Outline for Literary Analysis

Outline for Literary Analysis

Introduction to Literary Analysis

Literary analysis can be defined as a type of writing that deals with scrutinizing every section of your chosen novel, play, etc. and finding out how the writer utilized them to produce a special effect. Remember, a standard book review is different from literary analysis.

The main objectives of literary analysis include:

  • Utilizing exceptional writing skills to express your views.
  • Using available technological tools to carry out research and make a logical analysis.
  • Critically reading of a particular piece of writing and using it as the basis for support.

There are various types of literary analysis:

  • Historical – This analysis concentrates more on the context of the work or historical framework. It requires a close examination of the work and extra research that will be relied upon to assist in backing and strengthening your thesis. Just like the other forms of essays, your thesis is the one which carries the most weight. Your objective is to examine the historical context found in the work that you want to analyze and to come up with a strong thesis that explains how the context relates to the writing.
  • Close reading – Close reading here means reading a certain piece of writing while focusing on the minor details. This may include the character's utilization of particular gestures and the imagery used by the writer in a scene and how the characters react to it. Comprehending why the writer preferred to use the devices will lead to a stronger and more insightful understanding of the whole work.
  • Comparative - A comparative literary analysis is a comparison of several elements of a particular piece of writing. It may include similarities between various pieces of literature or even texts that have previously examined a comparison of several works produced by the same writer, or even a text from the same genre. The primary objective is to create connections and arrive at a conclusion based on your findings.

How to Write a Literary Analysis Outline

Now that you’ve known what literature analysis is, below is how a literary analysis essay outline looks like:


This is the first paragraph of your essay. It should start creatively so that you grab the attention of your readers. In addition, it provides important background information about the literary work and prepares the readers for your main thesis. The introduction ought to include details of the writer and title of the work and also a description of the theme to be discussed.

Furthermore, additional background information may comprise an introduction of the major characters, the book/play’s setting, etc. At the end of this paragraph is where the main thesis will be placed. The main thesis will be placed at the end of this paragraph. You can attempt to link the thesis statement to the sentence that comes before it by building on a keyword or idea.

Creative opening in the outline of literary analysis - The first sentences of the introduction that pique’s the reader’s interest. There are several ways of creatively writing the beginning sentences:

  • A shocking fact or piece of information – For example, nearly 200 suspected witches arrested during the 1692 Salem witch scare. In the end, nineteen of them hanged, and another one pressed to death.
  • A clear portrayal of the setting – For example, during the Great Depression, Sleepy Maycomb, just like most Southern towns, suffers greatly. Poverty reaches from the well-off families such as the Finches to the ‘white trash’ Ewells and Negroes, who reside in the outskirts of the town. Harper Lee provides a clear picture of life in this Alabama town where intolerance and tempers lead to conflicts.
  • Part of a dialogue between two characters.
  • A significant quote from the book that you’re analyzing or another source – For example, ‘To be, or not to be, that’s the question.’ This well-known statement conveys the moral dilemma of the young prince in William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.
  • A universal idea – For example, the horrifying scenes a soldier encounters on the battlefront most likely follow him all through his life, that is, if he or she manages to survive the war.

The introduction should not:

  • Be ambiguous.
  • Go off-topic

Thesis in a Literary Analysis Paper Outline

This is a statement that provides your essay’s general opinion and subject. For a literary analysis paper outline, your main thesis sought to:

  • Relate to the work’s theme
  • State how the author divulges this theme. Moreover, a good thesis may also suggest the paper's organization.

A good example of a thesis statement can be:

  • Via Paul’s experience behind the lines, as a Russian prisoner of war, and particularly under attack in the trenches, Erich Maria clearly portrays how a man can be dehumanized by war.

At times, a thesis can become too weighty to fit in one sentence. You can, therefore, write the main thesis as two sentences. For instance:

  • In a Tale of 2 cities, Charles Dickens illustrates the way in which you can redeem a wasted life. Via his love for Lucie Manette, Sidney Carton experiences a transformation where he goes from a bitter, hopeless person to a hero whose life and death have meaning.

A thesis statement should not:

  • be ambiguous;
  • be less detailed since it’s necessary to maintain the argument throughout the text.

Body Paragraphs in a Literary Analysis Outline

These are your essay’s support paragraphs. These paragraphs have supporting details (actual details) and explanation/analysis for your topic sentences. Each body paragraph contains a topic sentence, commentary (also known as an explanation), textual evidence (also referred to as the quotes from your book), and a closing sentence.

  • Topic sentence – This is the first sentence of a body paragraph. It pinpoints one feature of the main thesis and suggests a man reason as to why the main thesis is true. A good example can be, ‘When Sidney Carton first appears in the novel, he is portrayed as a loveless outcast who doesn’t see any worth in others or himself.
  • Textual evidence – A precise example from the work of literature utilized to provide evidence for your topic sentence. Moreover, evidence from the text can be a mixture of paraphrase and direct quotes from the piece of literature. A good example can be; ‘When Darnay and Carlton meet at the Tavern for the first time, Carlton tells him that he cares for no man on this earth, and also no man cares for him.
  • Explanation (commentary) – This is simply the interpretation of your textual evidence. The commentary reveals to the reader what the writer of the text means or how the evidence ascertains the topic sentence. In a literary analysis outline, the commentary section can contain analysis, interpretation or reflection. One important thing to note is that in your body paragraph, you ought to have as twice as much commentary as evidence from the text. This means that for each sentence of textual evidence, there should be at least two commentary sentences. For example, ‘Carton comes up with this statement as if he were justifying his rude behavior to Darnay. However, Carton is just feigning politeness, probably to amuse himself.’ With this ostensibly spontaneous remark, Carton discloses a much more profound cynicism and emotional seclusion.
  • Transitions – These are phrases or words that connect one thing to the next within and between paragraphs. They include connecting words, use of synonyms, and repetition of keywords. Examples include furthermore, moreover, finally, in the climax, not only, but also, later in the story, etc.
  • Lead-In – This is a sentence or phrase that prepares the readers for textual proof through introducing the speaker, situation, or even setting. For example, ‘Later, when the assured Sidney Carton returns all alone to his house, his unhappiness and isolation become evident.’ ‘Going up a high chamber in a well of houses, he flings himself down in his clothes on an abandoned bed, and its pillow was wet as a result of wasted tears.’
  • Clincher (closing or concluding sentence) – It is the final sentence of the body paragraph. It ends the paragraph by connecting the commentary and textual proof back to the thesis. For example, ‘Therefore, before Carton experiences love, he’s able to persuade himself that the world doesn’t have any meaning.’

Body paragraphs should not:

  • Disregard the use of transitions words.

The Conclusion

In a literary analysis outline, the conclusion is the final paragraph of the essay. It must start by reverberating your main thesis without repeating the exact words. Moreover, the conclusion ought to expand from the thesis statement to answer the question ‘so what?’ your readers might have after going through the essay.

A conclusion should do the following:

  • Tie back to your creative
  • Offer your opinion on the significance of the work of literature in use.
  • Reflect on how your topic relates to the book.
  • Make predictions.
  • Assess how successful the writer is in attaining his/her objective or message.
  • Provide a personal statement on the essay topic.

A conclusion should not:

  • Be a replica of the introduction. The conclusion should only match the introduction.


The outline for literary analysis above will greatly assist you whenever you carry out a literary analysis. If you’re in need of a detailed literary analysis outline example, there are some reliable resources available on the net to help you out. However, do not just copy them, use them to help you come up with your own.