Top Tips for Writing Literary Essays

Literary essays have a particular purpose, which is the analysis of a given piece of writing, whether this is a fictional or non-fictional piece.    

  • Topic

There is no doubt that writing any essay can be a long and complex process. Anyone who writes fiction has a wide range of linguistic methods and instruments at their disposal. These include plots, characters, settings, imagery, and other instruments that help create interesting stories, books and/or poems. Therefore, you will need to pay close attention to the different elements that pertain to this type of writing if your literary essay is to be a success.   

  • Thesis Statement

A thesis statement is a key component of any essay and you should use it in a literary essay to help readers understand the main point or idea of your paper. A thesis is usually the final sentence in an introductory paragraph and it is used to emphasize the part of the story, book or poem you will be analyzing in your paper. An introductory paragraph should not contain a summary or summing-up.   

  • Analyze the Given Text

You may, for example, have an interest in studying the issue of gender inequality or discrimination. If so, the following could be a suitable thesis: “In ‘Story of an Hour’ by Kate Chopin, the central character clearly demonstrates the complexities of gender inequality in 19th century families.” However, this thesis has the hallmarks of mere observation and “skimming” a text. It does not have any analytical substance. Therefore, a better thesis statement might read: “In ‘Story of an Hour’ by Kate Chopin, the central character’s recurring flashbacks indicate a clear absence of freedom and the severe limitations on a woman’s ability to change her life in a 19th century family.” This last thesis is a lot better because it draws attention to a particular component of the author’s story and it provides a brief analysis of its more complex meaning. It may even be that you want the thesis you develop to have an argumentative component. If so, you will need to find solid evidence to defend and support it. 

  • Main Body Paragraphs

The majority of successful literary essays do not sum-up a story or a book. Instead, the writer analyzes the storyline and critiques it. There is a belief when writing most literary essays that the reader is familiar to some extent with the chosen text and is just looking for a more in-depth analysis of its various elements.    

It is important to structure and format any essay to reflect the specific instructions and requirements of your professor. Additionally, since you are analyzing a story, you will need to order your points or discussion chronologically. Each individual point you make will need to be explained and supported with evidence taken from the text. A literary essay can be structured around different elements of the text, provided these connect to your central thesis. You may, for instance, want to refer to, say, three separate instances where the main character of the story has flashbacks and how these emphasize the issue of gender discrimination. Remember to take good examples from your chosen text. Avoid making bold unsubstantiated claims. Support each claim and prove it is truthful. Use paraphrasing and direct quotations and, if required, indicate the page number(s). It is your job to persuade your readers that you fully understand the text and are capable of analyzing its key literary components. Whenever you include a direct quotation, you should fully explain what it means and how it connects to your central thesis. If you fail to do this, your audience may find it difficult to understand what you are talking about.    

  • Tone of Your Essay

A literary essay should be written from the third person perspective and never from the first person perspective.