ESSAY 1: THEMATIC ANALYSIS
ENGLH 2323: SURVEY OF BRITISH LITERATURE II
For this assignment you will write a thematic analysis of a literary work and explore how the author develops an
underlying meaning that is a reflection about humanity. Every work of literature contains implied general messages (yes,
more than one!) about life and the world. These “truth” statements about how the world works, or at least how the narrator
or character(s) has observed it to function, are usually debatable, but not necessarily ground-breaking revelations. Themes,
as general truths about humanity, should resonate with readers. Literary works that contain unbelieve or unrealistic
statements about human nature are unconvincing.
A thematic analysis must still be supported with an arguable thesis statement (that, hopefully, does not just re-state
something obvious about the literature, characters, and stories) that is specific to the work. If the thematic statement is a
truth about humanity, than the thesis statement should indicate how the literary work achieves this theme, offering a
specific interpretation of the work in order to support the theme.
The most important thing about this paper, in addition to having a critical exploration of a theme and an arguable thesis
statement for the literary work you have selected, is to make sure that you ground your analysis in a CLOSE reading of
the literary work, including concrete details and explanation to engage the audience. No matter which theme you choose
to explore (and you have free reign to develop any theme you like that is appropriate to the literary work; there are no
“right” or “wrong” interpretations in this course, only stronger and more weakly developed ones), just be sure to connect
your main observations and ideas to each other and support them with textual evidence. Move beyond summary and
interpretation and into analysis in order to critically examine your selected literary text.
Develop a comprehensive and detailed 5 to 10 typed (double-spaced) thematic analysis of a literary text or texts that
interests you, and that you feel would be interesting to a general audience. The instructor must approve all texts. Because
you will be writing about a literary work, you will need to include a Works Cited page (after your 5-10 page composition)
to complete your assignment. You should focus on how the literary work develops a theme, carefully constructing both
your theme and thesis statement (so that your analysis should be very clear and grounded in interesting textual evidence).
No additional outside sources are to be used for this paper, which should solely represent your own analytical thinking.
When in doubt, contact me for further guidelines about your chosen subject.
Consider the following questions when developing your profile:
Objectives: What theme should the audience recognize is present in the text? Why is this theme significant to the
Angle: How does the literary work develop the theme, i.e. what is your thesis statement? Is the thesis statement
Tone: What attitude about this theme should be conveyed in your writing? What words will you use to convey
Evidence: What evidence (concrete, reliable, credible) should be provided to support the theme and thesis
Contribution: How will the thematic analysis show why the literary work to the writer and the reader(s)?
Style: How clear is the language/style/expression?
Conclusion: How does your thematic analysis imply a human concern? Does your analysis answer a question
like: What do we now understand? What major issues have been explored? What matters in life? How should we
live? How ought we to deal with other people? And why is this significant? What should your audience walk
away with that they could not have known when they first started reading your essay?
Arrange the parts of your thematic analysis in the order that will prove most effective with the audience. Your essay
should be objective and analytical rather than inward and subjective. Keep in mind that a good literary analysis includes a
detailed discussion of a literary work supported by good reasons and evidence; so you must select your materials carefully
and include rich details. Make sure to give plenty of specific examples from your literary text to support your analysis and
At a minimum, your analysis should include the following elements:
A creative title
An introduction that identifies the literary work and author you’re discussing, the theme that will be explored, a
thesis statement that links the theme to the literary work, and an indication as to why that theme is important.
A summary of the literary work that provides the details necessary for a general audience member. This section
should not normally take up more than a paragraph of the analysis.
Specific points of evidence that support your thesis statement and demonstrate that the theme is developed in the
literary work. These should center around literary devices – including plot, but not limited to plot. Keep in mind
that this section is the core of your analysis, so you need to make clear the supporting points you are exploring
and how each point/piece of evidence you have selected relate to the thesis and develop the theme. Furthermore,
this should all be tied together with your analysis and commentary.
A conclusion that provides a final impression of the literary work you have selected and analyzed and explains
why the theme you have chosen is important.
A logical progression of ideas, and evidence and examples to support your ideas.
A clear presentation and development of topics.
Sentences that are complete and relatively error free.
• Title and Author
• Thematic Statement
• Thesis Statement
• Directional Statement (optional)
(1 Paragraph) • Main Plot Points
Analysis Point 1
• Topic sentence identifying literary device or plot
• Textual evidence with citations
• Analysis of textual evidence
• Conluding sentence(s) linking point to thesis &
Analysis Point 2
• Topic sentence identifying literary device or plot
• Textual evidence with citations
• Analysis of textual evidence
• Conluding sentence(s) linking point to thesis &
Analysis Point X • Repeat above pattern until analysis is complete
Conclusion • Significance of analysis
Although this may be an unfamiliar exercise, it is not as complex a task as writing an essay requiring a lot of library
research, but is much more similar to a review in The New York Times which is written for the general reader. Your
thematic analysis is for a reader who is interested not just in the general plot of the literary work being analyzed, but also
in your critical exploration of a thematic statement and your presentation of the thesis and interpretation in your writing.
