The Early and Mid-Nineteenth Century: Romanticism

Literary Analysis

Conduct and write a literary analysis about any work you have read in this unit.

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Reread the work you select, making note of any particular literary element that stands out. Choose the literary element and aspect of the text that you will examine in your analysis. Follow the procedure outlined below to write your literary analysis. Your paper should be approximately two to three pages in length. It should include a logical introduction, body, and conclusion that develops and supports your thesis. Include a works cited page as well as in-text citations in MLA format to document your sources, including the literary text you selected to analyze.

Writing a Literary Analysis

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Initial Stages

A literary analysis is an essay interpreting the significance of a specific aspect of one or more literary works. In this assignment, you will write a literary analysis of a work that you have read in this unit. This assignment is preparation for the literary analysis of a novel and a play that you will complete later in the course.

Literary analyses focus on one literary element in a text and examine how that element affects the entire work. The literary element could be the setting, characterization, diction, plot, theme, structure, or symbolism. It could also be the author’s style or tone. The essay would then discuss how that element affects the rest of the work. Literary analyses are also used to compare how authors use an element or device in multiple works.

The first step in writing a literary analysis is to select a work and reread it to recall details. While you read, highlight or take notes on significant details. Develop a working thesis statement that you will prove through your literary analysis. Consider this sample thesis statement:

The narrator’s reactions to the wallpaper in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” reflect the way others treat her.

This thesis suggests the literary analysis will investigate the connection between symbolism and characterization. In a literary analysis based on this thesis statement, all quotations used from the text should support the thesis. As you research and plan your literary analysis, search for performances of the literary piece, such as a recorded reading or performance, to see how the performer or reader interprets the literary characteristic you selected.

Creating an Outline

As you reread the work, record quotations that may support your thesis statement. Organize the thesis and supporting quotations into an outline, which can be used as a basis for developing your essay. Your outline may include explanations of the quotations, as well as notes about theme or other literary nuances that may help trigger ideas for your essay.

Examine the outline for the thesis statement about “The Yellow Wallpaper.”

As you construct your outline, select quotations that will support your thesis statement. Remember that even though quotations provide excellent support for a thesis statement, they must be explained thoroughly and refer to the thesis. The order of the supporting evidence cited should also help prove the accuracy of the thesis.

Writing, Editing, and Proofreading

Once you are ready to write your literary analysis, follow the drafting process. Expand the supporting points in your outline into full paragraphs by explaining your cited quotations. To avoid overloading your essay with quotations, limit the length of the explanation following each quotation to about twice the length of the quotation itself.

Quotations should be incorporated seamlessly into your writing. Like a research source, the author and page should be noted in parentheses after the quotation. If the quotation that you are using is more than four lines, indent it to create a block quotation. Quotation formatting is outlined below.

in-text quotation

John patronizes the narrator when he tolerates her fear of the wallpaper, such as when he speaks to her as a child, saying, “‘Bless her little heart! . . . she shall be as sick as she pleases!'” (Gilman 777).

block quotation

The narrator describes the wallpaper:

The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight. It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others. (Gilman 771)

By detailing the wallpaper so intricately, Gilman allows the reader to imagine how grotesque it is and how haunting it is to the narrator. This approach places the reader in the position of the narrator, thus creating empathy for her.

After completing a rough draft, edit your literary analysis to be sure the paragraphs support and strengthen your thesis statement. Because the thesis statement was a work in progress, it and the supporting evidence you use may change slightly as you edit. Additionally, edit with an eye for organization and effective use of transitions. When you have finished editing, be sure to proofread for grammatical and spelling errors.

Finally, incorporate your ideas in a concise but meaningful manner that clearly and convincingly explains your thesis. Your final product should be two to three pages in length. Include a works cited page outlining your sources, including your chosen literary work.

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