the text.

Finding textual evidence

To support your thesis statement, your essay will build an argument using textual evidence —specific parts of the text that demonstrate your point. This evidence is quoted and analyzed throughout your essay to explain your argument to the reader.

It can be useful to comb through the text in search of relevant quotations before you start writing. You might not end up using everything you find, and you may have to return to the text for more evidence as you write, but collecting textual evidence from the beginning will help you to structure your arguments and assess whether they’re convincing.

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meaning of literary analysis

To start your literary analysis paper, you’ll need two things: a good title, and an introduction.

Your title should clearly indicate what your analysis will focus on. It usually contains the name of the author and text(s) you’re analyzing. Keep it as concise and engaging as possible.

A common approach to the title is to use a relevant quote from the text, followed by a colon and then the rest of your title.

If you struggle to come up with a good title at first, don’t worry—this will be easier once you’ve begun writing the essay and have a better sense of your arguments.

“Fearful symmetry” : The violence of creation in William Blake’s “The Tyger”

The introduction

The essay introduction provides a quick overview of where your argument is going. It should include your thesis statement and a summary of the essay’s structure.

A typical structure for an introduction is to begin with a general statement about the text and author, using this to lead into your thesis statement. You might refer to a commonly held idea about the text and show how your thesis will contradict it, or zoom in on a particular device you intend to focus on.

Then you can end with a brief indication of what’s coming up in the main body of the essay. This is called signposting. It will be more elaborate in longer essays, but in a short five-paragraph essay structure, it shouldn’t be more than one sentence.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.

Some students prefer to write the introduction later in the process, and it’s not a bad idea. After all, you’ll have a clearer idea of the overall shape of your arguments once you’ve begun writing them!

If you do write the introduction first, you should still return to it later to make sure it lines up with what you ended up writing, and edit as necessary.

The body of your essay is everything between the introduction and conclusion. It contains your arguments and the textual evidence that supports them.

Paragraph structure

A typical structure for a high school literary analysis essay consists of five paragraphs : the three paragraphs of the body, plus the introduction and conclusion.

Each paragraph in the main body should focus on one topic. In the five-paragraph model, try to divide your argument into three main areas of analysis, all linked to your thesis. Don’t try to include everything you can think of to say about the text—only analysis that drives your argument.

In longer essays, the same principle applies on a broader scale. For example, you might have two or three sections in your main body, each with multiple paragraphs. Within these sections, you still want to begin new paragraphs at logical moments—a turn in the argument or the introduction of a new idea.

Robert’s first encounter with Gil-Martin suggests something of his sinister power. Robert feels “a sort of invisible power that drew me towards him.” He identifies the moment of their meeting as “the beginning of a series of adventures which has puzzled myself, and will puzzle the world when I am no more in it” (p. 89). Gil-Martin’s “invisible power” seems to be at work even at this distance from the moment described; before continuing the story, Robert feels compelled to anticipate at length what readers will make of his narrative after his approaching death. With this interjection, Hogg emphasizes the fatal influence Gil-Martin exercises from his first appearance.

Topic sentences

To keep your points focused, it’s important to use a topic sentence at the beginning of each paragraph.

A good topic sentence allows a reader to see at a glance what the paragraph is about. It can introduce a new line of argument and connect or contrast it with the previous paragraph. Transition words like “however” or “moreover” are useful for creating smooth transitions:

… The story’s focus, therefore, is not upon the divine revelation that may be waiting beyond the door, but upon the mundane process of aging undergone by the man as he waits.

Nevertheless, the “radiance” that appears to stream from the door is typically treated as religious symbolism.

This topic sentence signals that the paragraph will address the question of religious symbolism, while the linking word “nevertheless” points out a contrast with the previous paragraph’s conclusion.

Using textual evidence

A key part of literary analysis is backing up your arguments with relevant evidence from the text. This involves introducing quotes from the text and explaining their significance to your point.

It’s important to contextualize quotes and explain why you’re using them; they should be properly introduced and analyzed, not treated as self-explanatory:

It isn’t always necessary to use a quote. Quoting is useful when you’re discussing the author’s language, but sometimes you’ll have to refer to plot points or structural elements that can’t be captured in a short quote.

In these cases, it’s more appropriate to paraphrase or summarize parts of the text—that is, to describe the relevant part in your own words:

The conclusion of your analysis shouldn’t introduce any new quotations or arguments. Instead, it’s about wrapping up the essay. Here, you summarize your key points and try to emphasize their significance to the reader.

A good way to approach this is to briefly summarize your key arguments, and then stress the conclusion they’ve led you to, highlighting the new perspective your thesis provides on the text as a whole:

By tracing the depiction of Frankenstein through the novel’s three volumes, I have demonstrated how the narrative structure shifts our perception of the character. While the Frankenstein of the first volume is depicted as having innocent intentions, the second and third volumes—first in the creature’s accusatory voice, and then in his own voice—increasingly undermine him, causing him to appear alternately ridiculous and vindictive. Far from the one-dimensional villain he is often taken to be, the character of Frankenstein is compelling because of the dynamic narrative frame in which he is placed. In this frame, Frankenstein’s narrative self-presentation responds to the images of him we see from others’ perspectives. This conclusion sheds new light on the novel, foregrounding Shelley’s unique layering of narrative perspectives and its importance for the depiction of character.

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