Present your own interpretation

In the course of academic study, or as part of a freelance writing job, you may find yourself asked to write a Literary Analysis Essay. In this type of essay, you present your views on a certain novel, short story, poem, or play script. You can even present an analysis of a literary essay that deals with a topic in depth. In essence, a Literary Analysis Essay is you putting forth reasons as to why your observations on a particular work are valid ones.

In a way, a literary analysis essay is akin to an argumentative essay. You want to promote your views, opinions, and ideas on a work. Your goal is to put your best argument forward for your way of understanding the work. You can use elements of other essay types to do this, such as compare and contrast. This is where you may compare the novel, poem, or other work to another author’s work. There can be elements of the narrative essay in this type of essay as well.

The gist of the Literary Analysis Essay is you analysing, comparing, judging, and evaluating a literary work. This is not in a negative sense. It’s you giving a well thought out interpretation – your argument – of what you feel the work is about and what it is trying to say to the reader. When writing this type of essay, incorporate the following elements into it:


At the beginning, fully identify the work by its official name and fully identify the writer of the work. Next, give a general introduction or simple overview of the work you chose to analyse. You may indicate that the work is one part of a whole body of work by the writer. You can allude to how it’s similar or dissimilar to the writer’s other novels, poems, or stories. Here you just want to give a general introduction. You can fill in the details in the main body of your essay.

You can also indicate the main theme of the work, the genre, and the historical events related to the work. In addition, you may indicate the location of the story, poem, or play, and the cultural and social conventions of the time. You just want to get your reader acquainted with the work in these opening sentences.

The Thesis Sentence

This sentence in the introduction fine-tunes your central point. For example, you may write, “The town of Haynesville in all its down-home simplicity is at the heart of this novel and also defines the main character Walter precisely.” Your thesis sentence is important in a Literary Analysis Essay as it gets your reader focused on the “intent” of your essay.

With the above thesis sentence, you know the essay will focus on the town of Haynesville and Walter. You begin to understand that the town’s simple way of life will manifest itself in the main character of the story. In your thesis sentence, include a reference or two to “literary elements”. In this example, “Character” is an element of literature that your reader now knows the essay will focus on. You may want to reference Plot or Language and Style in your thesis sentence.

Brief Summary of the Work

You may find this is necessary to remind your audience of the vital aspects of the work; what it concerns. Here, you can give a little more background of the work and the author to deepen the reader’s understanding. This gives the reader a knowledge foundation to follow better your detailed argument that will ensue. However, you may find there is no need to present a brief summary if you know your readers are quite familiar with the work.

The Reasoned Interpretation

Your interpretation of a particular literary work is the central point or idea you want to convey to your readers. With interpretation, or argument, the rest of your essay expands on your thesis sentence. Using the above thesis sentence, the rest of the essay will present an argument on how the nature of Haynesville influences and affects the thoughts, beliefs, and actions of the main character/protagonist, Walter.

Your interpretation of a work will present quotes, and scene references, all in context of the story. You will use elements of the story to make your point clearly. Any opinion you have must reference the work itself to back up your argument. The reader has to know they can go directly to the story to find out for themselves what you are basing your argument on.

Remember, you’re not trying to convert people or win them over to your view. You are trying to show that you have valid reasons for this personal interpretation or argument of yours. Therefore, you must support your opinions, views, assertions, and such with concrete examples from the work itself. Again, use quotes, summarize, dissect portions of the story, and expand on passages you find intriguing and illuminating.

As you give your interpretation, consider Point-Of View, Story Structure, Themes, Plot, Language, Setting, and Character. Also, consider the Society of the time period of the work, its social conventions, traditions, customs, and the like. This will give your reader a well-rounded view of the work you are discussing.


Present your literary analysis essay in an organized fashion.  Make your argument flow logically and intelligently from paragraph to paragraph – point-to-point. Make each sentence relate back to that “tuning fork”, your thesis sentence. If any paragraph doesn’t expand on your thesis sentence then you’re meandering away from the purpose of your essay.

Try to bring out views and observations that are unique; that are not typically associated with the work you’re considering. Dig deep, think hard, and illuminate different aspects of the work that others may not have focused on.


As with all your writing, you’ll need to refine it by revising. Read it over; read it aloud. Have smooth transitions from paragraph to paragraph. Edit until you have the right words that clearly present your argument. Don’t allow yourself to go off topic or offer a muddled message that confuses your readers.

Consider all of the above elements when it comes to constructing your own Literary Analysis Essay. These elements will help you present your reasoned thought in an organized fashion to your readers. You can confidently present your argument, knowing you have logically structured your essay. This ensures your reader follows your interpretation easily, while forming their own opinions on the work you are presenting to them.