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- How to write a literary analysis essay | A step-by-step guide
How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay | A Step-by-Step Guide
Published on January 30, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on August 14, 2023.
Literary analysis means closely studying a text, interpreting its meanings, and exploring why the author made certain choices. It can be applied to novels, short stories, plays, poems, or any other form of literary writing.
A literary analysis essay is not a rhetorical analysis , nor is it just a summary of the plot or a book review. Instead, it is a type of argumentative essay where you need to analyze elements such as the language, perspective, and structure of the text, and explain how the author uses literary devices to create effects and convey ideas.
Before beginning a literary analysis essay, it’s essential to carefully read the text and c ome up with a thesis statement to keep your essay focused. As you write, follow the standard structure of an academic essay :
- An introduction that tells the reader what your essay will focus on.
- A main body, divided into paragraphs , that builds an argument using evidence from the text.
- A conclusion that clearly states the main point that you have shown with your analysis.
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.
The first step is to carefully read the text(s) and take initial notes. As you read, pay attention to the things that are most intriguing, surprising, or even confusing in the writing—these are things you can dig into in your analysis.
Your goal in literary analysis is not simply to explain the events described in the text, but to analyze the writing itself and discuss how the text works on a deeper level. Primarily, you’re looking out for literary devices —textual elements that writers use to convey meaning and create effects. If you’re comparing and contrasting multiple texts, you can also look for connections between different texts.
To get started with your analysis, there are several key areas that you can focus on. As you analyze each aspect of the text, try to think about how they all relate to each other. You can use highlights or notes to keep track of important passages and quotes.
Consider what style of language the author uses. Are the sentences short and simple or more complex and poetic?
What word choices stand out as interesting or unusual? Are words used figuratively to mean something other than their literal definition? Figurative language includes things like metaphor (e.g. “her eyes were oceans”) and simile (e.g. “her eyes were like oceans”).
Also keep an eye out for imagery in the text—recurring images that create a certain atmosphere or symbolize something important. Remember that language is used in literary texts to say more than it means on the surface.
- Who is telling the story?
- How are they telling it?
Is it a first-person narrator (“I”) who is personally involved in the story, or a third-person narrator who tells us about the characters from a distance?
Consider the narrator’s perspective . Is the narrator omniscient (where they know everything about all the characters and events), or do they only have partial knowledge? Are they an unreliable narrator who we are not supposed to take at face value? Authors often hint that their narrator might be giving us a distorted or dishonest version of events.
The tone of the text is also worth considering. Is the story intended to be comic, tragic, or something else? Are usually serious topics treated as funny, or vice versa ? Is the story realistic or fantastical (or somewhere in between)?
Consider how the text is structured, and how the structure relates to the story being told.
- Novels are often divided into chapters and parts.
- Poems are divided into lines, stanzas, and sometime cantos.
- Plays are divided into scenes and acts.
Think about why the author chose to divide the different parts of the text in the way they did.
There are also less formal structural elements to take into account. Does the story unfold in chronological order, or does it jump back and forth in time? Does it begin in medias res —in the middle of the action? Does the plot advance towards a clearly defined climax?
With poetry, consider how the rhyme and meter shape your understanding of the text and your impression of the tone. Try reading the poem aloud to get a sense of this.
In a play, you might consider how relationships between characters are built up through different scenes, and how the setting relates to the action. Watch out for dramatic irony , where the audience knows some detail that the characters don’t, creating a double meaning in their words, thoughts, or actions.
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Your thesis in a literary analysis essay is the point you want to make about the text. It’s the core argument that gives your essay direction and prevents it from just being a collection of random observations about a text.
If you’re given a prompt for your essay, your thesis must answer or relate to the prompt. For example:
Essay question example
Is Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” a religious parable?
Your thesis statement should be an answer to this question—not a simple yes or no, but a statement of why this is or isn’t the case:
Thesis statement example
Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” is not a religious parable, but a story about bureaucratic alienation.
Sometimes you’ll be given freedom to choose your own topic; in this case, you’ll have to come up with an original thesis. Consider what stood out to you in the text; ask yourself questions about the elements that interested you, and consider how you might answer them.
Your thesis should be something arguable—that is, something that you think is true about the text, but which is not a simple matter of fact. It must be complex enough to develop through evidence and arguments across the course of your essay.
Say you’re analyzing the novel Frankenstein . You could start by asking yourself:
Your initial answer might be a surface-level description:
The character Frankenstein is portrayed negatively in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein .
However, this statement is too simple to be an interesting thesis. After reading the text and analyzing its narrative voice and structure, you can develop the answer into a more nuanced and arguable thesis statement:
Mary Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as.
Remember that you can revise your thesis statement throughout the writing process , so it doesn’t need to be perfectly formulated at this stage. The aim is to keep you focused as you analyze the text.
Finding textual evidence
To support your thesis statement, your essay will build an argument using textual evidence —specific parts of the text that demonstrate your point. This evidence is quoted and analyzed throughout your essay to explain your argument to the reader.
It can be useful to comb through the text in search of relevant quotations before you start writing. You might not end up using everything you find, and you may have to return to the text for more evidence as you write, but collecting textual evidence from the beginning will help you to structure your arguments and assess whether they’re convincing.
To start your literary analysis paper, you’ll need two things: a good title, and an introduction.
Your title should clearly indicate what your analysis will focus on. It usually contains the name of the author and text(s) you’re analyzing. Keep it as concise and engaging as possible.
A common approach to the title is to use a relevant quote from the text, followed by a colon and then the rest of your title.
If you struggle to come up with a good title at first, don’t worry—this will be easier once you’ve begun writing the essay and have a better sense of your arguments.
“Fearful symmetry” : The violence of creation in William Blake’s “The Tyger”
The essay introduction provides a quick overview of where your argument is going. It should include your thesis statement and a summary of the essay’s structure.
A typical structure for an introduction is to begin with a general statement about the text and author, using this to lead into your thesis statement. You might refer to a commonly held idea about the text and show how your thesis will contradict it, or zoom in on a particular device you intend to focus on.
Then you can end with a brief indication of what’s coming up in the main body of the essay. This is called signposting. It will be more elaborate in longer essays, but in a short five-paragraph essay structure, it shouldn’t be more than one sentence.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.
Some students prefer to write the introduction later in the process, and it’s not a bad idea. After all, you’ll have a clearer idea of the overall shape of your arguments once you’ve begun writing them!
If you do write the introduction first, you should still return to it later to make sure it lines up with what you ended up writing, and edit as necessary.
The body of your essay is everything between the introduction and conclusion. It contains your arguments and the textual evidence that supports them.
A typical structure for a high school literary analysis essay consists of five paragraphs : the three paragraphs of the body, plus the introduction and conclusion.
Each paragraph in the main body should focus on one topic. In the five-paragraph model, try to divide your argument into three main areas of analysis, all linked to your thesis. Don’t try to include everything you can think of to say about the text—only analysis that drives your argument.
In longer essays, the same principle applies on a broader scale. For example, you might have two or three sections in your main body, each with multiple paragraphs. Within these sections, you still want to begin new paragraphs at logical moments—a turn in the argument or the introduction of a new idea.
Robert’s first encounter with Gil-Martin suggests something of his sinister power. Robert feels “a sort of invisible power that drew me towards him.” He identifies the moment of their meeting as “the beginning of a series of adventures which has puzzled myself, and will puzzle the world when I am no more in it” (p. 89). Gil-Martin’s “invisible power” seems to be at work even at this distance from the moment described; before continuing the story, Robert feels compelled to anticipate at length what readers will make of his narrative after his approaching death. With this interjection, Hogg emphasizes the fatal influence Gil-Martin exercises from his first appearance.
To keep your points focused, it’s important to use a topic sentence at the beginning of each paragraph.
A good topic sentence allows a reader to see at a glance what the paragraph is about. It can introduce a new line of argument and connect or contrast it with the previous paragraph. Transition words like “however” or “moreover” are useful for creating smooth transitions:
… The story’s focus, therefore, is not upon the divine revelation that may be waiting beyond the door, but upon the mundane process of aging undergone by the man as he waits.
Nevertheless, the “radiance” that appears to stream from the door is typically treated as religious symbolism.
This topic sentence signals that the paragraph will address the question of religious symbolism, while the linking word “nevertheless” points out a contrast with the previous paragraph’s conclusion.
Using textual evidence
A key part of literary analysis is backing up your arguments with relevant evidence from the text. This involves introducing quotes from the text and explaining their significance to your point.
It’s important to contextualize quotes and explain why you’re using them; they should be properly introduced and analyzed, not treated as self-explanatory:
It isn’t always necessary to use a quote. Quoting is useful when you’re discussing the author’s language, but sometimes you’ll have to refer to plot points or structural elements that can’t be captured in a short quote.
