Literary Analysis Essays

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Literary Analysis Essays

  • Analyzing Character
  • ©2002 Cheryl Staley & Pat Marshall
  • Sponsored by the CCHS Foundation


  • Introductory Paragraph
  • Body Paragraphs
  • Concluding Paragraph
  • Note: Sample paragraphs are from character analysis essays on the short story “Thank You, M’am” by Langston Hughes.

Introductory Paragraph

  • Attention-getting technique
  • Transition to author and work
  • Summarize story’s plot
  • Author and work identification
  • Transition to thesis
  • Thesis statement

“D” Level Paragraph

  • There was this lady. Her name was Mrs. Jones. A boy named Roger tried to steal her purse. I’m writing this essay about her. She was fearless, trustful, and generous.

Analysis of “D” Paragraph

  • Writer does not
    • Use an attention-getting technique
    • Mention title and author
    • Use sentence transitions
  • Writer refers to “this essay” but should not make reference
  • Writer does
    • Use clear thesis statement

“C” Level Paragraph

  • Langston Hughes writes a story about a fascinating character, Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones. While she is walking home one evening, a boy tries to steal her purse. Many ladies would have turned Roger over to the police, but Mrs. Jones decides to teach Roger some valuable life lessons in honesty. She is a fearless, trustful, and generous person.

Analysis of “C” Paragraph

  • Writer does not
  • Writer does
    • Use an appropriate story background
    • Provide transition to thesis statement
    • Use clear thesis statement

“A” Level Paragraph

  • When great teachers are mentioned, most people think of biology instructors, football coaches, Girl Scout leaders, and others in similar positions. However, some of the greatest teachers may be individuals not normally classified as teachers. Roger, a character in the short story “Thank You, M’am” by Langston Hughes, encounters such an unusual teacher on a city sidewalk. The story tells not only of the encounter, but also the kindness Roger experiences following the encounter. Because she is a fearless, trustful, and generous woman, Mrs. Jones teaches Roger a lesson he will remember.
  • Hook
  • Story, Plot, Author
  • Thesis

Organization of Essay

  • she is a fearless, trustful, and generous woman
  • Mrs. Jones shows no fear in her encounter with Roger.
  • Not only does Mrs. Jones display courage,
  • but she also proves to be a trusting person.
  • Mrs. Jones’s generosity to Roger extends beyond
  • her sharing a meal with him.
  • she is a fearless, trustful, and generous woman

Analysis of “A” Paragraph

  • Writer does
    • Use an appropriate attention-getting technique
    • Make a good transition to author and work identification
    • Weave author and work identification into paragraph
    • Provide a thesis statement that does more than merely list traits (establishes position AND character traits)

Body Paragraphs

  • Topic sentence
  • Transitions into support
  • Appropriate examples and correctly-cited quotations
  • Sufficient elaboration of examples and quotations
  • Effective clincher sentence

“D/F” Level Paragraphs

  • A lot of ladies would be sacred. If a kid tried to steel. Mrs. Jones was not scared of Roger. She even took him home with her.
  • She didn’t watch home the hole time. Went on about her business. She made supper for him. Even left her purse out in the open.
  • She gave Roger some money. He had tried to steal her purse. He wanted money to buy some blue suede shoes. I guess those where cool back then. She told him not to steal no more.

Analysis of “D/F” Paragraphs

  • Writer does not
    • Use a topic sentences
    • Use quoted support
    • Use sufficient elaboration
    • Stay on topic (off-topic sentence)
    • Use detail from story
    • Use clincher sentences
    • Proofread to eliminate multiple mechanical errors

“C” Level Paragraphs

  • Mrs. Jones fearlessly faced the would-be thief. Roger ran up behind her and tried to steal her purse by breaking the strap. Instead of running away from him, she “simply turned around and kicked him right square on his blue jeaned sitter.” Furthermore, she “shook him until his teeth rattled.” She did not act in fear at all. In fact, she took him home with her. Not many people would take home a strange boy who tried to rob them. That is another reason she is brave.
  • Mrs. Jones is a trustful person. She does two things which show this. She leaves her door open and her purse out in plain view. She trusts Roger not to run away and not to try to steal her purse again.
  • Finally, Mrs. Jones is a generous person. She feeds Roger supper. She talks to him about why he tries to steal from her. When he reveals that he wanted ten dollars to buy blue suede shoes, she gives him the money. She lets him leave after she tells him to “behave yourself, son, from here on in.”

