beginner's guide to literary analysis

Understanding literature & how to write literary analysis.

Literary analysis is the foundation of every college and high school English class. Once you can comprehend written work and respond to it, the next step is to learn how to think critically and complexly about a work of literature in order to analyze its elements and establish ideas about its meaning.

If that sounds daunting, it shouldn’t. Literary analysis is really just a way of thinking creatively about what you read. The practice takes you beyond the storyline and into the motives behind it. 

While an author might have had a specific intention when they wrote their book, there’s still no right or wrong way to analyze a literary text—just your way. You can use literary theories, which act as “lenses” through which you can view a text. Or you can use your own creativity and critical thinking to identify a literary device or pattern in a text and weave that insight into your own argument about the text’s underlying meaning. 

Now, if that sounds fun, it should , because it is. Here, we’ll lay the groundwork for performing literary analysis, including when writing analytical essays, to help you read books like a critic. 

What Is Literary Analysis?

As the name suggests, literary analysis is an analysis of a work, whether that’s a novel, play, short story, or poem. Any analysis requires breaking the content into its component parts and then examining how those parts operate independently and as a whole. In literary analysis, those parts can be different devices and elements—such as plot, setting, themes, symbols, etcetera—as well as elements of style, like point of view or tone. 

When performing analysis, you consider some of these different elements of the text and then form an argument for why the author chose to use them. You can do so while reading and during class discussion, but it’s particularly important when writing essays. 

Literary analysis is notably distinct from summary. When you write a summary , you efficiently describe the work’s main ideas or plot points in order to establish an overview of the work. While you might use elements of summary when writing analysis, you should do so minimally. You can reference a plot line to make a point, but it should be done so quickly so you can focus on why that plot line matters . In summary (see what we did there?), a summary focuses on the “ what ” of a text, while analysis turns attention to the “ how ” and “ why .”

While literary analysis can be broad, covering themes across an entire work, it can also be very specific, and sometimes the best analysis is just that. Literary critics have written thousands of words about the meaning of an author’s single word choice; while you might not want to be quite that particular, there’s a lot to be said for digging deep in literary analysis, rather than wide. 

Although you’re forming your own argument about the work, it’s not your opinion . You should avoid passing judgment on the piece and instead objectively consider what the author intended, how they went about executing it, and whether or not they were successful in doing so. Literary criticism is similar to literary analysis, but it is different in that it does pass judgement on the work. Criticism can also consider literature more broadly, without focusing on a singular work. 

Once you understand what constitutes (and doesn’t constitute) literary analysis, it’s easy to identify it. Here are some examples of literary analysis and its oft-confused counterparts: 

Summary: In “The Fall of the House of Usher,” the narrator visits his friend Roderick Usher and witnesses his sister escape a horrible fate.  

Opinion: In “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Poe uses his great Gothic writing to establish a sense of spookiness that is enjoyable to read. 

Literary Analysis: “Throughout ‘The Fall of the House of Usher,’ Poe foreshadows the fate of Madeline by creating a sense of claustrophobia for the reader through symbols, such as in the narrator’s inability to leave and the labyrinthine nature of the house. 

In summary, literary analysis is:

  • Breaking a work into its components
  • Identifying what those components are and how they work in the text
  • Developing an understanding of how they work together to achieve a goal 
  • Not an opinion, but subjective 
  • Not a summary, though summary can be used in passing 
  • Best when it deeply, rather than broadly, analyzes a literary element

Literary Analysis and Other Works

As discussed above, literary analysis is often performed upon a single work—but it doesn’t have to be. It can also be performed across works to consider the interplay of two or more texts. Regardless of whether or not the works were written about the same thing, or even within the same time period, they can have an influence on one another or a connection that’s worth exploring. And reading two or more texts side by side can help you to develop insights through comparison and contrast.

For example, Paradise Lost is an epic poem written in the 17th century, based largely on biblical narratives written some 700 years before and which later influenced 19th century poet John Keats. The interplay of works can be obvious, as here, or entirely the inspiration of the analyst. As an example of the latter, you could compare and contrast the writing styles of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Edgar Allan Poe who, while contemporaries in terms of time, were vastly different in their content. 

Additionally, literary analysis can be performed between a work and its context. Authors are often speaking to the larger context of their times, be that social, political, religious, economic, or artistic. A valid and interesting form is to compare the author’s context to the work, which is done by identifying and analyzing elements that are used to make an argument about the writer’s time or experience. 

For example, you could write an essay about how Hemingway’s struggles with mental health and paranoia influenced his later work, or how his involvement in the Spanish Civil War influenced his early work. One approach focuses more on his personal experience, while the other turns to the context of his times—both are valid. 

Why Does Literary Analysis Matter? 

