Literary Essay: Example and Tips

There are different types of analysis of the literary text: philological, linguistic, stylistic, literary.

  • The purpose of philological analysis is to show the meaning and cultural status. The peculiarities of philological analysis include: historicism, anthropocentricity, cultural orientation, attention to the form and content of the text and their mutual conditioning, lexicocentricity. Philological analysis of the text includes linguistic, stylistic and literary analysis, as well as coverage of the cultural and historical context of the era.
  • The purpose of the linguistic analysis of the text is to show the means through which the ideological and related emotional content of the work is expressed.
  • The purpose of stylistic analysis is to examine the text from the point of view of linguistic and extra-linguistic factors of style formation as manifestations of stylistic features and individual-author’s style.
  • The purpose of literary analysis is to reveal the content of an artistic text as a work of art in the cultural and historical context of the era.


  1. Theoretical part
  2. Purpose and tasks of literary analysis essay
  3. Features of literary analysis essay
  4. Scheme of literary analysis of the text
  5. Possible topics of literary essay
  • Literary essay example
  1. Literary analysis of Poem “The Odyssey” by Homer
  2. Motif of metamorphosis in F. Kafka’s novella “Transformation”

Purpose and tasks of literary analysis essay

In the literary analysis essay, the text is considered as a work of art, formed in the literary and cultural-historical context of the era, reflecting the logical development of the literary process. The analysis includes textual and extra-textual information: the study of the author’s worldview, the process of forming a creative personality, belonging to a certain literary direction, the genre specificity of the text, the features of the composition, the image system, the themes and problems of the work, its main pathos and artistic-aesthetic identity.

Text analysis is impossible without taking into account the relationship of form and content. In the unity of the examination of the form and content of the text, one can know its artistic meaning. Its definition is the common goal of different kinds of text analysis.

Features of literary analysis essay

Read the work and try to find out what the writer is telling you personally. Then there follows an interpretation in the first approximation and a purposeful analysis aimed at expanding the primary interpretation. It is necessary to determine the dominants of the work, the properties of artistic content, which unite the elements, the problem-semantic core, which ensures the unity of content.

What are dominants? The content dominants include: artistic problems, varieties of pathos and the idea of ​​the work. To objectify your impressions, you need to turn to the analysis of the language form and stylistic features of the text. Literary analysis of the text requires a supplement and a linguistic justification.

In the process of analysis, reliance on the historical and literary context is needed. It is necessary to know the history of the creation of the work and the literary fate of the author, his world view and creative credo; representation about the literary process at the appropriate stage of development of literature. This information will allow more accurate interpretation of the meaning of the text.

The artistic text allows many interpretations, depending on the text itself and on the level of the spiritual, psychological and speech culture, the social experience of readers and other factors.

One way or another, an objective way to study the work lies through the analysis of its form, i.e. through linguistic analysis. An interesting technique is the analysis based on the identification of three levels of analysis:

  • upper level of analysis is ideological (ideas and emotions, images and motives);
  • middle level – stylistic (analysis of vocabulary and syntax);
  • lower – phonic (metric, rhythm, rhyme, stanzas).

Scheme of literary analysis of the text

The general literary analysis scheme can include:

  1. The time and circumstances of writing a work. When covering the time and circumstances of the writing of a work, it is necessary to give a brief description of the socio-historical situation in society.
  2. Place of the writer’s work. It is necessary to rely on knowledge of his biography, as well as information about the author’s creative search and his aesthetic credo.
  3. Literary genre (epic, lyric, drama). Information about the literary genre of the work is important. Its specificity has significance for understanding the ideological and artistic originality of the text.
  4. The genre of the work. Genre is an important means of text formation, determining the selection and organization of linguistic means, as well as the aspect and scale of the reflection of the surrounding world in artistic form.
  5. The main problematic of the work. The definition of the problems of literary work, i.e. the formulation in it of complex vital and socially important issues, tasks requiring resolution, is the result of a generalization of the events, episodes, and situations reflected in the work. The choice of problems expresses author’s individuality, writer’s worldview, his picture of the world.

For the analysis of problems it is important to reveal the originality of the work, given by the author; compare (at least in the process of preparing for analysis) the work being studied with others and understand what is unique about it. It is important to find the “highlight” of this work, and it often lies in the field of problems. Different types of problems are singled out: national, sociocultural, ideological, moral, philosophical.

  1. Theme. The theme of the literary work is related to it. On the subject of judging by facts and events.
  2. Composition. The composition itself can express a certain aesthetic sense, determine the pragmatics of the text. Analysis of the composition allows us to identify the principle that organizes the overall structure of the work. A simple and complex composition is distinguished.

A system-logical, or retrospective, presentation is highlighted. It is divided into three types: linear, parallel and multidimensional. The linear composition reflects the natural sequence of facts. Parallel composition is marked by additional relationships of the facts and events compared. The multidimensional composition assumes the presence of various spatial, temporal, and conditional connections, including elements of generalization. Along with the noted phenomena, the installation is important in the study of composition, reflecting the method of constructing a work, characterized by the discontinuity (discreteness) of the image, its breakdown into fragments, the presence of comparisons and oppositions that are not dictated by the logic of the depicted, directly imprint the author’s course of thought and association. Such a composition is called a mounting.

