It must use MLA format throughout and include at least TEN quotations from your story. Pay attention to the instruction sheet, which says you can NOT analyze a story that we – or the book – have discussed at length. You may NOT use any outside sources for this assignment – it’s just you and the story text.
Fiction Analysis Essay Instructions
Choosing the Topic and a Thesis Statement:
Choose one story from the text that you enjoyed reading. You may NOT choose a story that was
assigned reading or one that was the subject of a sample paper in the book or in my sample papers posted in our
course. You must use one of the stories from our textbook. The following stories are off limits (I deleted all the
quotation marks around the titles to keep this simpler to read): The Story of an Hour, A Rose for Emily, The Hit
Man, Powder, Famine, Soldier’s Home, A&P, It Would Be Different If, Red Convertible, The Shawl, Janus,
Popular Mechanics, and I Can Speak.
Once you’ve decided on the text you’ll be analyzing, re-read the work carefully one or two more times
and annotate it. To annotate means to underline, highlight, and make brief notes to yourself about anything that
strikes you as significant: character, setting, plot, language, point of view, theme, symbols, irony, imagery, etc.
Next, look over your notes for patterns. Pay attention to any ideas that were repeated, or choose which
of your annotations is most interesting (i.e. what idea you want to examine and analyze). Pick whichever
observation intrigues you.
Now write four or five main idea sentences that generally state what you have observed or discovered.
Choose the best attempt, and continue to refine it. This will be your thesis statement. Remember that a thesis
statement is different than a topic. A thesis statement should relate one element (or several elements) of the
story to the entire text. Also, be sure that your thesis isn’t too narrow—remember the minimum length.
Review the “Questions for Responsive Reading and Writing” in Chapter 31, Writing about Fiction (pages
1069 – 1088 in Literature to Go, to get an idea of the types of things to discuss in your analysis.
YOU MAY NOT USE ANY OUTSIDE SOURCES FOR THIS PAPER. IT’S JUST YOU AND THE TEXT.
General Format (AKA Pre-Requisites):
use MLA format for the paper:
typed and double-spaced, 1” margins all around the page
indent each paragraph
first-page heading in upper left corner, double-spaced, just like in the sample “A&P” essay (pg. 1111)
use a “boring” 12 point font—nothing fancy, nothing bold or italicized
paper title should be centered, not underlined, not bold, double-spaced down from the heading
each page should have your last name and page number in the upper right corner, just like the
sample “A&P” essay on pages 1111 – 1113. Example: Smith 2
include a Works Cited page for the story you’re discussing (see sample “A&P” one on p. 1113)
at least 750 words but no more than 1,000 words
include at least ten direct quotes from the story, using in-text citations with page numbers
use only your own mind! No outside sources may be used (including websites to help you “interpret” the
story). This paper is just YOU, the TEXT, and the elements we’ve learned.
Note: If you do not meet these required “pre-requisites” for your paper, you will receive a 50 F.
Updated on 1/30/20
Drafting Your Essay:
The introduction should be one to two paragraphs (¶s) and should identify the work, the author, and
your thesis. Try to make it interesting—use a quotation, question, etc. to grab attention.
The body will be approximately four to six ¶s. This is where you will use specific examples from the story
to support your thesis. You must include at least TEN specific quotes from the story in your analysis. Your
opinion/ideas are justified only once you have used the text to support your claims. Think of all of the elements
(buzzwords) you’ve learned; these are your tools. Using these buzzwords in your essay proves to me that you
know what they mean and can utilize them.
If you prefer, you can choose to discuss how some of the following elements work to develop and
reinforce the story’s THEME:
Plot Character(s) Irony Diction
Setting/Atmosphere Point of View Tone Symbolism
You still need to use at least ten specific quotations in your paper. But this may make it easier for some of you to
conceptualize how to ANALYZE your story. Not all of these elements will be covered equally in your paper,
because some will be more important than others. However, the ones that you choose should be important to
your thesis and not just “mentionable.” Try to focus your ¶s—identify a topic sentence for each, if that helps.
The conclusion will be one to two ¶s and should summarize your thesis. Don’t end your essay by
bringing up new points—the conclusion should briefly repeat the main point of your discussion, but shouldn’t
“parrot” the introduction. You may choose to end with a particularly fitting quotation from the text.
Note: A literary analysis is NOT a plot summary.
Assume that your audience has read the story you are discussing!
Do not waste space telling me who does what, when. Analyze – don’t summarize!
Works Cited Page and Using Quotations:
Re-reading the story after you’ve decided on your thesis will make it easier to identify which parts of it
are most relevant to your discussion; this will help you pick and choose which quotations to include in your
analysis. Make sure that you use quotations to elaborate the points you’ve brought up on your own—they
should support your ideas.
Don’t leave a quotation dangling; never assume that your reader will understand its importance. Always
discuss the quote to illustrate its relevance. Think of quotations as your “evidence.” Remember, literary
analyses are meant to persuade the audience that your observations are valid. If you don’t back up your opinion,
your argument will not be convincing. You must use in text citations with page numbers for all direct quotes. The
works cited page (a.k.a. bibliography) gives the bibliographic information for the text you’ve analyzed. Since our
textbook is a collection of many stories, poems, and plays, it is considered an anthology. The works cited page
will be on a separate page—the last page of your essay. Make sure that you use a handbook for MLA style as
you work with your quotations/works cited page. You need to document your source and quotations correctly!
Use a Detached, Third-Person Perspective:
Do not use “I” or “me” or “you” or “we” in this essay. Keep a detached third person perspective. I know
this is your opinion. Don’t say “I believe the tone is ironic.” Instead, use an authoritative tone and just make it a
definitive statement: The tone conveys irony. Don’t say “we see the irony.” Instead say: readers see the irony.