Analytical writing in literary writing

Analytical writing is crucial in academic literary writing as it signals a greater insight and understanding of the subject matter.  Taking notes is a crucial step in writing an analytical essay because it will help you discover important points in the writing that you are analysing and help you see how ideas fit together.

Begin by carefully reading through the writing that you will analyse and take notes as you read. At this point you should write down or make a mental note of anything that seems significant to you. For example, does a particular character’s actions seem odd or out of place? When you read what one character said to another, did you think it told you something more about the character’s relationship to the story? If so, write it down.

Jot down your thoughts as you read. You need to look beyond the surface of the piece of literature in order to understand the true meaning. Don’t accept anything at face value.

Try to examine deeper and at each level

A flower in a poem may be more than a flower, it might be a symbol of love. The red hat a character wears might be more than a hat. It might be a symbol of a characters independence. Do not merely summarise what happens in the literature, you need to write a commentary.

You should ultimately be writing your thoughts about the writing and what you are reading, asking questions and asking why certain events occurred, why the characters acted the way that they did. Also why the author would have wrote in that particular way. You should also be then drawing connections and using the space to help you develop meaning and to analyse the piece of writing.


Review your notes and look for the gems you’ve uncovered in your analysis. Decide which ideas you will use as the focus for your paper.

Spend some time examining and organising your ideas, as you may need to narrow your focus into an appropriate topic for your paper. For instance, you might look for recurring symbols in a poem, or you might look at character development in a short story, or you might look at the theme of a novel.

Develop a thesis

The thesis will be one statement (generally at the end of you introductory paragraph) that tells readers what your paper is about. It lets readers know the point of your analytical essay.

In other words, now that you have examined each part of the writing, you would tell your readers what it all means. For instance, if the speaker in a poem refers to black objects, your thesis might explain the use of black objects as a symbol for death.

Develop the body

The body of your paper needs to contain evidence to support your thesis. You need to convince your readers of your point. You can do this by finding examples from the piece of writing that you are analysing.

Use your notes again, to find places in the writing that support your ideas and points. You might use a short piece of dialogue to explain a character’s mood and how it contributes to his character. You might include a summary or paraphrase of an event that contributes to the overall development of the story’s theme.

Develop the conclusion

Your conclusion will let readers know that they have reached the end of your paper and will provide some type of restatement of your key arguments.

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