HCCS Literary Analysis English Composition Essay

HCCS Literary Analysis English Composition Essay





You’ve had the chance to explore several texts and respond to what you’ve seen expressed within them.  Between the variations in style and the range of themes both familiar and unfamiliar, some may have resonated with you more than others.

An essay is thoughts put to the page in an organized manner.  When developing a literary analysis essay, you are responding to a work of the imagination.  Your goal is to write out your thoughts about a text, the ideas it contains, and the literary elements that develop these ideas.  Think of it as a way of unpacking the text, just as you have in your reading responses.


1. You have a few options:

  • Choose 1 story. Explain how 3 literary elements are present in the story and help develop the action and a major theme.
  • Compare 2 short stories. You will need to narrow the focus significantly, and do a fair comparison. For example, you could compare 2 protagonists, or the settings and conflicts in 2 stories, or the way the same theme plays out differently in 2 stories.
  • Compare 1 short story with 1 of the plays.

Either way, you MUST look at how 3 literary elements – conflict, symbolism, personification, theme, imagery, setting, characterization, etc – are present in the text(s). This sort of focus will help you go BEYOND PLOT SUMMARY.

2. Emphasis in the literary analysis essay is on interpreting one or two of our works. It should do just that– expand, not just recycle/rehash what you’ve already done. Consider comparing an additional reading of ours or, in the case of a deeper analysis of a short story, bringing in a discussion of an additional character or plot element. Regardless, emphasis is on analysis and interpretation, close reading of the text, and reference to literary terms. So consider this:

  • NO OUTSIDE RESEARCH– just you, your brain, and the poem(s)/short stor(ies) you’re writing about (include an end citation of those texts) This means NO SPARKNOTES, SHMOOP, or other external sites. This is your time to show off what you can do.
  • Avoid plot summary. Use plot details as support for the meaning you’re finding in the text(s)
  • Develop a specific thesis to focus and organize your points and thoughts.
  • Quote the text directly (and cite when you do) as support, looking at the exact wording and how it shapes the meaning, characterization, conflict, tension, etc.
  • Refer to specific literary terms such as imagery, irony, symbolism, metaphor, personification, etc. Use your book to define these in addition to a look through the Review Literary Terms and Elements presentation– it is meant as a reference tool!
  • Use a formal academic voice. This doesn’t mean you need to be stuffy. It’s about objectivity and discussion as you unpack the meaning in a literary work. Emphasis is also on a good range of vocabulary and a closer look at words, thoughts, ideas, and what they invoke.


1. Review the Guide to Literary Terms.

2. Review the following guided tours of texts from earlier in this course:

3. Consider how you will use your analysis to recognize and emphasize literary terms and elements.  

Literary Analysis Proposal Assignment


The purpose of an essay is to put your thoughts to the page in an organized fashion. In this essay, you need to focus how works of imagination use language and words to draw us in to a story, to move us emotionally, or to put themes into play.  Just as you had a plan for your Research Essay, you’ll want to plan out your Literary Analysis Essay.  Just as you had a plan for your Research Essay, you’ll want to plan out your Literary Analysis Essay.  This essay should be about 700-900 words in length, and will focus on elements of one work.  Check with your instructor for your options.


1. Revisit the Writing a Thesis Statement activity. Although this essay is NOT research-supported, the principles of writing a thesis statement are still the same.  You need to select a topic and narrow your focus.

2. Review your reading responses by revisiting them in the Submission Review > Discussions menu above.  If one particular story resonated with you, consider whether you want to expand on your response to it.  If you choose to compare two stories, consider the common elements between them.

3. Read examples of various types of thesis statements and outlines.

3. Create a new document on your computer, and write your Literary Analysis Essay Proposal using the guidelines below.

Your Literary Analysis Essay Proposal document should include 2 parts:

  1. Your topic and focus, and why you have chosen this topic/focus; you may refer back to ideas you had back in your readings responses (3-4 sentences)
  2. Your working thesis (a statement, not a question)
  3. Your outline/plan/organization scheme

4. Submit your completed Literary Analysis Essay Proposal document in the Literary Analysis Essay Proposal dropbox folder.


1. Review methods for organizing paragraphs in literary analysis: 

2. Write a draft of the introductory paragraph and at least 1 body paragraph.

3. Go to the Draft Work discussion topic, and post the introductory paragraph and at least 1 body paragraph from your draft work.

4. Return to the Draft Work discussion topic, and respond to 2 peers’ drafts.

Your response should respond to the following questions:

  • Is your peer’s thesis clear?
  • Does your peer’s draft work support and relate to the thesis?
  • Do your peer’s body paragraphs include clearly cited source material, whether quoted or paraphrased?  Is source material supplied as valuable, relevant support?
  • Are your peer’s own thoughts, explanations, interpretations, and ideas the most prominent part of body paragraphs and subtopics?
  • Are thoughts in your peer’s body paragraphs organized to allow for a logical flow of ideas?