Sometimes an author wrote a work of literature strictly for entertainment’s sake, but more often than not, they meant something more. Whether that was a missive on world peace, commentary about femininity, or an allusion to their experience as an only child, the author probably wrote their work for a reason, and understanding that reason—or the many reasons—can actually make reading a lot more meaningful. 

Performing literary analysis as a form of study unquestionably makes you a better reader. It’s also likely that it will improve other skills, too, like critical thinking, creativity, debate, and reasoning. 

At its grandest and most idealistic, literary analysis even has the ability to make the world a better place. By reading and analyzing works of literature, you are able to more fully comprehend the perspectives of others. Cumulatively, you’ll broaden your own perspectives and contribute more effectively to the things that matter to you. 

Literary Terms to Know for Literary Analysis 

There are hundreds of literary devices you could consider during your literary analysis, but there are some key tools most writers utilize to achieve their purpose—and therefore you need to know in order to understand that purpose. These common devices include: 

  • Characters: The people (or entities) who play roles in the work. The protagonist is the main character in the work. 
  • Conflict: The conflict is the driving force behind the plot, the event that causes action in the narrative, usually on the part of the protagonist
  • Context : The broader circumstances surrounding the work political and social climate in which it was written or the experience of the author. It can also refer to internal context, and the details presented by the narrator 
  • Diction : The word choice used by the narrator or characters 
  • Genre: A category of literature characterized by agreed upon similarities in the works, such as subject matter and tone
  • Imagery : The descriptive or figurative language used to paint a picture in the reader’s mind so they can picture the story’s plot, characters, and setting 
  • Metaphor: A figure of speech that uses comparison between two unlike objects for dramatic or poetic effect
  • Narrator: The person who tells the story. Sometimes they are a character within the story, but sometimes they are omniscient and removed from the plot. 
  • Plot : The storyline of the work
  • Point of view: The perspective taken by the narrator, which skews the perspective of the reader 
  • Setting : The time and place in which the story takes place. This can include elements like the time period, weather, time of year or day, and social or economic conditions 
  • Symbol : An object, person, or place that represents an abstract idea that is greater than its literal meaning 
  • Syntax : The structure of a sentence, either narration or dialogue, and the tone it implies
  • Theme : A recurring subject or message within the work, often commentary on larger societal or cultural ideas
  • Tone : The feeling, attitude, or mood the text presents

How to Perform Literary Analysis

Step 1: read the text thoroughly.

Literary analysis begins with the literature itself, which means performing a close reading of the text. As you read, you should focus on the work. That means putting away distractions (sorry, smartphone) and dedicating a period of time to the task at hand. 

It’s also important that you don’t skim or speed read. While those are helpful skills, they don’t apply to literary analysis—or at least not this stage. 

Step 2: Take Notes as You Read  

As you read the work, take notes about different literary elements and devices that stand out to you. Whether you highlight or underline in text, use sticky note tabs to mark pages and passages, or handwrite your thoughts in a notebook, you should capture your thoughts and the parts of the text to which they correspond. This—the act of noticing things about a literary work—is literary analysis. 

Step 3: Notice Patterns 

As you read the work, you’ll begin to notice patterns in the way the author deploys language, themes, and symbols to build their plot and characters. As you read and these patterns take shape, begin to consider what they could mean and how they might fit together. 

As you identify these patterns, as well as other elements that catch your interest, be sure to record them in your notes or text. Some examples include: 

  • Circle or underline words or terms that you notice the author uses frequently, whether those are nouns (like “eyes” or “road”) or adjectives (like “yellow” or “lush”).
  • Highlight phrases that give you the same kind of feeling. For example, if the narrator describes an “overcast sky,” a “dreary morning,” and a “dark, quiet room,” the words aren’t the same, but the feeling they impart and setting they develop are similar. 
  • Underline quotes or prose that define a character’s personality or their role in the text.
  • Use sticky tabs to color code different elements of the text, such as specific settings or a shift in the point of view. 

By noting these patterns, comprehensive symbols, metaphors, and ideas will begin to come into focus.  

Step 4: Consider the Work as a Whole, and Ask Questions

This is a step that you can do either as you read, or after you finish the text. The point is to begin to identify the aspects of the work that most interest you, and you could therefore analyze in writing or discussion. 

Questions you could ask yourself include: 

  • What aspects of the text do I not understand?
  • What parts of the narrative or writing struck me most?
  • What patterns did I notice?
  • What did the author accomplish really well?
  • What did I find lacking?
  • Did I notice any contradictions or anything that felt out of place?  
  • What was the purpose of the minor characters?
  • What tone did the author choose, and why? 

The answers to these and more questions will lead you to your arguments about the text. 

