How to Write an Analysis Essay in Classic English Literature if You Lack Skills

Writing guide
Posted on September 1, 2020

To read a book and have an impression as if you have grasped its main idea is not the same as analyzing it and being really able to share your thoughts on what the author intended to say. Imagine you are analyzing Great Expectations. The book has been analyzed in numerous reviews. It is highly personal and can be perceived differently depending on the reader’s personality. By analyzing it, a student is required to go beyond the school curriculum and share more than his/her impressions solely. The main focus is always put on the components of speech, descriptions, reactions, word choice, etc. And, no matter how many times you’ve already read and reread the book, you’ll need to read it once again. And this time, you have to read the same Great Expectations differently.

What do you do while reading for pleasure? Admit it, you’re focusing on the picture (visualization takes the first and foremost place) and emotions (mostly your emotions rather than those of the character). What do you do while reading to complete an analysis afterward? You still pay close attention to both elements we’ve already mentioned. But you also consider these eight major components:

  1. The topic of the literary piece;
  2. The form of the same published work;
  3. The style applied by the writer(s);
  4. The core theme conveyed through the work;
  5. The content — form relationship;
  6. The core plot — the sub-plot relationship;
  7. The strong and weak features of the characters;
  8. The strengths and weaknesses of the entire storyline.

At least, these are the things that your supervisor will ask you to pay close attention to while you are reading. Will you manage? You definitely will. We are sure of that because we’ve been in your shoes: with a great list of tips on the plot and structure, you’ll manage to show your deep knowledge and proficiency, convince the readers that your points are valid and make the writing sharp enough to penetrate into the greatest intelligence. Shall we start?

Prior to Writing an Analysis Essay in Classic English Literature

Which type of literary analysis are you supposed to complete? The most common types are:

  • Close reading
  • Theoretical
  • Synergistic
  • Contextual

Close reading — or the first of the most common types — is all about reading not an entire novel but its piece and paying attention to the smallest details that, however, can have a strong impact on the entire piece. The most vivid examples of such details are the use of specific words, nature descriptions, gestures, reactions, etc.

Theoretical analysis — and this type goes as number two — is applied every time a student is supposed to compare two different theories input into one literary work. Sometimes, a student is asked to study the text using multiple theories and develop their framework.

Synergistic — which goes as number three — is more focused on looking for similarities between the texts, comparing different works of the same author or other authors but within the same genre.

Contextual — we’ve marked this literary work analysis as number four — is called to reveal the societal framework. Apart from close reading, this type also requires side research that must strengthen the thesis.

Until recent, students were mainly asked to apply one of the analysis types. Today, a strong analysis essay in classic English literature can combine two or three different approaches.

START in How to Write an Analysis Essay in Classic English Literature

The initial step of the START phase is to concentrate on the topic. Either the one that you’ve chosen or the one your supervisor has chosen for you. To ensure the analysis essay is really good, while reading, you must concentrate on these main questions that are going to be helpful in the writing stage:

  1. What are the most remarkable parts of the literary piece?
  2. What literary devices were used by the writer on a regular basis/rarely/only once?
  3. How do the main/secondary characters grow/develop throughout the text?

You cannot start working on the topic if there’s at least one blank space in your answer.

Step number two is collecting evidence. You’re not an expert yet, which means you cannot depend on your own ideas only. To back up any of your analytical theories, we suggest you look for evidence from other critics and researchers. Usually, their short publications allow students to have a better understanding of the author’s thoughts and intentions.

Step number three is all about writing an outline. Unfortunately, very few students pay sufficient attention to writing an outline. As you’ve already understood, neglecting this step is an egregious error. A well-written outline is called to ensure the success of the entire analysis essay in classic English literature. In general, an outline includes the basic ideas you have the intention to include in the essay. All of the ideas are divided into three major parts of the written piece:

  1. The introduction
  2. The body which is the concentration of the core statements, ideas, evidence, and their support
  3. The conclusion which is the so-called restatement of the things conveyed in the two previous parts

Let us be frank, there are dozens of suggestions about how to write every of the mentioned parts: what to start with, what words should better be excluded, which ideas should better be conveyed, and how all of this should be formatted. Below, we shall put all the cards on the table and share the ins and out of how to write an analysis essay in classic English literature. Keep reading to learn all the details for free.

Entity in How to Write an Analysis Essay in Classic English Literature

The Introduction

What does the introduction do? It starts the analysis essay. The core idea of the intro is to reveal the topic of the written assignment and define the key points you have the intention to address while working on your task. In the written piece, you introduce both the writer of classical work and yourself, as an essay author, to the reader(s). Both of you become authority figures. The length of the intro varies. If your supervisor hasn’t expressed the preferences, go with one full paragraph (3-5 sentences) at most.

