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Literary Analysis Paper

The goal of this assignment is to compare and contrast two works that are contained in your textbook. You do not have to choose a work we have discussed as a class. Read the directions below and follow them carefully. They are your guide.

Check out the lecture on how to get an “A” on your literary analysis paper.

 1)  You must choose one poem and then choose either a short story or play by different authors that have more or less the same theme (i.e. family problems, relationships, prejudice, love, desire, etc...). You may not use a myth, parable, folktale or essay for your literary analysis paper.

 2) Read each piece carefully and in one page, single-spaced, summarize the major components of each work (who, what, when, where, why, how). This summary sheet will be the final page in your literary analysis paper.

 3) Type a college level term paper [5-7 pages, double-spaced – 12 point font, 1 inch margins]. Make sure your paper includes the following:

 A] An introduction that introduces both works and has a clear thesis statement – this is a comparison/contrast essay, so make sure your thesis statement reflects that. [PS - don't forget to have a good title to your paper!!!]

B] The body paragraphs that compare and contrast the two works. To do this, choose four of the following points: character, audience, theme, literary motif, symbolism, and overall message (are both works saying the same thing about life or something different?).

**Note: story or plot is not one of the comparison options!

 Each body paragraph must have a clear topic sentence that clearly states the point that is going to be analyzed in the paragraph.

Do not use an announcement, such as "This paragraph will analyze the literary motifs in the two works". To support each point, you must use quotes from the text. You should use at least two examples for each point. Do not leave a quote to explain itself. Make your point, use a quote that illustrates that point, and write in your own words how that quote illustrates your point.

 C] A conclusion that answers the following questions: What did you learn about each work by looking at it carefully? How did the works make you feel?  By comparing and contrasting the two works, did you learn anything about poetry, short stories, plays, yourself, others? [REMEMBER: To support each answer, you must use quotes from the text.]

 D] Attach your summary sheet as last page.


  Grading Rubric




Clear introduction that introduces both works and ends with a solid thesis


Four body paragraphs comparing & contrasting both works using the assigned points, and including clear topic sentences and support by quoting lines from the text


Conclusion that clearly answers the assigned questions and uses quotes from the text to support assertions


One page summary sheet [single spaced]




Example "A" paper


Love’s Pedestal

Love can be a revolution of thinking; an overcoming of barriers. It can be confusing, and at times, love defies all reason. Love inspires such passion that people endure great tragedy in order conquer in overwhelming circumstances. Love provokes emotions that can cause a person to accomplish the impossible. For good reason, love has been put on the highest pedestal; however, love is not flawless or effortless. It often requires work, and patience, and then even more patience! The short story, “Wife Wooing” by John Updike and Robert Burns’ poem, “A Red, Red Rose” share similar overall messages and literary motifs about love, yet depict distinctly different versions of love in their themes and characterization.

The overall messages of these pieces are similar in that they both relate to the effects of time upon love. The authors of both pieces show the audience that time does not have to ruin a love relationship. Updike enables the reader to see the truth behind the idealized view of marriage. He attempts to show the audience that love can be unconditional and can make one feel emotions that are surprising even after many years of marriage. In this piece, the speaker states, “So I am taken by surprise at a turning when at the meaningful hour of ten you come with a kiss of toothpaste to me moist and girlish and quick; the momentous moral of this story being. An expected gift is not worth giving.” (549)  The speaker is surprised by a happy kiss his wife gives him in the morning. The quote shows that although marriage can at times be repetitive and dull, it still comes with its share of surprises that are rare but are that much more meaningful. Time does not destroy one’s love, but can make it grow deeper. Burns also shows us this same truth about love. Even though we may be parted from our love for long periods of time, love can still feel new and fresh. He writes: “O, my luve is like a red, red rose, that’s newly sprung in June. O, my luve is like the melodie, that’s sweetly play’d in tune.” (1-4) He allows the reader to enter the mind of an idealistic man in love and lets us see the effects of a more romanticized side of love. The overall message in both these pieces reveals that love, even after a great deal of time, can be fresh, new and surprising.

