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Literary Analysis: Looking Closer

A gaze under the microscope lens at some basic elements of literary analysis, courtesy of the Communication Student Support Center at the Winter Park campus of Valencia College.

on 23 October 2014

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Transcript of Literary Analysis: Looking Closer

Literary Analysis: Looking Closer
What Does It Mean To Analyze?
Analyze--examine methodically and in detail the constitution or structure of (something, esp. information), typically for purposes of explanation and interpretation.
The main focus of literary analysis is NOT to provide summary or rehash the plot of a story.
After having read a story, the first step is to make a claim about what you have read.
Follow up with an example found in the text.
Explain how the piece of textual evidence supports your claim.
What Should I Be Looking For?
To develop claims about a story or poem and then express those ideas, look for examples of literary devices in the text. These are how the author gets his or her ultimate message across.
Figurative language
, or figures of speech, make up a lot of this. So do
plot structure
setting/social climate/history
. Let's look a little closer.
Literary Devices:
Figurative Language:
Metaphor - a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance. For example, "My brother is a rock."
Simile - same thing as a metaphor, but using "like" or "as." For example, "Her gaze was like ice."
Imagery related; something which is itself yet stands for something else. For example, the ring of power in "Lord of the Rings," stands for corruptible power.
How Can I Stay Focused?
Create a focused thesis statement.
A thesis statement contains a topic, a main idea, and an opinion.
A thesis should not be too broad, for it will encompass too many ideas.
It cannot only be a fact because it will be too narrow and difficult to expand upon.
Try to not just re-tell or summarize the story. You want to analyze what you have read and not just re-hash obvious story points.
Explore an idea that you can elaborate on.
Ask yourself: Is my topic relevant? So what? Is this topic significant? Is it arguable? Can I support it?

Literary Devices
The author's expression of a character's personality (using action, dialogue, thought or commentary by a narrator or another character).

Plot structure:
the sequence of events that make up the "cause and effect" of a story, consisting of a beginning, middle and end. The story is not always linear. Plot will largely to help you establish the "what," while other devices help
explain the "why."

Literary Devices
The dominant, centralized idea of a story or poem. This can usually be boiled down to a single word, like "love," or "betrayal."


The wider metaphor that threads throughout a story or poem, showing what is symbolically represented. This is more detailed than the theme. For example, William Golding's "Lord of the Flies" could be seen as an allegory for the warlike nature of human beings, and the movie "Avatar" could be seen as an allegory for human destruction of the environment and less-powerful civilizations.
Literary Devices
Setting/Social Climate/History:
Where a story is set is important to understanding the motivations of characters and the workings of the society they live in. If the story takes place in the American South after the Civil War, then race relations will likely be prevalent. If it is set during the 19th century, the female protagonist will probably not have equal rights to men. These historical perspectives -- and the societies to which they pertain -- are important in determining the author's ultimate message about a work.

Initiative is an important quality to an entrepreneur, and it's one Balramh has nurtured.
He absorbs information in whatever way possible. Balram does not waste opportunities
In this paper, I am going to discuss how Sammy became disenchanted with his small-town life.
Too Broad:
Teenagers hate small-town life.
Too Narrow:
In John Updike's "A&P," Sammy is the main character.
Just Right:
In his story,
The Secret Agent
, Conrad uses beast and cannibal imagery to describe the characters and their relationships to each other. This pattern of images suggests that Conrad saw corruption in every level of early twentieth-century London society.
Information Credit: Purdue Owl:
Despite the fact that he is semi-literate, he does not hesitate to "leap into books, picking them up, reading them" (Adiga 216).
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