Step 5: Return to Your Notes and the Text for Evidence

As you identify the argument you want to make (especially if you’re preparing for an essay), return to your notes to see if you already have supporting evidence for your argument. That’s why it’s so important to take notes or mark passages as you read—you’ll thank yourself later!

If you’re preparing to write an essay, you’ll use these passages and ideas to bolster your argument—aka, your thesis. There will likely be multiple different passages you can use to strengthen multiple different aspects of your argument. Just be sure to cite the text correctly! 

If you’re preparing for class, your notes will also be invaluable. When your teacher or professor leads the conversation in the direction of your ideas or arguments, you’ll be able to not only proffer that idea but back it up with textual evidence. That’s an A+ in class participation. 

Step 6: Connect These Ideas Across the Narrative

Whether you’re in class or writing an essay, literary analysis isn’t complete until you’ve considered the way these ideas interact and contribute to the work as a whole. You can find and present evidence, but you still have to explain how those elements work together and make up your argument. 

How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay

When conducting literary analysis while reading a text or discussing it in class, you can pivot easily from one argument to another (or even switch sides if a classmate or teacher makes a compelling enough argument). 

But when writing literary analysis, your objective is to propose a specific, arguable thesis and convincingly defend it. In order to do so, you need to fortify your argument with evidence from the text (and perhaps secondary sources) and an authoritative tone. 

A successful literary analysis essay depends equally on a thoughtful thesis, supportive analysis, and presenting these elements masterfully. We’ll review how to accomplish these objectives below. 

Step 1: Read the Text. Maybe Read It Again. 

Constructing an astute analytical essay requires a thorough knowledge of the text. As you read, be sure to note any passages, quotes, or ideas that stand out. These could serve as the future foundation of your thesis statement. Noting these sections now will help you when you need to gather evidence. 

The more familiar you become with the text, the better (and easier!) your essay will be. Familiarity with the text allows you to speak (or in this case, write) to it confidently. If you only skim the book, your lack of rich understanding will be evident in your essay. Alternatively, if you read the text closely—especially if you read it more than once, or at least carefully revisit important passages—your own writing will be filled with insight that goes beyond a basic understanding of the storyline. 

Step 2: Brainstorm Potential Topics 

Because you took detailed notes while reading the text, you should have a list of potential topics at the ready. Take time to review your notes, highlighting any ideas or questions you had that feel interesting. You should also return to the text and look for any passages that stand out to you. 

When considering potential topics, you should prioritize ideas that you find interesting. It won’t only make the whole process of writing an essay more fun, your enthusiasm for the topic will probably improve the quality of your argument, and maybe even your writing. Just like it’s obvious when a topic interests you in a conversation, it’s obvious when a topic interests the writer of an essay (and even more obvious when it doesn’t). 

Your topic ideas should also be specific, unique, and arguable. A good way to think of topics is that they’re the answer to fairly specific questions. As you begin to brainstorm, first think of questions you have about the text. Questions might focus on the plot, such as: Why did the author choose to deviate from the projected storyline? Or why did a character’s role in the narrative shift? Questions might also consider the use of a literary device, such as: Why does the narrator frequently repeat a phrase or comment on a symbol? Or why did the author choose to switch points of view each chapter? 

Once you have a thesis question , you can begin brainstorming answers—aka, potential thesis statements . At this point, your answers can be fairly broad. Once you land on a question-statement combination that feels right, you’ll then look for evidence in the text that supports your answer (and helps you define and narrow your thesis statement). 

For example, after reading “ The Fall of the House of Usher ,” you might be wondering, Why are Roderick and Madeline twins?, Or even: Why does their relationship feel so creepy?” Maybe you noticed (and noted) that the narrator was surprised to find out they were twins, or perhaps you found that the narrator’s tone tended to shift and become more anxious when discussing the interactions of the twins.

Once you come up with your thesis question, you can identify a broad answer, which will become the basis for your thesis statement. In response to the questions above, your answer might be, “Poe emphasizes the close relationship of Roderick and Madeline to foreshadow that their deaths will be close, too.” 

Step 3: Gather Evidence 

Once you have your topic (or you’ve narrowed it down to two or three), return to the text (yes, again) to see what evidence you can find to support it. If you’re thinking of writing about the relationship between Roderick and Madeline in “The Fall of the House of Usher,” look for instances where they engaged in the text. 

This is when your knowledge of literary devices comes in clutch. Carefully study the language around each event in the text that might be relevant to your topic. How does Poe’s diction or syntax change during the interactions of the siblings? How does the setting reflect or contribute to their relationship? What imagery or symbols appear when Roderick and Madeline are together? 

By finding and studying evidence within the text, you’ll strengthen your topic argument—or, just as valuably, discount the topics that aren’t strong enough for analysis. 

