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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.

What can proofreading do for your paper?

Scribbr editors not only correct grammar and spelling mistakes, but also strengthen your writing by making sure your paper is free of vague language, redundant words, and awkward phrasing.

literary response essay

See editing example

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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Caulfield, J. (2022, September 02). How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay | A Step-by-Step Guide. Scribbr. Retrieved March 13, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/academic-essay/literary-analysis/

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How to Write Literary Analysis


When you read for pleasure, your only goal is enjoyment. You might find yourself reading to get caught up in an exciting story, to learn about an interesting time or place, or just to pass time. Maybe you’re looking for inspiration, guidance, or a reflection of your own life. There are as many different, valid ways of reading a book as there are books in the world.

When you read a work of literature in an English class, however, you’re being asked to read in a special way: you’re being asked to perform literary analysis. To analyze something means to break it down into smaller parts and then examine how those parts work, both individually and together. Literary analysis involves examining all the parts of a novel, play, short story, or poem—elements such as character, setting, tone, and imagery—and thinking about how the author uses those elements to create certain effects.

A literary essay isn’t a book review: you’re not being asked whether or not you liked a book or whether you’d recommend it to another reader. A literary essay also isn’t like the kind of book report you wrote when you were younger, where your teacher wanted you to summarize the book’s action. A high school- or college-level literary essay asks, “How does this piece of literature actually work?” “How does it do what it does?” and, “Why might the author have made the choices he or she did?”

The Seven Steps

No one is born knowing how to analyze literature; it’s a skill you learn and a process you can master. As you gain more practice with this kind of thinking and writing, you’ll be able to craft a method that works best for you. But until then, here are seven basic steps to writing a well-constructed literary essay.

1 Ask Questions

When you’re assigned a literary essay in class, your teacher will often provide you with a list of writing prompts. Lucky you! Now all you have to do is choose one. Do yourself a favor and pick a topic that interests you. You’ll have a much better (not to mention easier) time if you start off with something you enjoy thinking about. If you are asked to come up with a topic by yourself, though, you might start to feel a little panicked. Maybe you have too many ideas—or none at all. Don’t worry. Take a deep breath and start by asking yourself these questions:

What struck you?

Did a particular image, line, or scene linger in your mind for a long time? If it fascinated you, chances are you can draw on it to write a fascinating essay.

What confused you?

Maybe you were surprised to see a character act in a certain way, or maybe you didn’t understand why the book ended the way it did. Confusing moments in a work of literature are like a loose thread in a sweater: if you pull on it, you can unravel the entire thing. Ask yourself why the author chose to write about that character or scene the way he or she did and you might tap into some important insights about the work as a whole.

Did you notice any patterns?

Is there a phrase that the main character uses constantly or an image that repeats throughout the book? If you can figure out how that pattern weaves through the work and what the significance of that pattern is, you’ve almost got your entire essay mapped out.

Did you notice any contradictions or ironies?

Great works of literature are complex; great literary essays recognize and explain those complexities. Maybe the title Happy Days totally disagrees with the book’s subject matter (hungry orphans dying in the woods). Maybe the main character acts one way around his family and a completely different way around his friends and associates. If you can find a way to explain a work’s contradictory elements, you’ve got the seeds of a great essay.

At this point, you don’t need to know exactly what you’re going to say about your topic; you just need a place to begin your exploration. You can help direct your reading and brainstorming by formulating your topic as a question, which you’ll then try to answer in your essay. The best questions invite critical debates and discussions, not just a rehashing of the summary. Remember, you’re looking for something you can prove or argue based on evidence you find in the text. Finally, remember to keep the scope of your question in mind: is this a topic you can adequately address within the word or page limit you’ve been given? Conversely, is this a topic big enough to fill the required length?

Good questions

“Are Romeo and Juliet’s parents responsible for the deaths of their children?”

“Why do pigs keep showing up in Lord of the Flies ?”

“Are Dr. Frankenstein and his monster alike? How?”

Bad questions

“What happens to Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird ?”

“What do the other characters in Julius Caesar think about Caesar?”

