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Literary Criticism Example Essays

Description:The purpose of a literary analysis essay is to very closely examine a work of literature. Your central idea in this essay will focus on the work of literature as a whole or focus on one particular element in a longer text. Some common types of literary analysis essay focus on analyzing a theme, a character or a symbol. You may analyze a poem, a short story or a novel.

Topic: The Symbolism of the Shell in Lord of the Flies.

Literary Analysis Example

For centuries, philosophers have grappled with the question of whether mankind is inherently good or evil. In his novel Lord of the Flies, William Golding examines this question through a story about what happens after a small plane carrying British schoolboys crashes on a desert island. Because no adults survived the crash, the boys were on their own to govern themselves and await a rescue. As the story unfolds, the boys are forced to organize themselves outside of civilized society. Throughout the story, Golding uses the symbol of the conch shell to represent civilization and democracy.

From the beginning, the conch shell functions as a tool for establishing a civil order. When Ralph, a character who would become a leader among the boys, first finds the conch shell, he blows it like a horn to gather all the boys together. Once the boys emerged from the tropical jungle to gather near Ralph, he ?smiled and held up the conch for silence." At that moment, the attempt at creating an orderly civilization begins. The conch shell is initially used as a tool for both gathering together and establishing leadership.

Another symbolic use for the conch shell occurs during the scenes involving the boys' assembly. The intention of the assembly is to form a governing body. Ralph is chosen as a leader in part because he found and used the conch shell first. When the boys vote for a leader, they exclaim ?Him with the shell. Ralph! Ralph! Let him be chief with the trumpet-thing." Here, the conch shell represents the power vested in ralph as the decision-maker among the boys. The shell is an image of the fair, democratic microcosm of civilization that the boys hoped to invoke.

Gradually, however, the boys lose their connection with the conch shell, signifying their momentum towards giving in to disorder and chaos. Both Piggy and Ralph use the conch shell as a horn any time they feel that their makeshift civilization is falling apart, in an effort to gather the boys. When some of the boys start a fire on the island and Piggy attempts to use the conch to stop them, he is rebuked by Jack who is beginning to express rebellion and evil. The conch doesn't count up on top of the mountain," said Jack. When such limitations are placed on the power of the conch, the boys begin to lose respect for the established civil order.

Further, as the island civilization degenerates, so does the conch shell itself. Jack diminishes the power of the conch when he proclaims that "we don't need the conch anymore." At this point, Jack's assertion links the demise of the conch's power with a dramatic shift in the civil order. Golding's descriptions of the conch shell also show that it has literally lost its color and luster over time, physically mirroring the eroding social situation. Additionally, the scene where Jack steals Piggy's glasses instead of stealing the conch shell shows how the shell was no longer valued.

Finally, the conch shell is literally crushed by a boulder. This occurs when Piggy was holding the shell and was intentionally murdered by the boys pushing rocks upon him. The complete destruction of the conch, a symbol of fair and just civilization, corresponds with this deliberately evil act. The conch shell was the ultimate civilizing influence on the island. With its destruction, the group was given license to slide into savagery, evil and disorder. Through the symbol of the conch shell, Golding communicated that evil is an inevitable aspect of man if the conditions arise for its expression.

Dr. Obermeier'sSample Paper Files

You are advised to peruse these sample papers previous students have written for my classes. The papers are either pdf files or HTML files, in which I have embedded comments to explain why they are superior efforts. The comments refer to the following sentence, phrase, or word. Clicking on the comment link will bring up the content. You have to close a comment window before proceeding to the next one. Clicking on the header will give you instructions on how to make such a running header for your papers. Because of HTML restrictions, the formatting might appear slightly off. You still need to keep your papers double-spaced with 1/2-inch paragraph indent. Even if there is no specific explanation for a specific paper, the papers generally share the following superior qualities: descriptive and analytical titles; analytical theses; superior analysis of the texts; correct inclusion of quotations and formatting.

For instructions on how to do a running header for your paper in MS Word, click here.

Click on your class in the lineup.


For Engl. 250

  • Paper 1 "Sheppard" Characterization
          • This paper has it all: outstanding thought and content, excellent organization, superior sentence structure and diction. This student's command of the language is superb. A few minor problems could have been edited out. The paper received the grade of 96/A.

  • Paper 1 "Girl" Characterization
          • This paper is an excellent example of superior analysis coupled with stylistic economy and succinctness that avoid anything superfluous. The introduction and organization deserve high praise. The paper received the grade of 96/A.
  • Paper 2 Explication of "Sonnet 46"
          • This explication of a Shakespeare sonnet is superbly done. The student outstandingly fused the analysis of the poem with an excellent and virtually error-free style. The paper received the grade of 98/A+.
  • Paper 2 Explication of "Sonnet 42"
          • This is a very good example of a Shakespeare sonnet explication. The student clearly understands the nuances of the sonnet, with great sections on metrical discussion. The paper received 94/A.

            Here are the high-scoring essays for our assignment two. Per announcement in class, these uploads are not following the format as faithfully. I just wanted to get you the info without having to worry about getting everything lined up to MLA standards. Note also that I am providing these examples for the sophistication of the explication, the students' knowledge of technical aspects and detail of analysis; the essays, however, may still contain other weaknesses.

  • Paper 3 Explication of "The Victim at Aulis"
          • The student provides a superbly analyzed and written thematic poetry explication. Notice that the paper is organized around the student's thesis, ie., the major players in the myth and the poem, and not just the chronology of the paper. The paper received the grade of 98/A+.
  • Paper 3 Explication of "Cassandra"
          • This paper is an excellent example of a thematic poetry explication, demonstrating superb intertextual understanding and control of the primary texts. Note the student's concise and honed style. The paper received the grade of 96/A.
  • Paper 4 Synthesis of Millay Poems
          • This paper offers a beautiful synthesis not only of three poems but also two critical approaches: Feminist and Freudian. It is almost flawlessly written and received the grade of 98/A+.
  • Paper 4 Synthesis of Mythology Poems
          • The paper is up, but I am still working on the comments..
  • Paper 5 Shrew Research Paper
          • This is an exquisite research paper utilizing a postmodern approach to Taming of the Shrew. Notice that the critical approach is incorporated into the paper; therefore, there is no extra Barry page. The paper received 98/A+. Sorry, no comment boxes yet.
  • Paper 5 Yankee Research Paper
          • This is another outstanding research paper. It shows the incorporation of the research especially well. Notice that the Barry page is appended after the works cited page.The paper received 98/A+. Sorry, no comment boxes yet.
      • Return to Student Resources Page

For Engl. 304


For Engl. 306

For Engl. 351

Paper 1a here was written for Chaucer's Canterbury Tales but also works for Love Visions. To save time, I did not create javascript comment boxes but inserted my comments in square brackets into the actual paper. Notice that the paper has all the aspects an outstanding paper should: original thought and analysis, clear organization and thesis, interesting intro, correct sentence structure, superior diction, and mostly correct MLA format. The paper received a score of 98/A+. Clicking on the header will give you instructions on how to make such a running header for your papers. Because of HTML restrictions, the formatting might appear slightly off. You still need to keep your papers double-spaced with 1/2-inch paragraph and 1-inch block quotation indents. Papers 2a and 2b were written for the shorter Love Visions assignment, 2c for the longer paper; these papers have no comments in them and are in pdf.

For Engl 449/559

For Engl 450/550

For Engl 451/551

For Engl 581

For Engl 650







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