Literary analysis can present a challenge. Even English majors struggle with the concept. It’s not the talking about what happened in the literature that’s hard; it’s the analysis part. To many, “analysis” seems like a slippery practice that they can’t quite get hold of. Really, analysis just means to take meaning from something. With this general definition in mind, let’s make this concept graspable by looking at 3 pitfalls to avoid in the practice of literary analysis.
It’s okay to have summary in your paper, but it should only be summary that helps to support a point of analysis. Rather than just telling us “what” happened in the book, poem, play etc., tell us “why” it happened and what it means.
Many times people talk about “the reader’s” response to a work of literature rather than directly stating their own opinions. The problem is that you can’t actually know how other readers will react to a given piece of literature. Instead of speaking through the voice of “the reader” just state your opinions about the work straightforwardly.
Literary analysis isn’t completely objective, which means that there’s room for multiple interpretations of a single text. Even if there are other possible interpretations, your job is simply to prove your own. That being said, your analysis is weakened when you use qualifiers like “probably,” “might,” or “maybe.” Only in rare cases should you use qualifiers in your literary analysis.
So, when you go to write your next literary analysis paper, remember to focus on pulling meaning from the facts. Speak from your standpoint rather than the anonymous “reader,” and state your claims with confidence!