“How does Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter remind me of my sister?”

2 Collect Evidence

Once you know what question you want to answer, it’s time to scour the book for things that will help you answer the question. Don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to say yet—right now you’re just collecting ideas and material and letting it all percolate. Keep track of passages, symbols, images, or scenes that deal with your topic. Eventually, you’ll start making connections between these examples and your thesis will emerge.

Here’s a brief summary of the various parts that compose each and every work of literature. These are the elements that you will analyze in your essay, and which you will offer as evidence to support your arguments. For more on the parts of literary works, see the Glossary of Literary Terms at the end of this section.

Elements of Story

These are the whats of the work—what happens, where it happens, and to whom it happens.

Elements of Style

These are the hows —how the characters speak, how the story is constructed, and how language is used throughout the work.

Structure and organization

Point of view, figurative language, 3 construct a thesis.

When you’ve examined all the evidence you’ve collected and know how you want to answer the question, it’s time to write your thesis statement. A thesis is a claim about a work of literature that needs to be supported by evidence and arguments. The thesis statement is the heart of the literary essay, and the bulk of your paper will be spent trying to prove this claim. A good thesis will be:

“ The Great Gatsby describes New York society in the 1920s” isn’t a thesis—it’s a fact.

Provable through textual evidence.

“ Hamlet is a confusing but ultimately very well-written play” is a weak thesis because it offers the writer’s personal opinion about the book. Yes, it’s arguable, but it’s not a claim that can be proved or supported with examples taken from the play itself.


“Both George and Lenny change a great deal in Of Mice and Men ” is a weak thesis because it’s obvious. A really strong thesis will argue for a reading of the text that is not immediately apparent.

“Dr. Frankenstein’s monster tells us a lot about the human condition” is almost a really great thesis statement, but it’s still too vague. What does the writer mean by “a lot”? How does the monster tell us so much about the human condition?

Good Thesis Statements

Question: In Romeo and Juliet , which is more powerful in shaping the lovers’ story: fate or foolishness?

Thesis: “Though Shakespeare defines Romeo and Juliet as ‘star- crossed lovers’ and images of stars and planets appear throughout the play, a closer examination of that celestial imagery reveals that the stars are merely witnesses to the characters’ foolish activities and not the causes themselves.”

Question: How does the bell jar function as a symbol in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar ?

Thesis: “A bell jar is a bell-shaped glass that has three basic uses: to hold a specimen for observation, to contain gases, and to maintain a vacuum. The bell jar appears in each of these capacities in The Bell Jar , Plath’s semi-autobiographical novel, and each appearance marks a different stage in Esther’s mental breakdown.”

Question: Would Piggy in The Lord of the Flies make a good island leader if he were given the chance?

Thesis: “Though the intelligent, rational, and innovative Piggy has the mental characteristics of a good leader, he ultimately lacks the social skills necessary to be an effective one. Golding emphasizes this point by giving Piggy a foil in the charismatic Jack, whose magnetic personality allows him to capture and wield power effectively, if not always wisely.”

4 Develop and Organize Arguments

The reasons and examples that support your thesis will form the middle paragraphs of your essay. Since you can’t really write your thesis statement until you know how you’ll structure your argument, you’ll probably end up working on steps 3 and 4 at the same time.

There’s no single method of argumentation that will work in every context. One essay prompt might ask you to compare and contrast two characters, while another asks you to trace an image through a given work of literature. These questions require different kinds of answers and therefore different kinds of arguments. Below, we’ll discuss three common kinds of essay prompts and some strategies for constructing a solid, well-argued case.

Types of Literary Essays

Compare and contrast.

Compare and contrast the characters of Huck and Jim in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn .

