A Literary Analysis Essay Outline

A Literary Analysis Essay Outline

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Most times when you read a piece of literature, your sole objective is enjoyment.

However, when you read a work of literature in an English class, you’re being requested to go through it in a special way. In other words, you are being tasked with the duty of performing a literary analysis. Literary analysis deals with assessing all the segments of a play, novel, short story, etc. – elements like setting, tone, characters, and thinking about how the writer utilizes these elements to produce particular effects. One thing to note is that a literary essay is neither a book review nor a book report.

Literary essay analysis is a skill one learns and masters. As you continue to practice more on this topic, you will be able to create a method that suits you.

Steps to Writing a Literary Analysis Paper Outline

Before you come up with an ideal literary analysis paper outline, you need to follow the following steps:

Ask Questions

Whenever you are given a literary essay in class, most of the time the teacher will provide you with a list of writing prompts for a literary analysis outline. All you have to do is to select one. Select a topic that interests you. You’ll have an easier time writing the analysis. If you are tasked with coming up with a topic all by yourself and you end up panicking, take a deep breath and ask yourself these questions:

  • What struck you? Did a certain line, image or scene stay in your mind for a while? If it thrilled you, then you will definitely end up writing a captivating essay.
  • Did you notice any patterns? Is there any expression that the main character utilizes frequently or an image that repeatedly appears in the book? If you can understand how the pattern occurs throughout the book and its significance, then it will be easy to come up with an essay.
  • Did you come across any ironies or contradictions? Most pieces of literature, especially the great ones, are complex. Great essays can explain these complexities. For example, the main character behaves in one manner around this family but behaves differently around other people. If you can figure out a way to explain these contradictions, then you’ll be on the path towards writing an excellent essay.

Good questions include:

  • How are Dr. Frankenstein and his monster alike?
  • Are the parents of Romeo and Juliet responsible for their deaths?

Bad questions include:

  • In Julius Caesar, what do the characters think about Caesar?
  • In To Kill a Mockingbird, what happens to Scout?

Gather Evidence

Once you have an idea of the question that you want to answer, the next step to take is to gather evidence from the book that will assist you to answer the question. Keep track of things like images, symbols or passages that deal with your topic.

Now that you have the question and you’ve gathered the necessary evidence, make use of the following outline for literary analysis to write the ideal essay.

Thesis Statement in a Literary Analysis Outline

After you collect all the material that you require, the next step is to write your thesis statement. It has to be supported by arguments and evidence. It is the heart of your literary essay, and the entire essay will be spent attempting to prove this claim. An ideal thesis will be:

  • Provable via textual evidence – For instance, a thesis statement like ‘Hamlet is a puzzling but eventually well-written play’ is weak because it offers the writer’s viewpoint on the book. Even though arguable, it’s not a claim that can be supported with examples from the play.
  • Surprising – A statement like ‘Both Lenny and George change a great deal in Of Mice and Men’ is weak because it is obvious. A strong thesis statement will support a reading of the text that isn’t immediately obvious.

A thesis statement should not:

  • Be vague – It should be specific. A thesis like ‘Dr. Frankenstein’s monster reveals a lot about the human nature’ is almost a great statement. However, it is too vague.

An ideal thesis statement can be as follows:

Question: Regarding Romeo and Juliet, which is more powerful in shaping the lovers’ saga; foolishness or fate?

Thesis: Although William Shakespeare describes Romeo and Juliet as star-crossed lovers and images of planets and stars appear in the play, a closer scrutiny of this imagery discloses that the stars are only witnesses to the two characters’ foolish activities and not the causes themselves.

Develop and Organize Arguments

The examples that back your thesis will form the middle paragraphs of your essay. Given that you cannot write your thesis statement until you know how your arguments will be structured, you’ll most likely end up working on this step and the one above together. One method of argumentation will not be suitable for every context. One prompt might ask you to compare and contrast two characters. Another might ask you to trace a certain image via a particular piece of literature.

Literary Analysis Essay Outline Example

The Introduction

The introduction of the literary analysis essay outline will set up the whole essay. It is where your topic is presented and the particular issues and questions that will be addressed are articulated. Also, it is the section where you as the writer introduce yourself to your readers.

The length of an introduction might vary based on the overall length of the essay. However, in a traditional 5-paragraph essay, it ought to be longer than one paragraph. Your introduction should:

  • Give any necessary context – The introduction should position the reader and let him/her know what to expect. Which play are you discussing? What topic will you talk about?
  • Respond to the ‘so what?’ question – Why is this topic significant? The introduction ought to grab the reader’s attention.
  • Present the thesis – This occurs at or very near the end of your introduction.
  • Point out the shape of the essay – When the reader finishes reading the introduction, he or she should have a sense of your essay’s scope and how you’re going to prove your thesis.

The introduction should not:

  • Go off-topic – Your introduction should be kept to the point.
  • Be vague – You should try to avoid words like important and interesting. They’ll make your work appear ambiguous.
  • Begin with any flamboyant assertions – Most students think that beginning their essays with flamboyant statements such as ‘since the beginning of time’ will make them sound important. For most readers, the essays might sound amateurish.

The Body Paragraphs of a Literary Analysis Outline

Once you’re done with the introduction, the next step is to take the arguments that you came up with and turn them into your body paragraphs. The structure of the middle segment of your essay will be determined by the strategy you’ll use for your arguments. The body paragraph should:

  • Start with a strong topic sentence – A proper topic sentence notifies the readers what issue will be talked about in the following paragraph. It also provides a sense of what argument is to be expected about that issue. A good example can be, ‘The society’s continuous gossip creates an environment that enables false accusations to thrive.’
  • Fully develop a single thought – Do not stuff too much material in your paragraph. Paragraphs are like building bricks. Each brick should be strong on its own, otherwise, the whole structure will collapse. Ensure you prove your points, one after the other.

The body paragraph should not:

  • Ignore the use of transitions – Transition phrases and words like however, therefore, and on the contrary need to be included in your paragraphs to indicate the kind of response you are making.

The Conclusion

Just as the introduction was used to attract readers to your topic before the thesis was provided, you will use the conclusion to summarize exactly what has been learned so far and then mention the wider implications of the topic. A good conclusion should:

  • Re-examine the ‘so what?’ question – In the introduction, you presented your argument as to why your topic and position are important. Your essay should conclude with the same type of gesture. How will the knowledge acquired assist your readers to better comprehend the entire work?
  • Go from specific to general – Strive to show how the discussion of a certain character, etc. has broader implications for the work. If you concentrated on the character of Boo Radley from To Kill a Mockingbird, include information on how he matches the book’s overall message about family life or childhood.

The conclusion should not:

  • Repeat the details of your body paragraphs. The reader has already gone through the essay, and they’ve probably not forgotten all the points.
  • Contain overblown closing remarks.


Make use of the outline of literary analysis to come up with the best essay or paper. Moreover, for more literary analysis outline examples, a quick search online will give you lots of information and resources.

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