Literary Analysis Essay Breakdown Express

University studies always require students to make a critical analysis of a research paper, painting, literary piece, etc. Students in the fields of Science and Arts have to make a critical analysis of previous works because these analyses will prove how well you have mastered a certain profession and use it as a basis to dissect work. If you’re having trouble making a critical analysis, EssayPro is here to help.


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Definition

A critical analysis definition would be an academic paper designed to understand a certain written work. This kind of writing is subjective because you have to express personal opinions as evaluation. Two major steps you have to make in this kind of essay are Critical Reading and Critical Writing. On how to write a critical analysis paper, you should be able to express your opinions based on experience.

How to Write a Critical Analysis

The first step mentioned earlier in a critical path analysis is critical reading. To read critically, identify the author’s purpose and analysis. Take note of the passage’s main ideas and the paragraphs supporting the main idea. Consult proper reference materials for things that you do not comprehend. Write a description, outline, and a summary of the work. It’s important to consider the written work’s purpose. Is it factual? Is it written to entertain? Is it written to express an opinion? Asking these questions will help you write and synthesize. Evaluate if the author has achieved the purpose of his or her written work.

Outline

Most instructors will readily provide an outline or sample to help students make an organized written critical analysis. These outlines serve as a skeleton of how you want your written work to be structured. This is why in any academic paper, making an outline is a fundamental element. If you are not provided with an outline, you can follow this outline below:

  • Background Information: This is to make readers have an understanding or an overview of the work you’re going to evaluate. This is to ensure that important details are provided. This is an important part of the critical analysis because this will be your basis for evaluation. The information should be brief.
  • Information about the work:
  • Title
  • Author
  • Publication information
  • Statement of topic and purpose
  • Thesis statement indicating writer's main reaction to the work
  • Summary: This is another fundamental part of the critical analysis because to create a summary, you have to read critically.
  • Interpretation: Writing this part will vary from person to person. This interpretation should be subjective. It should be based on your experiences and honest opinions be it negative or positive. The way you will evaluate in this part of the essay will reflect who you are and your proficiency.
  • Discussion of the work's organization
  • Discussion of the work's style
  • Effectiveness
  • Discussion of the topic's treatment
  • Discussion of appeal to a particular audience

You could go on and search for critical analysis examples if you were not given one in class. These examples should answer some of your questions. Avoid opening statements like “I think…” and “In my opinion…” Your essay should focus on the analysis itself and not on you.

Your analysis should answer the following questions:

  • Is there a controversy surrounding either the passage or the subject which it concerns?
  • What about the subject matter is of current interest?
  • What is the overall value of the passage?
  • What are its strengths and weaknesses?

Take note of the rubrics or guide questions given to you. These are meant to make sure you will not miss details in your analysis. Support your statements with the text given to you. Remember that the purpose of critical analysis is not merely to inform, but also to evaluate the worth, utility, excellence, distinction, truth, validity, beauty, or goodness of something. Although, you will be expressing your opinions, make sure that you will be fair and well informed. Explore different sides of the analysis yet stand firm on what you believe in. Express your opinions honestly. Your review should provide information, interpretation, and evaluation. The information will help your reader understand the nature of the work under analysis. The interpretation will explain the meaning of the work, therefore requiring your correct understanding of it. The evaluation will discuss your opinions of the work and present valid justification for them.

Related article: How to Write an Analytical Essay

Essay Writing Advice From Our Professional Team

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The ability to critically analyze will come in handy in many different essays and exams. As the article stresses, critical analysis is subjective and should express your opinion. Approximately half of the paper should be your analysis and the other half would be your critique. As the article states, if this paper has your name on it, you do not need to use inclusive pronouns and phrases like “I think”. My advice is to make sure to support every critique that you have by some evidence in the analysis section. If your film teacher wants you to analyze a movie critically, draw opinions and conclusions from facts, not just because you think “it was entertaining” and “the special effects were good.” Support each and every one of your assumptions and your essay will be a success. Ask yourself “why” do you feel this way about a certain piece of writing.

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Literary Analysis: Using Elements of Literature

Students are asked to write literary analysis essays because this type of assignment encourages you to think about how and why a poem, short story, novel, or play was written.  To successfully analyze literature, you’ll need to remember that authors make specific choices for particular reasons.  Your essay should point out the author’s choices and attempt to explain their significance. 

Another way to look at a literary analysis is to consider a piece of literature from your own perspective.  Rather than thinking about the author’s intentions, you can develop an argument based on any single term (or combination of terms) listed below.  You’ll just need to use the original text to defend and explain your argument to the reader.

Allegory - narrative form in which the characters are representative of some larger humanistic trait (i.e. greed, vanity, or bravery) and attempt to convey some larger lesson or meaning to life. Although allegory was originally and traditionally character based, modern allegories tend to parallel story and theme.

  • William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily- the decline of the Old South
  • Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde- man’s struggle to contain his inner primal instincts
  • District 9- South African Apartheid
  • X Men- the evils of prejudice
  • Harry Potter- the dangers of seeking “racial purity”

Character - representation of a person, place, or thing performing traditionally human activities or functions in a work of fiction

  • Protagonist - The character the story revolves around.
  • Antagonist - A character or force that opposes the protagonist.
  • Minor character - Often provides support and illuminates the protagonist.
  • Static character - A character that remains the same.
  • Dynamic character - A character that changes in some important way.
  • Characterization - The choices an author makes to reveal a character’s personality, such as appearance, actions, dialogue, and motivations.  