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Step 4: Consider Secondary Sources 

In addition to returning to the literary work you’re studying for evidence, you can also consider secondary sources that reference or speak to the work. These can be articles from journals you find on JSTOR, books that consider the work or its context, or articles your teacher shared in class. 

While you can use these secondary sources to further support your idea, you should not overuse them. Make sure your topic remains entirely differentiated from that presented in the source. 

Step 5: Write a Working Thesis Statement

Once you’ve gathered evidence and narrowed down your topic, you’re ready to refine that topic into a thesis statement. As you continue to outline and write your paper, this thesis statement will likely change slightly, but this initial draft will serve as the foundation of your essay. It’s like your north star: Everything you write in your essay is leading you back to your thesis. 

Writing a great thesis statement requires some real finesse. A successful thesis statement is: 

  • Debatable : You shouldn’t simply summarize or make an obvious statement about the work. Instead, your thesis statement should take a stand on an issue or make a claim that is open to argument. You’ll spend your essay debating—and proving—your argument. 
  • Demonstrable : You need to be able to prove, through evidence, that your thesis statement is true. That means you have to have passages from the text and correlative analysis ready to convince the reader that you’re right. 
  • Specific : In most cases, successfully addressing a theme that encompasses a work in its entirety would require a book-length essay. Instead, identify a thesis statement that addresses specific elements of the work, such as a relationship between characters, a repeating symbol, a key setting, or even something really specific like the speaking style of a character. 

Example: By depicting the relationship between Roderick and Madeline to be stifling and almost otherworldly in its closeness, Poe foreshadows both Madeline’s fate and Roderick’s inability to choose a different fate for himself. 

Step 6: Write an Outline 

You have your thesis, you have your evidence—but how do you put them together? A great thesis statement (and therefore a great essay) will have multiple arguments supporting it, presenting different kinds of evidence that all contribute to the singular, main idea presented in your thesis. 

Review your evidence and identify these different arguments, then organize the evidence into categories based on the argument they support. These ideas and evidence will become the body paragraphs of your essay. 

For example, if you were writing about Roderick and Madeline as in the example above, you would pull evidence from the text, such as the narrator’s realization of their relationship as twins; examples where the narrator’s tone of voice shifts when discussing their relationship; imagery, like the sounds Roderick hears as Madeline tries to escape; and Poe’s tendency to use doubles and twins in his other writings to create the same spooky effect. All of these are separate strains of the same argument, and can be clearly organized into sections of an outline. 

Step 7: Write Your Introduction

Your introduction serves a few very important purposes that essentially set the scene for the reader: 

  • Establish context. Sure, your reader has probably read the work. But you still want to remind them of the scene, characters, or elements you’ll be discussing. 
  • Present your thesis statement. Your thesis statement is the backbone of your analytical paper. You need to present it clearly at the outset so that the reader understands what every argument you make is aimed at. 
  • Offer a mini-outline. While you don’t want to show all your cards just yet, you do want to preview some of the evidence you’ll be using to support your thesis so that the reader has a roadmap of where they’re going. 

Step 8: Write Your Body Paragraphs

Thanks to steps one through seven, you’ve already set yourself up for success. You have clearly outlined arguments and evidence to support them. Now it’s time to translate those into authoritative and confident prose. 

When presenting each idea, begin with a topic sentence that encapsulates the argument you’re about to make (sort of like a mini-thesis statement). Then present your evidence and explanations of that evidence that contribute to that argument. Present enough material to prove your point, but don’t feel like you necessarily have to point out every single instance in the text where this element takes place. For example, if you’re highlighting a symbol that repeats throughout the narrative, choose two or three passages where it is used most effectively, rather than trying to squeeze in all ten times it appears. 

While you should have clearly defined arguments, the essay should still move logically and fluidly from one argument to the next. Try to avoid choppy paragraphs that feel disjointed; every idea and argument should feel connected to the last, and, as a group, connected to your thesis. A great way to connect the ideas from one paragraph to the next is with transition words and phrases, such as: 

  • Furthermore 
  • In addition
  • On the other hand
  • Conversely 

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Step 9: Write Your Conclusion 

Your conclusion is more than a summary of your essay's parts, but it’s also not a place to present brand new ideas not already discussed in your essay. Instead, your conclusion should return to your thesis (without repeating it verbatim) and point to why this all matters. If writing about the siblings in “The Fall of the House of Usher,” for example, you could point out that the utilization of twins and doubles is a common literary element of Poe’s work that contributes to the definitive eeriness of Gothic literature. 

While you might speak to larger ideas in your conclusion, be wary of getting too macro. Your conclusion should still be supported by all of the ideas that preceded it. 