In these cases, it’s more appropriate to paraphrase or summarize parts of the text—that is, to describe the relevant part in your own words:
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The conclusion of your analysis shouldn’t introduce any new quotations or arguments. Instead, it’s about wrapping up the essay. Here, you summarize your key points and try to emphasize their significance to the reader.
A good way to approach this is to briefly summarize your key arguments, and then stress the conclusion they’ve led you to, highlighting the new perspective your thesis provides on the text as a whole:
If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!
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By tracing the depiction of Frankenstein through the novel’s three volumes, I have demonstrated how the narrative structure shifts our perception of the character. While the Frankenstein of the first volume is depicted as having innocent intentions, the second and third volumes—first in the creature’s accusatory voice, and then in his own voice—increasingly undermine him, causing him to appear alternately ridiculous and vindictive. Far from the one-dimensional villain he is often taken to be, the character of Frankenstein is compelling because of the dynamic narrative frame in which he is placed. In this frame, Frankenstein’s narrative self-presentation responds to the images of him we see from others’ perspectives. This conclusion sheds new light on the novel, foregrounding Shelley’s unique layering of narrative perspectives and its importance for the depiction of character.
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Book Recommendations to Write a Good Literary Analysis About
Photo courtesy of reporter Addison Woods .
Reading can be extremely beneficial to any San Luis Obispo High School student. Finding an interesting book for an English assignment is crucial when striving for a good grade.
Therefore, being paired up with a quality and well-matched book is necessary when analyzing a text. Bestselling crime author C.L. Taylor endorsed analyzing your favorite books as a way of learning, saying it helped influence her writing in such a big way. When a reader tries to write a literary analysis about a book they have no interest in, it is extremely difficult so making sure they’ll be entertained by the story is essential.
“Matching yourself to the right book is really about you connecting. So when I’m helping students find books I’m always asking them what their interests are, what they do in their free time, what keeps their attention, and what’s the last book that they read that they liked. Those are things that are important to consider and it’s really hard to analyze something if you have no interest in reading it. So the time that you’re going to spend reading it might as well be valuable, quality time with your book. There are so many good books out there,” said English teacher Lynnly Sainsbury.
One book to consider is “Every Last Word” by Tamara Ireland Stone. The book follows a girl overcoming the difficulties of her OCD. There are many parallels and insights in this book that would be great for an English essay or to help thoroughly understand OCD.
“Right now I would recommend ‘Stamped’ by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi because the subtitle is: how to be an anti-racist. I think that’s just important work that we all need to look at. It’s non-fiction, and there’s fiction incorporated in it but it’s just a really good novel about how culture can be stamped out. If I could name two, I would also go to anything by Angie Thomas, her three books out right now were all really good stories about black culture that I think is important for all of us to be aware of,” said Sainsbury.
Goodreads describes “All the Bright Places” by Jennifer Niven as “A compelling and beautiful story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.” In 2020, producer Brett Haley released “All the Bright Places,” the movie. And having a movie to watch after finishing a book can make it worthwhile.
“‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ is a great coming-of-age novel and I think it’s a great quick read for adolescents. It was so good, I read it in one day,” said reporter Erika Spargo.
Any of these books could potentially lead to a very perceptive report and further your understanding of current topics. “Right now in honors English, we’re taking on a Latinx book project. This is Latinx history month so I really wanted my students to experience such an important culture to California,” said Sainsbury.
Now is the time to explore books that the reader connects with.
How To Analyze A Book: In 13 Simple Steps
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The 10 Best Essay Collections of the Decade
Ever tried. ever failed. no matter..
Friends, it’s true: the end of the decade approaches. It’s been a difficult, anxiety-provoking, morally compromised decade, but at least it’s been populated by some damn fine literature. We’ll take our silver linings where we can.
So, as is our hallowed duty as a literary and culture website—though with full awareness of the potentially fruitless and endlessly contestable nature of the task—in the coming weeks, we’ll be taking a look at the best and most important (these being not always the same) books of the decade that was. We will do this, of course, by means of a variety of lists. We began with the best debut novels , the best short story collections , the best poetry collections , and the best memoirs of the decade , and we have now reached the fifth list in our series: the best essay collections published in English between 2010 and 2019.
The following books were chosen after much debate (and several rounds of voting) by the Literary Hub staff. Tears were spilled, feelings were hurt, books were re-read. And as you’ll shortly see, we had a hard time choosing just ten—so we’ve also included a list of dissenting opinions, and an even longer list of also-rans. As ever, free to add any of your own favorites that we’ve missed in the comments below.
The Top Ten
Oliver sacks, the mind’s eye (2010).
Toward the end of his life, maybe suspecting or sensing that it was coming to a close, Dr. Oliver Sacks tended to focus his efforts on sweeping intellectual projects like On the Move (a memoir), The River of Consciousness (a hybrid intellectual history), and Hallucinations (a book-length meditation on, what else, hallucinations). But in 2010, he gave us one more classic in the style that first made him famous, a form he revolutionized and brought into the contemporary literary canon: the medical case study as essay. In The Mind’s Eye , Sacks focuses on vision, expanding the notion to embrace not only how we see the world, but also how we map that world onto our brains when our eyes are closed and we’re communing with the deeper recesses of consciousness. Relaying histories of patients and public figures, as well as his own history of ocular cancer (the condition that would eventually spread and contribute to his death), Sacks uses vision as a lens through which to see all of what makes us human, what binds us together, and what keeps us painfully apart. The essays that make up this collection are quintessential Sacks: sensitive, searching, with an expertise that conveys scientific information and experimentation in terms we can not only comprehend, but which also expand how we see life carrying on around us. The case studies of “Stereo Sue,” of the concert pianist Lillian Kalir, and of Howard, the mystery novelist who can no longer read, are highlights of the collection, but each essay is a kind of gem, mined and polished by one of the great storytellers of our era. –Dwyer Murphy, CrimeReads Managing Editor
John Jeremiah Sullivan, Pulphead (2011)
The American essay was having a moment at the beginning of the decade, and Pulphead was smack in the middle. Without any hard data, I can tell you that this collection of John Jeremiah Sullivan’s magazine features—published primarily in GQ , but also in The Paris Review , and Harper’s —was the only full book of essays most of my literary friends had read since Slouching Towards Bethlehem , and probably one of the only full books of essays they had even heard of.
Well, we all picked a good one. Every essay in Pulphead is brilliant and entertaining, and illuminates some small corner of the American experience—even if it’s just one house, with Sullivan and an aging writer inside (“Mr. Lytle” is in fact a standout in a collection with no filler; fittingly, it won a National Magazine Award and a Pushcart Prize). But what are they about? Oh, Axl Rose, Christian Rock festivals, living around the filming of One Tree Hill , the Tea Party movement, Michael Jackson, Bunny Wailer, the influence of animals, and by god, the Miz (of Real World/Road Rules Challenge fame).
But as Dan Kois has pointed out , what connects these essays, apart from their general tone and excellence, is “their author’s essential curiosity about the world, his eye for the perfect detail, and his great good humor in revealing both his subjects’ and his own foibles.” They are also extremely well written, drawing much from fictional techniques and sentence craft, their literary pleasures so acute and remarkable that James Wood began his review of the collection in The New Yorker with a quiz: “Are the following sentences the beginnings of essays or of short stories?” (It was not a hard quiz, considering the context.)
It’s hard not to feel, reading this collection, like someone reached into your brain, took out the half-baked stuff you talk about with your friends, researched it, lived it, and represented it to you smarter and better and more thoroughly than you ever could. So read it in awe if you must, but read it. –Emily Temple, Senior Editor
Aleksandar Hemon, The Book of My Lives (2013)
Such is the sentence-level virtuosity of Aleksandar Hemon—the Bosnian-American writer, essayist, and critic—that throughout his career he has frequently been compared to the granddaddy of borrowed language prose stylists: Vladimir Nabokov. While it is, of course, objectively remarkable that anyone could write so beautifully in a language they learned in their twenties, what I admire most about Hemon’s work is the way in which he infuses every essay and story and novel with both a deep humanity and a controlled (but never subdued) fury. He can also be damn funny. Hemon grew up in Sarajevo and left in 1992 to study in Chicago, where he almost immediately found himself stranded, forced to watch from afar as his beloved home city was subjected to a relentless four-year bombardment, the longest siege of a capital in the history of modern warfare. This extraordinary memoir-in-essays is many things: it’s a love letter to both the family that raised him and the family he built in exile; it’s a rich, joyous, and complex portrait of a place the 90s made synonymous with war and devastation; and it’s an elegy for the wrenching loss of precious things. There’s an essay about coming of age in Sarajevo and another about why he can’t bring himself to leave Chicago. There are stories about relationships forged and maintained on the soccer pitch or over the chessboard, and stories about neighbors and mentors turned monstrous by ethnic prejudice. As a chorus they sing with insight, wry humor, and unimaginable sorrow. I am not exaggerating when I say that the collection’s devastating final piece, “The Aquarium”—which details his infant daughter’s brain tumor and the agonizing months which led up to her death—remains the most painful essay I have ever read. –Dan Sheehan, Book Marks Editor
Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass (2013)
Of every essay in my relentlessly earmarked copy of Braiding Sweetgrass , Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer’s gorgeously rendered argument for why and how we should keep going, there’s one that especially hits home: her account of professor-turned-forester Franz Dolp. When Dolp, several decades ago, revisited the farm that he had once shared with his ex-wife, he found a scene of destruction: The farm’s new owners had razed the land where he had tried to build a life. “I sat among the stumps and the swirling red dust and I cried,” he wrote in his journal.
