Analyzing Literary Works: Understanding the Elements of a Literary Analysis

Literature is an artistic or intellectual piece of writing that conveys knowledge, moral and social lessons, new ideas, records revolutions and tests cultural values. A literary analysis is an interpretation or critical study of literature such as a novel, short story, poem, or play.

To analyze a literary text, the elements that constitute a whole unit must be inspected. This unit could be a poem, short narrative, essay or novel. There are several elements that can be analyzed in literature, including:

  • Theme: The messages presented throughout a literary work.
  • Motifs: recurring patterns in a narrative, especially symbolic ones.
  • Plot: The order of events; consider chronology or the use of flashback/future.
  • Setting: The time and place of the story, which can be historical, atmospheric, or physical.
  • Character: Any person, animal, being, or creature in a story that performs actions and delivers dialogues to progress the plot. 
  • Characterisation: The process used by the writer to develop characters throughout the story. Characterisation can be direct or indirect.
  • Point of view: The perspective from which the narrative is conveyed. There are three points of view: the first, the second, and the third.
  • Diction: The choice of words and phrasing in any piece of spoken or written text. Diction can be formal or informal.
  • Denotation: The dictionary definition of a word, considering its context in the story.
  • Connotation: The feelings and images associated with a word or phrase.
  • Tone: The author’s attitude towards the subject they are writing about.
  • Mood: The atmosphere of the story as determined by the reader.

To write a literary analysis, the following steps can be considered:

  1. Figure out the author’s main idea and summarise it in a single sentence. Use this information to create a thesis statement.
  2. Identify which elements (point of view, characters, plot, etc.) support your thesis statement.
  3. Create an outline that includes your thesis and main ideas.
  4. Write an introduction that includes the full name of the literary work and author and the author’s purpose (your thesis).
  5. Compose the paper so that each body paragraph focuses on a different aspect (character, narrative, etc.) of the work being analysed. 
  6. Conclude on the paper by giving your opinion on how successful the author has been in achieving their purpose. Include a summary of the topics covered in the paper.

In conclusion, analyzing literature involves understanding and interpreting the various elements that make up a written work. By examining these elements and writing a literary analysis, we can gain a deeper understanding of the author’s message and purpose.