Step 10: Revise, Revise, Revise

Of course you should proofread your literary analysis essay before you turn it in. But you should also edit the content to make sure every piece of evidence and every explanation directly supports your thesis as effectively and efficiently as possible. 

Sometimes, this might mean actually adapting your thesis a bit to the rest of your essay. At other times, it means removing redundant examples or paraphrasing quotations. Make sure every sentence is valuable, and remove those that aren’t. 

Other Resources for Literary Analysis 

With these skills and suggestions, you’re well on your way to practicing and writing literary analysis. But if you don’t have a firm grasp on the concepts discussed above—such as literary devices or even the content of the text you’re analyzing—it will still feel difficult to produce insightful analysis. 

If you’d like to sharpen the tools in your literature toolbox, there are plenty of other resources to help you do so: 

  • Check out our expansive library of Literary Devices . These could provide you with a deeper understanding of the basic devices discussed above or introduce you to new concepts sure to impress your professors ( anagnorisis , anyone?). 
  • This Academic Citation Resource Guide ensures you properly cite any work you reference in your analytical essay. 
  • Our English Homework Help Guide will point you to dozens of resources that can help you perform analysis, from critical reading strategies to poetry helpers. 
  • This Grammar Education Resource Guide will direct you to plenty of resources to refine your grammar and writing (definitely important for getting an A+ on that paper). 

Of course, you should know the text inside and out before you begin writing your analysis. In order to develop a true understanding of the work, read through its corresponding SuperSummary study guide . Doing so will help you truly comprehend the plot, as well as provide some inspirational ideas for your analysis.

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Literature Analysis

Writing Center

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Phone: 253-535-8709

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Writing Center, Library 220 Tacoma, WA 98447-0003

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You can now make writing center appointments online. Go to and click “schedule an appointment.”  Appointments are made for either 30 or 60 minutes depending on the length and complexity of your paper. Free feel to contact us with any questions!

Literature analysis is the cornerstone of many college classes, in subjects ranging from English literature to history. Literature analysis papers as you to consider how and why a literary text was written and conveys some kind of message. The ability to take apart a text and break it down into its separate parts enables you to judge how effective an author’s argument is, what symbols or motifs are important throughout the novel, poem or other text, and ultimately, to understand the text in a more holistic way.  Therefore, knowing how to craft a good argument and defend it well using textual evidence is an important skill to learn in preparing for your college career.

The most important things to consider when writing a literary analysis paper are: what is your argument? Are you expressing it correctly via a well-placed thesis statement ? Do you support your argument well throughout your essay? Support for an argument typically involves using lots of evidence from the text in the form of quotations from a close reading of a passage (for more on how to successfully use quotations, see our “Integrating Quotations” support guide). Often this also involves reading, analyzing, and using outside research to support what you are arguing. Learning the basic structure of literary analysis will be helpful for writing many different kinds of essays.

Helpful Links

Here are a few links to get you started on writing your literature analysis paper:

What is literature analysis (including a glossary of literary terms)?

  • Purdue Owl: What Makes a Good Literature Paper?
  • Roan State: The Elements of Literature

Tips on writing effective literature analysis essays.

  • How to Write a Literature Analysis Essay Handout (from Bucks County Community College)
  • Writing a Paper on Fiction in 9 Steps (from UNC Chapel Hill)

How do I support my argument?

  • Using Evidence (from UNC Chapel Hill)
  • How to do a Close Reading (from Carson-Newman University)

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  • Literary analysis of “A Retrieved Reformation” by O. Henry

History of creation and publication

“A Retrieved Reformation” was written by American author O. Henry and first published in the Saturday Evening Post on April 8, 1899. The story follows Jimmy Valentine, a reformed safecracker who attempts to go straight after being released from prison. He is eventually forced to use his old skills when he is asked to help free a man wrongly accused of murder. Continue reading →

  • Literary analysis of “The Cop and the Anthem” by O. Henry

O. Henry’s short story “The Cop and the Anthem” was first published in Cosmopolitan magazine in September 1904. It was later included in O. Henry’s 1905 collection, The Four Million, which featured a selection of his most popular stories from the previous year. The story follows Soapy, a homeless man who attempts to get arrested so he can spend the winter in jail and avoid sleeping on the streets. He fails to commit any crime that would warrant an arrest and is eventually forced to face his situation with dignity and courage. Continue reading →

  • Literary analysis of “The Ransom of Red Chief” by O. Henry

O. Henry wrote “The Ransom of Red Chief” in 1910 and it was first published in The Saturday Evening Post on July 8, 1910. It was later included in O. Henry’s collection of short stories, Whirligigs, which was published by Doubleday Page & Company in 1910. The story has since been reprinted numerous times and is one of O. Henry’s most popular works. Continue reading →

