Literary Analysis Template

Developing a Thesis Statement & Outline for a Literary Analysis Essay

The biggest challenge is coming up with a solid thesis statement:

Writing a Thesis Statement for Literary Analysis or a Textual Analysis

When analyzing a text, you will want to examine both CONTENT and FORM and include the ideas in a well-crafted thesis.

Content/Theme:

WHAT is being communicated thematically in the literary text? WHAT is being communicated as an argument or main message in the expository or persuasive text?

Form/Technique:

HOW are the themes being communicated in the literary text? HOW is the argument or main message being communicated in the expository or persuasive text?

Consider some of the following areas for technique:

Content + Form = Thesis

Theme + Technique= Thesis


After closely reading a text, you will want to focus on specific areas to explore for a literary analysis essay. You will want to determine HOW the author uses language (technique) to shape meaning? You will want to consider what techniques and terms apply to the author's style as well as what are the big ideas or universal themes developed in the work.


Writing a Thematic Statement

When developing a thesis statement, first determine the theme (literature). Finish this statement to develop the thematic statement: This is like life because ….

Examples

  • Children can recognize the different roles that their parents play.

  • People find forms of expression to connect with others.

  • People will continue to fight for equality despite people’s ignorance.

  • War is brutal and callous in nature

  • Things are not always what they seem.

The easiest way I can help students get to a thesis statement is to finishing this sentence. Don't actually write, "This is like life" in the essay, but use it as a guide to get to the universal theme.

This is like life because ...


Analyzing the Author’s Craft/Technique

1)Structure: How does the author’s structure help enhance the theme/argument or conflicts?

2)Word Choice: How does the author’s diction or word choice contribute to the meaning?

3)Elements of Literature: How do literary elements help develop or enhance meaning?

4)Point of View: How does the author’s point of view affect the way the story or argument is told? What is gained by this perspective thematically?

5)Tone: How does the author convey his attitude in the work through his language? Are there significant tone shifts, and how do they contribute to the main ideas?

6)Time and Place: How does the author’s depiction of the setting influence the themes and conflicts? How is the setting significant in understanding the text?

Examples of Techniques

  • First person point of view

  • Admiring, respectful tone

  • Vivid, descriptive setting

  • Figurative language

  • Extended metaphor

  • Cacophonous language

  • Paradoxical language

  • Kinesthetic, auditory, visual, organic imagery

  • Symbolic settings

  • Use of foreshadowing

  • Use of irony/satire

Combine Theme + Technique to Write a Thesis Statement for your Introduction

Theme + Technique= Thesis

Structure

In (Name of Work), (Full Name of Author) (uses, employs, relies, utilizes), (device/strategy/technique), and (device/strategy/technique) to (show, reveal, emphasize, argue, reinforce, insist, point out) that (effect/purpose/theme).

Example 1:

In “Equality,” Maya Angelou relies on alternating rhyme and repetition, sensory and metaphorical language, a resilient persona, and an indignant tone to reinforce her message that people will continue to fight for equality despite people’s ignorance.

Example 2

In the “The Machinist, Teaching His Daughter to Play the Piano” by BH Fairchild, the poet uses cacophonous language, extended metaphors, and organic imagery to portray the theme that people can connect with others through common interests.

Example 3

Through the use of figurative language, descriptive diction, and an admiring tone, Karen Russell communicates how children can appreciate the accomplishments of their parents.

Example 4

In “Self Reliance,” Ralph Waldo Emerson writes using poetic, elevated diction with an imploring, impassioned tone and visual imagery order to convey that being true to oneself is sometimes more important than being allegiant to society.

Example 5

In Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad writes using connotative, abstract diction with a critical tone and kinesthetic and organic imagery in order to convey that greed and power can lead to immoral behaviors.

Example 6

In In Cold Blood, Truman Capote writes using colorful, figurative diction with an empathetic yet shocking tone and visual and auditory imagery in order to convey that poor mental health can lead to irrational thoughts and actions.



