How to Write the Analysis of a Poem, Short Story, or Play

Structure of an Analysis Essay

1. Introduction: Presenting the Main Idea

Begin your analysis with a paragraph that sets the context for the work you're analyzing. Include the author's name, title, genre, and publication details. If relevant, briefly touch on the biographical or historical context. Keep this section concise.

Next, express the work's theme in one or two sentences. Theme is the insight into human experience that the author conveys throughout the poem, story, or play. Authors typically show the theme through the development of characters, conflicts, and plot rather than explicitly stating it.

Assessing theme can be challenging, so it's often helpful to proceed with the analysis of other literary elements before revisiting and refining your understanding of the theme.

Example: "In Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Tell-Tale Heart,' the theme of guilt and its psychological impact unfolds as the narrator's obsession with an old man's vulture-like eye leads to a chilling tale of murder."

2. Body: Staying Focused

The body of your analysis guides readers through key elements of the work, analyzing incidents, descriptions, dialogue, symbols, and the author's use of figurative language. Your goal is to explain how these elements contribute to the elucidation and development of the theme.

Consider the literary elements common across genres, such as plot and characters. However, be aware that certain genres may emphasize specific elements. For instance, a poem might focus on form, imagery, and metaphor, while a play could highlight dialogue, stage directions, and lighting.

Avoid simply paraphrasing the plot. Instead, delve into the significance of events and language choices to deepen your analysis.

Example: In 'The Tell-Tale Heart,' Poe employs a first-person narrative to intensify the reader's connection with the narrator's descent into madness. The pulsating rhythm of the narrator's guilt-ridden heart serves as a metaphor for his unraveling sanity.

3. Conclusion: Avoid Repeating Claims

The concluding paragraph serves two purposes: presenting your opinion on the work's quality and commenting on its current relevance. Express your thoughts on how effectively the author executed the theme and provide insights into the enduring social and personal relevance of the work.

Example: "Poe's masterful manipulation of narrative perspective and symbolism in 'The Tell-Tale Heart' not only creates a gripping psychological thriller but also prompts reflection on the timeless nature of guilt and its haunting effects on the human psyche."


Adapting the provided template, you can structure a literary analysis essay that demonstrates your understanding and interpretation of the theme, as well as the author's skill in shaping literary elements to support that theme. Remember to tailor your approach based on your instructor's preferences while maintaining a focus on insightful analysis.

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