  • Literary analysis of “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry

O. Henry wrote “The Gift of the Magi” in 1905 and it was first published in the New York Sunday World on December 10, 1905. It was later included in O. Henry’s 1906 collection The Four Million, which contained some of his most famous stories. The story has since been reprinted countless times and adapted for various media, including film, television, radio plays and musicals. Continue reading →

  • Literary analysis of “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde

The history of creation

The Picture of Dorian Gray, written by Oscar Wilde in 1890, is a novel about a young man named Dorian Gray who makes a Faustian bargain to remain youthful and beautiful while his portrait ages and reflects the consequences of his immoral life. The novel was first published as a serial in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine from June 1890 to July 1891. Continue reading →

“Orpheus, Eurydice and Hermes”, analysis of the poem by Rainer Maria Rilke

The basis of this poem is an ancient Greek myth about how Orpheus, using his amazing music, tried to return his beloved Eurydice from the kingdom of the dead. Hades, the lord of the kingdom of the dead, promises to return her, but on one condition: on the way from the kingdom of the dead, Orpheus should not look at his beloved, who will follow him. But Orpheus could not stand it and turned around and lost Eurydice forever.

Continue reading →

“Autumn Day”, analysis of the poem by Rainer Maria Rilke

The poem “Autumn Day”, although included in the collection, which is not determining the work of Rilke, however, it is loved by many. Several translations into Russian are available.

“One Hundred Years of Solitude”, analysis of the novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez worked on the novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude” for eighteen months. For the sake of one of the most popular books of the 20th century, the writer risked everything: he refused the post of PR manager, laid down the car, stopped communicating with friends and put all the family problems on his wife’s shoulders. Finished in 1966, the work was first published in June 1967, in Buenos Aires. By the beginning of the XXI century, translated into thirty-five languages, “One Hundred Years of Solitude” had spread around the world with a circulation of more than thirty million copies.

“Jonathan Livingston Seagull”, analysis of the novella by Richard Bach

Richard Bach’s short story “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” was first published in 1970. By 1972, the work reached a circulation of one million copies and gained worldwide fame. Continue reading →

“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, analysis of the novel by Mark Twain

“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” – one of the most popular works of American writer Mark Twain. The story was first published in 1876. Already in 1877 it was published in the Russian Empire. At least nine translations into Russian are known, the most successful variant is often called the Korney Chukovsky variant.

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Literary Research: Find Websites

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Some Words on Online Literary Guides

Online guides, such as Sparknotes or CliffsNotes , have a nice amount of summary and background, but take the time to evaluate their quality. 

Use these sites as a reference and not as cited sources in your essay.  They are no substitute for your own critical reading of the text or literary criticism found in scholarly journals or books.

Literary Websites

Explore the following website for primary and secondary works along with useful information about literary criticism.

  • The Academy of American Poets Find biographies on and poems by your favorite poets. The site also includes video, audio, and author interviews.
  • Purdue Online Writing Lab Resources on writing literary essays. Topics include writing about fiction or poetry, literary theory, and literary terms.
  • The Literature Network Allows you to search for primary texts, such as short stories, poems, and novels. Also includes author biographies.
  • Project Gutenberg Over 36,000 eBooks available to download. Search for literary works and primary texts.
  • Poetry Foundation Browse poems by title, author, or time period. Site also contains interviews, articles, and podcasts.
  • The Paris Review Search the archive by author name or decade for author interviews.

Google Scholar

Use Google Scholar for a preliminary search.  Don't forget to check the library and library databases for titles you may find through Google Scholar! Many scholarly works still remain unavailable on the web.

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SparkNotes Literature Study Guides

SparkNotes has study guides and practice quizzes for hundreds of well-known works of literature – both books and short stories.  The guides are extensive and include practice quizzes.  It also includes a section, “No Fear Shakespeare,” which provides side-by-side modern day English translations of Shakespeare’s most popular plays.

Learning about the Author and Illustrator Pages

Learn more about the authors, illustrators and the story behind the works of literature they write. Many of the links include lesson plans and activity ideas for use with the books.

60 Second Recap Book Reviews

The 60second Recap wants to make the great works of literature accessible, relevant, and, frankly, irresistible to today’s teens. Through our 60second Recap video albums, we seek to help teens engage with the best books out there… not just to help them get better grades, but to help them build better lives.

Smirk if you must. Consider this yet another mile-marker on civilization’s road to perdition. But here’s the fact: You won’t get non-readers to read by forcing them to read more. You’ll get them to read by opening their eyes to the marvels awaiting them between the covers of that homework assignment.

