What is the Purpose of a Literary Analysis Essay?

What is the purpose of a literary analysis essay? Anyone who ever faced this type of writing needs to know the answer to this question. Check our literary analysis essay sample. Since this kind of paper is widespread at different departments in colleges and universities, knowing how to write a literary analysis essay is a useful skill for every student.

Literary analysis essay definition suggests that this paper presents an objective and all-sided analysis of a certain work of literature, addressing its content, style, language, effect on audience, and other aspects. Knowing this, you are aware that this kind of assignment demonstrates your critical thinking, ability to analyze, and writing skills. Clearly, it can be hard to incorporate all these qualities into one paper, but you can do it by following our tips provided in this article.

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Any literary analysis essay guide states that this paper aims at showing the student’s skills of analyzing a book profoundly. It allows the teacher to see how good you understand the work of literature and how well you can read between the lines, spotting the writer’s approaches and tools of appealing to the audience. Obviously, in order to show your best results, you need to pay a special attention to analysis, which will involve discussing every element in particular and the book in general.

An important point while starting a literary analysis essay is making it unique and compliant with your individual position. Sometimes, when you get an assignment to write a paper on a very popular book, you can be tempted to read the numerous materials about it available on the Internet and borrow some of the ideas for your paper there. Indeed, all the published articles, reviews, and even documentaries may be rather engaging and informative, but at the same time, using them will discourage you from thinking critically and producing your own, original ideas. That is why, it is highly advisory to compose your essay on your own, and later you can complete it with additional ideas found online if necessary.

Another significant issue is the balance between a dry objective analysis and your subjective emotional perception. Some literary analysis essay topics allow expressing your attitude to the work of literature, and in such works, you can tell how you feel about the writer’s use of certain elements and the language, for example. However, your personal opinion should never be the central point of your essay: your main goal is to provide a critical and unbiased analysis of the book and show it from the perspective of general perception of the audience, which is much wider than your own.

How to Start a Literary Analysis Essay

First of all, you will need to read the book. This applies even to the cases when you have already read the analyzed work of literature before, mainly because of two reasons. First, you have most likely forgotten many details from the book that you read a few months or years ago, so you will not be able to use them for a quality paper. Secondly, reading a book with the purpose of writing an essay on it is very different from reading a book just for yourself. To make a paper, you need to alter the reading process: you have to be focused, attentive, and insightful. You also need to take notes while reading and use a highlighter to mark important ideas in the text. We suggest marking the excerpts from the text with one of the following categories:

  • Moments that need revisiting and more analysis later;
  • Quotes that can be used in your paper;
  • Key ideas that the book contains;
  • Doubtful aspects.

In the course of writing, you can add other categories to this list, depending on what is expected from your paper in the end. In addition, while reading the text, make sure to pay attention to the following aspects:

  • Style of writing;
  • Use of language;
  • Emotional message of the book;
  • Main theme;
  • Obvious plot;
  • Additional plots;
  • Implied ideas and messages;
  • Characters;
  • Impact on the readers;
  • Coherence and consecutive order of ideas;
  • Flaws and advantages of the structure;
  • Original tools used by the writer;
  • Uniqueness of the writing style.

Organizing a Literary Analysis Essay

Just like any traditional essay, your literary analysis needs to have the classic structure that includes introduction, body, and conclusion. However, due to its specific purpose and style, it has to be organized in a particular way.


The first paragraph of your work needs to perform the following functions:

  • Introduce the analyzed work of literature
  • Express your thesis statement
  • Set the mood and present the theme
  • Engage the readers and make them read the full paper

To achieve these goals, make sure to provide a short background information about the book and its author, as well as the main questions addressed by it. In addition, use one of the hook sentences to appeal to the readers. Finally, make a strong thesis statement and present it in the end of your introduction.


Depending on your professor’s requirements, your paper will have 2-4 body paragraphs. Remember that each of them should discuss a separate idea, but all these ideas have to serve one purpose: to support and develop the thesis statement provided at the beginning of your essay. Use the first sentence of each paragraph to express an idea, and all the following sentences to expand this idea and prove it. Illustrations from the book, such as quotations, examples, and indirect quotes will be perfect to use.

You can also relate the ideas from the book to other spheres of life and culture if they are connected or if you find this relation obvious. Any additional information that will complement your paper and contribute to its main theme can and should be used. Remember to reference all the information properly, both in text and in the Works Cited list.


Finishing your paper properly is as important as writing the whole work successfully. The main purpose of your conclusion is to summarize the main points and remind the readers about the initial thesis statement mentioned at the beginning of the paper. Revisit all the ideas contained in the body paragraphs, and relate them to the thesis statement, telling the readers how it all fits into one picture. This part of the paper also serves for marking the end of discussion, and leaves the readers with a certain idea or state. It is good to give the audience some food for thought by adding a relevant quote to your conclusion.

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