Once you've read the story or novel closely, look back over your notes for patterns of questions or ideas that interest you. Have most of your questions been about the characters, how they develop or change?
If you are reading Conrad's The Secret Agent, do you seem to be most interested in what the author has to say about society? Choose a pattern of ideas and express it in the form of a question and an answer such as the following:
Question: What does Conrad seem to be suggesting about early twentieth-century London society in his novel The Secret Agent?
Answer: Conrad suggests that all classes of society are corrupt.
Choosing too many ideas.
Choosing an idea without any support.
Now that you're familiar with the story or novel and have developed a thesis statement, you're ready to choose the evidence you'll use to support your thesis. There are a lot of good ways to do this, but all of them depend on a strong thesis for their direction.
Here's a student's thesis about Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent.
In his novel, The Secret Agent, Conrad uses beast and cannibal imagery to describe the characters and their relationships to each other. This pattern of images suggests that Conrad saw corruption in every level of early twentieth-century London society.
This thesis focuses on the idea of social corruption and the device of imagery. To support this thesis, you would need to find images of beasts and cannibalism within the text.
WritingYour Literary Analysis
Stepone: Read the work forits literal meaning. Make sure youunderstand the plot of the play or novel and who the characters are.
Step two: Annotatethe play or novel--underline descriptions that seem significant to you. Write down your reactions, questions,and comments.
Step three: Drawa picture of the story or draw a character map that notes how you feel abouteach main character in the beginning of the work and how you feel about themain characters at the end of the work.
Step four: Review your notes about what you read.
Step five: Decidewhat question you want to answer about the works you are analyzing. Your thesis is the answer to your question. Try to develop an interesting thesisand interpretation. Choose thequotes and evidence in the story that support your thesis.
Suggested Structure of Your Literary Analysis Essay
A. Summarize what each work is aboutin one sentence. Don't forget to mention the title of the each work you are analyzingand who the author is.
B. State the main pointor thesis of your essay. Yourthesis should answer a question about how an important element in the piece ofliterature works. For instance, you might answer the question: What do you thinkwas the main point the author was trying to make about his/her subject (theme) or what was the author trying to showthrough one of the characters?
A. Explain your firstpoint connected to your thesis and support it with quotations from the book.
B. Explain your secondpoint connected to your thesis and support it with quotations from the book.
C. Explain your mostimportant idea connected to your thesis. Discuss your interpretation and support it with quotations from thebook.
(Note:Be careful that you don't just re-tell the story without giving yourinterpretations. A better analysiswould focus on your interpretation, not on synopsizing the story.)
III. Conclusion: You can summarize your main points, andconnect them to your thesis. Youcan connect your interpretation to a larger theme in the novel or you canexplain what you learned about human nature or the complexity of humanexperience through the novel.