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The Literary Analysis Essay

September 22, 2015 - Posted to Helpful tips and How-to's The Literary Analysis Essay

The Literary Analysis Essay

To analyze anything, whether a piece of literature or anything else, means that you will break it down into its component parts, look at each of those parts critically, and then put it back together and give an overall evaluation or judgment. Students are often nervous about the term “analysis,” but it really is probably not as scary as they may think. If you are tasked with a literary analysis essay, you will be taking a look at the elements of literature as they relate to the piece and discussing them.

Basic Elements of Literature

Fiction: All fiction has the same basic elements, and here is what you must address as you write an analysis.

  1. Plot: Did the plot hold your interest? Did if flow logically from the initial conflict(s) through to the climax and denouement?
  2. Conflict: What was the conflict in the plot – man vs. man; man vs. nature; man vs. supernatural? Was the conflict evident and was it resolved by the climax?
  3. Characters: Were the characters believable? Were they consistent in their words and actions throughout the piece?
  4. Setting: How did the setting enrich the plot? Could the tale just have easily occurred in another time and place?
  5. Theme: All literary fiction will have a theme. What is the major point(s) the author is trying to convey? Is s/he making a statement about human nature, about good and evil, about society and/or it institutions, about religion? Was the theme made evident to you as you read the work?

Non-Fiction: You do not have a plot and characters in a work of non-fiction, but you do have some basic elements to discuss.

  1. General topic area of the work: Has the author made it clear what the work is about?
  2. Points made: What are the points made by the author? Were they clear and were they supported by evidence and/or data? Were there obvious biases present?
  3. What is the background of the author? Does s/he have the expertise and the background to credibly write on this topic?
  4. What does the author want the reader to do with the information/points s/he has presented?

Once you have analyzed all of the elements of a piece of writing, you job is then to reflect, respond and evaluate in some way. Overall, was the author’s purpose achieved? What did you learn or how did you grow in some way from you analysis?

Structuring Your Essay

There is no set order in which you will address each of the elements of your analysis. You may choose to place them in any order you wish. A literary analysis essay outline should be developed, though, even if it is only in rough form. You may wish to move from the most important elements to the least important of vice versa. But that outline will give you a good “map,” so that you do not leave anything out.


A literary analysis essay can be a difficult task for anyone without the experience of writing many of them. If so, it might be a good idea to search online for some samples or request help from a writing service. You will get better at these with each one you write.

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