Chances are you’ve written this kind of essay before. In an academic literary context, you’ll organize your arguments the same way you would in any other class. You can either go subject by subject or point by point . In the former, you’ll discuss one character first and then the second. In the latter, you’ll choose several traits (attitude toward life, social status, images and metaphors associated with the character) and devote a paragraph to each. You may want to use a mix of these two approaches—for example, you may want to spend a paragraph apiece broadly sketching Huck’s and Jim’s personalities before transitioning into a paragraph or two that describes a few key points of comparison. This can be a highly effective strategy if you want to make a counterintuitive argument—that, despite seeming to be totally different, the two objects being compared are actually similar in a very important way (or vice versa). Remember that your essay should reveal something fresh or unexpected about the text, so think beyond the obvious parallels and differences.

Choose an image—for example, birds, knives, or eyes—and trace that image throughout Macbeth .

Sounds pretty easy, right? All you need to do is read the play, underline every appearance of a knife in Macbeth , and then list them in your essay in the order they appear, right? Well, not exactly. Your teacher doesn’t want a simple catalog of examples. He or she wants to see you make connections between those examples—that’s the difference between summarizing and analyzing. In the Macbeth example above, think about the different contexts in which knives appear in the play and to what effect. In Macbeth , there are real knives and imagined knives; knives that kill and knives that simply threaten. Categorize and classify your examples to give them some order. Finally, always keep the overall effect in mind. After you choose and analyze your examples, you should come to some greater understanding about the work, as well as your chosen image, symbol, or phrase’s role in developing the major themes and stylistic strategies of that work.

Is the society depicted in 1984 good for its citizens?

In this kind of essay, you’re being asked to debate a moral, ethical, or aesthetic issue regarding the work. You might be asked to judge a character or group of characters ( Is Caesar responsible for his own demise ?) or the work itself ( Is Jane Eyre a feminist novel ?). For this kind of essay, there are two important points to keep in mind. First, don’t simply base your arguments on your personal feelings and reactions. Every literary essay expects you to read and analyze the work, so search for evidence in the text. What do characters in 1984 have to say about the government of Oceania? What images does Orwell use that might give you a hint about his attitude toward the government? As in any debate, you also need to make sure that you define all the necessary terms before you begin to argue your case. What does it mean to be a “good” society? What makes a novel “feminist”? You should define your terms right up front, in the first paragraph after your introduction.

Second, remember that strong literary essays make contrary and surprising arguments. Try to think outside the box. In the 1984 example above, it seems like the obvious answer would be no, the totalitarian society depicted in Orwell’s novel is not good for its citizens. But can you think of any arguments for the opposite side? Even if your final assertion is that the novel depicts a cruel, repressive, and therefore harmful society, acknowledging and responding to the counterargument will strengthen your overall case.

5 Write the Introduction

Your introduction sets up the entire essay. It’s where you present your topic and articulate the particular issues and questions you’ll be addressing. It’s also where you, as the writer, introduce yourself to your readers. A persuasive literary essay immediately establishes its writer as a knowledgeable, authoritative figure.

An introduction can vary in length depending on the overall length of the essay, but in a traditional five-paragraph essay it should be no longer than one paragraph. However long it is, your introduction needs to:

Provide any necessary context.

Your introduction should situate the reader and let him or her know what to expect. What book are you discussing? Which characters? What topic will you be addressing?

Answer the “So what?” question.

Why is this topic important, and why is your particular position on the topic noteworthy? Ideally, your introduction should pique the reader’s interest by suggesting how your argument is surprising or otherwise counterintuitive. Literary essays make unexpected connections and reveal less-than-obvious truths.

Present your thesis.

This usually happens at or very near the end of your introduction.

Indicate the shape of the essay to come.

Your reader should finish reading your introduction with a good sense of the scope of your essay as well as the path you’ll take toward proving your thesis. You don’t need to spell out every step, but you do need to suggest the organizational pattern you’ll be using.

Your introduction should not:

Beware of the two killer words in literary analysis: interesting and important. Of course the work, question, or example is interesting and important—that’s why you’re writing about it!

Open with any grandiose assertions.

Many student readers think that beginning their essays with a flamboyant statement such as, “Since the dawn of time, writers have been fascinated with the topic of free will,” makes them sound important and commanding. You know what? It actually sounds pretty amateurish.

Wildly praise the work.