“C” Paragraphs Analysis

  • Writer does
    • Use clear topic sentences
    • Attempt to transition into support
  • Writer does not
    • Use effective clincher sentences
  • 1st body paragraph
    • Adequate support without citations
  • 2nd body paragraph
    • Insufficient examples and elaboration
  • 3rd body paragraph
    • Sufficient examples
    • Insufficient elaboration

“A” Level Paragraphs

  • Roger is a would-be thief. About eleven o’clock one night, he runs up behind Mrs. Jones and tries to snatch her purse. When he falls down on the sidewalk, Mrs. Jones “simply turned around and kicked him right square in his blue jeaned sitter” (78). While some women would have avoided confrontation with a stranger under similar circumstances, Mrs. Jones does not. She shook Roger “until his teeth rattled” and then demanded “Pick up my pocketbook boy, and give it here” (78). Mrs. Jones shows no fear in her encounter with Roger.
  • Not only does Mrs. Jones display courage, but she also proves to be a trusting person. She decides that Roger needs to wash and to eat and that she will take him to her home in order to do so. “I got a great mind to wash your face for you,” (78) she tells Roger. “You ought to be my son. I would teach you right from wrong. Least I can do right now is to wash your face. Are you hungry” (78)? In just a few words, she assumes the role of a teacher and a mother substitute. She not only takes Roger home but she also continues to display a trusting nature once they arrive. When she gets up to prepare supper, Mrs. Jones “did not watch the boy to see if he was going to run now, nor did she watch her purse which she left behind her on the daybed” (79). Roger begins to respond to Mrs. Jones in a positive way. Hughes tells the readers that Roger “did not want to be mistrusted now” (79). Her trust in Roger is beginning to create a relationship between them.
  • Mrs. Jones’s generosity to Roger extends beyond her sharing a meal with him. Roger tells her that he tried to steal her purse in order to get money for a pair of blue suede shoes. Mrs. Jones then does a remarkable thing. She takes money from her purse and says, “Now here, take this ten dollars and buy yourself some blue suede shoes. And next time, do not make the mistake of latching onto my pocketbook nor nobody else’s—because shoes come by devilish like that will burn your feet” (78). She bids him goodnight, and Roger wants to express his gratitude but cannot find words more eloquent than a simple “thank you.” However, Hughes leaves the readers with the definite impression that Roger has been profoundly touched by the generosity of Mrs. Jones.

“A” Paragraphs Analysis

  • Writer does not
    • Proofread to eliminate minor mechanical errors (tense shift)
  • Writer does
    • Use clear topic sentences with variety of placements
    • Use strong transitions into support
    • Incorporate sufficient quotations with correct citations
    • Provide abundant text-based elaboration
    • Use strong clincher sentences

Concluding Paragraph

  • Summarize in different words the content of the essay
  • Link conclusion to introduction and its attention- getting technique
  • Demonstrate final insight based on original thought

“F” Concluding Paragraph

  • Roger learned his lesson. Don’t steal from ladies like Mrs. Jones.

“F” Paragraph Analysis

  • Writer does not
    • Include a summary
    • Provide a link to introduction
      • NOTE: Introduction has no attention-getting technique for linkage.
  • Writer does

“C” Concluding Paragraph

  • Mrs. Jones chooses to teach Roger an important lesson. Roger responds to her kindness by saying “Thank you, m’am” when he leaves. It is a thank you for supper, for shoes, and for being a good teacher.

“C” Paragraph Analysis

  • Writer does not
    • Summarize content of essay
      • NOTE summarizes story
    • Link to introduction and its attention-getting technique
      • NOTE repeats introduction
    • Provide a final insight

“A” Concluding Paragraph

  • Some teachers are brilliant instructors due to their superior education. Others make excellent teachers because they are adept as communicators. Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones emerges not from a university but rather from a hotel beauty shop to become Roger’s teacher. Her courage, trust, and generosity communicate more to Roger than mere words ever could.
  • Refers back to “Hook”
  • Echoes Thesis

“A” Paragraph Analysis

Tips & Hints for success

  • First reference to author is by FULL name; subsequent references are by LAST name only.
  • Choose apt quotations and weave them into the paragraph. Final punctuation is AFTER the citation.
  • Use an original title for your essay.
    • Write about literature in present tense.
    • Use one point of view (likely third person).

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