Analyzing Character, Setting, Themes, and Language in Literature Essays

How to Write a Literature Essay

Observe how the writer shapes a character’s personality. Study how events unfold and if the story makes sense. Find out how to create suspense and twists.

A strong essay has a clear claim and each paragraph supports it. This sample literature essay uses a strong argument to prove its point.


The characters in literature are often complex. The great literary essays are ones that recognize and explain these complexities. When you’re analyzing the characters in a story, it can help to look for traits that are common across multiple characters. For example, if you see a pattern of knives appearing throughout the play Macbeth, it can be helpful to think about how these knives are used and by whom and what effect they have on the character.

It can also be helpful to choose a dynamic character for your essay. These are the characters that go through many changes and have a lot of growth during the story. These types of characters can make your essay more interesting and entertaining for the reader.

Static characters are those that remain the same throughout the story. These are generally not the best choice for a character analysis essay. Scriptwriters generally use static characters in teen movies and other stories that are aimed at homily or entertainment.


Setting in a literary essay can play a huge role. It can pull the reader into a specific time and place or show how a specific environment influences the characters in the story. This is especially true for historical novels and books.

In your introduction, make sure to provide a clear picture of what is to come in the body of your essay. This is especially important if you’re using a topic sentence, which should leave the reader with a sense of your thesis and the path you will take to prove it.

During the body of your essay, be sure to include lots of quotes from the text. However, remember that it is better to have a smaller number of highly detailed quotes than a large amount of general quotes. Make sure to fully explain how each quote supports your claim and illustrates the literary techniques you are discussing.


Themes are the ideas that connect the different parts of a literature work. They are a deeper level of meaning that can be found within the story and provide a way to analyze it. They can also be used to make connections between different works of fiction and convey a universal message.

For example, the themes of prejudice and fear are explored in a number of different texts including Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Both stories address the topic of racism and prejudice through characters who are at odds with the society they live in, or whose innate differences set them apart from others.

Another common theme is survival, which often involves a struggle against an outside force, such as the environment or a powerful antagonist. In many cases, this theme explores the enduring human instinct to survive, regardless of circumstance. It is often a key conflict in dystopian novels.


The exact definition of literature has been debated over many times, but most agree that it is any kind of written work that is valued highly by people. This can be anything from a personal letter to a Shakespearean play, but it should contain certain qualities like plot, characters, tone, symbolism and conflict to be considered literature.

In a literature essay, you will often be asked to examine and evaluate literary texts in the form of novels, plays or poems. Depending on the mark scheme for your AP English Literature exam, you may also be asked to explore the way specific stylistic choices have been used in the text or how broader themes have been developed.

When writing your essay, remember that you must use evidence from the two literary texts you have chosen to support your claims. This can include specific quotes that you have taken from the text and paraphrasing of parts of the work to demonstrate how they relate to your argument.

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