Look for: Connections, links, and clues between and about characters. Ask yourself what the function and significance of each character is. Make this determination based upon the character's history, what the reader is told (and not told), and what other characters say about themselves and others.

Connotation - implied meaning of word. BEWARE! Connotations can change over time.

  • confidence/ arrogance
  • mouse/ rat
  • cautious/ scared
  • curious/ nosey
  • frugal/ cheap

Denotation - dictionary definition of a word

Diction - word choice that both conveys and emphasizes the meaning or theme of a poem through distinctions in sound, look, rhythm, syllable, letters, and definition  

Figurative language - the use of words to express meaning beyond the literal meaning of the words themselves

  • Metaphor - contrasting to seemingly unalike things to enhance the meaning of a situation or theme without using like or as  
    • You are the sunshine of my life.
  • Simile - contrasting to seemingly unalike things to enhance the meaning of a situation or theme using like or as  
    • What happens to a dream deferred, does it dry up like a raisin in the sun
  • Hyperbole - exaggeration
    • I have a million things to do today.
  • Personification - giving non-human objects human characteristics
    • America has thrown her hat into the ring, and will be joining forces with the British.

Foot - grouping of stressed and unstressed syllables used in line or poem

  • Iamb - unstressed syllable followed by stressed
    • Made famous by the Shakespearian sonnet, closest to the natural rhythm of human speech
      • How do I love thee? Let me count the ways
  • Spondee - stressed stressed
    • Used to add emphasis and break up monotonous rhythm
      • Blood boil, mind-meld, well- loved
  • Trochee - stressed unstressed
    • Often used in children’s rhymes and to help with memorization, gives poem a hurried feeling
      • While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
  • Anapest - unstressed unstressed stressed
    • Often used in longer poems or “rhymed stories”
      • Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
  • Dactyls - stressed unstressed unstressed
    • Often used in classical Greek or Latin text, later revived by the Romantics, then again by the Beatles, often thought to create a heartbeat or pulse in a poem
      • Picture yourself in a boat on a river,
        With tangerine trees and marmalade skies.

The iamb stumbles through my books; trochees rush and tumble; while anapest runs like a hurrying brook; dactyls are stately and classical.

Imagery - the author’s attempt to create a mental picture (or reference point) in the mind of the reader. Remember, though the most immediate forms of imagery are visual, strong and effective imagery can be used to invoke an emotional, sensational (taste, touch, smell etc) or even physical response.

Meter - measure or structuring of rhythm in a poem

Plot - the arrangement of ideas and/or incidents that make up a story

  • Foreshadowing - When the writer clues the reader in to something that will eventually occur in the story; it may be explicit (obvious) or implied (disguised).
  • Suspense - The tension that the author uses to create a feeling of discomfort about the unknown
  • Conflict - Struggle between opposing forces.
  • Exposition - Background information regarding the setting, characters, plot.
  • Rising Action - The process the story follows as it builds to its main conflict
  • Crisis - A significant turning point in the story that determines how it must end
  • Resolution/Denouement - The way the story turns out.

Point of View - pertains to who tells the story and how it is told. The point of view of a story can sometimes indirectly establish the author's intentions.

  • Narrator - The person telling the story who may or may not be a character in the story.
  • First-person - Narrator participates in action but sometimes has limited knowledge/vision.
  • Second person - Narrator addresses the reader directly as though she is part of the story. (i.e. “You walk into your bedroom.  You see clutter everywhere and…”)
  • Third Person (Objective) - Narrator is unnamed/unidentified (a detached observer). Does not assume character's perspective and is not a character in the story. The narrator reports on events and lets the reader supply the meaning.
  • Omniscient - All-knowing narrator (multiple perspectives). The narrator knows what each character is thinking and feeling, not just what they are doing throughout the story.  This type of narrator usually jumps around within the text, following one character for a few pages or chapters, and then switching to another character for a few pages, chapters, etc. Omniscient narrators also sometimes step out of a particular character’s mind to evaluate him or her in some meaningful way.

Rhythm - often thought of as a poem’s timing. Rhythm is the juxtaposition of stressed and unstressed beats in a poem, and is often used to give the reader a lens through which to move through the work. (See meter and foot)

Setting - the place or location of the action.  The setting provides the historical and cultural context for characters. It often can symbolize the emotional state of characters. Example – In Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, the crumbling old mansion reflects the decaying state of both the family and the narrator’s mind. We also see this type of emphasis on setting in Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice.

Speaker - the person delivering the poem. Remember, a poem does not have to have a speaker, and the speaker and the poet are not necessarily one in the same.

Structure (fiction) - The way that the writer arranges the plot of a story.

Look for: Repeated elements in action, gesture, dialogue, description, as well as shifts in direction, focus, time, place, etc.

Structure(poetry) - The pattern of organization of a poem. For example, a Shakespearean sonnet is a 14-line poem written in iambic pentameter. Because the sonnet is strictly constrained, it is considered a closed or fixed form. An open or free form poem has looser form, or perhaps one of the author’s invention, but it is important to remember that these poems  are not necessarily formless.

Symbolism - when an object is meant to be representative of something or an idea greater than the object itself.

  • Cross - representative of Christ or Christianity
  • Bald Eagle - America or Patriotism
  • Owl - wisdom or knowledge
  • Yellow - implies cowardice or rot

Tone - the implied attitude towards the subject of the poem. Is it hopeful, pessimistic, dreary, worried? A poet conveys tone by combining all of the elements listed above to create a precise impression on the reader.

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