What is the setting of the story? How does the setting influence the meaning?

Literary Analysis Guide for Close Reading

Essay Prompt

Write a 3-4 page literary analysis interpreting one of the texts covered in this course.  This essay will focus on close reading, but while the act of close reading implies opening up many avenues of interpretation, make sure that you also give a clear thesis related to the meaning of the text. See the close reading worksheet for more detailed guidance. This essay should be in proper MLA or APA format, 12 pt. Times New Roman double-spaced font, and include a Works Cited (not part of the page count).

Close Reading Guide

Selecting a Topic

Once you have chosen a text, now you will need to choose a topic within that text so you can eventually shape a thesis. There are a number of ways to get the proverbial ball rolling. Here are a few strategies for getting started:

1. Theme: if there’s a theme you are especially interested in that appeared in one of our readings, this could be a great time to explore the theme. For instance, the theme of growing up appears in a number of texts. The next step is to figure out what the author is saying about that theme.

2. Character: if you found yourself interested by one of the characters in the readings, that’s another great way to get started. What is it about that character that caught your interest? What makes this character interesting and important?

3. Tricky Moment: Sometimes elements in a text arise that I classify as a “tricky moment.” These might be tough to get a handle on, resist easy interpretation, or just be surprising. One of these could be a great place to ask “What’s happening here?” and if you can answer that question, you may well be on your way to an engaging essay.

4. Representation of Children: One of the overall themes we are tracing in this class is how childhood is represented to children in literature, and this could be a great topic for your essay. Think about what it means in this text.

After you have a basic idea of what you want to talk about in your essay, you have two choices. You can head back to the text to gather more information and evidence before figuring out your thesis or you can write a working thesis and then head back to the text for close reading. Either way, you will need a thesis before you dive into the in-depth close reading, so we’ll start with the thesis here.

Crafting a Thesis

Your thesis will sum up your argument and serve as a roadmap for your essay. Use the following questions to check if your thesis is on the right track:

· Is your thesis is too vague?

· Is it too obvious?

· Is summary driving your paper?

Close Reading Fiction

Here are some questions that can help you dive into the fiction.


· Is the plot of the story more realistic or surrealistic?

· Where does the action happen? Is it internal, external, both? Do internal and external action coincide or conflict?

· What is the climax of the story?

· Does the writer rely on symbolism in this story?


· Who are the major characters in the story? Are any places, animals, or things given enough characterization to become a character?

· Consider psychological, ethical/moral, or social implications of the characterization and character behavior.

· What type of conflict do the characters encounter?

· Who is the protagonist? Does the writer use foils to emphasize particular traits of the protagonist?


· What parts of the story are tricky or difficult? What words do you need to look up? What might these passages mean?

· What context might you need to make sense of the story?


· Is the title significant to the meaning of the story?

Point of View, Language, and Setting

· Who is the narrator? What type of narration is used (e.g., first person, third person limited…)? Can we trust the narrator?

· What is the setting of the story? How does the setting influence the meaning?

· What type of tone does the narrator use in the story?

· What type of language does the narrator use in this story? What is the impact of the language?