A Literary Analysis Outline

A Literary Analysis Outline

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Overview of Literary Analysis

The main aim of literary analysis is to scrutinize and evaluate a piece of writing. Just like other types of analysis, literary analysis involves breaking down the subject into its constituent parts. Evaluating the various elements of a particular work of literature is a process that will assist you to better appreciate and comprehend this work in its entirety.

For example, an analysis of a play will involve the analysis of the correlation between the subplot and the main plot. If you were to analyze a poem, you would have to deal with the different kinds of images in that poem or the relationship between the form and the content. On the other hand, you would analyze the character flaw of a hero by figuring out how it’s revealed throughout the play. Moreover, carrying out literary analysis of a short story might comprise identifying a specific theme (for instance, the difficulty in transitioning from adolescence to adulthood) and portraying how the writer brings out that theme or explaining how the attitude of the main character towards the female gender is disclosed via his actions and dialogue.

Your main purpose of writing a literary analysis is to convince the reader that you support the idea that you’re developing. The literary analysis involves tight organization and control. Thus, your literary analysis essay outline should contain a thesis (main idea) and several paragraphs that branch out systematically out of the thesis, and everything in these paragraphs must be related to the thesis and must also contribute to the reader’s comprehension of the main idea.

Now that we know what literary analysis is, the next step is to look at the outline for literary analysis.

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The Outline for Literary Analysis

The Thesis Statement of a Literary Analysis Essay Outline

The thesis statement lets the reader know what to expect. It is a sentence that reveals your essay’s objective, that is, the point you’re trying to put across. An essay has no chance of success in the absence of a carefully formulated thesis.

Below are examples of ideal thesis statements that would work for 500 to 700-word literary analysis essays:

  • The imagery captured in Fern Hill, a poem by Dylan Thompson, exposes the ambiguity of humankind’s relationship with nature.
  • The 1960 poem titled The Ballad of Rudolph Reed by Gwendolyn Brook illustrates how the poet utilizes the standard poetic form of the ballad to treat the eccentric, poetic subject matter of racial prejudice.
  • The fate of the main characters in Antigone demonstrates the dangers that result from excessive pride.

The thesis statement usually comes at the end of the introductory paragraph.

A good thesis statement should not:

  • Address the reader.
  • Utilize the phrases ‘these are’ and ‘there are’.
  • Tell the reader what he/she will read.
  • Have any use of the first person.

The Introduction of a Literary Analysis Paper Outline

Your introduction should endeavor to pique the interest of the readers. You can use a short anecdote, provocative question, quote, shocking statement or a combination of all these to bring immediate focus to your topic.

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In addition, background information that’s relevant to your thesis can be included so that your readers can better understand the position you’re taking. The title of the piece of writing and the writer’s name should also be included. Below are acceptable introductory paragraphs that include suitable thesis statements:

  • The setting of John Updike’s ‘A & P’ story is vital to the readers’ comprehension of Sammy’s decision to quit his job. Although Sammy is aware that quitting his job will make life more difficult for him, he intuitively insists on rejecting what the A & P stands for in the story. When Sammy rings up a ‘saunter(s)’ and ‘no sale’ out of the store, he leaves behind the job and also the inflexible state of mind linked to the A & P. Even though Sammy is the story’s main character, Updike appears to put in as much effort in illustrating the setting as he does Sammy. After all, the title is not ‘Sammy Quits’ or ‘Youthful Rebellion’ but ‘A & P.’ The antagonist of the story is the setting and it plays a key role that’s as crucial as Sammy’s.
  • What would someone expect to be the personality of a man who has had his wife sent away to a covenant (or probably has had her killed) because she valued the sunset a lot and a compliment paid to her by another man? It’s such a man, a Renaissance duke, who Robert Browning depicts in his poem ‘My Last Duchess.’ An analysis of the character of Duke discloses that via his inner dialogue, his understanding of earlier incidents, and his actions, his character traits, jealousy, arrogance, and greediness come out.
  • The opening paragraph of the short story ‘The Secret Lion’ by Alberto Alvaro portrays a 12-year old boy’s viewpoint of growing up: everything changes. As the narrator tells the reader, when the magician pulls a tablecloth from under a mound of dishes, children are astounded, while grown-ups concentrate solely on the tablecloth. Grown-ups have the advantage of experience and are aware that the trick will work provided that the technique is correct. When children grow up, they gain this experience and knowledge but lose their sense of wonder and innocence. The price one pays for growing up is a permanent sense of loss. This exchange is central to this short story. The main symbols in the story emphasize its central theme: change is unavoidable and is always associated with a sense of loss.

An excellent introduction should not:

  • Begin with ostentatious statements.
  • Be equivocal.
  • Wildly praise the work of literature.

The Body Paragraph

The term usually used for the development of the central idea of literary analysis outline is the body paragraph. In this segment, you give the paragraphs that back your thesis. Excellent literary analysis essays usually have an explanation of your ideas and textual evidence (poem, short story, etc.) that supports your ideas. Evidence from the text consists of paraphrase, particular details, summary, and direct quotes.

Every paragraph ought to have a topic sentence (the first sentence of the paragraph) that mentions one of the topics linked to your thesis, combined with some affirmation about how the topic will support the main idea. The topic sentence usually aims to:

  • Connect the details of the paragraph together.
  • Relate the details of the paragraph to the thesis statement.

The content of every development paragraph (the body of your essay) will include summaries, explanations, particular details, quotations, and paraphrases that you require to develop and support the more general statement you’ve made in the topic sentence. Below is the opening developmental paragraph after one of the introductory paragraphs mentioned above:

  • Topic sentence, explanations, and textual evidence

Sammy’s depiction of the A & P portrays a setting that’s dull, ugly, and heavily regulated. The chain store is a familiar fixture in the modern society; therefore, the readers can associate themselves with what Sammy describes. The fluorescent light is insipidly cool as is the green-and-cream rubber tile floor with checkerboard features. The normal traffic in the store moves in one direction, except for the girls in swimsuits who move in the opposite direction and everything there is well categorized and organized in neat aisles. Sammy’s references intimate this environment’s dehumanizing nature. He calls the typical shoppers ‘pigs,’ ‘sheep,’ and ‘house slaves.’ These normal customers seem to walk through the store in a daze; as Sammy states, not even dynamite could remove them from their routine.

This is a strong paragraph because it’s developed via details, explanation, summary, and the use of quotations to support the topic sentence. If you examine it keenly, you’ll notice that it ties back to the thesis statement.

The body paragraph should not:

  • End without a clincher sentence.
  • Miss transition words and phrases.

Conclusion of the Literary Analysis Paper Outline

Your literary analysis paper outline ought to have a closing/concluding paragraph that provides your essay with a sense of completeness and lets your readers know that they have reached your essay’s finish line.

The thesis might be restated in the closing paragraph using different words. The concluding paragraph might also summarize the main points made in the essay or make a pertinent comment about the work you’re analyzing but from another perspective. The following is a concluding paragraph from the essay quoted above about Robert Browning’s poem ‘My Last Duchess’:

  • If the Duke has any positive attributes, they don’t appear in the poem. The emphasis of the Duke’s attributes of jealousy, materialism, and arrogance by Browning makes it clear that anyone who might have known the Duke would have based his/her opinion on him on these 3 flaws. Eventually, the readers’ opinion on the Duke is not a good one, and the writer (Browning) intended that the reader should feel this way.

A good conclusion should not:

  • Introduce a new topic.
  • Be rushed.
  • Make overblown concluding remarks.


There you have it. Follow the outline above to come up with a good literary analysis. To get more literary analysis outline examples, you can read textbooks and ask professionals for advice.