Another typical mistake student writers make is extolling the work or author. Your teacher doesn’t need to be told that “Shakespeare is perhaps the greatest writer in the English language.” You can mention a work’s reputation in passing—by referring to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as “Mark Twain’s enduring classic,” for example—but don’t make a point of bringing it up unless that reputation is key to your argument.

Go off-topic.

Keep your introduction streamlined and to the point. Don’t feel the need to throw in all kinds of bells and whistles in order to impress your reader—just get to the point as quickly as you can, without skimping on any of the required steps.

6 Write the Body Paragraphs

Once you’ve written your introduction, you’ll take the arguments you developed in step 4 and turn them into your body paragraphs. The organization of this middle section of your essay will largely be determined by the argumentative strategy you use, but no matter how you arrange your thoughts, your body paragraphs need to do the following:

Begin with a strong topic sentence.

Topic sentences are like signs on a highway: they tell the reader where they are and where they’re going. A good topic sentence not only alerts readers to what issue will be discussed in the following paragraph but also gives them a sense of what argument will be made about that issue. “Rumor and gossip play an important role in The Crucible ” isn’t a strong topic sentence because it doesn’t tell us very much. “The community’s constant gossiping creates an environment that allows false accusations to flourish” is a much stronger topic sentence— it not only tells us what the paragraph will discuss (gossip) but how the paragraph will discuss the topic (by showing how gossip creates a set of conditions that leads to the play’s climactic action).

Fully and completely develop a single thought.

Don’t skip around in your paragraph or try to stuff in too much material. Body paragraphs are like bricks: each individual one needs to be strong and sturdy or the entire structure will collapse. Make sure you have really proven your point before moving on to the next one.

Use transitions effectively.

Good literary essay writers know that each paragraph must be clearly and strongly linked to the material around it. Think of each paragraph as a response to the one that precedes it. Use transition words and phrases such as however, similarly, on the contrary, therefore, and furthermore to indicate what kind of response you’re making.

7 Write the Conclusion

Just as you used the introduction to ground your readers in the topic before providing your thesis, you’ll use the conclusion to quickly summarize the specifics learned thus far and then hint at the broader implications of your topic. A good conclusion will:

Do more than simply restate the thesis.

If your thesis argued that The Catcher in the Rye can be read as a Christian allegory, don’t simply end your essay by saying, “And that is why The Catcher in the Rye can be read as a Christian allegory.” If you’ve constructed your arguments well, this kind of statement will just be redundant.

Synthesize the arguments, not summarize them.

Similarly, don’t repeat the details of your body paragraphs in your conclusion. The reader has already read your essay, and chances are it’s not so long that they’ve forgotten all your points by now.

Revisit the “So what?” question.

In your introduction, you made a case for why your topic and position are important. You should close your essay with the same sort of gesture. What do your readers know now that they didn’t know before? How will that knowledge help them better appreciate or understand the work overall?

Move from the specific to the general.

Your essay has most likely treated a very specific element of the work—a single character, a small set of images, or a particular passage. In your conclusion, try to show how this narrow discussion has wider implications for the work overall. If your essay on To Kill a Mockingbird focused on the character of Boo Radley, for example, you might want to include a bit in your conclusion about how he fits into the novel’s larger message about childhood, innocence, or family life.

Stay relevant.

Your conclusion should suggest new directions of thought, but it shouldn’t be treated as an opportunity to pad your essay with all the extra, interesting ideas you came up with during your brainstorming sessions but couldn’t fit into the essay proper. Don’t attempt to stuff in unrelated queries or too many abstract thoughts.

Avoid making overblown closing statements.

A conclusion should open up your highly specific, focused discussion, but it should do so without drawing a sweeping lesson about life or human nature. Making such observations may be part of the point of reading, but it’s almost always a mistake in essays, where these observations tend to sound overly dramatic or simply silly.

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How To Write Literary Response Essay

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This is a complete guide How to Write Literary Response Essay.

So if you want to LEARN how to write literary response essay, you’ll love the strategies and tips in this guide.

In this article, FROM our Homework writing service , you are going to learn how to write literary response essay, there is a pdf sample of a response essay attached to give more insight how a literary response essay should look like and summarizes what has been discussed within the article. 

