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Short Story Literary Analysis. This is an essay which will analyze the author’s development of theme in a short story. Introduction.

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short story literary analysis

Short Story Literary Analysis

This is an essay which will analyze the author’s development of theme in a short story.

  • The introduction must introduce the author, the title of the story, provide a brief plot summary, state the theme of the story, and explain which literary devices the author uses to develop the theme. Do not forget that the entire essay must be written in present tense!!!!
examples of literary devices
Examples of literary devices:
  • How does the author use the following literary devices to develop the theme of the story?
  • Setting
  • Characterization (character’s actions, inner thoughts and motivation. Is the character dynamic?)
  • Foreshadowing
  • Irony
  • Point of view (who is telling the story?)
  • Symbolism
  • Plot (conflict, climax, resolution)
body paragraphs
Body Paragraphs
  • Each body paragraph must focus on one literary device and how the author uses the device to develop the theme. For example, The conflict in “The Most Dangerous Game” reveals the theme that we can not understand another’s perspective until we have experienced his perspective.
  • Each body paragraph must include at least one quote and must follow proper format for integrating quotes.
  • The conclusion must restate the thesis and summarize the impact of the theme on the reader.
  • This is at least a five paragraph essay.
  • Do not use personal pronouns or contractions.
  • The entire paper must be written in present tense.
  • You must use a minimum of three quotes.

What is it?

A literary analysis is a type of paper that has the ultimate goal of bringing some new or greater understanding of the book, story, or poem. In addition, it is an argument because you are proposing something original about the text which may not have been thought of before, or you are adding more to an existing thesis surrounding the book.


What does it look like?

A good literary analysis has the following components:

*It has a solid and unique thesis statement that clearly is arguable. Your goal is to prove this thesis statement!

*It has a solid introduction, body, and conclusion. It uses effective transitions and the writer analyzes sufficient textual support from the book.

*There is at least one bit of meaningful textual support in each body paragraph.

*It contains a well-formatted works cited page.


Other helpful tips!

1. Write in the present tense

2. Normally, keep yourself out of your analysis; in other words, use the third person (no I or you). Some instructors may require or allow the first or second person in an informal analysis if the usage is consistent, however, so check with your instructor.

3. Avoid summarizing the plot (i.e., retelling the story literally). Instead analyze (form a thesis about and explain) the story in literary terms.

6. Do not confuse characters' (in fiction or drama) or speakers' (in poetry) viewpoints with authors' viewpoints.

7. Support your points with many quotations and paraphrases, but write the majority of your paper in your own words with your own ideas.

9. Cite prose, poetry, drama, critics, and any other sources used according to specialized MLA standards. (See the current edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers or your Writers Inc. books!.)


The following rules about parenthetical documentation can be found in your Writers Inc books on page 260-263, but here are some highlights!

*Parenthetical references look like this:

“Sophomores are in need of more discipline”(Cohrs 44).

Note: *There is nothing in the parenthesis other than the last name of the author and the page number. There is no punctuation of any kind, the first name is not mentioned, etc.

*The period comes after the parenthesis. You do not need to keep the punctuation within the quote unless it is a ? Or !.

*You should use parenthetical documentation for any type of citation; either direct (word for word) or indirect (paraphrased).


Some other issues . . .

*If you end a quote before you end your sentence put the parenthesis at the end of the sentence.

EX: “Studies show that Sophomores, while cute, can have a really nasty bite” that may infect easily (Santerre 43).

So, why do we do this anyway?

*To give appropriate credit to a source of information.

*To use as a reference for the Works Cited Page that you will learn how to develop appropriately.