So many in my generation (and younger) feel this kind of helplessness–and considerable rage–at finding ourselves newly adult in a world where those in power seem determined to abandon or destroy everything that human bodies have always needed to survive: air, water, land. Asking any single book to speak to this helplessness feels unfair, somehow; yet, Braiding Sweetgrass does, by weaving descriptions of indigenous tradition with the environmental sciences in order to show what survival has looked like over the course of many millennia. Kimmerer’s essays describe her personal experience as a Potawotami woman, plant ecologist, and teacher alongside stories of the many ways that humans have lived in relationship to other species. Whether describing Dolp’s work–he left the stumps for a life of forest restoration on the Oregon coast–or the work of others in maple sugar harvesting, creating black ash baskets, or planting a Three Sisters garden of corn, beans, and squash, she brings hope. “In ripe ears and swelling fruit, they counsel us that all gifts are multiplied in relationship,” she writes of the Three Sisters, which all sustain one another as they grow. “This is how the world keeps going.” –Corinne Segal, Senior Editor
Hilton Als, White Girls (2013)
In a world where we are so often reduced to one essential self, Hilton Als’ breathtaking book of critical essays, White Girls , which meditates on the ways he and other subjects read, project and absorb parts of white femininity, is a radically liberating book. It’s one of the only works of critical thinking that doesn’t ask the reader, its author or anyone he writes about to stoop before the doorframe of complete legibility before entering. Something he also permitted the subjects and readers of his first book, the glorious book-length essay, The Women , a series of riffs and psychological portraits of Dorothy Dean, Owen Dodson, and the author’s own mother, among others. One of the shifts of that book, uncommon at the time, was how it acknowledges the way we inhabit bodies made up of variously gendered influences. To read White Girls now is to experience the utter freedom of this gift and to marvel at Als’ tremendous versatility and intelligence.
He is easily the most diversely talented American critic alive. He can write into genres like pop music and film where being part of an audience is a fantasy happening in the dark. He’s also wired enough to know how the art world builds reputations on the nod of rich white patrons, a significant collision in a time when Jean-Michel Basquiat is America’s most expensive modern artist. Als’ swerving and always moving grip on performance means he’s especially good on describing the effect of art which is volatile and unstable and built on the mingling of made-up concepts and the hard fact of their effect on behavior, such as race. Writing on Flannery O’Connor for instance he alone puts a finger on her “uneasy and unavoidable union between black and white, the sacred and the profane, the shit and the stars.” From Eminem to Richard Pryor, André Leon Talley to Michael Jackson, Als enters the life and work of numerous artists here who turn the fascinations of race and with whiteness into fury and song and describes the complexity of their beauty like his life depended upon it. There are also brief memoirs here that will stop your heart. This is an essential work to understanding American culture. –John Freeman, Executive Editor
Eula Biss, On Immunity (2014)
We move through the world as if we can protect ourselves from its myriad dangers, exercising what little agency we have in an effort to keep at bay those fears that gather at the edges of any given life: of loss, illness, disaster, death. It is these fears—amplified by the birth of her first child—that Eula Biss confronts in her essential 2014 essay collection, On Immunity . As any great essayist does, Biss moves outward in concentric circles from her own very private view of the world to reveal wider truths, discovering as she does a culture consumed by anxiety at the pervasive toxicity of contemporary life. As Biss interrogates this culture—of privilege, of whiteness—she interrogates herself, questioning the flimsy ways in which we arm ourselves with science or superstition against the impurities of daily existence.
Five years on from its publication, it is dismaying that On Immunity feels as urgent (and necessary) a defense of basic science as ever. Vaccination, we learn, is derived from vacca —for cow—after the 17th-century discovery that a small application of cowpox was often enough to inoculate against the scourge of smallpox, an etymological digression that belies modern conspiratorial fears of Big Pharma and its vaccination agenda. But Biss never scolds or belittles the fears of others, and in her generosity and openness pulls off a neat (and important) trick: insofar as we are of the very world we fear, she seems to be suggesting, we ourselves are impure, have always been so, permeable, vulnerable, yet so much stronger than we think. –Jonny Diamond, Editor-in-Chief
Rebecca Solnit, The Mother of All Questions (2016)
When Rebecca Solnit’s essay, “Men Explain Things to Me,” was published in 2008, it quickly became a cultural phenomenon unlike almost any other in recent memory, assigning language to a behavior that almost every woman has witnessed—mansplaining—and, in the course of identifying that behavior, spurring a movement, online and offline, to share the ways in which patriarchal arrogance has intersected all our lives. (It would also come to be the titular essay in her collection published in 2014.) The Mother of All Questions follows up on that work and takes it further in order to examine the nature of self-expression—who is afforded it and denied it, what institutions have been put in place to limit it, and what happens when it is employed by women. Solnit has a singular gift for describing and decoding the misogynistic dynamics that govern the world so universally that they can seem invisible and the gendered violence that is so common as to seem unremarkable; this naming is powerful, and it opens space for sharing the stories that shape our lives.
The Mother of All Questions, comprised of essays written between 2014 and 2016, in many ways armed us with some of the tools necessary to survive the gaslighting of the Trump years, in which many of us—and especially women—have continued to hear from those in power that the things we see and hear do not exist and never existed. Solnit also acknowledges that labels like “woman,” and other gendered labels, are identities that are fluid in reality; in reviewing the book for The New Yorker , Moira Donegan suggested that, “One useful working definition of a woman might be ‘someone who experiences misogyny.'” Whichever words we use, Solnit writes in the introduction to the book that “when words break through unspeakability, what was tolerated by a society sometimes becomes intolerable.” This storytelling work has always been vital; it continues to be vital, and in this book, it is brilliantly done. –Corinne Segal, Senior Editor
Valeria Luiselli, Tell Me How It Ends (2017)
The newly minted MacArthur fellow Valeria Luiselli’s four-part (but really six-part) essay Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions was inspired by her time spent volunteering at the federal immigration court in New York City, working as an interpreter for undocumented, unaccompanied migrant children who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. Written concurrently with her novel Lost Children Archive (a fictional exploration of the same topic), Luiselli’s essay offers a fascinating conceit, the fashioning of an argument from the questions on the government intake form given to these children to process their arrivals. (Aside from the fact that this essay is a heartbreaking masterpiece, this is such a good conceit—transforming a cold, reproducible administrative document into highly personal literature.) Luiselli interweaves a grounded discussion of the questionnaire with a narrative of the road trip Luiselli takes with her husband and family, across America, while they (both Mexican citizens) wait for their own Green Card applications to be processed. It is on this trip when Luiselli reflects on the thousands of migrant children mysteriously traveling across the border by themselves. But the real point of the essay is to actually delve into the real stories of some of these children, which are agonizing, as well as to gravely, clearly expose what literally happens, procedural, when they do arrive—from forms to courts, as they’re swallowed by a bureaucratic vortex. Amid all of this, Luiselli also takes on more, exploring the larger contextual relationship between the United States of America and Mexico (as well as other countries in Central America, more broadly) as it has evolved to our current, adverse moment. Tell Me How It Ends is so small, but it is so passionate and vigorous: it desperately accomplishes in its less-than-100-pages-of-prose what centuries and miles and endless records of federal bureaucracy have never been able, and have never cared, to do: reverse the dehumanization of Latin American immigrants that occurs once they set foot in this country. –Olivia Rutigliano, CrimeReads Editorial Fellow
Zadie Smith, Feel Free (2018)
In the essay “Meet Justin Bieber!” in Feel Free , Zadie Smith writes that her interest in Justin Bieber is not an interest in the interiority of the singer himself, but in “the idea of the love object”. This essay—in which Smith imagines a meeting between Bieber and the late philosopher Martin Buber (“Bieber and Buber are alternative spellings of the same German surname,” she explains in one of many winning footnotes. “Who am I to ignore these hints from the universe?”). Smith allows that this premise is a bit premise -y: “I know, I know.” Still, the resulting essay is a very funny, very smart, and un-tricky exploration of individuality and true “meeting,” with a dash of late capitalism thrown in for good measure. The melding of high and low culture is the bread and butter of pretty much every prestige publication on the internet these days (and certainly of the Twitter feeds of all “public intellectuals”), but the essays in Smith’s collection don’t feel familiar—perhaps because hers is, as we’ve long known, an uncommon skill. Though I believe Smith could probably write compellingly about anything, she chooses her subjects wisely. She writes with as much electricity about Brexit as the aforementioned Beliebers—and each essay is utterly engrossing. “She contains multitudes, but her point is we all do,” writes Hermione Hoby in her review of the collection in The New Republic . “At the same time, we are, in our endless difference, nobody but ourselves.” –Jessie Gaynor, Social Media Editor
Tressie McMillan Cottom, Thick: And Other Essays (2019)
Tressie McMillan Cottom is an academic who has transcended the ivory tower to become the sort of public intellectual who can easily appear on radio or television talk shows to discuss race, gender, and capitalism. Her collection of essays reflects this duality, blending scholarly work with memoir to create a collection on the black female experience in postmodern America that’s “intersectional analysis with a side of pop culture.” The essays range from an analysis of sexual violence, to populist politics, to social media, but in centering her own experiences throughout, the collection becomes something unlike other pieces of criticism of contemporary culture. In explaining the title, she reflects on what an editor had said about her work: “I was too readable to be academic, too deep to be popular, too country black to be literary, and too naïve to show the rigor of my thinking in the complexity of my prose. I had wanted to create something meaningful that sounded not only like me, but like all of me. It was too thick.” One of the most powerful essays in the book is “Dying to be Competent” which begins with her unpacking the idiocy of LinkedIn (and the myth of meritocracy) and ends with a description of her miscarriage, the mishandling of black woman’s pain, and a condemnation of healthcare bureaucracy. A finalist for the 2019 National Book Award for Nonfiction, Thick confirms McMillan Cottom as one of our most fearless public intellectuals and one of the most vital. –Emily Firetog, Deputy Editor
The following books were just barely nudged out of the top ten, but we (or at least one of us) couldn’t let them pass without comment.
