Online Writing Lab

Roane State Community College

Types of Papers: Literary Analysis

If you’ve been asked to analyze a piece of literature, try following these steps:

  1. Identify the author's purpose.  Ask yourself, what theme or main idea did the author want the reader to understand after he or she had finished reading?
  2. Think of the characters, tone, setting, rhythm, plot, imagery, etc. as devices or tools that help ensure that the reader "gets" the meaning that the writer intended him or her to learn.
  3. Ask yourself, why did the author choose to use these devices, in these particular ways?  How does this kind of character, plot event, or type of imagery help the reader understand the theme?
    Remember, tell us how & why—don’t just summarize!

Need an example?      

Sample Story

Summary

Analysis!

Robin Hood

Robin Hood stole goods and money from the rich residents of his town to give to the town’s poorer residents. 

The use of a monarchy or kingdom setting in Robin Hood allowed the author to portray the abuses of power that often occur among the wealthiest members of a community.

Snow White Snow White falls into a deep, death-like slumber when she takes a bite of a poisoned apple.  The use of certain plot elements in Snow White, such as the poisoned apple and resulting slumber, help readers understand that being too trusting can lead to dire consequences.  
Cinderella Cinderella tells the story of a young girl whose evil stepmother tries to keep her from her true love. The author of Cinderella paired lazy female characters with a hard–working female protagonist to show that hard work leads to love and happiness. 

Sample Papers