*To learn how to incorporate citation information naturally within the text rather than disrupting your paper.

literary criticism
Literary Criticism
  • Study, analysis, interpretation and history of literature.
  • Most often found in essay form.
  • In-depth book reviews another form of criticism.
  • Examines an individual work of literature or an author’s body of work
why use literary criticism
Why Use Literary Criticism?
  • Act of interpreting literature.
  • Authors present works that have multiple meanings.
  • Readers are expected to consider the author’s work thoughtfully – to add interpretations of their own.
  • Writers and critics create a dialog about the literature -- build on each others’ understanding of the work.
why use literary criticism1
Why Use Literary Criticism?
  • Noted authors often have a body of criticism attached to their work.
  • Critics evaluate and debate ideas of fellow critics.
  • Good criticism helps develop a better understanding of the work.
  • Can develop a point of view about a work.
  • May not always agree with the critic’s opinion.
locating criticism
Locating Criticism
  • Books
  • Journals, Magazines, and Newspapers
  • Databases
  • Websites
journals magazines and newspapers
Journals, Magazines, and Newspapers
  • The following can be accessed through databases in the library or at home with a password.



New York Times (accessed through ProQuest)

  • GALE: Contemporary Authors & Contemporary Literary Criticism -- Biography and literary criticism on more than 120,000 U.S. and international authors. (Accessed with public library card through home access on any public library site.) Grinnell Public Library
  • GALE: Twayne's Authors Series --Biography and literary criticism on more than 600 world authors. (Accessed through RCK library databases in Infotrac.)
opinions supported by evidence relating to
Opinions supported by evidence, relating to:
  • Characterization
  • Voice
  • Style
  • Theme
  • Setting
  • Technical qualities of the writing (artistry, style, use of language)
  • Interpretation
  • Complex ideas and problems
  • Relationship of work to the time, social, historical or political trends
read the directions carefully
Read the Directions Carefully
  • You must chose two works by different authors that have significant similarities as well as differences.
  • Only one for Othello or The Great Gatsby
  • As part of the assignment, you will quote from the primary text as well as include research from outside sources
    • a minimum of 3 outside sources is required.
  • Choose how you are going to analyze the two works you have chosen
  • #1 - choose a specific literary concept
  • #2 – then choose three of the following points: character, audience, theme, symbolism, and overall message (what is the work saying compared to the world, self, other text?).
summary versus analysis
Summary versus Analysis
  • A summary re-tells a story.
  • An analysis examines the cause or effect of an incident in the story, compares or contrasts 2 characters, explains how an event occurred etc…

Ex: Mary had a little lamb

Summary: Mary had a little lamb. It followed her to school. No lambs were allowed in school. The children laughed.

Analysis: one reason Mary may have brought the lamb to school was to get attention. All the children “laughed and played”, making Mary feel at the center and popular.

title introduction
Title & Introduction
  • Clever Title
  • Interesting attention getter
  • Transition sentences that announce the two works
  • Thesis Statement + plan of development
    • Remember – the thesis is the LAST sentence in your introduction.
body paragraphs1
Body Paragraphs
  • Topic sentence with transition
  • Main points need to be supported by quotes from the two primary works and outside sources
  • Clear illustration how the quote supports your point
using quotes in an essay
Using quotes in an Essay

Using a quote requires 3 sentences

1. Your Idea

2. Quote

3. Explanation how quote supports your idea

quote examples
Quote Examples
  • My Idea
  • Mary appears to have a fetish for lamb wool

2. Quote

  • Dr. Benton states that “ Mary’s proclivity for her lamb makes her pet it often and bring it with her.” (Benton 22)

3. Explanation of how quote supports my idea.

  • Mary’s constant need to touch and stroke her lamb illustrates Mary’s obsession.
  • Restate your thesis in different words
  • Tells what you’ve learned by analyzing the two works
  • What did you learn about poetry, short stories and plays?
what is a works cited page
What is a Works Cited page?
  • An alphabetized list of all the sources used in your paper.
  • You need a Works Cited page or you are PLAGERIZING!!!
1 determine the type of source
1. Determine the type of source.
  • Your literature book is an anthology. An anthology is a collection of artistic works (such as a group of short stories, or a group of songs).
identify the 6 pieces of information needed
Identify the 6 pieces of information needed.

1. Author of the selection

2. Title of the selection

3. Title of the anthology

4. Editor of the anthology

Location: Publisher, year.

