A literary analysis asks you to explore and to examine the overall meaning of literary work or certain aspects of a literary work such as plot, setting, theme and characters. This type of assignment encourages you to think deeply about a short story, poem, play, or novel. In the case of short stories, authors write with precision. Every literary element and literary device is carefully selected to convey meaning, create images and emotions in the reader.
Remember to write your essay from your own perspective and focus on literary elements to convey your interpretation of the a short story, poem, or play. Yes, use the text for supportive details for your argument and/or idea.
A short story is a love affair; a novel is a marriage. A short story is a photograph; a novel is a film. - Lorrie Moore
Literary elements make a short story interesting. When you begin your essay, think about which literary elements stand out to you. Think back to short stories you have read in the past; what do you remember about these stories?
Example: In Jack London's short story, To Build a Fire, a the nameless character sets out to visit friends alone in subzero temperatures and slowly freezes to death. The setting plays a prominent role in the story as it is both a character and the setting.
Literature Analysis: Theme
Finding the author's theme is a starting point in writing your paper. Themes are the author's big ideas that are woven throughout a story and expressed by using setting and characters. Many stories deal with more than theme, and some themes are more apparent than others.
A few common themes in literature:
Literary Analysis: Setting
Setting - is the place or location for action within a short story, poem, play, and novel. Setting is usually introduced at the beginning of a story and creates the historical, cultural and social context for characters. However, setting is not limited to place or time, it can symbolize the emotional state of characters ( Edgar Allan Poe's Fall of The House of Usher). Some settings are imaginary such as Mordor in J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of The Rings," the village in Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," and the town of Castle Rock in Stephen King novels.
Literary Analysis - Plot
Plot forms a memory in the reader's mind. It follows a pattern or patterns to create a story line the reader can dive into and follow characters. Plot allows characters to come alive and affect the story line in order of events. Understanding key plot events will help you analyze, interpret and explain the story.
The standard plot pattern: Introduction (setting) - Rising Action - Climax - Falling Action - Resolution.
"A plot is thousand times more unsettling than an argument, which may be answered." -Eudora Welty
Literary Analysis: Characters
When writing about characters in a literature analysis, poise questions to help you gain a deeper insight into the characters and their importance in telling the story.
Think about the role a character plays in a short story:
"The key to creating better plots rests in a deeper understanding of character." - Kristen Lamb, quote from Great Characters–The Beating Heart of Great Fiction
Authors have a plethora of literary devices to choose from to convey meaning. They are the tools and techniques employed to enrich a story or poem to capture the attention of a reader.
A short and simple list of common literary devices:
Website: Literary Devices and Literary Terms: This website provides literary device and literary terms definitions and examples.