Also, don’t assume that just because your instructor and peers will read your essay that they will automatically be
interested in what you have to say. Generate reader interest by making clear what is at stake in your analysis and why it is
STYLE (USING APPROPRIATE LANGUAGE)
Write in a style that demonstrates knowledge of your subject and a clear and accurate expression of your ideas. Think
critically, understanding that the way you organize and express your ideas can be as important as the ideas themselves. Be
credible, providing enough detail and evidence to show that you’ve reflected deeply on the subject and that you can
support your claims. Be respectful, showing your readers that your ideas are approachable and thoughtful, not arrogant or
insensitive (this may also mean that you consider alternate viewpoints and treat opponents with respect so that you aren’t
ignoring or demeaning the opinions of others). And last but not least, be careful, ensuring that your writing is clear and
accurate (not generalized, disorganized, or ignorant of writing conventions).
FORMATTING AND WRITING CONVENTIONS
Papers should be typed in a legible (ex: Arial, Times New Roman), 12-point font and double spaced (with space between
paragraphs removed). All other formatting should adhere to MLA standards (see resource sin D2L for MLA formatting
help). Additionally, you’ll want to make sure you proofread your paper carefully to avoid errors in grammar,
punctuation, spelling, and mechanics.
With your essay in hand, go through the checklist below, noting where you have met the assignment criteria (these are the
areas that I’ll be evaluating). If needed, re-read the guidelines for clarification.
I have written a thematic analysis that is 5-10 pages long (not including images and Works Cited), doublespaced,
and in MLA formatting.
I have written a well-developed analysis, and my specific thesis and interpretation are supported by evidence.
I have written a title and introduction that engage my audience, and they identify the title and author of the
literary work as well as the thematic statement, thesis statement, and significance of my discussion.
I have included an objective summary of the literary work so that my reader will better understand my literary
I have selected appropriate analysis points to demonstrate the development of my thematic statement and to
support my thesis statement. I have clearly stated them in topic setnences within my writing.
I have included textual evidence that helps create a critical and detailed discussion of the literary work and add
commentary, analysis, and transitions that are specific to the analysis point being explored.
I have integrated my textual evidence effectively, introducing them and explaining their significance (and citing
them when appropriate).
I have written a conclusion that provides a sense of completion, reflection, and/or summation, making a point
that could not have been made in the introduction, and reminding the reader why it is important to critically
consider the thematic statement I have chosen.
I have created a Works Cited page.
I have written sentences that are complete, clear, and relatively error free.
I have proof-read my essay, and it is coherent and well-organized.
SUBMISSION OF FINAL DRAFT
Upload your assignment to the appropriate dropbox in D2L before the assignment deadline.
NEED MLA AND ACADEMIC WRITING HELP?
The following resources can be found on D2L in the “Information Services and Resources” module:
MLA Formatting Template
Tips for MLA Format
Purdue Online Writing Lab
“MLA Format Setup in Word” Video
NEED LITERARY ANALYSIS HELP?
The following resources can be found on D2L in the “Writing About Literature” module:
How to Write a Literary Analysis
Conventions of Writing About Literature
Writing About Theme
Theme and Thesis
*Note: Additional Resources may be posted in the D2L module.
SUGGESTED WRITING PROCESS
Step 1: Make a Choice. Your first task is to consider a possible literary work that you can choose for this assignment. It
is important that you choose a text that are significant to you. This will make your task of writing Essay 1 much more
engaging. If you care about the text, that will show in your writing. Ask yourself the following questions: Which works
appealed to me? Which did I enjoy reading? Which texts do I feel I understand? Which texts do I have something to say
Step 2: Read, Read, Read. Get to know the literary text you have chosen to analyze.
Look at the title for the text. What does the title suggest? Who is the author for the text? When was the text first
published/produced? Does the text belong to a specific genre(s) or literary movement?
Complete an initial reading of the literary text, annotating any parts that “jump out” at you. Think about the
setting, plot, and central characters.
Consider also the Realist aspects of the texts. How does this text exemplify those characteristics that were valued
by the Realist writers?
Step 3: Choose a Focus. Simply ticking off every literary device or interesting point in the text would make for a slack
and rambling essay. More compelling writing would result from better focused topics. You can ensure that you do this by
carefully constructing your thematic and thesis statements. Create a theme statement that is a general statement about
humanity generated from the literary work. Create a focused and argumentative thesis that responds to the prompt of your
What significant ideas can you identify?
What literary techniques are used in the text and how do these develop (or not) the theme you have chosen?
What specific thesis statement will show how the literary work develops the theme you have chosen, linking the
significant literary techniques to the thematic statement?