5. Publication information

6. Page numbers of selection


I shall not see on earth a place more dear”



Line #:

Every quotation should have a reference that indicates where you got it.

Anytime you quote something, you need to give the author’s name and the page number the quotation can be found on.

Example- Potok 78


If you are quoting poetry, use the line number instead of the page number.

Example- Homer lines 68-70

Type line or lines so readers know you are not referring to the page number

The author’s last name and page number go after the quotation inside of parentheses. This is called the QUO-PAR-PUNC rule.

“I shall not see on earth a place more dear” (Homer line 137).

QUO= quotation

PAR= parentheses

PUNC= punctuation

(See page 128-135 of A Pocket Style Manual)

You wouldn’t wear clothes that only cover up the front-side or the back-side of your body, so don’t leave your quotation half naked either.

Odysseus speaks to Alcinous’ court about his homeland in Ithaca, recalling,

“I shall not see on earth a place more dear” (Homer line 137).

Thus, he demonstrates the Greek value of loyalty to one’s homeland.

clothe the front
Clothe the Front

There are two ways to

begin a sentence that

includes a quotation.

  • Use a signal phrase.
  • Integrate the author’s words into your own writing.
signal phrases
Signal Phrases

A signal phrase indicates that you are about to use language that is not your own.

signal phrases1
Signal Phrases

If you do not show that these are not your own words it is PLAGERISM!

signal phrases2
Signal Phrases


  • Polyphemus says of Odysseus,

(See page 120 of A Pocket Style Manual for a list of verbs to use in signal phrases)

example 1
Example 1


  • Odysseus shows that he is an epic hero in the Cyclops episode, “I would not heed them in my glorying spirit,/ but let my anger flare…” (Homer lines 500-501).

Just adding a quotation to the end of a related sentence does not mean that you have used a signal phrase.

example 11
Example 1


  • Odysseus reveals that he desires the credit for his deeds, saying, “I would not heed them in my glorying spirit,/ but let my anger flare…” (Homer lines 500-501).
Be sure that you do not confuse the author, Homer, with the narrator, who is sometimes Homer, sometimes Odysseus.
example 2
Example 2


  • Homer shows that Odysseus is an epic hero by saying, “I drove them, all three wailing, to the ships…” (line 211).
example 21
Example 2


  • Odysseus shows his loyalty to his homeland by forcing his men to continue on their journey. He explains, “I drove them, all three wailing, to the ships…” (line 211).
example 3
Example 3


  • Odysseus cleverly deceives the Cyclops. “My name is Nohbody…” (Homer line 360).
example 31
Example 3


  • Odysseus cleverly deceives the Cyclops, declaring, “My name is Nohbody…” (Homer line 360).
example 4
Example 4


  • “…make fair sacrifice to Lord Poseidon” (Homer line 650). With these words, Teiresias helps Odysseus to see that it has been his pride that has kept him from returning home, and he must admit his mistake to Poseidon in order to right the situation.
example 41
Example 4


  • Teiresias confirms that Odysseus’ pride has kept him from Ithaca, commanding him, “…make fair sacrifice to Lord Poseidon” (Homer line 650). Thus Teiresias reveals that the only way for Odysseus to reestablish right standing with the gods is to finally acknowledge Poseidon’s help in the Trojan War.
Signal phrases must introduce your quote. You are not writing a mystery story—don’t make the reader guess where your quote came from.
integrate the author s words
Integrate the Author’s Words

If you choose to incorporate the author’s words into your sentence, the result must be grammatically correct.

example 5
Example 5


  • Odysseus’ sacrifice to Poseidon is the last task he must accomplish before his world is set right again, “Then a seaborne death/ soft as this hand of mist will come upon you/ when you are wearied out with rich old age” (Homer lines 654-656).
example 51
Example 5


  • Odysseus’ sacrifice to Poseidon is the last task he must accomplish before a peaceful “seaborne death/ soft as this hand of mist will come upon [him]” (Homer lines 654-655).
example 6
Example 6


