How Writing a Literary Analysis is Like Juggling Plates

How Writing a Literary Analysis is Like Juggling Plates
Writing a literary analysis essay is a bit like juggling your plates before you set the
table. You have to keep a number of related ideas in the air at once (mentally), not
losing track of any of those ideas before finally setting them down on the table in
some organized fashion.
Plate 1 – The Prompt (Highlight key words in the prompt!)
Literary Analysis Prompt
The story “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut as well as the poem “Sympathy” by
Paul Dunbar explores the theme of what it feels like to be trapped or limited by
outside forces, and the consequences that follow as a result of that entrapment.
Analyze how the author of each text develops this theme.
Plates 2 & 3 – The Texts
We have just read the texts for this literary analysis task – the short story “Harrison
Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut and the poem “Sympathy” by Paul L. Dunbar. We have
determined a common theme for each, and identified in each text three examples of
textual evidence that supports that theme. Now, let’s write that textual evidence
(TE) in the chart below for each story.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------BUT FIRST KNOW THIS…
You have two choices when it comes to recording TE in your essay.
1. For shorter TE: Write the evidence exactly as it appears in the text. Place
quotation marks around the text selection.
2. For longer TE: Paraphrase what the text says. Paraphrasing involves
rephrasing the text or interpreting the text in a more abbreviated way.
Introduce or explain TE using these transition words and sentence starters:
According to…
When the author/poet says…
In this part…
This means…
This is evidence of… Here the author/poet is saying…
An example of…
Evidence of this includes…
The reason the author/poet says this…
The texts says…
The author/poets means…
For example…
This proves…
This shows how…
Harrison Bergeron
TE #1
TE #1
TE #2
TE #2
TE #3
TE #3
Plate 4 – Thinking About My Thinking
Now, we have to ask ourselves this: What writing techniques did Dunbar and
Vonnegut use that caused us to recognize this evidence?
Ideas might include the following:
 Figurative language
 Symbolism
 Descriptive language
 Sensory details
 Setting
 Points of view
 Character development
Choose 3 from the list above that best apply to each text. You may choose the same
techniques for both texts.
Harrison Bergeron
Plate 5 – My Thesis
Now let’s use language from the prompt to write our thesis statement.
Remember a thesis statement t offers a concise, or brief, summary of the main point
or claim of the essay. A thesis statement is usually one sentence that appears at the
end of the first paragraph, though it may occur as more than one. The thesis
statement is developed, supported, and explained in the course of the paper by
examples and evidence from, in this case, the texts you’ve just read.
Plate 6 – The Essay
Now it’s a matter of putting the essay together. You have your thesis. You have your
textual evidence to answer the prompt. All that’s left to do is write. Use the
following paragraph structure to help you make this happen.
Paragraph 1: Introduction to include:
o Titles of the stories
o The theme (restated from prompt)
o The task (analysis)
o The thesis
Example: In the texts “Harrison Bergeron” and “Sympathy” the authors
explore the theme of feeling limited or trapped by outside forces. An analysis
of each text will show how the authors develop this theme of entrapment
and the related consequences that follow.
Paragraph 2: Evidence from TEXT 1 to support theme
o At least 3 supporting details from your analysis of characters, setting, and
plot (from your evidence chart)
Example: In the story “Harrison Bergeron” the author shows the entrapment
of many characters, including Harrison and his parents. One way the
characters are trapped or limited is… Another way is when…Finally, the author
shows entrapment when…The consequences of all of these limitations is…
Paragraph 3: Evidence from TEXT 2 to support theme
 At least 3 supporting details from your analysis of characters,
setting, and plot (from your evidence chart)
 Concluding sentence
Example: Use the Example for Paragraph 2, and add a concluding sentence
that reflects on your thesis statement from Paragraph 1.
Your concluding sentence might sound something like this: In conclusion,
after analyzing each text, readers are able to see how Vonnegut and
Dunbar express the same theme – what it feels like to be limited by
outside forces and the tragic consequences that are a result of this