We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s get started.

What Is a Literary Response Essay?

How to write literary response essay body, how to write  literary response essay conclusion, post-writing tips.

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A literary response is an analysis of a piece of work, a poem, a book, a novel, or a short play to analyze the elements used in the story such as the language and structure of the text. As a writer, you have the task of explaining how these elements have been used to create effects and convey the ideas of the author throughout the story.

As a writer, when tasked with writing a literary response, you will have to thoroughly read the content and analyze the text keenly to come up with a good thesis statement that will give focus to your writing. While writing, you shall follow the normal structure of any other academic essay ; you shall start with an introduction that briefs the reader on the focus and direction of your essay. The next section of the essay shall be the main body which consists of your argument based on the information from the texts.

The last part of the essay is the conclusion which will state the main argument that you have described in your analysis.

 First:  Read The Content and Take Notes

The first thing you shall do when writing a literary response is to keenly read the content of the text you have and take notes. During the reading process, you shall pay attention to the exciting, intriguing, and fascinating parts of the texts. Also, note down the confusing parts of the writing as you shall analyze everything in your response. The main goal is not to analyze the events in the poem or novel you are responding to but to discuss how the text works on a deeper level. What are the textual elements that a writer is using to create effects and convey meaning?

If you are comparing many texts within the book or poem, you can check for the connection between the different texts in the piece of work you are analyzing. You can also note down the contradictions or any irony in the story you are responding to.

In the initial stages of your writing, you are still exploring the texts. You are still not sure exactly what you are going to say about the texts, you are still brainstorming with several questions that will help formulate the topic you shall discuss in the essay. Good questions lead to critical debates and discussions. Look for things you can prove using the evidence from the texts you are analyzing. Consider the scope of your question, is it a topic you can cover well within the required length of the essay?

An example of a good question would be along the lines of; In Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, you can consider if the parents are responsible for the demise of their children?

With such a question, you shall have a lot to explore during the writing process to reach the required essay length.

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Secondly: Collecting the Evidence

Once you have a clear formulation of the questions you are seeking to answer, you shall collect evidence from the text to help you respond to the question. In literary response, there might be no specific right question, you are just picking up ideas and trying to draw patterns. Look for symbols, imagery, and scenes within the text that can add weight to your argument and help you address the questions you are answering Like;

Consider the plot of the story, and the characters in the story;

The weather and the economic conditions of the story. A love story that is told during a season of war in a certain country might unfold differently from a love story that is told during a Christmas season.

You can also consider the narrator of the story,

You can pay attention to these parts of the story that might affect how you respond to it.

While collecting the evidence;

A work of poem or play might have many themes that are in tension with each other.

Consider the elements of style;

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Third: Develop a Thesis for a Literary Response

After considering all the evidence in the texts and knowing how you will tackle the question. This is your claim about the work you are responding to that needs to be supported by the evidence you have collected from the text. A good thesis shall be arguable, surprising, and very specific.

Fourth: Organizing Arguments for a Literary Response

With a crafted thesis, you shall collect reasons and even examples from the texts you studied to support the thesis. You shall consider the evidence you have from the text while constructing your thesis and organizing the arguments. The type of arguments you have shall also be influenced by the type of literary essay you have been tasked with writing.

The essay can either be a compare and contrast essay, a trace type of essay , or a debate.

The next step is now the writing part of the literary Response.

Write The Title and Introduction of The Literary Response .

The title part of the essay clearly states what your response shall focus on. The name of the author of the book or poet you are analyzing and the text you are analyzing should also be stated. Keep it to the point and engaging. After stating the title, you will then write an introduction that offers an overview of your argument. The introduction will have a strong thesis and give a summary of the structure of the essay.

A common way to introduce your essay is to start with general statements about a piece of work or a commonly held belief before stating your thesis and arguing how the thesis will contradict that belief. You can then end your introduction with signposting, which is signaling what is to come in the next section of the literary response.