  • The sirens tempt Odysseus, “The voices in ardor appealing over the water” (Homer 752).
example 61
Example 6


  • The sirens’ “voices in ardor appealing over the water” (Homer 752) tempt Odysseus, leading him to beg his men to be untied.
example 7
Example 7


  • The sirens’ “voices in ardor appealing over the water” (Homer 752) tempt Odysseus, leading him to beg his men to be untied.
example 71
Example 7


  • The sirens’ “voices in ardor appealing over the water” (Homer 752) tempt Odysseus, leading him to beg his men to be untied. As an epic hero, Odysseus never fails to succumb to temptation by women, even that of the monstrous sirens.
example 8
Example 8
  • Odysseus’ sacrifice to Poseidon is the last task he must accomplish before a peaceful “seaborne death/ soft as this hand of mist will come upon [him]” (Homer lines 654-655). In this way, Odysseus finally accomplishes his goal of returning home to live happily in Ithaca with his family.
do not refer to the quotation
Do Not Refer to the Quotation

Other than naked quotations, the most common mistake is referring directly to the quotation.

do not refer to the quotation1
Do Not Refer to the Quotation
  • Teiresias predicts the end of Odysseus’ life in the quote: “seaborne death/ soft as this hand of mist will come upon [him]” (Homer lines 654-655).
do not refer to the quotation2
Do Not Refer to the Quotation
  • Odysseus cleverly deceives the Cyclops, declaring, “My name is Nohbody…” (Homer line 360). This quotation reveals that Odysseus uses intelligence in situations wherein strength is not an option.
for future reference
For Future Reference…
  • Quote is a verb
  • Quotation is a noun
1.What is the American Dream? How does Gatsby represent this dream? Does the novel praise or condemn Gatsby's dream? Has the American dream changed since Gatsby's time?
  • 2. Think about the two worlds, the Midwest and the East, as Fitzgerald describes them, and what they represent for Nick and for Gatsby.
  • 3. Compare and contrast Gatsby's social class with that of Tom and Daisy Buchanan. How does geography contribute to the definition of social class in The Great Gatsby?
  • 4. What is Nick Carraway's role in the novel? Consider Nick's father's advice in chapter one: "Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had." Does telling the story from Nick's point of view make it more believable?
  • 5. What part of his past is Gatsby trying to recapture? Is he successful? Is there a person, feeling, or event in your past that you'd want to revisit?
  • 6. What is the meaning of the title? In what way is Gatsby great?
  • 7. Why did Nick become involved with Jordan, and why did he break off the relationship?
  • 8. Discuss Fitzgerald's use of symbols, such as the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg, the green light on Daisy's dock, and the valley of ashes.
  • 9. What makes The Great Gatsby a classic novel? Why has it maintained its place in American literature?
  • 10. Discuss elements of the Jazz Age that Fitzgerald includes in The Great Gatsby.
1. In what sense is The Great Gatsby an autobiographical novel? Does Fitzgerald write more of himself into the character of Nick or the character of Gatsby, or are the author’s qualities found in both characters?
  • 2. How does Gatsby represent the American dream? What does the novel have to say about the condition of the American dream in the 1920s? In what ways do the themes of dreams, wealth, and time relate to each other in the novel’s exploration of the idea of America?
  • 3. Compare and contrast Gatsby and Tom. How are they alike? How are they different? Given the extremely negative light in which Tom is portrayed throughout the novel, why might Daisy choose to remain with him instead of leaving him for Gatsby?
1. Discuss Gatsby’s character as Nick perceives him throughout the novel. What makes Gatsby “great”?
  • 2. What is Nick like as a narrator? Is he a reliable storyteller, or does his version of events seem suspect? How do his qualities as a character affect his narration?
  • 3. What are some of The Great Gatsby’s most important symbols? What does the novel have to say about the role of symbols in life?
  • 4. How does the geography of the novel dictate its themes and characters? What role does setting play in The Great Gatsby?