Critical Analysis of Literature
When you are asked to write an analysis of a short story or novel, you should use the skills of literary analysis.
Critical papers analyze and explain some important points about a piece of literature. They do not repeat the plot. The following items will help you organize and plan your paper. You do not need to include every one of these items in every paper you write, but you should select the elements that are most necessary for your topic. Use this as a checklist for your literary analysis.
Write a draft of the introduction first. Revise it after you have completed the paper.
Statement of topic: Be sure to name the work and its author early in the first part of the paper.
Statement of interest: Explain the point that interests you.
Statement of problem: Explain the critical disagreement, textual problem, or other problem under consideration.
Your way to solve the problem: How will your paper try to solve that problem or analyze a difficult point? Any of these methods may be useful in this section:
analysis of theme
close textual analysis
sociological, psychological, or historical context
survey of other critical opinions
analysis of images of figurative language
analysis of structure
analysis of character
interpretation of lines
Statement of thesis: What is the main point your paper will illustrate and/or explain? Give a clear statement, preferably in one sentence.
Forecast of organization: In longer papers especially, give the reader a map or a guide to the organization you will follow. If, for example, you will examine three important passages in the work, say so.
BODY OF THE PAPER:
All paragraphs, sections, and chapters must support your thesis and work toward a solution to the problem you have stated.
Support for your argument: Be sure every paragraph has a unified topic which helps develop your argument.
- Use specific quotes and illustrations from the work you are discussing.
- Analyze characters carefully: what they do; what they saw; how others treat them; what others say about them; what the narrator says.
- Isolate main issues, and find words to justify your emphasis on them.
- Provide close reading or textual analysis.
- Use vivid verbs that give a sense of sight, sound, activity.
- Avoid passive voice.
- Cite important critics who support your thesis.
- Answer critics who argue against your thesis.
- Use your best arguments and strongest examples last.
For a longer paper, the conclusion should review the argument that you have pursued and should restate the thesis. Highlight the importance of your argument. Leave your reader feeling satisfied that you know the material, have discussed it fairly, and have argued your thesis convincingly. Never end a paper with a conclusion from someone else. Use your own words.