Elif Batuman, The Possessed (2010)
In The Possessed Elif Batuman indulges her love of Russian literature and the result is hilarious and remarkable. Each essay of the collection chronicles some adventure or other that she had while in graduate school for Comparative Literature and each is more unpredictable than the next. There’s the time a “well-known 20th-centuryist” gave a graduate student the finger; and the time when Batuman ended up living in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, for a summer; and the time that she convinced herself Tolstoy was murdered and spent the length of the Tolstoy Conference in Yasnaya Polyana considering clues and motives. Rich in historic detail about Russian authors and literature and thoughtfully constructed, each essay is an amalgam of critical analysis, cultural criticism, and serious contemplation of big ideas like that of identity, intellectual legacy, and authorship. With wit and a serpentine-like shape to her narratives, Batuman adopts a form reminiscent of a Socratic discourse, setting up questions at the beginning of her essays and then following digressions that more or less entreat the reader to synthesize the answer for herself. The digressions are always amusing and arguably the backbone of the collection, relaying absurd anecdotes with foreign scholars or awkward, surreal encounters with Eastern European strangers. Central also to the collection are Batuman’s intellectual asides where she entertains a theory—like the “problem of the person”: the inability to ever wholly capture one’s character—that ultimately layer the book’s themes. “You are certainly my most entertaining student,” a professor said to Batuman. But she is also curious and enthusiastic and reflective and so knowledgeable that she might even convince you (she has me!) that you too love Russian literature as much as she does. –Eleni Theodoropoulos, Editorial Fellow
Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist (2014)
Roxane Gay’s now-classic essay collection is a book that will make you laugh, think, cry, and then wonder, how can cultural criticism be this fun? My favorite essays in the book include Gay’s musings on competitive Scrabble, her stranded-in-academia dispatches, and her joyous film and television criticism, but given the breadth of topics Roxane Gay can discuss in an entertaining manner, there’s something for everyone in this one. This book is accessible because feminism itself should be accessible – Roxane Gay is as likely to draw inspiration from YA novels, or middle-brow shows about friendship, as she is to introduce concepts from the academic world, and if there’s anyone I trust to bridge the gap between high culture, low culture, and pop culture, it’s the Goddess of Twitter. I used to host a book club dedicated to radical reads, and this was one of the first picks for the club; a week after the book club met, I spied a few of the attendees meeting in the café of the bookstore, and found out that they had bonded so much over discussing Bad Feminist that they couldn’t wait for the next meeting of the book club to keep discussing politics and intersectionality, and that, in a nutshell, is the power of Roxane. –Molly Odintz, CrimeReads Associate Editor
Rivka Galchen, Little Labors (2016)
Generally, I find stories about the trials and tribulations of child-having to be of limited appeal—useful, maybe, insofar as they offer validation that other people have also endured the bizarre realities of living with a tiny human, but otherwise liable to drift into the musings of parents thrilled at the simple fact of their own fecundity, as if they were the first ones to figure the process out (or not). But Little Labors is not simply an essay collection about motherhood, perhaps because Galchen initially “didn’t want to write about” her new baby—mostly, she writes, “because I had never been interested in babies, or mothers; in fact, those subjects had seemed perfectly not interesting to me.” Like many new mothers, though, Galchen soon discovered her baby—which she refers to sometimes as “the puma”—to be a preoccupying thought, demanding to be written about. Galchen’s interest isn’t just in her own progeny, but in babies in literature (“Literature has more dogs than babies, and also more abortions”), The Pillow Book , the eleventh-century collection of musings by Sei Shōnagon, and writers who are mothers. There are sections that made me laugh out loud, like when Galchen continually finds herself in an elevator with a neighbor who never fails to remark on the puma’s size. There are also deeper, darker musings, like the realization that the baby means “that it’s not permissible to die. There are days when this does not feel good.” It is a slim collection that I happened to read at the perfect time, and it remains one of my favorites of the decade. –Emily Firetog, Deputy Editor
Charlie Fox, This Young Monster (2017)
On social media as in his writing, British art critic Charlie Fox rejects lucidity for allusion and doesn’t quite answer the Twitter textbox’s persistent question: “What’s happening?” These days, it’s hard to tell. This Young Monster (2017), Fox’s first book,was published a few months after Donald Trump’s election, and at one point Fox takes a swipe at a man he judges “direct from a nightmare and just a repulsive fucking goon.” Fox doesn’t linger on politics, though, since most of the monsters he looks at “embody otherness and make it into art, ripping any conventional idea of beauty to shreds and replacing it with something weird and troubling of their own invention.”
If clichés are loathed because they conform to what philosopher Georges Bataille called “the common measure,” then monsters are rebellious non-sequiturs, comedic or horrific derailments from a classical ideal. Perverts in the most literal sense, monsters have gone astray from some “proper” course. The book’s nine chapters, which are about a specific monster or type of monster, are full of callbacks to familiar and lesser-known media. Fox cites visual art, film, songs, and books with the screwy buoyancy of a savant. Take one of his essays, “Spook House,” framed as a stage play with two principal characters, Klaus (“an intoxicated young skinhead vampire”) and Hermione (“a teen sorceress with green skin and jet-black hair” who looks more like The Wicked Witch than her namesake). The chorus is a troupe of trick-or-treaters. Using the filmmaker Cameron Jamie as a starting point, the rest is free association on gothic decadence and Detroit and L.A. as cities of the dead. All the while, Klaus quotes from Artforum , Dazed & Confused , and Time Out. It’s a technical feat that makes fictionalized dialogue a conveyor belt for cultural criticism.
