7 junio, 2024

Literary analysis: function, structure, how to do it, example

He literary analysis It is a critical or academic examination of a written work, using techniques to describe and evaluate the text, either from a general point of view, or from the point of view of a specific current or social and humanistic discipline.

There are literary analyzes of various kinds, different approaches to a work from various disciplines and ideological currents: structuralist, impressionist, Marxist, deconstructionist, psychoanalytic, linguistic, sociological, historicist, philosophical, etc.

But there is also a universally accepted minimal structure of literary analysis for a first approach to a text, which tries to go beyond a pleasant reading, and which is usually used in educational institutions.


Function of literary analysis

The literary analysis of a work is an in-depth reading of a text, contextualizing it, showing its structure, resources and the successes or failures of the author or the work.

It is an academic requirement to address the knowledge of authors and works that make up a national or universal literary tradition. It is also a tool to effectively explore a literary work.


A conventional literary analysis consists of the following parts:

Literary, historical and sociocultural context

Locate the author and the work at the time it was written, in what kind of society it arose (economics, politics, major historical facts), biographical information about the author, and cultural context in which the work appears.

The literary context refers to the situation of national literature, artistic trend to which it belongs, genre; what impact it had, influences received and influences caused.

Work description

The relevant details of the work are mentioned: theme, plot, characters, structure, stylistic resources, etc.


The theme is what the literary work is about.


Relationship of the story: how it begins, development of the plot and how it ends.


Describe the main and secondary characters of the analyzed work, and their role in the story.


When speaking of structure in a narrative text, although it depends on each work, at least one speaks of an external structure (arrangement of the texts in chapters, for example), and an internal structure (spaces where the story unfolds, how it is lays out the plot).

stylistic devices

They are the formal elements in a text: narrative voice (who narrates), use of dialogues, time and space of the story, language (colloquial, poetic), and those of each genre in which it is registered (poetry, narrative, theater ), etc.


It is where the author of the literary analysis exposes his point of view on the text addressed. The conclusion reiterates the points made in the different parts of the analysis and concludes with a personal comment.

How to do a literary analysis?

The following explains how to carry out a literary analysis, using as an example The little Prince.

Literary, historical and sociocultural context

We will begin by explaining who the author was: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944), was a French writer and aviator. His main passion was aviation, since 1921 he was a commercial and military pilot, and in 1939 he was drafted at the start of World War II. He died in 1944, during the war, when his plane was lost over the Mediterranean.

Product of his flying adventures were his works South Post (1929), Night flight (1930), land of men (1939) and The little Prince (1943), the latter being the most famous.

Next, we will talk about the context of the work: It was published in the middle of the war, when France was still occupied by the Germans, and it would be published in France after the end of the conflict, in 1946, and for this reason the first edition is North American.

It is one of the most widely read and translated French books: translations have been made into more than 250 languages ​​and dialects, including Braille. The first translation into Spanish that was made was thanks to the Argentine publisher Emecé Editores, which would come out in 1951.

Work description

The little Prince It is a short novel that could initially be classified as children’s or youth literature, although its implications go further, in the field of ethics and philosophy. It has autobiographical features but is essentially a work of fiction.

It should be noted that in almost all editions, the text is accompanied by illustrations made by the author.


The little Prince It is about the meeting of a pilot who suffers an accident in the Sahara desert, with a prince boy from an asteroid.


The story begins with the accident and the meeting with the little prince, the different stories that the child narrates and the contrast between the adult vision and the supposed childish vision of the little prince.


The main characters are the boy and the aviator, and the secondary ones would be the rose, the snake, the fox, the lamplighter, etc.


The story of The little Prince It takes place over 27 short chapters, and at least on two levels: the one that occurs in the relationship between the aviator and the little prince, and the various stories that the child tells since he left the asteroid.

stylistic devices

It is a story narrated in the first person, from the point of view of the aviator, structured in the form of dialogues between the two characters, where the stories of the little prince play a fundamental role.

The illustrations work as part of the story, constituting a visual support for the understanding of what is narrated (in this aspect, it works like a classic children’s book).


A possible conclusion from the analysis of The little Prince it is that it is not only a children’s work but a deep reflection of the human condition, which could be summed up in the phrase said by the fox: “You only see well with your heart. The essential is invisible to the eyes».

Example of literary analysis of Romeo and Julietby William Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet either the excellent and unfortunate tragedy of Romeo and Juliet (1597), is one of the most relevant and well-known works of the English poet and playwright William Shakespeare (1564-1616), considered the most important writer in the English language and one of the most notable in universal literature.

The work and the author are part of the so-called Elizabethan theatre, which encompasses the dramaturgical production of authors such as Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson and Shakespeare himself, during the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1625), a period in which Anglo-Saxon culture experiences a rise along with the growing British empire (Historical and literary context).

Romeo and Juliet is a theatrical piece developed in verses (in Spanish translations it usually becomes prose), a tragedy that tells the story of two young lovers from Verona, Italy (Tema).

Romeo and Juliet belong to two families that hate each other to death, but when they see each other they fall in love and begin a romance full of difficulties, due to a series of unfortunate and deadly events that force Romeo to flee the city after secretly marrying Juliet. A misunderstanding makes Romeo believe that Juliet has died and they both end up committing suicide (Plot).

The main characters are Romeo, Juliet, Mercutio, Benvolio, Teobaldo and Fray Lorenzo; the secondary ones, Count Paris, Capulet parents and Montague parents, the prince of Verona and Juliet’s nurse (Characters).

The play is divided into five acts, initially it develops as a comedy until the deaths of Mercutio and Teobaldo, where the play turns to tragedy. Along with the main plot, secondary stories develop, such as the confrontation between Mercutio and Teobaldo or the relationship between Count Paris and Juliet.

The story is located chronologically in the second half of the fifteenth century, mainly in the city of Verona, and the action takes place in a few months. The work is in verse with various metric forms, although the sonnet predominates (Structure and resources).

With Hamlets, Romeo and Juliet It is one of the most staged and versioned works in different artistic genres (film, ballet, music, painting), and the subject matter –romantic love– continues to be valid and attracts new generations of readers and viewers (Conclusion).


Saint-Exupéry, A. (1943). The little Prince. Taken from bibliotecadigital.ilce.edu.mx.
Reis, C. (1981). Fundamentals and techniques of literary analysis. Taken from academia.edu.
Van Dijk, T. A. (1987). The pragmatics of literary communication. Taken from academia.edu.
Literary Analysis (2020). Taken from faculty.cord.edu.
Literary Analysis. Basic Elements of Literature (2020). Taken from londonbridgehome.weebly.com.
The Little Prince (2020). Taken from es.wikipedia.org.
How to do a literary analysis (2020). Taken from reading-abierta.com.
Critical Analysis (2020). Taken from southeastern.edu.

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