Literary Analysis Outline

Literary Analysis Outline

Introduction to Literary Analysis

Before we embark on looking at a literary analysis essay outline, we need to understand the meaning of a literary analysis.

Literary analysis can be termed as the practice of analyzing small segments of a text to find out how they relate to the greater whole. Writers utilize various techniques to come up with meaning. Primary and secondary plots, characters, setting, and also the general structure contribute to our comprehension of their works. Composing a literary analysis teaches students how to better understand and appreciate the diverse works of literature.

When it comes to performing literary analysis, most students tend to select and discuss one particular theme or point of development. For instance, if you are evaluating a play by William Shakespeare, you might want to concentrate on the play's central theme with regard to the main characters. A coming-of-age character novel like The Catcher in the Rye might have you concentrate on the protagonist's change and growth. Criticisms, news, poetry, and films are subject to different types of literary analysis. In this article, we will examine Shakespeare’s Hamlet and showcase how an outline for literary analysis can be written for this classic play.

A literary analysis essay outline (written plan) is similar to the framework of a house. Rather than putting the building materials into a heap on the ground and labeling it a house or just listing our thoughts into paragraphs, we arrange ideas and build our arguments just like a house. In the case of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, we can create a literary analysis outline centered on the protagonist’s inner struggle and how it relates to the play. Hamlet’s complex character will assist us to discuss the theme of revenge via several moral questions he concentrates on. A literary analysis paper outline for this play can be organized in a manner that every body paragraph addresses a different moral subject.

Writing a Title for the Literary Analysis Outline

It is essential for the literary analysis essay outline title to communicate our point of analysis. It’s the first thing that a reader will see; therefore, strive to make it as exciting and informative as possible. If it’s an attention grabber, it should give them an idea of what’s to come. The following is a suitable title for the Hamlet essay which concentrates on the theme of revenge:

  • How Revenge Leads to Tragedy

Writing a Thesis Statement for Your Literary Analysis Outline

After providing readers with some context, provide the thesis statement. The thesis statement is just like the general message of the story. A thesis statement is a tool utilized in the introductory paragraph to bring in and generalize the theme which will be talked about in the essay.

A thesis statement will present the argument and respond to the questions ‘why,' ‘who,'' what,' and ‘how.' It should be meticulously worded as it is important to maintaining the argument throughout the text. The thesis belongs close to the end of the introductory paragraph.

In our literary paper analysis based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the thesis statement can be as follows:

  • Question – How is revenge depicted in Shakespeare’s Hamlet?
  • Thesis – William Shakespeare utilizes Hamlet’s character to look at the complex subject matter of revenge and how it usually leads to tragedy.

How not to write the thesis statement:

  • The thesis shouldn’t be written in a careless manner and with a few details as it is vital that the argument is maintained throughout the text.

Introduction Paragraph of an Outline for Literary Analysis

The primary purpose of the introduction paragraph is to establish the background and context for the readers. It ought to include the full name of the author and the title of the work you’ll concentrate on. Just like titles, essay introductions are a way of grabbing the readers’ attention.

For our literary analysis outline, we can put forward the following introduction paragraph:

  • During William Shakespeare’s time, revenge plays were common. Someone murders someone, the protagonist is related to the murdered person and embarks on a revenge mission; he succeeds but ends up destroying himself in the process. Hamlet’s story rotates around the job given to Hamlet by the one who he thinks is the ghost of his murdered father. Before he embarks on that job, Hamlet asks himself moral questions concerning the nature of revenge. His reflective nature complicates his decision as he struggles to figure out what the right thing to do is. In this way, Shakespeare utilizes the character of Hamlet to look at the complicated theme of revenge and how it always brings about tragedy.

How not to write it:

  • Don’t make the background information less attractive and less informative or your readers won’t be drawn to your work.

Writing Body Paragraphs of a Literary Analysis Outline

It’s not necessary to retell the whole story or even summarize. An analysis ought to have a summary of the plot. Ultimately, it’s all about your observations and ideas with regards to a particular theme. Bear in mind that most people who will select an essay on Hamlet will probably have read the play.

An essay that has between 500 and 700 words is usually divided into 3 body paragraphs. These paragraphs will mostly depend on quotes from the book. You can use the interpretations of other writers of the text as source material. Nonetheless, it’s always good to have your own interpretations.

Each paragraph should begin with a topic sentence or argument that ties back to your thesis statement. In addition, the topic sentence also gives every section focus in terms of the subject. Every body paragraph should have one focus. For instance, if you are talking about the character Claudius in the first paragraph, do not jump ahead by looking at other characters. Below are the points to consider when you write body paragraphs:

  • A synopsis of significant events will provide your readers with a perspective of the point you’re trying to put across. When summarizing, ensure that you connect the main point of the paragraph to your summary.
  • Use quotes – they might be useful when it comes to backing your argument. With writers such as Shakespeare, we know that there are no coincidences.
  • Pinpoint the writer’s techniques and give instances of how this technique supports the subject matter.
  • Paraphrasing is a way of transforming original material into your writing. You can paraphrase the long sections to avoid your essay being filled with too much water.
  • A good literary analysis needs attention to details. Is there any prop that contributes to the menacing environment of a scene? Probably the weather functions as the ideal expression of what the character is feeling?

How not to write the body paragraphs:

  • Concluding the body paragraphs without a clincher (a sentence that ties back to the topic sentence of your paragraph).

A body paragraph can be equated to a sandwich. The delicious knowledge is layered on the inside and 2 loaves of bread enclose it – the topic sentence and the clincher.

Writing the Conclusion

The conclusion ought to summarize all the points that you’ve put across. The readers should be left with a final impression. The following are points to consider when writing a conclusion:

  • The purpose is to provide the reader with a sense of completion. Begin your concluding paragraph by stating the thesis again.
  • Read your body paragraphs to see how your main arguments can be summarized in the conclusion.
  • Why is the work crucial?
  • The last sentences should be utilized for universal applications and final thoughts.
  • How does the writer communicate their outlook on life in this specific piece of literature?

Below is an example of a conclusion:

  • The different levels of complexity in characters’ motives for revenge eventually contributed to the dissolution of the Kingdom of Denmark and the king’s death. The scheming and power-hungry Claudius utilizes his power to attempt to get rid of Hamlet. Claudius is baffled as late King Hamlet’s ghost distorts his consciousness and also haunts him. The ghost can be viewed as a metaphor that Claudius has murdered the king physically but not spiritually. The late king’s soul survives, hoping that justice will be served. Hamlet’s pursuit of revenge may appear just at first. However, his obsession with expressing his anger and looking for revenge results in the deaths of Gertrude, Laertes, Claudius, and himself. Even though the lines between right and wrong are at times blurred, Hamlet’s ending provides a virtuous conclusion. As the Chinese saying goes, ‘If you’re looking for revenge, dig two graves’.

How not to write the conclusion:

  • The conclusion SHOULD NOT be used to introduce a new topic.


In a nutshell, the above is what constitutes a literary analysis paper outline. One thing to note is that literary analysis is not an easy task to accomplish. While writing this kind of essay, it is necessary for you to spend a lot of time drafting and outlining in advance. Literary analysis is not a book report, and going through a literary analysis outline example or two will help you get the structure right.