How to Write a Literary Analysis

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Introductory Paragraph
Your introduction should introduce the reader to both
the text you are analyzing as well as the argument
you are making. As such, you should:
 Introduce the name of the text
 State the author’s name
 Briefly state what the text is about
 Transition into your thesis statement, which is your
argument. This comes at the very end of the
paragraph.
What is a thesis statement?
 An argument, which is a complete sentence and
NOT a question, at the end of your introductory
paragraph. The thesis clearly and concisely
indicates what your paper is about, the main
points that will be argued in the paper and the
order in which they will be argued.
A thesis statement should:
 Be precise (Say exactly what you are arguing and
nothing else)
 Be concise (Don’t be wordy! Get right to the point)
 Be provable (*You will prove the thesis in the
remainder of your essay)
 Provide support (Briefly state the support to your
argument)
A thesis statement should NOT:
 Be a question
 Begin with phrases such as “In this essay I will argue...”
Rather, just get right to the point you are arguing.
A thesis should be an answer to a
question
Question: Does Mickey Mouse Monopoly thoroughly
and accurately analyze Disney films?
Answer: No
Support: The interviews are staged and only
certain scenes from certain movies are shown
Put your answer and support together to form a thesis …
 Mickey Mouse Monopoly gives an incomplete, onesided analysis of Disney movies as the filmmakers use
staged interviews and only certain, carefully-selected
scenes from the movies.
Body Paragraphs
 The body paragraphs are used to prove your thesis
statement.
Each paragraph should:
 discusses ONE specific aspect of your thesis statement
 have a topic sentence which clearly states what the
remainder of the paragraph is about
 provide support to your argument by inserting quotations
 have a concluding sentence that ties up the paragraph
Quotations
 Each paragraph must also have direct quotations
from the text to support your argument.
 You must always:
Make an argument
2. Provide evidence (quotation)
3. Explain your evidence and its relevance to your
argument
1.
*Not following the above format results in a “quote bomb”.
You can’t just drop a quotation in out of nowhere and not
explain its relevance to your argument.
For example …
 John Patrick Shanley creates doubt about Father
Flynn’s innocence through the use of language. The
reader is often told about conversations, but does not
get to read the exact exchange of dialogue. For
example, Sister James tells Sister Aloysious that
“[Father Flynn] took Donald to the rectory … for a talk”
(21) yet Shanley does not provide this conversation
between the two characters. Leaving out this dialogue
creates doubt because the reader is unsure of what
truthfully happened between Father Flynn and Donald
during this meeting.
ARGUMENT
 John Patrick Shanley creates doubt about Father Flynn’s
innocence through the use of language. The reader is often
told about conversations, but does not get to read the exact
exchange of dialogue. For example, Sister James tells Sister
Aloysious that “[Father Flynn] took Donald to the rectory …
for a talk” (21) yet Shanley does not provide this
conversation between the two characters. Leaving out this
dialogue creates doubt because the reader is unsure of what
truthfully happened between Father Flynn and Donald
during this meeting.
EXPLAIN
Other notes about quotes
 Do not use two quotes in a row without having some of




your own writing in between
Never start a paragraph with a quote
Never start a sentence with a quote
Never drop a quote bomb. Always: make an argument;
provide your evidence; and then explain yourself
Do not use too many quotes. You don’t want the
quotes to overshadow your own opinion. Quotes are
meant to support your argument.
How to insert a quotation in the
MLA format
 In brackets, after the quote, place the author’s
name and page # where you found the quote.
Ex: Sister James feels that “it’s so unsettling to look at
things and people with suspicion” (Shanley 20).
Note the period comes after the
bracket.
 If you introduce the author’s name earlier in the
paragraph, you need to include only the page # in
brackets.
Ex: Shanley creates Sister James as a very nice character. For
example, she feels “it’s so unsettling to look at things and
people with suspicion” (20).
 If you add or change any part of the quote, you
must indicate the change by putting the text in
square brackets
 The original quote says: “He took Donald to the rectory.”
 To be clear for the reader, I changed it to:
“[Father Flynn] took Donald to the rectory”
 If you cut out a part of the text and add it to another
part, you must show this by using ellipses dots (…)
 The original text looks like this:



Sister James: He took Donald to the rectory
Sister Aloysious: What for?
Sister James: A talk.
 So I changed it to: Sister James tells Sister Aloysious that
“[Father Flynn] took Donald to the rectory … for a talk”
Your conclusion should:
 stress the importance of your topic by placing it in a
larger context. In other words, it should answer the
question, “So what?” that your reader might ask;
 give the essay a sense of completeness; and
 leave a final impression on the reader.
Your assignment:
 Essay Question: How does John Patrick Shanley use
literary and/or dramatic techniques to sustain the
reader’s doubt about what really happened in the story
and whether or not Father Flynn is innocent?
 Your essay will be 5 paragraphs. This means you will
have an introductory paragraph, 3 body paragraphs
and a concluding paragraph.
 You must choose 3 literary and/or dramatic techniques
used to sustain your doubt. Each body paragraph
will therefore analyze 1 of your chosen
techniques.
How to begin:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
Choose which 3 techniques you will analyze
Write your thesis statement
Find quotations to support your thesis. Be sure to also
write down the page number. *Using 2 quotes per
paragraph should give you a solid argument.
Draft an outline of your essay
Write a first draft of your essay
Revise your essay, making sure you followed the proper
structure and correctly inserted your quotations
Hand in your final draft!
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