Stems for Writing a Thesis

ONE WORK: Writing the thesis statement

In (Name of Work), (Full Name of Author) (uses, employs, utilizes), (device/strategy/technique), and (device/strategy/technique) to (show, reveal, emphasize, argue, insist, point out) that (effect/purpose/theme).

TWO WORKS: Writing the thesis statement for a compare/contrast essay

In (Name of Work), (Full Name of Author) (uses, employs, utilizes), (device/strategy/technique), and (device/strategy/technique) to (show, reveal, emphasize, argue, insist, point out) that (effect/purpose/theme), while in (Name of Work), (Full Name of Author) (uses, employs, utilizes), (device/strategy/technique), and (device/strategy/technique) to (show, reveal, emphasize, argue, insist, point out) that (effect/purpose/theme).

OR

In (Name of Work) and (Name of Work), both (Full Name of First Author) and (Full Name of Second Author) (use, employ, utilize, rely on) (device/strategy/technique) to (show, reveal, emphasize, argue, insist, point out) that (effect/purpose/theme)

Outline Ideas for Literary Analysis Essay

Once you have developed the thesis statement, then you must develop an outline for your ideas to organize your paper into main points.

Producing a Five Paragraph Essay

Producing a Compare and Contrast Essay on Two Texts

Producing a Literary Analysis on One Author (body of minor works or one major work)

Paragraph Structure

When writing your paragraphs, remember that each paragraph needs to have a clear main point that you are trying to prove with examples of evidence that is fully explained in connection to your main idea. Before you close the paragraph, be sure that you link the ideas in the paragraph to your main point before transitioning to the next paragraph.


Remember to use transition words when connecting evidence.

Addition: moreover, furthermore, additionally, further, also, first, second, etc.

To give examples: in fact, for example, for instance, to illustrate, equally important

To compare: similarly, equally

To contrast: however, despite, in contrast, even though

To include: all in all, in summary, on the whole


When writing your detailed paragraph, please include at least 10-11 sentences to fully develop your point. Use the following model as a guide.

Point=Write a topic sentence that states the main idea or main point of the paragraph.

Evidence=Provide textual examples and/or short quotes from the text to support your point. Some other examples of evidence may include facts, examples, details, cause/effect relationships, anecdotes, testimonials, and statistics.

Elaborate how your evidence relates to the point.

Evidence=Provide textual examples and/or short quotes from the text to support your point. Some other examples of evidence may include facts, examples, details, cause/effect relationships, anecdotes, testimonials, and statistics.

Elaborate how your evidence relates to the point.

Link: Include a concluding sentence that links together the preceding sentences by emphasizing the main idea, and also linking to the next paragraph.


EXAMPLE

P Shakespeare uses metaphorical and ironic language in order to express that things are not always what they seem. E When Claudius and Gertrude confront Hamlet about his grief, he implies that they really have no understanding to the depths of his despair. He tells his mother, “Seem, madam! nay it is; I know not ‘seems’” (1.2.78). E In this passage, he is responding to Gertrude’s request for him to not continue mourning his father’s death. Through this statement, Hamlet suggests that his mother has no idea of the suffering he experiences by playing on the word “seems.” E Shakespeare then includes a series of litotes or understatements in order to emphasize his grief. When he says that “Nor customary suits of solemn black” or “Nor windy suspiration of forced breath,” he implies that this is just his appearance of grief--it is not truly how he feels. E By starting each line with “Nor” or “No,” he shows the contrast between reality and his feelings by negating his emotions. E His metaphorical language also reinforces this theme. Hamlet says that “nor the fruitful river in the eye” can “denote” his true feelings. E Shakespeare uses this metaphor of a river to show the tears that he has over his father’s death. With this comparison, he reinforces the idea that there are different shapes to grieving, and the river in the eye, or the unending tears are only part of his grief. L Hamlet concludes by stating that man has many “actions” that he might play in his outward appearance of grief, but he implies that it is only the individual on the inside who can truly see to the extent of one’s suffering.