What Is a Literary Analysis Essay?

Literary analysis essay is the study of parts and elements of a work of literature, as well as the connections between them.

There are many analysis techniques of a work of literature that sometimes are opposed to one another. For example, representatives of the formal method and structuralism virtually ignore the plot aspects of the work, while experts of sociological and cultural schools, on the contrary, often neglect the analysis of the form of the work. Besides, various literary critics differently structure the text, which directly leads to differences in methodology and analysis method. The most theoretically sound and universal is the analysis emanating from the category of the plot form and revealing the functionality of form in relation to the content. This analysis aims to understand how the plot feature is expressed in certain peculiarities of form, and vice versa, what content is behind one or another formal device. This approach does not destroy the artistic integrity of the work, but helps understand the laws of its construction and substantial internal connections within it.

An important issue is the composition and structure of a literary work, as well as the attribution of an element (a plot, conflict, or the author’s image) to the form or content.

There might be the following set of elements for the analysis of a work:

  • Theme.
  • Problems, which contain some conflict.
  • Emotional orientation of all of the work as well as certain characters (tragic, romantic, satire, irony, etc.).
  • The image the world, including the details of the landscape, portrait, objective world, organization of the speech (monologue, polyphony, specifics of narration, and the image of the narrator).
  • A composition including a plot, elements out of the plot, correlation of individual images, organization of artistic time and space. The composition organizes the entire art world and reveals its subordination to a single aesthetic principle.

Analysis of the elements of a literary work with all its relative importance is still to some extent a subsidiary thing. You can carry out a detailed literary essay analysis of all the elements and still get a an approximate result, impersonal characteristic, which doesn’t bring us to the understanding of the whole picture.

The analysis should pay the utmost attention not so much to the elements but to the properties of the whole work of literature and the principles of a literary text. This is especially true about the art form where it is easy to find such properties and which, as a rule, should be the beginning of the analysis.

The typological characteristics of the art form include:

  • Plot
  • Descriptions
  • Psychology
  • Fiction and reality
  • Monologism and polyphony
  • Verse and prose
  • Nominative and rhetorical
  • Simple and complex composition

The dominant characteristics of the content are often a typological variety of perspectives and emotional value orientations. Depending on the case they should be analyzed first. The results of the analysis are the based for synthesis, i.e., the most complete and correct understanding of both the substantive and formal artistic originality and unity. Literary synthesis in the field of content is described by the term interpretation and in the field of the form – by the term style. Their interaction gives the best possible understanding and experience of the work as an aesthetic phenomenon.

Literary Analysis Essay Example

Let’s look at the analysis of the story, The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway as an example of a literary analysis:
The story of Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea, is one of the pinnacles of American and world literature of the 20th century. The story has two sides. On the one hand, it is a quite realistic and credible story about how old fisherman Santiago caught a huge fish, a pack of sharks pounced on the fish, the old man could not fight off his prey, and he brought only a fish skeleton to the shore. But the realistic cloth of narrative clearly hides a generalized, epic, and fantastic start. It is felt in the deliberate exaggeration of the situation and details: the fish is too huge, too many sharks, nothings left from the fish but a skeleton, and the old man is alone against the whole pack.

Even more clearly, this beginning can be seen in the form of the central hero: in the manner of the old man to humanize nature, communicate with the sea, seagulls, and fish. This worker is incredibly strong physically and spiritually. He is great like a hero of the ancient epic. No wonder the old man has young blue eyes and at night he dreams about lions. Not by chance, he feels himself a part of nature and the universe. Having a second generalized fabulous plan emphasizes flexibility, depth of perspective, and gives the book the poetic ambiguity.

How to Write a Literary Essay?

  • Identify the theme and the idea/main idea of the work; issues that are raised therein; pathos with which the work is written.
  • Show the connection between the plot and composition.
  • Study the subjective organization of the work, artistic image of a person, techniques of creation of character, types of images, and system of characters.
  • Determine the author’s attitude to the subject, idea, and the heroes of the work.
  • Identify the features of figurative-expressive means of language functioning in a given work of literature.
  • Identify the features of the genre of the work and style of the writer.

According to this scheme, you can write a literary analysis essay about the book you read. In addition, you can add the following:

  • Your emotional evaluation of the book you read.
  • A detailed justification of your evaluation of the heroes’ characters of the work, their actions, and experiences.
  • A detailed study of findings.

About a Personal Essay

A personal essay is a short work based on the observation of yourself and your inner feelings. Using the basic rules of its creation, it is possible to create a fairly accurate self-portrait, which will be of interest not only to the reader, but also to the author.

Before writing an essay, you need to find a theme. You can start writing about something you have experienced recently. An episode from your life would be good to start a story about yourself.

Once you know what you want to write about, write down all the thoughts you have in relation to this topic. Do not try to correctly formulate a phrase or expression, just write down everything that comes to mind.

After some time (20-30 minutes) re-read your entries. Highlight key points in them. This will be the basis for your personal essay. Arrange these fragments as the points of your plan and try to change their sequence. Choose the order that corresponds to the logic of the theme. It can be a chronology or thematic comparison of some blocks of information. The main thing is for the reader to see the clear sequence of the narration.

Work on each block of information separately. Make the phrases better in terms of style, remove unnecessary sentences, and add smooth transitions from one thought to another. Such transitions can be built logically or emotionally, but some kind of connection should still be present. Look for non-standard wording, images, and allusions. Use examples from the art as images that will make your text look better.

Re-read what you wrote and listen to your own feelings. Since the genre of the essay is based on reflection, attention to yourself will help you write a comprehensive text.

Personal Essay Examples

You can find many examples of literary analysis essay as well as personal essays. Let’s look at the example of a personal essay on the topic, Me and My Career:
In every man’s life, there is a moment when you need to make important decisions that determine your future. The choice of profession is undoubtedly one of them. As for me, I have made my choice and I want to work with my specialization, Highways and Airports.

I have chosen this specialization not by an accident. My parents too had once made such a decision. All our family is engaged in this industry. That is why I am going to treat my job with huge responsibility.

Under present conditions, the companies engaged in the construction and making a claim for leading positions in the market, it is necessary to use not only experience, but also introduce modern science into the workflow. The use of discoveries in the field of satellite systems and in nanotechnology will enable companies to go global.

During my studies, I have not only mastered the basic principles of road design, technology, and construction, but also understood the meaning of each physical process of creating a highway project. In my opinion, not just knowledge but the understanding of the process differ a conventional engineer from a professional who is able to see not only a problem in the long term, but also the way to solve it.