  1. The main pathos of the work and emotional tone. An important element of the analysis is the definition of pathos. Pathos is associated with the features of the writer’s work and creativity, with the “idea-passion.” In modern literary criticism, heroic, tragic, romantic, etc. are considered to be pathos. The pathos of the work is largely determined by the author’s belonging to a specific direction in literature.

With the pathos of the literary work, his emotional tonality is correlated, which can vary, reflecting the dynamics of the artistic unfolding of the text. There are minor, major, pathetic, lyrical and other kinds of emotional tonality of the text.

  1. An imaginative structure. Realities of the artistic world, related to the subject-logical level of the text, reflected in the mind of the reader, form concrete-sensory concepts (images) and concepts. Artistic images of time and space, images of the narrator and lyrical heroes, images of characters, etc. are allocated. In the creation of images, lexical means are especially important: in philology, the word is regarded as a form of image.
  2. The idea. The identification of the idea of ​​a work is the result of an analytical generalizing work of the reader’s consciousness. Sometimes, however, the idea is explicated by the author in the form of a maxim at the beginning or at the end of the work. More often the idea is indicated by the structure of the text, in which the various elements and the nature of their interrelationship are important. The idea is interpreted as “the main idea, the design that determines the content of something.” This is what the writer wanted to express in his work, what he calls and what he says.
  3. Artistic features (trails, figures, techniques). Artistic features include graphic expressive means used by the author. It is important to note not only their types, quantity, but also the specificity of individual and author’s understanding and organization, as well as aesthetic functions.

Possible topics of literary essay

  1. Role of Fate in Romeo and Juliet
  2. Current meaning of the Republic by Plato
  3. Analysis of Atticus Finch from To kill a mockingbird
  4. Jane Austin’s works and their role in the development of feminism
  5. Human in a totalitarian society
  6. Literary analysis of Poem “The Odyssey” by Homer – literary example essay 1

Literary analysis of Poem “The Odyssey” by Homer – literary example essay


The world of Gomere’s “light visions” is amazing and beautiful. The most attractive for the modern reader in Homer is an unobtrusive, simple-minded combination of truth and fiction, history and myth, which for Homer’s contemporaries was not just a soul-mellowing thought, but a special kind of reality, a natural way to knowledge of the world and its laws.

Main part

Modern science considers the time of the creation of Homer’s poems to be VIII century BC, and the place of their appearance – Ionia, the most developed then Asia Minor part of Greece. “Iliad” is the “older” poem, “Odyssey” is “younger”. They are separated by not so much a long time: the ancients believed that the Iliad was written by the young, and the Odyssey was written by the aging poet. In the first poem, attention is focused on the military exploits of heroes of old times, in the second one – on a peaceful but full of vicissitudes of present destiny and hopes for a better future.

The protagonist of the Iliad is the mighty knight of Achilles, because of his personal offense, the outcome of the whole difficult trip to Troy (the “wrath of Achilles”) was almost successful for the Greeks.

The “clever” Odysseus is a hero of a different kind, the nature is more complex and rich. He is a valiant warrior who has repeatedly proved his courage and resourcefulness at the time of military operations, staunch in trials, ready to sacrifice himself for others, resolute and wise. These character traits, already manifested in the Iliad, are fully revealed in the Odyssey, gaining new facets and qualities.

“Odyssey” in its volume is inferior to the “older” poem, and the action takes place in a shorter period, but it is more eventful, the story technique is more skillful and whimsical, the plot and composition are intricate. The action then stops, then briskly runs forward, then returns back; some events are only briefly mentioned, others are described in detail from the third person, and more often, in the numerous and long speeches of the heroes, from the first person. The place of action freely moves in space – from the sea to the mainland, from one island to another, from Calypso to the faeries, from them to the cyclops, from Odysseus to Penelope and Telemachus, from the celestials to humans. The action of digression and repetitions, authorial bias for details and detailed comparisons are inhibited. It is called the epic expanse.

Love and longing for home completely own the hero of the poem. Against him, the gods – Poseidon and Aeolus, Helios and even Zeus, the fantastic monsters and cruel storms are threatening death, but nothing can destroy his craving for home, the love of his father, his wife and son, whom he had not seen for twenty years. Calypso’s promises to grant him immortality and eternal youth put before him the need for moral choice. Odysseus does not hesitate to choose the full dangers of the way home.

Next to the idea of ​​patriotism is the theme of peaceful life, hostile to bloody battles, hatred and crime. Not fatal fights and military carnage, not wandering in other people’s lands make up happiness on earth, and peace works in the circle of a loving family. The idea of ​​the sanctity of marriage and the family was constantly highlighted by Homer. In the Iliad, it is embodied in the images of Hector and Andromache, in the Odyssey – Odyssey, Penelope and Telemachus. They are all united by love, loyalty and duty. Penelope, fighting off the harassment of obsessive suitors, three days in a row weaves, and at night dissolves the woven, promising to give them consent to the marriage after the shroud for the aged Laertes, the father of Odysseus, is ready. Telemachus, “the judicious son of Odysseus,” dreams to go quickly to the difficult search for his father, whose salvation he never doubted. The faithful servants of the Itaka king deserve praise and reward, and infidels are overtaken by a cruel punishment.