With the 60second Recap, teens finally have an alternative to the boring, text-based study guides that have burdened them for generations. And — who knows? — maybe that’s just what they’ll need to begin a love affair with literature, one that will last a lifetime.

CCBC Recommended Books by Grade Level

The CCBC has created bibliographies and booklists of recommended books on a wide range of themes and topics. We have organized them into the following categories: Books for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers Books for Elementary Age Books for Middle and High School Age Complete List (All CCBC Bibliographies of Recommended Books) Many of the lists include books for a wide range of reading ages and will be found under more than one category.

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Project Gutenberg has a collection of more than 68,000 free downloadable ebooks, in their online catalog.  You can search the catalog by author or title.  You can read the ebooks in many formats including online, ePub, Kindle, and plain text.

Some titles include collections of versions for younger children as well as older students.  Aesop’s Fables is an example.

Please note that many titles have copyright restrictions in how they can be used beyond personal reading, such as for display or copying and distribution.

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Literary Criticism: Critical Analysis on the Web

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  • Citing & Writing
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Trusted Websites

Online Literary Criticism  contains biographical and citical information collected by librarians.

English Literature on the Web contains links to author pages, journals, magazines and websites dedicated to English-language literature.

New York Times Book Reviews  Search  the New York Times for book reviews from 1981 to the present.

Global Shakespeare is a collaborative project providing online access to performances of Shakespeare from many parts of the world as well as essays and metadata by scholars and educators in the field.

Poetry Archives is a large collection of English-language poetry from around the world.

Cambridge History of English and American Literature  contains over 300 chapters with essay topics ranging from poetry, fiction, drama and essays to history, theology and political writing.

  • Small but growing site of literature guides for works commonly used in high school and college classes.
  • Poetry Writing and Analysis Guide This site, managed by a company called SuperSummary, has basic information about how to critically read and analyze poetry.

Material from Google Scholar

Google Scholar searches the web for scholarly material. Search for the author or title of the work along with some search terms that relate to your research question to find academic articles. 

Found a great article but you cannot access it? Request the article through interlibrary loan and we'll send you a copy.

Google Scholar Search

Use your RADAR to Evaluate the Source

The  RADAR  framework provides criteria to help you evaluate the quality, credibility, and relevance of any source of information. Keep these questions in mind when considering if you should use a source in your assignment.

R elevance  - is the information/source important to my specific topic or research question?

A uthority -   was it written by a credible expert? What institution are they affiliated with?

D ate  - when was the source published or last updated? Is it a current article (past 10 years)?

A ppearance -  does it look like a research article? Is there methods/results section?

R eason  - why was the information produced in the first place? Who was it written for?

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    A Brief Literary History of the Murder Ballad, in Honor of Beyoncé's Cowboy Carter Brittany Allen on the Long, Rich Tradition of Extremely Violent Popular Song. March 29, 2024. Read Full Story. March's Best Reviewed Nonfiction Featuring New Titles by Marilynne Robinson, Tessa Hulls, Kristine S. Ervin, and More.

  2. LitCharts

    Literature, Explained Better. A more helpful approach. Our guides use color and the interactivity of the web to make it easier to learn and teach literature. Every title you need. Far beyond just the classics, LitCharts covers over 2000 texts read and studied worldwide, from Judy Blume to Nietzsche. For every reader.

  3. SparkNotes: Today's Most Popular Study Guides

    SparkNotes is your ultimate guide to literature, math, science, and more. Whether you need sample tests, essay help, or translations of Shakespeare, SparkNotes has it all. Explore their blog for fun and insightful summaries of every literary movement in history, or sign up for SparkNotes Plus to access exclusive features.

  4. SuperSummary

    Elyse Myers. 10 years of experience teaching literature courses at the university level and 6 years of experience as a fiction reference librarian. PhD in English Literature. Specializes in classic & contemporary prose fiction, particularly 19th & 20th-century American and British literature.

  5. Literature Study Guides

    Understand more than 700 works of literature, including To Kill a Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye, 1984, and Lord of the Flies at Search all of ... How to Write Literary Analysis. Glossary of Shakespeare Terms. Glossary of Literary Terms. Study Guides. Sort & Filter. Show All Guides; Shakespeare; Literature; No Fear ...

  6. How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay

    Table of contents. Step 1: Reading the text and identifying literary devices. Step 2: Coming up with a thesis. Step 3: Writing a title and introduction. Step 4: Writing the body of the essay. Step 5: Writing a conclusion. Other interesting articles.

  7. How to Write Literary Analysis

    To analyze something means to break it down into smaller parts and then examine how those parts work, both individually and together. Literary analysis involves examining all the parts of a novel, play, short story, or poem—elements such as character, setting, tone, and imagery—and thinking about how the author uses those elements to create ...