You can also opt to write the introduction after writing the rest of the essay, which is still okay because you will have an even clearer idea of what your arguments look like. It is like writing an abstract after writing all the parts of a research.

After writing a captivating introduction, you can now develop your paragraphs using the arguments you organized. This section will be influenced by the argumentative strategy you have chosen. However, you shall build your paragraphs using topic sentences that are connected to your thesis. A good topic sentence tells the reader where they are and where the paragraphing is leading them to. A topic sentence doesn’t only tell the reader what the paragraph shall discuss but also touches on how it shall handle the topic.

While creating your paragraph, don’t skip around, fully develop your thoughts so that they are coherent and support the topic sentence. Use transition words such as however, therefore, thus, etc to move in between points.

When writing the conclusion section, steer clear of any intention to introduce new arguments or quotations. At this point, you have all the arguments presented in the body section, and all you have to do as a writer is to summarize the key points and emphasize their importance to the audience.

One of the key ways to approach the conclusion is to make a summary of the main arguments and stress to the reader what conclusion they have led you while at the same time touching on the new angles your thesis offers on the text you were responding to.

It would be advisable to avoid coming to overblown conclusions that cannot be proven. Remember to stay relevant, don’t move away from the thesis you set out to prove even as you state new directions of thought you have come across during the arguments. You can touch on the “so what?” question, what does the audience know now that they didn’t before.

After the whole process, proofread and edit your work to remove grammar errors and style issues. If there was a formatting style assigned by the instructor, make sure your work is properly formatted.

In conclusion

In order to write a strong literary response essay, it is important that you first fully understand the text that you are responding to. Make sure that you read and re-read the text several times, taking notes as you go. Once you have a solid understanding of the text, start outlining your essay. The body of your essay should be divided into three sections: an introduction, analysis of the text, and a conclusion. Be sure to support your points with evidence from the text itself. If you need help getting started, or want feedback on your work, don’t hesitate to reach out to our Reaction paper writing service . We would be happy to help!

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Literary Response Essay

Most often in life, people find themselves wandering aimlessly without a specific goal to achieve and complain of a pointless, boring life. This mindset is especially prevalent in my generation, where most teenagers in the United States feel entitled to numerous things, such as education, money, careers, and even relationships. Not many have a set goal, or if they do, they don’t necessarily know how to accomplish it. They don’t know who they are, what their beliefs are, or how to better themselves. Sadly, I’ve had plenty of friends who have gone through this. It’s hard to seek out help and direction that is easy to understand and follow. However, there have been a few excerpts from this unit that have outlined how to tackle these issues straight on. Steven Covey’s and Hyrum Smith’s excerpts are inspiring because they give real life applications that we can understand and relate to, as well as apply in our lives.

In Hyrum Smith’s book, The 10 Natural Laws of Time and Life Management, he discusses the relationship between our actions and our beliefs. He states that no matter our religious affiliation, we as humans all have a deep set of core values and beliefs that, in turn, govern the way we act. He discussed Benjamin Franklin thoughts about governing values. At the age of twenty two, Franklin listed twelve “virtues” which stated his highest priorities. At age seventy-eight he wrote in his memoirs, “On the whole, tho’ I never arrived at the Perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was by the Endeavor a better and a happier Man than I otherwise should have been, if I had not attempted it.” This goes on to show that simply writing down simple, basic values and continuing to follow through with them throughout one’s life can lead to greater happiness. Teenagers who are suffering from depression or hopelessness can use what Benjamin Franklin did and in return, they will see successful and beneficial results. All it takes is a few goals for one to gain hope and happiness. Although absolute perfection is not possible, it inspires an improved performance, and peace is the result. Smith goes on to say that there is not a specific set of values that every individual should live by. Our governing values are personal–they are what make up our personality, who we are. Hyrum Smith touched upon the idea of a personal constitution, but Steven Covey expanded upon this concept.


