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Thread: What to choose for Literary Analysis?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    We are doing Y2 and are up to Week 23. The writing assignment for this week, in level 8 is literary analysis. My boys are in 8th and 9th grades and are still weak writers. I want them to do this assignment, but I'm struggling a bit to know what to advise them to read (and therefore write about). What direction should I give them in choosing a work for analysis? And should it necessarily be tied into the time period we are studying?

    (I'm thinking a short work is better in this case.)

    ~*~ Shellie ~*~
    mom of:
    Rachel 22, college girl
    Tara 20, college girl
    Zak 17, high schooler
    Josh 15, high schooler
    Megan 9, fourth grader
    Darcy Kate 7, third grader
    Precious little Lily, 3 years old!
    Baby Benjamin, born January 7, 2009

  2. #2
    Hi, Shellie,

    If your boys are doing the literature component of Tapestry, I would suggest that they do a literary analysis of either Pilgrim's Progress, which rhetoric students read in Weeks 21 and 22, or Dangerous Journey, the dialectic version of Pilgrim's Progress. For either of these books, a student could write a literary analysis that focuses on one character or place and the way that character or place represents an aspect of the Christian life. For instance, a student could analyze Christian's encounter with Mr. Worldly Wise and offer a thesis about what Bunyan is trying to communicate through their interaction.

    Some general guidelines for choosing books for literary analysis are that you want a book that has depth: characters that are not superficial, themes that are meaningful, or writing that is artistic and has vivid images. Most classics will have some or all of these characteristics, but other well-written books may work as well.

    One other key thing is that your student is interested in the book he writes about. If you have to choose between a classic and a book he is really interested in, I would encourage you to go with his interest, unless you think the book has none of the qualities mentioned above.

    I hope this gives you some helpful ideas.

    Redesign Project Editor

  3. #3

    We are here too with the same assignment. My 8th grader has never done literary analysis. She seems overwhelmed because neither of us really get what we are to do here. So we will probably skip this and tackle it when it comes around again. Maybe even using the book you suggested because that helped me to get a grip on how to explain it to her. But my question to anyone who can answer is what do I do to get my 8th grader up to the understanding/challenge of this kind of assignment. I honestly don't remember doing this in high school. but then again, I did not take higher level English courses. I took what I needed to get by.

  4. #4
    I, too, was very lost with regard to this when we first started. However, if you go to The Loom and look up Story Analysis (I printed it), it will be very helpful to you. It really explains what you are looking for. All of the different categories are broken down so clearly. I think it will take some of your stress away! I know it did me.

    Good luck.


  5. #5
    Thanks. I'll do that.

  6. #6
    Please allow me to revisit this topic. I have another question regarding this assignment. I tried to access the Loom, as suggessted in an earlier post, but couldn't. Maybe because I own classic not redesigned. Anyway, the assignment is listed for one week yet the writing aids disc says "although you may eventually be able to write a literary analysis in a week, here are some guidelines for dividing the writing process into three or four weeks..." My daughter is working on an 8th grade level for writing, and has no previous experience with an analysis. Should I just have her do the draft part of the assignment as an introduction at this level? Many thanks for any insight here.

    Christine, who would like just a smidge of hand holding on this

  7. #7
    Vice President
    Lampstand Press

    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Kingsport, TN
    Hi Christine,
    Right. You can't access the Loom because it is for Redesigned users.

    For your eighth-grader, I'd take all four weeks to work on the assignment and simply go as far as you can. If that is only to the rough draft stage, then so be it. The goal is that by the time they enter college and have to write a lit analysis in a week, they will be able to do so.