  8. Book Analysis

    Explore the database of book analysis, summaries and reviews, and author information on the internet. Any Book. Any Author. Understand them all. ... Unlock the World of Literature with Book Analysis. Our expert team dives deep into the literary realm to bring you comprehensive summaries and analyses. From students to book lovers, we have ...

  9. Beginner's Guide to Literary Analysis

    Step 1: Read the Text Thoroughly. Literary analysis begins with the literature itself, which means performing a close reading of the text. As you read, you should focus on the work. That means putting away distractions (sorry, smartphone) and dedicating a period of time to the task at hand.

  10. About Book Analysis

    Book Analysis is constantly working with the ambition to be the largest database of book summaries and analyses on the internet, helping students and book fanatics get a deeper understanding of their favorite literature. Since its birth, the website has grown in strength, propelled by a team of literature experts who passionately delve into the ...

  11. Free Study Guides for Students—LiteraTurtle

    Symbols, Allegory and Motifs. This section will make your literary analysis even more in-depth. It will be useful as a replacement for literature study guides for homeschool students when there's no professor to break down some of the tough terminology or symbolism.

  12. Gale Literature Resource Center

    The Destination for Literary Research. Gale Literature Resource Center is Gale's most current, comprehensive, and reliable online literature resource, offering the broadest and most representative range of authors and their works, including a deep collection of full-text critical and literary analysis for literary studies.The resource provides researchers with unbounding literary resources ...

  13. About Literary Hub ‹ Literary Hub

    Literary Hub is an organizing principle in the service of literary culture, a single, trusted, daily source for all the news, ideas and richness of contemporary literary life. There is more great literary content online than ever before, but it is scattered, easily lost—with the help of its editorial partners, Lit Hub is a site readers can ...

  14. Literature Analysis

    Literature analysis is the cornerstone of many college classes, in subjects ranging from English literature to history. Literature analysis papers as you to consider how and why a literary text was written and conveys some kind of message. The ability to take apart a text and break it down into its separate parts enables you to judge how effective an author's argument is, what symbols or ...

  15. Free Study Guide Answers, Book and Literature Notes is the premier free source for literary analysis on the web. We provide an educational supplement for better understanding of classic and contemporary literature. is continually in the process of adding more books to the website each week. Please check back weekly to see what we have added.

  16. Poem Analysis

    A website dedicated to analyzing poetry from past and present, to provide a database of articles to summarize and critically analyze any poem. ... Learn every literary term like never before. ... Explore the Literary Glossary. Explore More with Poem Analysis. Dive deep into poetry, whatever direction you may take. Education Syllabi Poetry ...

  17. LitHelper

    The Picture of Dorian Gray, written by Oscar Wilde in 1890, is a novel about a young man named Dorian Gray who makes a Faustian bargain to remain youthful and beautiful while his portrait ages and reflects the consequences of his immoral life. The novel was first published as a serial in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine from June 1890 to July ...

  18. Literary Research: Find Websites

    Literary Websites. Explore the following website for primary and secondary works along with useful information about literary criticism. The Academy of American Poets. Find biographies on and poems by your favorite poets. The site also includes video, audio, and author interviews. Purdue Online Writing Lab. Resources on writing literary essays.

  19. Guide to Free Literature and Literary Analysis Websites for Students

    The 60second Recap wants to make the great works of literature accessible, relevant, and, frankly, irresistible to today's teens. Through our 60second Recap video albums, we seek to help teens engage with the best books out there… not just to help them get better grades, but to help them build better lives. Smirk if you must.

  20. Poetry Guides

    Detailed quotes explanations with page numbers for every important quote on the site. Teacher Editions with classroom activities for all 1910 titles we cover. PDFs of modern translations of every Shakespeare play and poem. Definitions and examples of 136 literary terms and devices. Instant PDF downloads. Refine any search.

  21. Resources for Close Reading and Literary Analysis Lessons

    Through close reading, textual analysis, and literary analysis lessons, students can discover the greater significance of what they read, watch, and listen to. By digging into elements of story like theme, plot, and character, students move beyond comprehension and understand the mechanics of texts. Then, by examining a text's allusions ...

  22. Best sites to find in depth literary analysis of books? : r/books

    Google Scholar isn't bad. You might check your school's library to see if you have access to any journals/databases there. Or, if the book is old enough, you can go old school and look for collections of essays and criticisms at a library. AP Literature teacher here—lots of great notes here, along with Google Scholar.

  23. Critical Analysis on the Web

    Cambridge History of English and American Literature contains over 300 chapters with essay topics ranging from poetry, fiction, drama and essays to history, theology and political writing. Small but growing site of literature guides for works commonly used in high school and college classes. This site, managed by a company called SuperSummary ...