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Steven Covey is the author of the award winning book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In Habit 2, he discusses beginning with the end in mind. To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. Being able to focus on the end goal helps you take the correct steps needed now to get there. People relish temporary victories instead of holding off and being victorious in the long run. He continues saying that if people were to just keep the end in mind, focusing on what really matters most, that is when we will be successful and truly effective. “Begin with the end in mind” is built on the principle that all things are created twice–a mental creation as well as a physical creation. Basically, you need an action plan, or blueprint, before you actually “construct” what you are trying to achieve. It is nearly impossible to dive into action and have it successfully work without the preparation and planning. Many teenagers these days don’t necessarily plan before they take action, and end up failing, causing them to not have much motivation for future endeavours. Covey specifically outlines how to “mentally create”, which is an action plan. It is easy and understandable, thus easy to put into use for people.

Lastly, they gave examples on how to put all of these ideals into play. Covey said that the most effective way to have an end in mind is by having a personal mission statement, or a personal constitution. It focuses on “what you want to be (character) and to do (contributions and achievements) and on the values or principles upon which being and doing are based.” A personal statement will reflect a person’s personality, thus making it unique depending on the individual. Once you have that sense of mission, you have the essence of your own proactivity. You have the vision and the values which direct your life. You have the basic direction from which you set your long- and short-term goals. You have the power of a written constitution based on correct principles, against which every decision concerning the most effective use of your time, your talents, and your energies can be effectively measured.

In conclusion, Steven Covey and Hyrum Smith conveyed their message in a way that is inspiring and easy to understand and follow. They both share step by step guidance, stories, and even go on to provide personal examples. People who have trouble setting goals or do not know how to do so, will receive a better understanding after following the excerpts from these authors.

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  1. How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay

    How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay | A Step-by-Step Guide Step 1: Reading the text and identifying literary devices The first step is to carefully read the text (s) and take... Step 2: Coming up with a thesis Your thesis in a literary analysis essay is the point you want to make about the text. ...

  2. 12.9: Essay Type

    The response essay is likely the most informal type of literary analysis essay students will encounter in a literature course. This essay simply asks the student to read the assigned text (s) and respond to said text (s). There are several purposes in writing such an essay. This kind of essay:

  3. How to Write Literary Analysis

    A persuasive literary essay immediately establishes its writer as a knowledgeable, authoritative figure. An introduction can vary in length depending on the overall length of the essay, but in a traditional five-paragraph essay it should be no longer than one paragraph.

  4. How To Write Literary Response Essay

    How To Write Literary Response Essay First: Read The Content and Take Notes. The first thing you shall do when writing a literary response is to keenly read... Secondly: Collecting the Evidence. Once you have a clear formulation of the questions you are seeking to answer, you... Third: Develop a ...

  5. How to Write a Reading Response Essay With Sample Papers

    Here is a step-by-step: 1. Begin your paper with a brief description of the story, using the author and full title of the story to start. Here... 2. End this paragraph with a thesis sentence which tells your main response and opinion about …


    successful literary analysis essay. Summary If a key event or series of events in the literary work support a point you are trying to make, you may want to include a brief summary, making sure that you show the relevance of the event or events by explicitly connecting your summary to your point.

  7. How to Write a Response to Literature Essay

    Writing a reaction to any piece of literature is known as literary response. In other words, a literary reaction is a review of the entire work or a critique of it. However, it goes beyond a simple critique of a book, article, or piece of art because it also provides the authors' perspective and a thorough explanation.

  8. Literary Response Essay Sample

    Literary Response Essay. Most often in life, people find themselves wandering aimlessly without a specific goal to achieve and complain of a pointless, boring life. This mindset is especially prevalent in my generation, where most teenagers in the United States feel entitled to numerous things, such as education, money, careers, and even ...

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    Most teachers think of essays and literature responses as formal assessments, but to get our students to the point of formal writing, we must give our students time to reflect. Informal...

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    Literary Response Essay Worksheets & Teaching Resources | TpT Browse literary response essay resources on Teachers Pay Teachers, a marketplace trusted by millions of teachers for original educational resources. About Us Gift Cards Help TpT ClassFund All Categories Grade Level Pre-K - K 1 - 2 3 - 5 6 - 8 9 - 12 Other Subject Arts & Music