How to Write a Thesis Statement for a Literary Analysis Essay

Read a book carefully to craft a good thesis statement.

A literary analysis essay discusses a particular aspect of a work of literature. It essentially presents an argument or an interpretation about that work. Developing a clear, concise thesis for a literary analysis essay is highly important in guiding the reader through the essay and expressing your interpretation of the work. There is much preliminary work to do before actually writing the thesis.

1 Gather Ideas and Information

2 Read the work

Read the work of literature that you plan to write about. Read it more than once and read it carefully. Make sure that you understand the plot, who the characters are and what makes the work of literature special.

3 Brainstorm

Brainstorm about the important elements in the work. Do any symbols or themes stand out? How important is the setting? Critical thinking about the work at this stage will help you choose a topic and form an interpretation.

4 Develop a topic for the essay

Develop a topic for the essay. Use guidelines that your instructor has given you to do this. A topic for a literary analysis should focus on an important aspect of the work. It should advance knowledge in some way and not simply express a summary of the work.

5 Make that the topic

Make sure that the topic expresses an interpretation about the work. In developing a topic, answer this question to help you decide if your topic is acceptable: What can you tell people about the work that they can’t get from simply reading it?

6 Write the Thesis

7 Write one sentence

Write one sentence that expresses the aspect of the literary analysis that you are discussing and your interpretation of it. Both of these items must be clear in the thesis. The reader should read this one statement and know exactly what the essay will discuss.

8 Express a sort

Clearly express a sort of hypothesis that you will explain in the essay. This is an example of a good, argumentative thesis: "The narrator’s description of the family’s old house, their dream house and the house on Mango Street conveys the family’s struggle with expectations and reality."

9 Do not simply state a fact

Do not simply state a fact about the story. The following thesis is not a good one because it does not attempt to advance knowledge and it simply states a fact: "Emily killed Homer and kept his body for years. From reading William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” we know that this is a summation of the story’s ending."

10 Use clear

Use clear, concise and specific language. Don’t be too broad. If you want to write about symbolism in a work, you can’t possibly write about all of the symbols. To make the thesis more concise, pick just a few. Be very specific by listing the symbols you will discuss.

11 Do not announce the thesis

Do not announce the thesis in a literary analysis. For example, do not write: "This essay will discuss symbolism in 'A Rose for Emily.' "

Erica Sweeney is a freelance writer and editor based in Little Rock, Ark. She has a master's in journalism from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Her work has been published at, Arkansas Times, Aging Arkansas and Arkansas Business.