In Fox’s imagination, David Bowie and the Hydra coexist alongside Peter Pan, Dennis Hopper, and the maenads. Fox’s book reaches for the monster’s mask, not really to peel it off but to feel and smell the rubber schnoz, to know how it’s made before making sure it’s still snugly set. With a stylistic blend of arthouse suavity and B-movie chic, This Young Monster considers how monsters in culture are made. Aren’t the scariest things made in post-production? Isn’t the creature just duplicity, like a looping choir or a dubbed scream? –Aaron Robertson, Assistant Editor
Elena Passarello, Animals Strike Curious Poses (2017)
Elena Passarello’s collection of essays Animals Strike Curious Poses picks out infamous animals and grants them the voice, narrative, and history they deserve. Not only is a collection like this relevant during the sixth extinction but it is an ambitious historical and anthropological undertaking, which Passarello has tackled with thorough research and a playful tone that rather than compromise her subject, complicates and humanizes it. Passarello’s intention is to investigate the role of animals across the span of human civilization and in doing so, to construct a timeline of humanity as told through people’s interactions with said animals. “Of all the images that make our world, animal images are particularly buried inside us,” Passarello writes in her first essay, to introduce us to the object of the book and also to the oldest of her chosen characters: Yuka, a 39,000-year-old mummified woolly mammoth discovered in the Siberian permafrost in 2010. It was an occasion so remarkable and so unfathomable given the span of human civilization that Passarello says of Yuka: “Since language is epically younger than both thought and experience, ‘woolly mammoth’ means, to a human brain, something more like time.” The essay ends with a character placing a hand on a cave drawing of a woolly mammoth, accompanied by a phrase which encapsulates the author’s vision for the book: “And he becomes the mammoth so he can envision the mammoth.” In Passarello’s hands the imagined boundaries between the animal, natural, and human world disintegrate and what emerges is a cohesive if baffling integrated history of life. With the accuracy and tenacity of a journalist and the spirit of a storyteller, Elena Passarello has assembled a modern bestiary worthy of contemplation and awe. –Eleni Theodoropoulos, Editorial Fellow
Esmé Weijun Wang, The Collected Schizophrenias (2019)
Esmé Weijun Wang’s collection of essays is a kaleidoscopic look at mental health and the lives affected by the schizophrenias. Each essay takes on a different aspect of the topic, but you’ll want to read them together for a holistic perspective. Esmé Weijun Wang generously begins The Collected Schizophrenias by acknowledging the stereotype, “Schizophrenia terrifies. It is the archetypal disorder of lunacy.” From there, she walks us through the technical language, breaks down the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual ( DSM-5 )’s clinical definition. And then she gets very personal, telling us about how she came to her own diagnosis and the way it’s touched her daily life (her relationships, her ideas about motherhood). Esmé Weijun Wang is uniquely situated to write about this topic. As a former lab researcher at Stanford, she turns a precise, analytical eye to her experience while simultaneously unfolding everything with great patience for her reader. Throughout, she brilliantly dissects the language around mental health. (On saying “a person living with bipolar disorder” instead of using “bipolar” as the sole subject: “…we are not our diseases. We are instead individuals with disorders and malfunctions. Our conditions lie over us like smallpox blankets; we are one thing and the illness is another.”) She pinpoints the ways she arms herself against anticipated reactions to the schizophrenias: high fashion, having attended an Ivy League institution. In a particularly piercing essay, she traces mental illness back through her family tree. She also places her story within more mainstream cultural contexts, calling on groundbreaking exposés about the dangerous of institutionalization and depictions of mental illness in television and film (like the infamous Slender Man case, in which two young girls stab their best friend because an invented Internet figure told them to). At once intimate and far-reaching, The Collected Schizophrenias is an informative and important (and let’s not forget artful) work. I’ve never read a collection quite so beautifully-written and laid-bare as this. –Katie Yee, Book Marks Assistant Editor
Ross Gay, The Book of Delights (2019)
When Ross Gay began writing what would become The Book of Delights, he envisioned it as a project of daily essays, each focused on a moment or point of delight in his day. This plan quickly disintegrated; on day four, he skipped his self-imposed assignment and decided to “in honor and love, delight in blowing it off.” (Clearly, “blowing it off” is a relative term here, as he still produced the book.) Ross Gay is a generous teacher of how to live, and this moment of reveling in self-compassion is one lesson among many in The Book of Delights , which wanders from moments of connection with strangers to a shade of “red I don’t think I actually have words for,” a text from a friend reading “I love you breadfruit,” and “the sun like a guiding hand on my back, saying everything is possible. Everything .”
Gay does not linger on any one subject for long, creating the sense that delight is a product not of extenuating circumstances, but of our attention; his attunement to the possibilities of a single day, and awareness of all the small moments that produce delight, are a model for life amid the warring factions of the attention economy. These small moments range from the physical–hugging a stranger, transplanting fig cuttings–to the spiritual and philosophical, giving the impression of sitting beside Gay in his garden as he thinks out loud in real time. It’s a privilege to listen. –Corinne Segal, Senior Editor
A selection of other books that we seriously considered for both lists—just to be extra about it (and because decisions are hard).
Terry Castle, The Professor and Other Writings (2010) · Joyce Carol Oates, In Rough Country (2010) · Geoff Dyer, Otherwise Known as the Human Condition (2011) · Christopher Hitchens, Arguably (2011) · Roberto Bolaño, tr. Natasha Wimmer, Between Parentheses (2011) · Dubravka Ugresic, tr. David Williams, Karaoke Culture (2011) · Tom Bissell, Magic Hours (2012) · Kevin Young, The Grey Album (2012) · William H. Gass, Life Sentences: Literary Judgments and Accounts (2012) · Mary Ruefle, Madness, Rack, and Honey (2012) · Herta Müller, tr. Geoffrey Mulligan, Cristina and Her Double (2013) · Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exams (2014) · Meghan Daum, The Unspeakable (2014) · Daphne Merkin, The Fame Lunches (2014) · Charles D’Ambrosio, Loitering (2015) · Wendy Walters, Multiply/Divide (2015) · Colm Tóibín, On Elizabeth Bishop (2015) · Renee Gladman, Calamities (2016) · Jesmyn Ward, ed. The Fire This Time (2016) · Lindy West, Shrill (2016) · Mary Oliver, Upstream (2016) · Emily Witt, Future Sex (2016) · Olivia Laing, The Lonely City (2016) · Mark Greif, Against Everything (2016) · Durga Chew-Bose, Too Much and Not the Mood (2017) · Sarah Gerard, Sunshine State (2017) · Jim Harrison, A Really Big Lunch (2017) · J.M. Coetzee, Late Essays: 2006-2017 (2017) · Melissa Febos, Abandon Me (2017) · Louise Glück, American Originality (2017) · Joan Didion, South and West (2017) · Tom McCarthy, Typewriters, Bombs, Jellyfish (2017) · Hanif Abdurraqib, They Can’t Kill Us Until they Kill Us (2017) · Ta-Nehisi Coates, We Were Eight Years in Power (2017) · Samantha Irby, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life (2017) · Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel (2018) · Alice Bolin, Dead Girls (2018) · Marilynne Robinson, What Are We Doing Here? (2018) · Lorrie Moore, See What Can Be Done (2018) · Maggie O’Farrell, I Am I Am I Am (2018) · Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk About Race (2018) · Rachel Cusk, Coventry (2019) · Jia Tolentino, Trick Mirror (2019) · Emily Bernard, Black is the Body (2019) · Toni Morrison, The Source of Self-Regard (2019) · Margaret Renkl, Late Migrations (2019) · Rachel Munroe, Savage Appetites (2019) · Robert A. Caro, Working (2019) · Arundhati Roy, My Seditious Heart (2019).
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450+ Literary Analysis Topics Ideas & Title Examples for Inspiration
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Finding that ideal literary analysis topic can be as complex as the literature you're studying. But fear not! Backed by our experience, we’ve gathered some good literary analysis essay topics worth your attention.
In this blog article, we will tell you how to choose a great title and drop inspirational ideas for your literature analysis. So, sit back, relax, and let us guide you through the best literary analysis topics.
What Are Literary Analysis Topics?
Literary analysis topics are the types of analytical essay topics that deal with examining any work of literature. It might be a novel, a short story, or even literary criticism. You can select any of these topics to write a literary analysis on.
Topics for literary analysis might focus on various elements of the literature you are supposed to study. For instance, you may explore the following things:
- Literary devices
- Structure and style
Essentially, your task is to unleash the hidden meanings and interpret the messages conveyed in the literary works.
>> Learn more: How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay
Features of Good Literary Analysis Topics
Before we move on to the literature essay topics, let’s talk about what makes a title stand out. Good literary analysis topics should:
- Be related to the literature
- Provide an opportunity for further exploration of the work as a whole.
- Raise interesting questions and allow for different interpretations.
- Inspire readers to think about the topic in more detail.
Choosing the right topic is very important. If you need extra help from experts, rely on our team of academic professionals. Say ‘ do my essay for me ’ and get an authentic essay crafted in line with your needs.
How to Choose a Literary Analysis Topic?
Are you staring at a blank page and don’t even know what literary analysis essay topic to choose? We know that feeling. It can be as challenging as finding a perfect rhyme in a sonnet, but no worries! Below we've got some easy steps to help you select a great literary analysis topic:
- Read and reflect Start by immersing yourself in the text. As you read, keep an eye on themes, characters, and symbols that catch your attention.
- Ask questions This is where your inner Sherlock should come out! Question everything about the book. Why does a character behave a certain way? What's the significance of that recurring symbol? These queries are the seeds of your literary analysis.
- Find connections Look for links in the text – between characters, themes, or even the historical context. These connections often make for a compelling literary analysis essay title example.
