Effective Techniques for Writing a Literary Essay

How to Write a Literature Essay Example

An effective literary essay should have a strong conclusion that signals to the reader that your argument is complete. A good way to do this is to re-state your thesis statement.

Another way to do this is to examine how the author organized their work into chapters, scenes or stanzas. Also consider how they portrayed time, if it was linear or cyclical.


When writing a literary essay, students are expected to present evidence from the text of the work under analysis. This may be in the form of quotes, summaries, paraphrases or direct passages from the text. Students are encouraged to copy specific passages they intend to use as evidence onto index cards or sticky notes. These can then be rearranged as the student decides what to incorporate into which sections of their essay.

The introduction of a literary essay is a synopsis of the main argument the student wishes to make in their essay. It is important that this assertion does not include personal opinions or feelings and that it reflects evidence present in the literary text under scrutiny.

A good introduction will also identify any confusing elements of a piece of literature. For example, a reader might be confused by a distorted point of view recounted by an unreliable narrator in Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart.


The body of a literary essay is comprised of one or more paragraphs. Each paragraph should have a topic sentence that makes a claim and evidence in the form of quotes from the text. These quotes should be specific and support the claim made in your thesis. It is better to have fewer, more detailed quotes than a large amount of vague ones.

In the body of your essay, you should also analyze how the author uses language. For example, you should look at how figurative words such as simile and metaphor are used in the text. You should also consider how recurring images create a particular atmosphere or symbolize something important.

For example, this high school AP English essay examines how Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle depicts science as the new human religion. The essay is well organized and effectively weaves in quotes to support its argument. It would be a good model for students learning how to write a literary analysis essay.


The conclusion is the final chance to show your reader how all of the details in your body paragraphs add up to support your central argument. It’s like a sales pitch; you want your readers to leave with a favorable impression of your essay and its significance, regardless of whether they agree with your conclusions.

Your conclusion shouldn’t introduce any new arguments, but it can help to reinforce and amplify the ones you already have. In the second example, the writer does this by grouping together the various arguments from individual body paragraphs into a single unifying theme, which in this case is Shakespeare’s mastery of form and content. It’s a simple but effective way to make what could have been a humdrum essay appear exciting and relevant. However, you should be cautious about overdoing this, as adding extra information for the sake of it can create confusion and distract your readers.


Sometimes you’ll need to refer to secondary sources in order to back up or expand upon your thoughts and ideas, but the main source of evidence for your literary analysis should be the primary text. Use these resources only as aids and do not let them take precedence over your own thoughts and reading of the text.

This sample essay written for a college sophomore literary criticism course applies a post-colonial theory of literature to Jamaica Kincaid’s novel Annie John. It combines an in-depth and analytical writing style with a strong central claim.

In a literary analysis essay, you need to provide evidence to support your claim about a work of literature. One way to do this is by examining recurring patterns in the work – for example, images that appear repeatedly or language that seems to say more than it appears to on the surface. You can keep track of your ideas by copying passages from the text that you intend to include as evidence into separate index cards or sticky notes.

Uncover more

Leave A Comment