Is the famous episode of Odysseus’ stay with the Cyclops is full of allegory. Abandoned by hostile forces on the island of a one-eyed giant-ogre, Odysseus gets here almost the most difficult test. The human mind also encounters, literally a monstrous and blind destructive element. Here everything is exaggerated. The stone with which the canopy blocks the entrance to the cave, and twenty-two carts of four-wheeled cars were not moved, a baton from his ship mast. His cannibalism causes horror. Odysseus is presented to the giant as a pathetic and frail man. Nevertheless, he defeats Polyphemus. In the confrontation, not just Mind and Dumb Power enter, but humanity, civilization and partnership, on the one hand, and “cave” savagery and unsociability, on the other.

The poet leads his story as if from the outside – objectively, calmly and unperturbed, as if moving away from everything. The presence of the author is clearly not felt, as Homer believes, he was inspired by Zeus and the Muses. But behind the descriptions, replicas and speeches, comparisons, metaphors and epithets, from which the images, characters and destinies of people are weaving, there stands the living person of Homer, sympathizing with his hero and happily coming to his aid at a difficult moment along with his patroness – wise Athena.


Epic poems by Homer teach goodness, courage and humanity in their pristine purity and simplicity, they generously convey from generation to generation the moral representations of the people about justice, beauty and wisdom. “Odyssey” glorifies the world and work, mind and fortitude. Widely opening the window to the distant past, it continues to worry souls, “from the heart to the heart the message is transmitted,” it teaches and educates, delights and enthralls today, like three thousand years ago.

It reminds of the most important thing: a person should love his country and life, help his comrades, honestly fulfill his duty, keep love and loyalty to friends and relatives, defend justice, honor and dignity, always strive for excellence and high goals.

Motif of metamorphosis in F. Kafka’s novella “Transformation”

“Transformation”, in my opinion, is one of the most terrifying works of world literature and for sure the most famous novel by Franz Kafka.

From the very beginning, we expect that the main conflict of the novel will be related to the metamorphosis that occurs with the characters, and this expectation is fully justified: “Waking up one morning after a restless sleep, Gregor Samsa discovered that he was in his bed, turned into a terrible insect”. This fantastic change in the appearance of the protagonist is only an artistic device against which other artistic metamorphoses develop, but not so much with Gregor as with his surroundings, his closest people, the outside world.

Turning into a big terrible beetle, Gregor Samsa preserved the human soul, inside he remained a person who, in this terrible situation, needed support and understanding like no one else. He receives neither one nor the other from his closest people – parents and sisters, meeting in response to all attempts of contact only fear, loathing, disgust and even aggression, although the family understands that he is not just a stupid insect, but their son and brother, changed only externally. However, even before Gregor’s transformation, there was no warmth and understanding in the family, despite the fact that the young man was the only breadwinner, tried to pay off a huge debt of his father, working as a traveling salesman with a creditor who mercilessly exploited him. It seems to me that turning into a miserable insect, the catastrophe that happened to Gregor Samsa, is a logical continuation of his involuntary dependence and his hard labor life, because what can be more defenseless than an insect before aggression and human cruelty?

Reading the novel, you begin to understand that beneath the outer shell of the beetle Gregor, there lies a kind and sensitive heart, a pure and responsive soul. Realizing the feelings that he causes in his relatives, Gregor tries to help them, almost does not leave the room, so as not to frighten his mother, hides under the bed when his sister cleans the room. But the behavior and attitude of the family every day becomes more insulting and cruel. There is a feeling that with these people there is also a monstrous transformation, in fact, we just barely reveal their callous souls when they cast off the face of honesty and nobility. Relatives not only do not want to help Gregor cope with the difficult situation, but also in every way mock him. The father, seeing in his son only an ugly insect, even cripples him, almost bringing a cruel beating to the murder.

Metamorphoses that occur with the main character and his family are reflected in the change in the appearance of Gregor’s room – a symbol of his inner world and the attitude of his family to him. So, from the young man’s room, which was presented before us at the beginning of the story, all things are gradually being carried out, including those infinitely expensive for the owner, despite his protest. And at the end of the story in front of us, there is a dirty, uncomfortable lair, a dump of unnecessary things.

Kafka’s tragic world-view is reflected in the death of the hero, which comes largely from the realization of his uselessness, loneliness, the understanding that he is only a burden and a hindrance. The hostile world does not spare the beetle-man, but the worst thing is that the surrounding people are devoid of the human heart and soul, and their usual decorous appearance is just a mask. This novel helped me to think not only about the tragedy of Gregor Samsa, but also in a different way to look at my relationships with others, to rethink many of my actions.