- Keep it focused Remember, you're writing an essay , not a book! So, zoom in. Instead of tackling a broad topic like "Imagery in To Kill a Mockingbird," focus on something more specific, like "The use of bird imagery in To Kill a Mockingbird."
- Find a new angle If you're choosing a popular book, find a fresh angle. Instead of going with the crowd, create your own path. A unique perspective will make your analysis stand out.
Powered up by these guidelines, you are sure to find an excellent literary analysis essay idea. Now, let’s see what literary analysis titles and writing prompts we have prepared for you.
Literary Analysis Essay Topics List
If you are not sure how to get started, look at the list of essay titles below. Here, we’ve selected top literary essay topics and prompts to kickstart your journey into literature. Let’s begin with some basic themes and literary elements:
- Symbolism in Emily Dickinson's poetry.
- Women’s portrayal in Pride and Prejudice.
- Orwell's use of dystopia in 1984.
- Time in Slaughterhouse-Five.
- Death's representation in Edgar Allan Poe’s works.
- Mystery and suspense in Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series.
- Symbolism in The Catcher in the Rye.
- Portrayal of masculinity in Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea.
- Handling of grief in Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking.
- Solitude in Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude.
- Role of supernatural elements in Macbeth.
- American Dream in Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby.
- Postcolonial themes in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart.
- The role of setting in A Tale of Two Cities.
- Juxtaposition of civilization and savagery in Golding's Lord of the Flies.
Good Literary Analysis Essay Topics
If you're searching for that spark of inspiration, look no further. Choose a title idea from the collection of literary analysis essay prompts we added below:
- Jane Austen's social satire in Sense and Sensibility.
- Use of stream-of-consciousness in Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway.
- Survival in Yann Martel's Life of Pi.
- Love in Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary.
- Illusion versus reality in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire.
- Ambition's consequences in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
- Power in George Orwell's Animal Farm.
- Role of nature in Jack London's Call of the Wild.
- Innocence in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.
- J.D. Salinger's use of first-person narrative in Catcher in the Rye.
- Conflict of individual versus society in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.
- Isolation in Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis.
- Friendship in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.
- Social class in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations.
- Gender roles in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women.
Interesting Literary Analysis Topics
Are you looking for something more mind-blowing? Consider these interesting literary analysis essay topics ideas to shake things up a bit:
- Irony in Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
- Satire in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels.
- Perspective shifts in William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying.
- Justice in Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman .
- Power dynamics in Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men.
- Fear in Stephen King's The Shining.
- Identity crisis in Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar.
- Spiritual growth in Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha.
- Betrayal in Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go.
- Symbolism in Toni Morrison's Beloved.
- Freedom in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.
- Class struggle in Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles.
- Portrayal of war in Joseph Heller's Catch-22.
- Obsession in Oscar Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray .
- Romanticism in J.M Barrie's Peter Pan.
Unique Literary Analysis Essay Topics
When it comes to a literary analysis paper, standing out from the crowd can make all the difference. If you're looking to bring a touch of uniqueness to your writing, consider one of these these distinctive literary analysis prompts:
- Magical realism in Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude.
- Portrayal of rebellion in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 .
- Maternal relationships in Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club.
- Existentialism in Albert Camus' The Stranger.
- Deceit in Arthur Miller's The Crucible.
- Quest for identity in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man.
- Treatment of time in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five.
- Pride in Sophocles' Antigone.
- Role of memory in Toni Morrison's Beloved.
- Perspective and truth in Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner.
- Portrayal of destiny in Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles.
- Madness in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper.
- Courage and survival in Markus Zusak's The Book Thief.
- Role of society in George Orwell's 1984 .
- Youth and age in J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye .
Best Literature Essay Topics
Are you ready to take your analysis to the next level? Take a look at these top-notch literary topics for essays, each one carefully crafted for an A+ analysis essay :
- Challenging societal norms in Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House.
- Portrayal of love in Pablo Neruda's poetry.
- Loss and grief in Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking.
- Paradox in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest.
- Representation of animals in Jack London's The Call of the Wild.
- Disillusionment in F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night.
- Trauma and healing in Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns.
- Use of language in James Joyce's Ulysses.
- Quest for identity in Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God.
- Portrayal of family in August Wilson's Fences.
- Loyalty in Homer's Iliad .
- Portrayal of survival in Cormac McCarthy's The Road.
- Duality in Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
- Isolation in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot.
- Influence of society in Jane Austen's Mansfield Park.
Easy Literary Analysis Title Examples
If you are a novice or prefer simple literary analysis essay ideas, this list is for you.
- Uncovering themes in To Kill a Mockingbird.
- The symbolism in Lord of the Flies.
- Understanding character development in Great Expectations.
- Love and relationships in Pride and Prejudice.
- The role of setting in Wuthering Heights.
- Morality in Moby Dick.
- Exploring imagery in The Great Gatsby .
- Power dynamics in Animal Farm.
- Social critique in Brave New World.
- Conflict in Romeo and Juliet .
- Identity and culture in The Namesake.
- Supernatural elements in Macbeth .
- The quest for freedom in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
- Aging and time in The Old Man and the Sea.
- Survival in Life of Pi.
Topics for Literary Analysis in Different Genre
Exploring different genres can add a whole new dimension to your literary analysis. Whether it's the captivating world-building of fantasy or the futuristic visions of science fiction, each genre offers a bunch of literary analysis ideas for any taste. Check out the following literary analysis essay topics sorted by genre:
- Utopian ideals in H.G. Wells' The Time Machine.
- Symbols and motifs in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.
- Suspense in Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.
- Love in Nicholas Sparks' The Notebook.
- Representation of war in Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth.
- Humanity in Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
- Courage in C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
- Justice in Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series.
- Conflict in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.
- Time in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series.
- Portrayal of technology in William Gibson's Neuromancer.
- Good versus evil in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.
- Clues in Edgar Allan Poe's The Murders in the Rue Morgue.
- Portrayal of passion in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights.
- Use of historical detail in Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall.
American Literature Essay Topics
American literature has produced some of the most iconic works in history. Take a glance at these essay topics for American literature analysis essay topics to get motivated:
- Racial tensions in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin.
- Transcendentalism in Walden.
- Role of women in The Scarlet Letter .
- Slavery and freedom in Beloved.
- The meaning of home in Langston Hughes' poetry.
- Masculinity and honor in Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises.
- Individualism in On the Road.
- Illusion versus reality in Death of a Salesman.
- Navigating adolescence in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
- Tragic hero in A Streetcar Named Desire.
- Consequences of power in The Crucible .
- Love and loss in The Fault in Our Stars.
- Identity in Invisible Man.
- Nature and the self in Leaves of Grass.
- Religion and faith in The Poisonwood Bible.
English Literature Essay Topics
If you are a British literature enthusiast, don’t skip this list. Below, we have collected the most trending literary analysis title examples in English literature:
- Class struggle in Dickens' Oliver Twist.
- Mysticism in Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes.
- Misogyny in Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles.
- Role of weather in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights.
- Satire of Victorian Era in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest.
- Subversion of romance in Jane Austen's Emma.
- Landscape and memory in Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd.
- War and its effects in Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front.
- Power and corruption in George Orwell's Animal Farm.
- Maturation in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre .
- Religious doubt in Graham Greene's The End of the Affair.
- Time and consciousness in Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse.
- Subconscious in D.H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers.
- Rebellion against society in Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange.
Literary Analysis Topics for Students
We've carefully curated literary analysis essay topics suitable for students at different levels of education. From high school to college, there's something for everyone. We've categorized these topics for a literary analysis essay according to academic level to help you find what fits your needs best. Are you ready to dive in? Get prepared to discover literary analysis title ideas that will make your writing process an absolute pleasure.
Literary Analysis Essay Topics for Middle School Students
- Understanding friendship in The Outsiders.
- Lessons about tolerance in Wonder.
- Courage and bravery in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
- The importance of individuality in A Wrinkle in Time.
- Family and identity in The Giver.
- The theme of adventure in Treasure Island.
- Life lessons in Charlotte’s Web.
- Overcoming obstacles in Bridge to Terabithia.
- The impact of rumors in The Watsons Go to Birmingham.
- Symbolism in Tuck Everlasting.
- The significance of heritage in Esperanza Rising.
- Power of persistence in Hatchet.
- Examining the hero's journey in Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief.
- Struggles with fairness in The Westing Game.
- The role of honesty in The Secret Garden.
Literary Analysis Essay Topics for High School Students
- Tragic love in Romeo and Juliet.
- Prejudice and racism in To Kill a Mockingbird.
- The dangers of ambition in Macbeth.
- The importance of friendship in The Outsiders.
- Symbolism in The Great Gatsby.
- Coming of age in The Catcher in the Rye.
- Man versus nature in Moby Dick.
