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Useful Verbs for Essays

Writing the Perfect Paragraph

How to Write a Literary Analysis

Working Outline for Essays

Tools for Analyzing Sentences

How to Write a Literary Analysis

Step 1: Find three literary tools the author utilizes in the story to examine. You will want to examine the three most often used or the three that have the most evidence.

Literary tools:

▪ plot—the arrangement of events

▪ figurative language—metaphor, simile, etc.—this language is used to characterize the sensibility and understanding of characters as well as to establish the significance of theme and tone.

▪ tone—what tone does the narrator or author use—is he preaching, sympathetic, humorous, etc.? Why does the author use this tone—what is gained by he or she using this tone? Would the story have the same meaning if another tone was used?

▪ imagery—what examples of imagery does the author use—is it helpful to the story? If so, why? examples of imagery are—the five senses and sometimes six. What does the character or the author make the reader touch, see, hear, feel, smell, taste, etc.

▪ symbolism—something said but meant to stand for something else. Allegory is also used within this category—things which stand for something on a one-by-one basis.

▪ point-of-view—Who is telling the story and what do they know or don’t know? Is the tale told by an omniscient (all-knowing) narrator who doesn’t interact in the events, or is it presented by one of the characters within the story? Can the reader trust that person to give an objective account, or does that narrator color the story with his or her own biases and interests?

▪ setting—is the context in which all of the actions take place. What is the time period, the location, the time of day, the season, the weather, the type of room or building? What is the general mood, and who is present? All of these elements can reflect on the story’s events, and though the setting of a story tends to be less conspicuous than plot and character, setting still colors everything that’s said and done within its context.

▪ character—refers to the qualities assigned to the individual figures in the plot. Consider why the author assigns certain qualities to a character or characters and how any such qualities might relate to your topic.

▪ allusion—Does the author use any allusions—references to a past literary source or event in history. Authors will use many Biblical allusions. Adam—would bring qualities of Adam from the Bible, without having to expressly state them, just by using the name infers or alludes to the Biblical story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Step 2: Now that you have figured out which three literary tools or elements the author uses and that you will examine in your paper, take each tool and find at least three examples of the author’s use of the tool in the story (note the page number when you find the use).

Step 3: Write an outline using those tools and the examples:

I. Introduction paragraph

II. First tool you will discuss (1st body paragraph)

    A. 1st piece of evidence supporting this tool

    B. 2nd piece of evidence supporting this tool

    C. 3rd piece of evidence supporting this tool

III. Second tool you will discuss (2nd body paragraph)

    A. 1st piece of evidence supporting this tool

    B. 2nd piece of evidence supporting this tool

    C. 3rd piece of evidence supporting this tool

IV. Third tool you will discuss (3rd body paragraph)

    A. 1st piece of evidence supporting this tool

    B. 2nd piece of evidence supporting this tool

    C. 3rd piece of evidence supporting this tool

V. Conclusion paragraph

Step 4: Write a thesis statement for your paper—based on the evidence that relates to your topic—and what you anticipate you might say about those pieces of evidence—come up with a working thesis. Use the example below to plug in your own words:

Thesis statement: Dickens’ portrayal of the French Revolution and the love triangle depends mainly on his use of four artistic tools: paradox, parallelism, figurative language, and theme.

Step 5: Write the introduction paragraph using the format below to plug in elements of your story:

Zora Neale Hurston’s “Sweat” is a short story illustrating the plight of a Southern Christian black woman in an abusive relationship with her husband. At the story’s heart is a masterful depiction of the protagonist, a woman who after many years of abuse finally refuses to subject herself to her philandering husband’s cruelty. Hurston achieves the greater theme of “Sweat,” the triumph of the oppressed, through her use of three basic Southern literary themes: folklore, oppression, and religion. A brief inspection of these three basic themes will reveal how “Sweat” achieves its inspiring effect.

Step 6: Write your body paragraphs following your outline and remembering to use the instructions on How to Write the Perfect 8 Sentence Paragraph.

Step 7: Write the concluding paragraph—remember to restate your thesis in this paragraph and then sum up the evidence that you used in your paper. Do not introduce any new ideas at this point. End with a profound statement.

Example:

         Hurston masterfully utilizes three basic Southern literary themes to illustrate the plight of a woman in an abusive relationship in the 1920’s: folklore, oppression, and religion. The combination of the three themes utilized by Hurston in her short story “Sweat” bring about a much greater theme of the story—the triumph of the oppressed. Women are still being oppressed today and may be inspired to overcome their oppression after reading this inspirational work by Hurston.

Step 8: Revise―Read and revise for accuracy. Ensure you have supported your thesis statement.

Step 9: Edit―Check and edit your paper for spelling and grammatical errors.

 
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