Step 4: Refine and Outline. Now, on the basis of your overall knowledge of the literary text and your decision about
which literary points you will discuss, read in closer detail the sections which are relevant to these points. Make notes of
the evidence and key literary devices. This is the perfect stage to create a rough outline of the main points and evidence
you intend to incorporate in your writing.
Step 5: Write your Rough Draft. After completing the initial activities (#1-4), begin organizing and drafting your
comparative analysis. Consider the following advice:
Review your argument.
Get your thoughts down.
Write the part you feel most comfortable with first.
Leave yourself plenty of space.
Focus on the argument.
Does your thesis hold up?
Be open to new ideas.
Step 6: Revise and Edit. Leave time to revise and reflect upon your work as “a writer rarely – if ever – achieves
perfection on the first try” (Kennedy and Gioia 1098). Consider the following advice:
Be sure your thesis is clear, decisive, and thought-provoking.
Ascertain whether the evidence you have provided supports your theory.
Check whether your argument is logical.
Supply transitional words and phrases.
Make sure each paragraph contains a topic sentence.
Make a good first impression with your introduction.
Remember that last impressions count too (conclusion).
Give your paper a compelling title.
Step 7: Be Credible. Make sure you come across to readers as a person of good sense, good character, and good will. In
order to accomplish this:
Know what you’re talking about. Provide enough details and evidence to show that you’re reflected deeply on the
argument, and provide evidence to support your claims.
Show respect for your readers and come across as approachable and thoughtful, not arrogant or insensitive.
Consider alternate viewpoints and treat opponents with respect—don’t ignore or demean the opinions of others.
Be careful and meticulous in your writing, not sloppy and disorganized.
Dante Alighieri played a critical role in the literature world through his poem Divine Comedy that was written in the 14th century. The poem contains Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. The Inferno is a description of the nine circles of torment that are found on the earth. It depicts the realms of the people that have gone against the spiritual values and who, instead, have chosen bestial appetite, violence, or fraud and malice. The nine circles of hell are limbo, lust, gluttony, greed and wrath. Others are heresy, violence, fraud, and treachery. The purpose of this paper is to examine the Dante’s Inferno in the perspective of its portrayal of God’s image and the justification of hell.
In this epic poem, God is portrayed as a super being guilty of multiple weaknesses including being egotistic, unjust, and hypocritical. Dante, in this poem, depicts God as being more human than divine by challenging God’s omnipotence. Additionally, the manner in which Dante describes Hell is in full contradiction to the morals of God as written in the Bible. When god arranges Hell to flatter Himself, He commits egotism, a sin that is common among human beings (Cheney, 2016). The weakness is depicted in Limbo and on the Gate of Hell where, for instance, God sends those who do not worship Him to Hell. This implies that failure to worship Him is a sin.
God is also depicted as lacking justice in His actions thus removing the godly image. The injustice is portrayed by the manner in which the sodomites and opportunists are treated. The opportunists are subjected to banner chasing in their lives after death followed by being stung by insects and maggots. They are known to having done neither good nor bad during their lifetimes and, therefore, justice could have demanded that they be granted a neutral punishment having lived a neutral life. The sodomites are also punished unfairly by God when Brunetto Lattini is condemned to hell despite being a good leader (Babor, T. F., McGovern, T., & Robaina, K. (2017). While he commited sodomy, God chooses to ignore all the other good deeds that Brunetto did.
Finally, God is also portrayed as being hypocritical in His actions, a sin that further diminishes His godliness and makes Him more human. A case in point is when God condemns the sin of egotism and goes ahead to commit it repeatedly. Proverbs 29:23 states that “arrogance will bring your downfall, but if you are humble, you will be respected.” When Slattery condemns Dante’s human state as being weak, doubtful, and limited, he is proving God’s hypocrisy because He is also human (Verdicchio, 2015). The actions of God in Hell as portrayed by Dante are inconsistent with the Biblical literature. Both Dante and God are prone to making mistakes, something common among human beings thus making God more human.
To wrap it up, Dante portrays God is more human since He commits the same sins that humans commit: egotism, hypocrisy, and injustice. Hell is justified as being a destination for victims of the mistakes committed by God. The Hell is presented as being a totally different place as compared to what is written about it in the Bible. As a result, reading through the text gives an image of God who is prone to the very mistakes common to humans thus ripping Him off His lofty status of divine and, instead, making Him a mere human. Whether or not Dante did it intentionally is subject to debate but one thing is clear in the poem: the misconstrued notion of God is revealed to future generations.
Babor, T. F., McGovern, T., & Robaina, K. (2017). Dante’s inferno: Seven deadly sins in scientific publishing and how to avoid them. Addiction Science: A Guide for the Perplexed, 267.
Cheney, L. D. G. (2016). Illustrations for Dante’s Inferno: A Comparative Study of Sandro Botticelli, Giovanni Stradano, and Federico Zuccaro. Cultural and Religious Studies, 4(8), 487.
Verdicchio, M. (2015). Irony and Desire in Dante’s” Inferno” 27. Italica, 285-297.