    Dana C. in TN
    Vice President
    Lampstand Press

    "Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew,
    like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.
    I will proclaim the name of the Lord. Oh, praise the greatness of our God!"
    Deut. 32:2-4

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    NE Florida
    I too am struggling with this assignment for my dd. We have decided to choose 1 character from a book she is familiar with (i.e. Lord of the Rings) and analyze it. I think I understand the type of writing but having never wrote it myself, I am not sure of myself. Glad to see I am not alone in my unsureness.
    June in Florida
    2nd time around

    Wife for 19 happy years
    Mom to:
    K - 17 dd
    V - 15 dd (R)
    H - 14 dd (D)
    A - 14 dd (D)
    G - 7 dd

  9. #9
    June, if you do have access to Writing Aids, I'd look at the sample Literary Analysis papers on the disc and see if those boost your confidence at all. Also, just remember that there are two fundamental approaches to the literary analysis paper: you can talk about how the form relates to the content, or you can just talk about the artistry of the form.

    So, if you are focusing on a character in a story, you could talk about how that character's actions and attitudes (i.e. experiment in living) display the author's theme. Or, alternatively, you could just talk about how skillfully and artistically the author drew his portrait of the character and made it lifelike (i.e. how plausible/interesting/moving the character is). Either approach is literary analysis, though the best papers I've seen combine both (i.e. showing how something in the story is artistically powerful and also how it reveals or enhances content). :-)

    Let me give you an example from the best Storyteller of all:

    An experiment in living is a choice that a character makes to live according to a particular way of thinking, believing, feeling, acting, and (or) reacting. It may or may not change in the course of the story, and it is not usually thought of as an “experiment” by the character himself. However it is experimental to the audience because the reader or viewer is waiting to see how the character’s chosen way of living will turn out.

    The way the experiment does turn out (especially if it is carried out by a main character) is important because it tells us a great deal about what the author thinks is real, right, wrong, and valuable. Often, the main character’s experiment in living is also tied to the theme(s) of the story. For example, look at the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector:

    Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”
    But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
    I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. (Luke 18:10-14a, NIV)

    The Pharisee’s experiment is one of pride; he behaves as if he thinks that he has earned God’s approval through his actions, and compares himself favorably to others, including the tax collector. Finally, he does not even seem to be aware that he needs to be justified by God, and though he says “I thank you,” the rest of his statement makes it clear that he considers his supposed merit to be entirely his own doing.

    The tax collector’s experiment is one of humility and repentance; he knows that he is not worthy to be accepted by God, and accordingly pleads for God’s mercy, without comparing himself to anybody or anything except God’s standard of righteousness.

    Jesus says that the tax collector goes away justified, and that the Pharisee does not. The results of these experiments in living tell us about what the author (Jesus) portrays as real, right, wrong, and (or) valuable:

    Reality: Jesus here portrays reality as including God, who has the power to justify men, and who decides whether or not to justify them. He also portrays the two men as each being in need of justification (i.e. sinful), though only one seems to recognize that he is a sinner. So we can see that God, sin, and the possibility of justification are all portrayed as real.

    Morality (Right and Wrong): We learn here that it is wrong to be proud and to seek to earn justification from God, especially by comparing ourselves with others. We also learn that it is wrong and dangerous to allow ourselves to think that we have not sinned or don’t need justification. By contrast, it is right to humbly repent.

    Valuable: Humility and genuine repentance are show to be valuable here, because they are the traits of the successful experiment in living.

    If we were to state the theme, it would probably be something like "humility and awareness of the need for forgiveness are better and more effective than pride and unawareness of the need for forgiveness."

    So, as you can see, a student could write a paper explaining how the experiments in living conducted by these two characters reveal something about the content (Jesus' theme and his expressed view of reality, morality, and values). Alternatively, your student might write about the artistry of the parable, highlighting the extreme simplicity and yet the extreme lifelikeness of this brief story. Then, if he were to combine the two, he might show how the fictional character reveals the content of the story and also celebrate the Savior's ability to get so much across in such short, simple, vivid language.

    Does that help at all?


  10. #10
    Dana, thanks so much. This is our first year using TOG and I have been so pleased with the progress our kiddos have made using the writing assignments that I didn't want to just skip this one.


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