- Power and corruption in Animal Farm.
- Morality in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
- The impact of war in All Quiet on the Western Front.
- Human nature in Lord of the Flies.
- The role of the American dream in Death of a Salesman.
- Heroism in Beowulf.
- Innocence and experience in Catch-22.
- Dystopian society in Fahrenheit 451.
Literary Analysis Essay Topics for College Students
- Irony and satire in Pride and Prejudice.
- Freedom in A Doll's House.
- Role of madness in Hamlet.
- Colonialism and its impacts in Heart of Darkness.
- Alienation and isolation in The Metamorphosis.
- Tragedy and fate in Oedipus Rex.
- Exploring human consciousness in Mrs. Dalloway.
- Modernism in Ulysses.
- Language and power in 1984.
- Identity and society in Invisible Man.
- Existentialism in Waiting for Godot.
- Feminism and gender roles in The Yellow Wallpaper.
- Justice and judgment in Crime and Punishment.
- The influence of society on individuals in A Streetcar Named Desire.
- Role of memory in Remembrance of Things Past.
Literary Analysis Essay Topics in Poetry
Poetry has a unique way of touching our hearts and minds. Poem analysis can reveal hidden meanings behind the verses. If you're searching for literary analysis essay topics with a focus on poetry, check out some pointers in the sections below.
Romeo and Juliet Literary Analysis Essay Topics
- Fate and destiny in Romeo and Juliet.
- Masculinity and its influence on the characters' actions.
- The impact of family feuds on individual choices in Romeo and Juliet.
- Concept of time in Romeo and Juliet.
- Understanding love at first sight through Romeo and Juliet.
- The juxtaposition of love and violence in the play.
- Secret identities and deception in Romeo and Juliet.
- The influence of peer pressure on the events of Romeo and Juliet.
- Contrasting views of love: Exploring the perspectives of Romeo, Juliet, and other characters.
- Dreams and omens in Romeo and Juliet.
Hamlet Literary Analysis Essay Topics Ideas
- Hamlet's madness: Genuine condition or clever ruse?
- Revenge and its destructive consequences.
- Role of women: Analyzing the characters of Gertrude and Ophelia.
- Appearance versus reality: The dichotomy of disguise and deceit.
- Hamlet's soliloquies: A window into his psyche and moral dilemmas.
- The tragic flaw of Hamlet.
- The ghost of King Hamlet: Its role and significance.
- Corruption and decay in Hamlet's kingdom.
- Father-son relationships in Hamlet.
- Morality and ethical decision-making in Hamlet.
Macbeth Literary Analysis Essay Topics
- Supernatural elements in Macbeth.
- Moral decline of Macbeth throughout the play.
- Lady Macbeth's role in Macbeth's ambition and actions.
- Guilt and its consequences in Macbeth.
- The power of prophecy and its impact on Macbeth's decisions.
- Role of sleep and sleeplessness in the play.
- The symbolism of blood in Macbeth.
- Disorder and chaos in Macbeth.
- The transformation of Lady Macbeth's character over the course of the play.
- The portrayal of kingship and tyranny in Macbeth.
Literary Analysis Essay Topics Ideas & Prompts
Still can’t find a topic? Scroll down to spot more fantastic literary analysis writing prompts and ideas, categorized by popular works. Whether you're analyzing character development, theme, or narrative style, you will definitely recognize some good literary analysis topics ideas.
Frankenstein Literary Analysis Essay Topics
- Role of nature in shaping the characters of Frankenstein.
- Dangers of unchecked ambition in Frankenstein.
- Impact of isolation on Victor Frankenstein and his creature.
- Women in Frankenstein's world.
- Creator and creation in Frankenstein.
- Creature’s desire for companionship.
- Frankenstein as a critique of enlightenment ideals.
- Concept of 'otherness' in Frankenstein.
- Knowledge and ignorance in Frankenstein.
- Comparing Victor Frankenstein and his creature.
Beowulf Literary Analysis Essay Prompts
- Christian and pagan elements in Beowulf.
- Lineage and ancestry in Beowulf.
- The symbolism of monsters in Beowulf.
- The representation of kingship in Beowulf.
- Fame and reputation.
- Treasure and gift-giving in Beowulf.
- Loyalty in the world of Beowulf.
- Good versus evil in Beowulf.
- Beowulf's three battles: A comparative analysis.
The Great Gatsby Literary Analysis Topics
- Destructive power of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby.
- Social classes in The Great Gatsby.
- Motif of the 'green light' in The Great Gatsby.
- Illusion versus reality in The Great Gatsby.
- Time and the past in The Great Gatsby.
- The role of geography and setting.
- The portrayal of love and desire.
- Significance of Gatsby's parties in the novel.
- Symbolism of the 'Valley of Ashes' in The Great Gatsby.
- Nick Carraway as an unreliable narrator.
Fahrenheit 451 Literary Analysis Essay Topics
- Censorship and its impact on society in Fahrenheit 451.
- Technology in Fahrenheit 451's dystopian society.
- Symbolism of fire.
- Motif of mirrors in Fahrenheit 451.
- Individuality versus conformity in Fahrenheit 451.
- Portrayal of reading and books in Fahrenheit 451.
- Mechanical hound and its role.
- The impact of isolation and disconnection in Fahrenheit 451.
- Happiness and fulfillment represented in the book.
- Symbolism of the phoenix in Fahrenheit 451.
Othello Literary Analysis Essay Topics
- The impact of jealousy on the characters of Othello.
- Race and racism in Othello.
- Manipulation and its role in this play.
- Representation of women in Othello.
- Appearance versus reality in Othello.
- Reputation and honor in this play.
- Impact of insecurities on the character of Othello.
- Role Desdemona's handkerchief plays.
- Motif of animals in Othello.
- Friendship and betrayal as represented in this play.
The Catcher In The Rye Literary Analysis Topics
- How does Salinger represent teen angst in Catcher in the Rye?
- Role of Phoebe in Holden Caulfield's life.
- Analysis of Holden's perception of adulthood.
- Symbolic meaning of the Museum of Natural History.
- Red hunting hat as a symbol of isolation.
- Salinger's portrayal of mental illness through Holden.
- Relevance of the carrousel scene at the end of this novel.
- Language and narrative style in Catcher in the Rye.
- Understanding Holden's relationships with other characters.
- How does this title relate to Holden's personality and actions?
The Crucible Literary Analysis Topics
- Fear and hysteria as represented in The Crucible.
- Power dynamics in Salem's society.
- John Proctor's character development throughout this play.
- Abigail Williams' motivations.
- Analysis of Arthur Miller's use of historical events.
- Symbolism of the witch trials.
- Religion and how it is represented in The Crucible.
- Comparing the characters: Elizabeth Proctor vs. Abigail Williams.
- Suspicion and paranoia in this play.
- Relevance of The Crucible in today's society.
1984 Literary Essay Topics
- George Orwell's depiction of totalitarianism.
- Concept of Newspeak.
- Surveillance and control in 1984.
- Winston's rebellion against the Party.
- Symbolism of the glass paperweight.
- Analysis of the Party's manipulation of history.
- Role of Big Brother in this novel.
- ulia's character and her contrast to Winston.
- Significance of Room 101.
- Doublethink and its influence on citizens' mentality.
The Story of an Hour Literary Analysis Essay Topics
- Mrs. Mallard's freedom and confinement.
- Irony in The Story of an Hour.
- Theme of time in this short story.
- Heart and it symbolism.
- Portrayal of marriage in The Story of an Hour.
- Significance of the open window.
- Railroad and its role in this story.
- How does Mrs. Mallard's reaction reflect societal norms?
- Analysis of Louise's transformation.
- Representation of life and death.
The Cask of Amontillado Literary Analysis Ideas
- Revenge in The Cask of Amontillado.
- Significance of setting in this story.
- Symbolism of the cask.
- Montresor as an unreliable narrator.
- Concept of pride in this story.
- Foreshadowing in The Cask of Amontillado.
- Contrast between Montresor and Fortunato.
- Motif of disguise and deception.
- Exploring the concept of madness.
- How does the catacomb setting contribute to the story's tone?
Pride and Prejudice Literary Analysis Prompts
- First impressions in Pride and Prejudice.
- Jane Austen's portrayal of marriage and social status.
- The theme of pride in this novel.
- Understanding the character of Mr. Darcy.
- Significance of the title in understanding this novel.
- Contrasting characters of Elizabeth and Jane.
- Letters and their role in Pride and Prejudice.
- Social hierarchy and class in this novel.
- Theme of family in Pride and Prejudice.
- Lydia and her impact on the plot.
Kafka’s Metamorphosis Literary Analysis Title Examples
- Exploring Gregor Samsa's transformation.
- Kafka’s portrayal of family relationships.