In these five sentences, you are expected to provide the necessary context by situating readers and informing them concerning what must be expected in a 5-paragraph analysis essay. By drafting, you have to provide answers to the top three questions: What literary work is going to be deliberated on? What characters or episodes you are going to portray and analyze? What essential topics do you plan to address? Plus, you are obliged to give feedback to the so-what-question that reveals the significance of the topic — this part is also called the thesis statement.

The introduction part should never start with any pompous statements that usually sound ridiculous: ‘Since time began, authors have been paying close attention to the problem of…’ Plus, you do not have to praise the written piece or go off-topic: let these five sentences be to the point and rationalized.

The body

The ideas shortly presented in the previous parts and fully disclosed in the body. Usually, these are three paragraphs. And each of them concentrates readers’ attention on new ideas and new theories. Whatever ideas you are planning to add to the body of the literary analysis essay, each paragraph should have its topic sentence. Some professional writers compare topic sentences to the highway: they always tell readers where the text is going to take them to.

Make the topic sentence sound really strong. A really strong topic sentence does not only tell what is going to be debated. It also shows the manner how it is going to be discussed.

A single paragraph — a single thought. This is the rule you have to stick to. And don’t forget that when you are moving to the next paragraph, you are proceeding to the next thought. Ask yourself if you have already finished the previous one?

Use transitions between paragraphs. And though paragraphs include separate ideas, there still should be transitions — that means that the material of the two neighboring paragraphs must have much in common to create a single unit, that is the way an essay works.

We suggest you think of each new paragraph as a type of response to its predecessor. To make things a bit easier, you can use top transition words like therefore, however, furthermore, on the contrary, similarly, etc. They are the indicators of a smooth transition.


Though being the final part of the entire work, the conclusion is never a simple piece to be put in the paper. Getting back to the introduction part, we’ve mentioned that its main intention is to ground readers. The aim of the conclusion is similar — it shortly summarizes the learned specifics and gives a hint: the implication of this topic is much broader.

So, what does a good conclusion comprise? To start with, it not just restates the thesis statement. Most students do the same mistake by finishing their essays like this: “And this is why the Great Expectations can be read as an allegory…” This type of a conclusive statement often feels as redundant if all the arguments above were well-constructed.

Then, the conclusion doesn’t summarize the arguments. It synthesizes them. Why repeat the ideas you have already mentioned in the essay? Your reader has already studied them. If the essay isn’t too long, the reader has even remembered a few vital points.

Instead, you can revise the ‘So what?’ question. By answering you will bring the essay to the same gesture and specify how this new knowledge that they have gained will help the reader in their studies or research.

The conclusion is the final paragraph where the reader doesn’t expect you to be specific. It’s the body where you have to penetrate into details. In your conclusion, try to be general. If your essay is concentrated on a single character, we suggest you include a bit of his personality into the final lines of the essay about how this character fits into the largest message of the novel.

And finally, by concluding, offer some new direction for ideas, thoughts, and research. Forget about any abstract thoughts that are dragging a reader to concentrate on human nature, life, inequality, prosperity, or poverty. Often, these abstract thoughts make even a successful essay look silly or too dramatic.

How to Write an Analysis Essay in Classic English Literature: Quote

If you feel your ideas need more support, use direct quotations. They usually make points way more convincing and clearer. Use brief lines since they never steal the focus: they must be carefully added into the general text to strengthen it.

When you are adding any long direct quotation, it risks at becoming a full paragraph that affects the entire work by depriving it of its originality. In the case, you believe that a long quotation can help, try to paraphrase it leaving the juiciest bits untouched.

Let’s have a closer look once again. You start by analyzing a literary work you’ve read. In addition to some of your clever personal thoughts, you add scientific approaches to the study of the work as well. You are becoming a literary critic thus making an essay look and feel objective. And finally, you convince readers that your analysis is valid.

Upon completing your work, reread it, proofread and check for plagiarism. If there’s a possibility, ask your friend or family member to read it for your: there may be some tiny mistakes you’ve omitted or haven’t paid special attention to. Hand in the essay and — since you’ve done everything according to the rules above — expect a high grade.


  1. Haase, F.-A. (2011). English World Literature: A Reader of Classical English Literature and English Translations from Across the World. SSRN Electronic Journal.
  2. Hongwon Choi (2017). Analysis of the Context of Inclusion and Awareness of Classical Literature Materials in Literature – With a Focus on High School Literature Textbooks. The Classical Literature and Education, null(35), pp.5–46.
  3. Stonehouse, D. (2018). How to write a good essay: general principles for success. British Journal of Healthcare Assistants, 12(6), pp.292–295.
Upgrade your essays with these FREE writing tools!
Get started now