Goal: To Compose a short literary analysis essay of either “O Xiang Xue” or “Ancestor”; during this week,
do your best to write a first draft that uses one of the suggested analytical approaches shown below and is
at least 5 paragraphs long
1. Before beginning to write your draft, view this tutorial video: How Do I Write a Literary Essay? (video
2. Pre-writing: Do some pre-writing/brain-storming/mind-mapping to generate some ideas about your topic
for your Essay 1 on your selected story from from our Essay 1 Course Folder. For your essay to be
successful, it will need to have a focus and purpose. Your essay should express your
opinions/interpretations of the story, using evidence/examples/quotes from the story to support your ideas.
Regarding Research: Using research to learn some possible answers about your selected story is
encouraged but not required. Try to develop your own ideas about the story without using research at first.
Then, if you wish, use research to get possible answers and ideas about your story that you may wish to
include in your final draft. As always, if you use research, make sure to create works cited page and in-text
citations in the MLA style and format.
Choose a method or approach: As you reflect on the story and consider what its topic, focus, and purpose
might be, it may be helpful to review and reflect on some of the time-tested methods of literary analysis.y, you will choose one of these methods and your essay’s introduction will let the reader know which
method/approach is being used. The time-tested methods of literary analysis include the following:
a.) Thematic analysis: For this type of essay, your thesis will hypothesize what you consider to be the
theme/meaning/message of the story and the body paragraphs of your essay will focus on supporting
material that supports your thesis about the theme.
b.) Character analysis: This type of essay will develop an analytical perspective (your opinion(s) about the
personality and actions of the story’s main character (or possibly two or three characters, if their actions are
closely intertwined). The purpose of this type of essay is help the reader of your essay better understand
why the character(s) behaved as they did; how were they changed by their actions or events of the story;
what lessons did the character or the reader (or both) learn from the actions and events of the story.
c.) Plot analysis: This web-page with video explains the basics of plot analysis: Plot Analysis: Example &
Overview (webpage & video)
d.) Setting Analysis: This type of essay focuses on analyzing the setting and/or description of the setting of
the story to develop a thesis statement with the purpose of explaining how the author’s
representation/depiction/portrayal of the setting contributes the development of some aspect of the story,
such as it character(s), plot, conflict, theme, or message.
e.) Historical criticism: This type of essay focuses on learning about historical period in which the story
takes place. The purpose of this essay is to show how learning more about the history surrounding the
story and depicted in the story contributes to the reader’s overall understanding of the story.
f.) Biographical criticism: This type of essay involves doing some research about the story’s author and
making connections between the author’s life and some aspects of the story (plot, character(s), conflict,
plot, setting, theme, etc. The purpose of this type of essay is to show how better understanding the life of
the author can contribute to the reader’s understanding of the story. To be successful, this method must
both compare and contrast. Simply arguing that the story was based on the author’s life experiences is an
over-simplification. It’s important to show how the author not only used life experience to write the story, but
also show how the author may have transformed or changed biographical elements in the story.
g.) Reader Response-Question-based: This type of essay focuses on a question or a few related question
that the reader has about the story. In the essay, the reader will explore and postulate an answer or a few
alternative answers to the question(s) and in the conclusion evaluate the possible answers and attempt to
explain what is the best possible answer and or answers to the question and how they contribute to the
reader’s overall understanding of the story.
*To receive a grade of “A,” your essays’ MLA format must be perfect. To learn how to achieve MLA format
in MSWord, view the following video tutorial: MLA Format in Word (video tutorial)
Another useful MLA format guide is this: MLA Essay Format Sample & Guide
1) Make improvements to your essay 1 draft to make sure that it is well-developed and complete. A sample
outline of a short literary analysis essay is:
I. Introductory Paragraph:
a. Begin with an interesting quote or fact about your topic. Or open your essay with a question.
b. State your essay’s topic, purpose, analytical method, or theme
c. Perhaps include a short list of the topics and to be discussed in the body of the essayII. Body Paragraph 1:
a. topic sentence (tells the topic and purpose of the paragraph
b. 1-2 sentences to introduce supporting material
c. 1 or more examples of the subject of this paragraph
d. Your concluding comments on this paragraph (possibly setting up a transition to the next paragraph)
III. Body Paragraph 2:
(similar to Body Paragraph 1)
IV. Body Paragraph 3:
(similar to Body Paragraph 1)
V. Concluding Paragraph:
a. Summarize main points
b. Possibly re-state your essay’s theme or thesis
c. Tell what you think was the writer’s intended meaning, message, or purpose for writing the story
c. Add any final thought or thoughts (remaining points of interest or information you want to share with the
reader about your topic.