In addition to the similarities in overall message, we find similarity in the literary motif of waiting for one’s lover. Waiting is frustrating and difficult, and both authors illustrate this idea in their works. In Updike’s short story, the speaker is waiting for his wife to pay attention to him and to notice the little things he does for. He says: “I am limitlessly patient, paternal, good.” (547) He gets the food for the family, helps his wife put the children to bed, and then waits for her as she reads her book that evening in bed. However, she falls asleep and fails to acknowledge him. Waiting is not easy, and he does get a little bitter about it, “You are asleep, Oh cunning trick, cunning.” (549). It is easy to feel the speaker's frustration! In Burns’ poem, the speaker is departing, and he and his beloved will have to wait to see one another again. While he is away, he promises to love her until the end. He tells her, “And I will luve thee still, my dear, till a’ the seas gang dry.” (7-8) The speaker declares his love to be unconditional and unending. Even though they will be apart and must wait, the speaker says, “And I will luve thee still, my dear, While the sand o’life shall run” (11-12) He makes it clear that even though waiting to see her again, his love will not end. Both men in these pieces are willing to wait for love; however, Updike’s speaker is much less happy about it!

In the two pieces, the characters’ perspective differs regarding the effects of time upon their love. John Updike’s “Wife Wooing” is a realistic view from a husband that has been married for some years. The speaker allows the audience to hear his inner most thoughts about his wife and their marriage but never addresses his wife directly about his feelings. His thoughts the next day, after she had fallen asleep while he was waiting for her, reflect his frustrations with her. He thinks to himself, “In the morning, to my relief, you are ugly.” (549) He tries to cover his hurt feelings and disappointment by making her less attractive to him. For him, waiting is very difficult and dampens his passion and ardor. On the other hand, Robert Burns’ “A Red, Red Rose” shows an idealistic view of a man in love. He speaks of the growing and never-ending intensity that one can feel for love even after years of separation. He tells his lover: “So deep in luve am I, And I will love thee still, my dear, Till all the seas gang dry” (6-8) The speaker directly addresses his love by passionately confessing his loyalty and undying love for her. Time for him will not dampen his love, and in fact, he promises to return “Tho it were ten thousand mile!” (16) Neither distance nor time will affect this character's idealized love.

The themes presented in the two pieces are similar in that they both focus on love; however, in the first, love is pictured realistically while in the second, love is pictured idealistically. Updike’s piece takes a real look at love within a marriage after the children are part of the family. Keeping love alive in a marriage is not always easy. The speaker explains that, “Courting a wife takes tenfold the strength of winning an ignorant girl.” (548) It shows a man must continue to woo his wife even after he has married her. Updike shows what actions the speaker takes to woo his wife, such as getting food for the family, helping put the children to bed, and waiting for her to finish her book. Updike even shows us jealousy as the speaker fumes, “You love the baby more than me.” (548) It is hard for the speaker not to be first with his love/wife at all times. However, Burns’ theme of love is a passionate look at the romantic ideal. One does not feel the frustration of waiting or of not being first in the loved one's thoughts. The poem focuses on the feelings of passionate desire not dulled by the daily tasks of married life. The speaker states that never will his love fade “Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear, and the rocks melt wi’ the sun!” (9-10) It shows the man’s willingness to promise eternal love, but it does not discuss realistically how one could do that.

After closely analyzing each of these pieces, I have gained a new perspective about marriage and romantic love. Realistic love is not so easy as the love we read about in poems. Poetic love may send one floating through the clouds and inspire fabulous love letters, but realistic love takes time, and work, and patience. Updike’s piece helped me to understand that marriage isn’t simple and that some days are not going to seem to be happily ever after. There will be times of frustration and jealousy. When I was younger, I dreamed of a passionate love like that of Burn’s poem, but now I realize that passion is just one component of love. By comparing and contrasting Updike’s and Burns’ pieces, I have learned that both realistic and idealistic portrayals of love are important, but in my world, I prefer the real to the ideal. I think the soft toothpaste kiss far outweighs promises of love till the seas go dry.




Last Updated: 08/06/2015
  • Grossmont
  • Cuyamaca
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