Writing the Literary Analysis Essay
The best pattern to follow for writing any kind of school essay is the five-paragraph essay model – introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. As your essay-writing skills mature, you can certainly move beyond this model (and by the time you do university courses, you will be expected to do so), but it’s a good basic model to start with.
An expository essay is an essay that explains or gives information about a topic.In this type of essay, each of the three body paragraphs introduces one major piece of information about the topic, so that the essay as a whole makes three main points.
An analytical essay is a particular type of expository essay, the purpose of which is to explain or give information about a work of literature.In this type of essay, each of the three body paragraphs will contain one main example from the text to support the essay’s thesis.
INTRODUCTORY PARAGRAPH: This paragraph should tell the reader what your paper is going to be about.The following information (not necessarily in this order) needs to be included in an introductory paragraph:
1. a way to draw the reader in, create interest
2. author of the text
3. title of the text (underlined or italicized for novels and plays; in quotation marks for short stories and poems)
4. general statement about the literary work
5. necessary background information about the story (very little)
6. thesis statement (your main idea – this should be closely linked to the essay question you are answering.
For example, you might be assigned the following question about Macbeth:
Explore the idea of “manhood” in Macbeth.What does it mean to “be a man” in this play?
Your opening paragraph might read something like this.The numbers in brackets show where the items from the list above have been included in the paragraph:
Real men don’t cry … or watch soap operas … or wear pink.Or do they? Every society has certain ideas attached to what it means to be “manly” or “womanly.” (1) Shakespeare’s great tragedy Macbeth, the story of a Scottish lord who kills the king in order to become king himself, is no exception. (2, 3, 4, 5).Throughout this play, characters constantly make reference to manhood and the idea of “being a man.”In Macbeth, manhood is always associated with physical courage and sometimes even with cruelty. (6)
BODY PARAGRAPHS: These should answer the question “why?” by giving more information about your topic.Each paragraph should be between three and six sentences long and each should have one single, clear main idea.
Each paragraph needs to include specific examples and direct quotes from the work of literature you’re discussing.A body paragraph should include:
1. topic sentence – like a mini-thesis statement, explaining what the main point of this paragraph will be
2. context of the quote you are using (where in the story does it appear? in what situation? etc.)
3. introduction to the quote – who says it? To whom are they speaking? Use a comma before the quote, and enclose the entire quote in quotation marks.
4. the quote itself followed by a page number in parenthesis (for a Shakespearean play, you can give act and scene number instead of page number).
5. explanation of the quote in your own words.
6. analysis of the quote – why it is important and how it relates to your thesis.Be specific about how the quote connects to your thesis.Analysis should be the largest part of your paragraph.
For example, imagine that you are continuing the Macbeth essay on manliness with the first body paragraph.You might write something like this:
Lady Macbeth uses the idea of “manliness” to motivate her husband to commit murder. (1) Before Macbeth murders King Duncan, he begins to have doubts about what he is doing. (2) Lady Macbeth challenges him by saying, (3) “When you durst do it, then you were a man” (Act I, Sc. 7) (4). She says that when Macbeth was willing to kill Duncan, then he was acting like “a real man” in her opinion (5).It is clear that Lady Macbeth associates manhood with courage – specifically, the courage to kill.She follows this up by saying that she would even be willing to kill her own infant while nursing it if necessary – demonstrating that her “womanly” feelings can be overcome by “manly” courage.Manhood, to Lady Macbeth, means physical courage and violence, and she uses this view to motivate her husband. (6)
The next two body paragraphs for this essay might include the following examples:
· Paragraph 3: Macbeth uses the idea of manliness to motivate his hired murderers to kill Banquo.
· Paragraph 4: Macbeth demonstrates “manly” courage by fighting to death at the end of the play even when all is lost.
It is always wise to create a brief outline with point-form summaries of each paragraph before you begin to write.Make sure each paragraph sticks to its main point.
CONCLUDING PARAGRAPH: Restate what you told the reader and leave him/her with something to think about.Your conclusion should include:
· a restatement of your thesis
· summary of your main points
· statement that leaves the reader thinking about the ideas in your essay
Organizing Your Analysis
This resource covers how to write a rhetorical analysis essay of primarily visual texts with a focus on demonstrating the author’s understanding of the rhetorical situation and design principles.
Contributors:Mark Pepper, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli
Last Edited: 2015-08-30 05:01:04
There is no one perfect way to organize a rhetorical analysis essay. In fact, writers should always be a bit leery of plug-in formulas that offer a perfect essay format. Remember, organization itself is not the enemy, only organization without considering the specific demands of your particular writing task. That said, here are some general tips for plotting out the overall form of your essay.
