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Literary Analysis

Assignment: Literary Analysis

Literary analyses asks you to read texts critically and carefully. The genre examines literary texts closely to understand their messages, interpret their meanings, and appreciate their writers’ techniques. You might look for patterns in a book or play or point out differences between a book and the movie based on the novel. You will go below the surface to deepen your understanding of how the texts work and what they mean.

You will formulate a thesis about the meaning of a literary work. The essay offers an interpretation of the text, with evidence from the text itself to support it.


  • 1,000 to 1,200 words
  • MLA Style
  • 1 to 2 sources aside from our text
  • A strong arguable thesis
  • Effective detail analysis
  • Well-constructed and supported paragraphs
  • Focus on closely analyzing a relatively small number of details.
  • Correct grammar, punctuation, and citation
  • Works Cited
  • 1 featured image


This paper is an opportunity to extend your analytical skills to a longer, more detailed, and rigorous argument. In this essay, you will perform a close reading of a text (any readings from the Cisneros book). You will include one to two outside research sources for this paper. You will explore a critical claim, thematic interpretation, or close reading based on your own personal experiences, connections, and insights into the text. In other words, you will pick some interesting episode or set of related passages and make an argument about what that episode or set of passages are saying.

“Significance” or “what the passage is saying” is the central part of this paper.  While the details, patterns, anomalies, and binaries you notice are important as evidence, your thesis and paragraph claims should be focused on the ideas that the text is communicating.  Identifying the ideas will be the challenging part, because doing so requires moving beyond the details to significance (or the so what question).

Secondary sources can be a book or article that discusses the text you are discussing; discusses a theory related to the argument you are making; discusses the social and historical context of the text you are discussing. When you use secondary sources, be sure to show how they relate to your thesis.

Remember that this is your paper, your argument; the secondary sources are only helping you out.

This is a formal assignment in which you are required to closely analyze a text and then craft an interesting, well-structured argument about it.  Generally speaking, a strong paper will include several elements:

  • A strong thesis statement that makes a focused, debatable claim.
  • Effective detail-analysis; and well-constructed paragraphs.
  • Focus on closely analyzing a relatively small number of significant details.  Strive to do more with less rather than including a long list of details that all prove essentially the same point.
  • Utilization of credible and/or scholarly sources.
  • Correct grammar, punctuation, and citation


Thematic interpretation

Close Reading

Book Review

Author Extension. Continue a story, write a new story in the style of Sandra Cisneros, Retell a story from the book.

Sample Essays

The Misfits

Loving a Broken Girl

The Hidden Complexities of Clemencia


200 – 400 Words

You can analyze a character, theme, or any of the items we will discuss in class. Pick something that interests you.

An effective proposal has a narrow focus, clear thesis, includes primary claims, and context for why you think this is important to write about. Make sure you are annotating your book as you read so that you can easily find quotes and sections to include in your analysis paper.

Questions to consider before writing your proposal:

  1. What is your topic?
  2. Why are you writing about this? Why does it interest you?
  3. Do you need to do any research to help with your analysis?
  4. What is your initial analysis for this paper?
  5. What is your original thesis?

Parts of the Assignment

  • Proposal
  • Rough Draft
  • Final Draft posted on class blog


  1. Clear topic and debatable thesis
  2. Focused paragraphs and analysis
  3. Use of Sources
  4. Images and title
  5. Works Cited and Proper MLA


  • Adapted from’s writing a literary analysis.
  • Adapted from writing a literary analysis.
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