- Symbolism of the apple in Metamorphosis.
- How does Kafka depict the human condition?
- Understanding Grete's role in this story.
- Kafka's commentary on work and responsibility.
- Gregor's room as a symbol of his inner state.
- Role of dehumanization in Metamorphosis.
- Kafka's style in conveying existentialist themes.
- Understanding the character of Mr. Samsa.
Topics for Literary Analysis of The Odyssey
- Role of hospitality in ancient Greek society.
- Examination of Odysseus as a hero.
- Vengeance in The Odyssey.
- Significance of the Underworld.
- Role of gods and goddesses in the plot.
- Women characters in The Odyssey.
- Understanding Telemachus' character arc.
- Significance of Ithaca in Odysseus’ journey.
- Analysis of deception.
- Circe: Character analysis .
The Old Man and the Sea Literary Analysis Essay Topics
- Perseverance in Hemingway's novel.
- Analyzing Santiago's relationship with the sea.
- Significance of Santiago's dreams about lions.
- Hemingway's portrayal of friendship and camaraderie.
- Symbolism of the marlin.
- The sea and its significance in Santiago's journey.
- Heroism as depicted in this novel.
- Role of nature and its depiction.
- Santiago's hand injury and its symbolic meaning.
- Defeat and its role in shaping Santiago’s character.
Jane Eyre Literary Analysis Topics
- Gothic elements in Jane Eyre.
- Concept of the madwoman in the attic.
- Religion in Jane's life and development.
- Portrayal of women's independence in the novel.
- Significance of Thornfield Hall.
- Motif of fire and ice in Jane Eyre.
- Examining the character of Mr. Rochester.
- Understanding the role of Adele in this novel.
- Analyzing forgiveness.
- Jane’s quest for self-identity and belonging.
The Scarlet Letter Literary Topics for Essays
- Sin and guilt and how they are depicted.
- Symbolism of the scarlet letter 'A'.
- Understanding Hester Prynne's character development.
- Role of Pearl as a symbol.
- Exploration of hypocrisy.
- Examination of the Puritan society.
- Roger Chillingworth as a character.
- Role of secrets and hidden identities.
- Significance of the forest and the town.
- Portrayal of women in The Scarlet Letter.
Of Mice and Men Literary Analysis Essay Ideas
- Lennie's dream and its impact on this story.
- How does Steinbeck present George and Lennie's friendship?
- Decoding symbolism in Of Mice and Men.
- Loneliness in this novel.
- Analyzing Steinbeck's portrayal of the American Dream.
- Unraveling Curley's wife's character.
- A critical look at attitudes towards women.
- Analysis of power dynamics in Of Mice and Men.
- Steinbeck’s depiction of life during the Great Depression.
- Understanding the tragic end: Was there an alternative?
Lord of the Flies Literary Analysis Titles
- Loss of innocence in Lord of the Flies.
- Power struggle: Analyzing leadership styles of Jack and Ralph.
- Deconstructing the symbol of 'beast' in the novel.
- Golding’s portrayal of the thin veneer of civilization.
- Survival instincts in Lord of the Flies.
- Motif of the conch shell in this novel.
- Exploring fear and its implications.
- Golding's view on human nature.
- A critical look at the novel's ending.
- Understanding the novel’s allegorical elements.
To Kill a Mockingbird Literary Analysis Essay Topics
- Racial injustice in this novel.
- How does Scout's perspective shape the narrative?
- Harper Lee's portrayal of small-town life in the South.
- Moral education in To Kill a Mockingbird.
- Understanding Boo Radley's impact on this story.
- Symbolism in To Kill a Mockingbird.
- Analysis of Atticus Finch's parenting style.
- Class structure in Maycomb County.
- Gender roles in To Kill a Mockingbird.
- Bravery in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Literary Analysis Essay Topics & Title Ideas by Themes
Are you interested in how the good is represented in literature. Or, want to explore the dark side of human nature? No matter what theme you’re analyzing, these literary analysis topics will surely help you get your gears turning.
Literary Analysis Essay Topics on Education
- Exploring education's impact in To Kill a Mockingbird.
- Jane Eyre's education and its effects on her life.
- Learning and wisdom in J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye.
- Views on education in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
- Education’s role in the development of Huck Finn.
- Value of practical knowledge in Moby-Dick.
- Understanding Malvolio’s wisdom in Twelfth Night.
- How The Great Gatsby criticizes education in the 1920s.
- Education as liberation in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.
- Women's education in Pride and Prejudice.
Literary Analysis Essay Topics on Religion
- Understanding religious allegory in Lord of the Flies.
- Christian symbolism in The Chronicles of Narnia.
- Religion’s impact on communities in The Poisonwood Bible.
- Religious imagery in William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience.
- Criticism of the church in The Canterbury Tales.
- Dystopian views of religion in Brave New World.
- How The Scarlet Letter deals with religion and sin.
- Portrayal of religious hypocrisy in Huckleberry Finn.
- Religious aspects in Paradise Lost.
- Comparing religious symbolism in Moby Dick and Billy Budd.
Literary Analysis Essay Topics on Race
- Discussing racial prejudices in To Kill a Mockingbird.
- Understanding racial disparities in The Color Purple.
- Representation of race in Othello.
- Racial discrimination in Nella Larsen's Passing.
- Concept of race in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
- Racial dynamics in Go Set a Watchman.
- Racial identity in The Bluest Eye.
- Race and identity in Invisible Man.
- Racial politics in James Baldwin's Go Tell It On The Mountain.
- Racial tensions in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun.
War and Peace Literary Analysis Essay Topics
- Understanding war's impact in All Quiet on the Western Front.
- Depiction of warfare in War and Peace.
- Post-war society in The Sun Also Rises.
- Effects of war on Mrs. Dalloway.
- Concept of peace in A Separate Peace.
- Interpreting war in Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls.
- Post-war life in The Catcher in the Rye.
- Pacifist messages in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five.
- Consequences of war in A Farewell to Arms.
- Portrayal of war in The Red Badge of Courage.
Literary Analysis Topics on Justice and Judgment
- Concept of justice in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
- Justice and injustice in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations.
- Judgment in Jane Austen’s Emma.
- Analyzing justice in George Orwell's 1984.
- Exploring judgment in Pride and Prejudice.
- Justice in A Tale of Two Cities.
- Critique of justice in William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure.
- Judgment in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.
- Justice in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables.
- Portrayal of justice in The Merchant of Venice.
Literary Analysis Ideas About Good and Evil
- Good and evil in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
- Good vs evil in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
- Struggle between good and evil in Moby-Dick.
- Dichotomy of good and evil in To Kill a Mockingbird.
- Conflict of good and evil in The Lord of the Rings.
- Good and evil in Golding's Lord of the Flies.
- Representation of good and evil in Heart of Darkness.
- Exploration of good and evil in The Picture of Dorian Gray.
- How Bram Stoker’s Dracula deals with good and evil.
- Examining the balance of good and evil in Macbeth.
Bottom Line on Literary Analysis Essay Topics
When you're dealing with a literary analysis paper, it can be overwhelming to come up with unique topics. The trick is finding the perfect topic that you will be excited to work with. These literary analysis ideas should help get you started in the right direction. From time-tested classics to more modern works, we focused on different themes so you can pick the one you like.
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How to Write an Analysis Essay on a Book: an Effective Manual
Books are the best way to kill time and increase knowledge about certain areas of life. A good book can reveal much about the culture and social infrastructure of a certain region and time. Inspirational books can motivate people to live a happier life with a positive approach. There are zillions of books in the world and even if you spend your whole life studying, you will never be able to read all the published books. Different books serve different purposes and have their own uniqueness depending upon the writer. If you are to write a book analysis essay, the first thing you need is a book to consider.
Choosing a book for your essay is not hard. Think of all the books you have read and choose the top three books that you could relate to the most. This way you will not have to understand and make sense of a complete book. You will just need to read the book another one or two times and you will be good to start writing your analysis. On the contrary, if you choose to write an analysis of a book you have never read, you might have to read it several times to only develop the understanding.
Whatever choice you make for the book, you will have to read it at least twice to complete your analysis. In the first reading, you would recall everything about the book, understand the main theme, and focus on the overall purpose of the book. Do not think about the setting, plot, characters, background, author’s approach, and other technical issues at this phase. Write a rough draft of the message you were able to make out of the book. Do not worry about the logical order and grammar at this point. You just need a rough sketch to see what most important things in the book left a mark on you.
After this first reading and drafting, you need to read the book again with a critical approach . Take a pen in your hand and mark whatever grabs your attention, you also need to have a keen eye for the areas that did not deliver a clear meaning. Stay very careful when you read the book and underline whatever you do not feel right in the overall setting.
Gather all your notes and write an essay based on them.
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