Like any rhetorical analysis essay, an essay analyzing a visual document should quickly set the stage for what you’re doing. Try to cover the following concerns in the initial paragraphs:
- Make sure to let the reader know you’re performing a rhetorical analysis. Otherwise, they may expect you to take positions or make an evaluative argument that may not be coming.
- Clearly state what the document under consideration is and possibly give some pertinent background information about its history or development. The intro can be a good place for a quick, narrative summary of the document. The key word here is “quick, for you may be dealing with something large (for example, an entire episode of a cartoon like the Simpsons). Save more in-depth descriptions for your body paragraph analysis.
- If you’re dealing with a smaller document (like a photograph or an advertisement), and copyright allows, the introduction or first page is a good place to integrate it into your page.
- Give a basic run down of the rhetorical situation surrounding the document: the author, the audience, the purpose, the context, etc.
Thesis Statements and Focus
Many authors struggle with thesis statements or controlling ideas in regards to rhetorical analysis essays. There may be a temptation to think that merely announcing the text as a rhetorical analysis is purpose enough. However, especially depending on your essay’s length, your reader may need a more direct and clear statement of your intentions. Below are a few examples.
1. Clearly narrow the focus of what your essay will cover. Ask yourself if one or two design aspects of the document is interesting and complex enough to warrant a full analytical treatment.
The website for Amazon.com provides an excellent example of alignment and proximity to assist its visitors in navigating a potentially large and confusing amount of information.
2. Since visual documents often seek to move people towards a certain action (buying a product, attending an event, expressing a sentiment), an essay may analyze the rhetorical techniques used to accomplish this purpose. The thesis statement should reflect this goal.
The call-out flyer for the Purdue Rowing Team uses a mixture of dynamic imagery and tantalizing promises to create interest in potential, new members.
3. Rhetorical analysis can also easily lead to making original arguments. Performing the analysis may lead you to an argument; or vice versa, you may start with an argument and search for proof that supports it.
A close analysis of the female body images in the July 2007 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine reveals contradictions between the articles’ calls for self-esteem and the advertisements’ unrealistic, beauty demands.
These are merely suggestions. The best measure for what your focus and thesis statement should be the document itself and the demands of your writing situation. Remember that the main thrust of your thesis statement should be on how the document creates meaning and accomplishes its purposes. The OWl has additional information on writing thesis statements.
Analysis Order (Body Paragraphs)
Depending on the genre and size of the document under analysis, there are a number of logical ways to organize your body paragraphs. Below are a few possible options. Which ever you choose, the goal of your body paragraphs is to present parts of the document, give an extended analysis of how that part functions, and suggest how the part ties into a larger point (your thesis statement or goal).
This is the most straight-forward approach, but it can also be effective if done for a reason (as opposed to not being able to think of another way). For example, if you are analyzing a photo essay on the web or in a booklet, a chronological treatment allows you to present your insights in the same order that a viewer of the document experiences those images. It is likely that the images have been put in that order and juxtaposed for a reason, so this line of analysis can be easily integrated into the essay.
Be careful using chronological ordering when dealing with a document that contains a narrative (i.e. a television show or music video). Focusing on the chronological could easily lead you to plot summary which is not the point of a rhetorical analysis.
A spatial ordering covers the parts of a document in the order the eye is likely to scan them. This is different than chronological order, for that is dictated by pages or screens where spatial order concerns order amongst a single page or plane. There are no unwavering guidelines for this, but you can use the following general guidelines.
- Left to right and top to down is still the normal reading and scanning pattern for English-speaking countries.
- The eye will naturally look for centers. This may be the technical center of the page or the center of the largest item on the page.
- Lines are often used to provide directions and paths for the eye to follow.
- Research has shown that on web pages, the eye tends to linger in the top left quadrant before moving left to right. Only after spending a considerable amount of time on the top, visible portion of the page will they then scroll down.
The classic, rhetorical appeals are logos, pathos, and ethos. These concepts roughly correspond to the logic, emotion, and character of the document’s attempt to persuade. You can find more information on these concepts elsewhere on the OWL. Once you understand these devices, you could potentially order your essay by analyzing the document’s use of logos, ethos, and pathos in different sections.
The conclusion of a rhetorical analysis essay may not operate too differently from the conclusion of any other kind of essay. Still, many writers struggle with what a conclusion should or should not do. You can find tips elsewhere on the OWL on writing conclusions. In short, however, you should restate your main ideas and explain why they are important; restate your thesis; and outline further research or work you believe should be completed to further your efforts.