Notes Of A Storyteller: Why You Should Write A Literary Analysis

This feature usually comes out on Friday. Would you like to know why it came out on Saturday? I’ll tell you. It’s because on Monday, I began writing a six-page paper on Flannery O’Connor. More appropriately, I began researching. I gravely underestimated how much tinkering I would have to do. Literary analysis takes time. I finally submitted it online on Friday, frazzled and slightly pleased with myself.

As I thought about it, I became more than slightly pleased. After a long Christmas break, this college student had forgotten how much fun literary analysis can be. For the uninitiated, you take a famous story and say something about it. The one I was working on on Friday was arguing that Flannery O’Connor makes a statement against isolation in her short story “Good Country People”.

I made a run around the Internet today, and seized some guides for you to peruse. Try the OWL at Purdue or Goshen College. They do the explaining pretty well. In a nutshell, they tell you that literary analysis “encourages you to think about how and why a poem, short story, novel, or play was written.” (Quote from that OWL at Purdue link).

Write about how Charles Dickens used the metaphors that he did in A Tale of Two Cities. Write about what you think Ernest Hemingway meant to tell the world about his characters in The Old Man And The Sea. Maybe you could even take a crack at why Jay Gatsby looks at those darned green lights in The Great Gatsby.

Why should you waste your time with this? I think it will make you a better writer. We’re all encouraged to read the greats and learn from them, right? Why not write about them, too? If we can introduce original insights into our favorite novel, won’t we understand it even better? And if we understand it better, aren’t we more able to put it into practice in our own writing?

Don’t take this as a comprehensive guide, by the way. I’m an undergraduate, not a PhD. I extend an introduction and an invitation to a world that I believe will strengthen your understanding of good literature and your skill at writing it.


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