Literary Analysis by Jean Rhys, English homework help

Literary Analysis on the book Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Literary Analysis

This is the only time during the year where we will engage in a literary analysis paper. This means that we will be analyzing some aspect of the novel that intrigues us and we wish to explore further.

The goal of literary analysis is to develop an original idea. This becomes more challenging as we look to move beyond summary into a more analytical response. Your papers should assume that the readers have read this text.

Thesis Statement
The hardest part of this assignment is the development of an original thesis—or arguable opinion that provides an original insight into the text. You need to avoid the most common mistakes of low quality thesis statements:

  • Stating the obvious – your reader should learn something from what you write.
  • Offering opinions of personal preference – matters of taste and personal feelings may be interesting, but they are not literary analysis. You should be able to persuade your reader to agree with your thesis through use of evidence and logic.
  • Making bland statements to serve as a vague topic sentence – you need to prove a specific point, not string together a set of barely related facts.

Following are examples of thesis statements that would struggle to produce a successful literary analysis:

a. Nick Carraway is a biased reporter. (Stating the obvious – we already know this.)

b. The Great Gatsby successfully portrays the problems of the upper classes, despite several exceptions to this group of people. (While there is a more complex idea, the above statement is generally true. Again, not much new here.)

c. Fadiman’s partiality towards the Hmong is evident in her indictment of western Doctors. (This is closer to a thesis, but the word ‘indictment’ suggests a more one-sided approach to the text than what is realistically there. A decent thesis if it stood alone, but quite difficult to prove.)

d. Fadiman’s book is a truly inspirational work. (Personal preference – what can you say that will persuade those who disagree?)

e. Fitzgerald gives a damning look at a class of people. (Both stating the obvious and a bland “topic sentence” that will be followed by a series of barely related details from the story.)

Idea-Based Transitions

Another challenge to literary analysis, or any analysis, is to move into transitions that are idea based.Often, students will fall into the habit of listing, whereby significant traits, events, or items are organized (sometimes arbitrarily) in order to prove a point.

In an outline format, a limited example might look like this:

Thesis: Fadiman’s indictment of American medical practices is more really an attack on American narcissism in the world arena.

Body Paragraph 1: Fadiman describes how the Hmong come to America.

Paragraph 2: Fadiman describes Lia’s struggles.

Paragraph 3: Fadiman describes the Lee’s cultural conflicts . . .

What is happening in the above is that the paper is chronologically following the events of the text, rather than allowing the ideas to present themselves into a more complete support of the opinion, which is that that this text is more about America than about American hospitals.

A revised outline might look something like this:

Thesis: Fadiman’s indictment of American medical practices is more really an attack on American narcissism in the world arena.

Body Paragraph 1: Presentation of Lee’s difficulties with American medicine.

Paragraph 2: Analysis of American doctors’ own frustration with the Lees.

Paragraph 3: Discussion of American foreign policy and other cultural examples of narcissism.

Paragraph 4: Presentation of opposite examples—i.e., unsuccessful attempts at assimilation, given the cost of sacrifice.


Finally (no pun intended!) consider that the conclusion should move beyond summary of what has already been said in the paper. A conclusion should do just that: conclude. What new ideas are present?What questions have been addressed throughout the paper that are finally answered?

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