Writing an Analytical Essay: Example & Structure

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  • 0:00 Overview of Analysis &…
  • 2:00 Examples: Thesis,…
  • 7:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Gentry
Since analysis is one of the cornerstones of critical thought, the analytical essay is a frequent, often demanding, and potentially inspiring assignment for students. Explore an example and popular structures in this lesson.

Overview of Analysis & Evaluation

Babies and children are naturally curious creatures; it's the way they learn about the world and essentially how to be a human who interacts and communicates with other humans. You may have seen a child who took a toy apart completely and then was able to put it back together again. Whether subconscious or not, depending on the age of the child, this was an exercise in analysis. The child was in exploration mode, trying to figure out how the parts work together to create a cohesive whole.

In academic analysis, the purpose is to examine the parts of a whole as a basis for discussion or interpretation. In fact, the branch within literature of literary criticism exists for discussions of analysis and the theories of different interpretations. When we analyze a book, poem, film, article, advertisement, and so on, we're more than likely trying to figure out how it works and/or evaluate whether or not it's effective.

Analysis and evaluation are methods of query, so we analyze by asking questions. A few examples might include:

  • How does the poet use line breaks for effect?
  • Why does the advertisement include so much text?
  • Who was the target audience for this scholarly article?
  • What is the primary theme of the film, and how does the director use cinematography to further that theme?

Your object of analysis can vary, but don't forget that your end goal is to examine the parts that comprise it in order to determine how they work together to form the whole. In essence, an analytical essay presents arguments where you make a claim for the relationship of the parts to the whole. Let's take a look at an example to see how one writer formed claims based on this premise and then justified them through textual support.

Examples: Thesis, Analysis & Summary

The following excerpt, as well as the thesis, comes from an analysis essay. This analysis centers on Kate Chopin's character, Desiree, from the short story 'Desiree's Baby.' The writer notes the following in his thesis: 'Through Desiree in 'Desiree's Baby,' Chopin illustrates that dependence can be an important component of healthy relationships, but she also strongly warns of the dangers of being overly dependent.

In a paragraph from his analysis essay about Chopin's story, the writer states, 'Desiree's dependence within her relationships begins even before her marriage, in her upbringing in the Valmonde household.' Desiree first appears when, as Chopin wrote, 'she was of the toddling age.' She is mysteriously abandoned at the gate of the Valmonde plantation, where she is rescued by Monsieur Valmonde. As a toddler, probably no more than one or two years old, she is unable to care for herself, so her life and welfare depend on the goodwill of the Valmondes taking her in and caring for her. As the adopted child of the Valmondes, Desiree is 'the idol of Valmonde,' and her mother, Madame Valmonde, believes, as Chopin wrote, that 'Desiree had been sent to her by a beneficent Providence.'

Clearly, as a child who is worshiped in the household and viewed as a gift from God, Desiree does not have to fend for herself and is probably pampered. Not only do her wealthy, adoptive parents, as plantation owners, have the wealth to supply all that she could need and want, but the plantation almost certainly has slaves on which Desiree can rely for completing daily tasks, such as cooking and cleaning. In this environment, Desiree grows up to be, as Chopin wrote, 'beautiful and gentle, affectionate and sincere.'

Up to this point in her life, Desiree's dependency seems to prove advantageous. She is loved and taken care of and eventually grows into an attractive young woman, both physically and emotionally. As a result, she no doubt brings joy to her parents and the whole Valmonde household. These qualities also make her an attractive match for a wealthy plantation owner such as Armand Aubigny.

In this example, we see how the writer first articulated his perception of one of the primary themes of the short story: dependence in relationships. This writer has also skillfully named the short story, revealed he will analyze this theme through character, and has also included the name of the author. If a reader were to see this thesis by itself, without the context of the paper, it previews the content as a stand-alone entity.

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