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Length and Format: no less than TWO FULL pages, double spaced, PLUS Works Cited Page with two primary sources (i.e. the short story and comparison piece); Standard MLA format; Failure to meet page and/or formatting requirements will result in a minimum of ten points deducted from your essay grade. Failure to include a works cited page will result in thirty points deducted from your essay grade. Failure to use MLA 8th edition will result in ten points deducted from your essay grade.

Examples to read for inspiration:

Constraints: Third Person POV; Inclusion of two primary sources

Grading: English Literary Analysis Rubric


This is not a traditional paper! Your literary studies paper is a “cubing” style essay detailed below. It is not the standard essay format that we have been working with. It’s different, creative, expansive.

Each paragraph in this essay will contain a different rhetorical pattern in support of the essay’s overall purpose: to demonstrate your understanding, analysis, and interpretation of a text. The essay does not have a separate introduction or conclusion because these are inherently included in the sections. Each paragraph should be well-developed, containing opinion, support from the text, and commentary. By combining the six paragraphs, the writer will form a complete essay between two and four pages.

To complete this assignment, first choose a short story or novel to work with; this can be a favorite story or novel or just one that you are intrigued by. Not sure where to start? Check out these short story collections:

These stories are OFF LIMITS. DO NOT USE ANY OF THE FOLLOWING STORIES (if you do, you’ll get a zero):

  • “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin
  • “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

Once your text is chosen, READ IT. You can’t write about your story until you’ve read and understood it. After reading your story, you’ll write six different paragraphs about it. See the details of each paragraph below.

Paragraph 1: Summarize

In your own words, describe what happens or is being discussed in the text (at the literal level). The work’s title, in quotation marks, and the author’s name should appear in one of the first two sentences. Relate the work’s nature and most essential ideas in your own words. Describe what is literally taking place in the story to an outside observer—you are merely telling someone what the story is about. You must use third person for this paragraph and generally will not use direct quotations from the story.

Paragraph 2: Apply

Look for the theme, message, and meaning in the work. Why do you think the author wrote this work? What is he or she is trying to say? What does this story make you think about after several readings? In any case, your paragraph will go into the meaning or interpretation of the story. You may explain several themes, a couple, or even one very strong theme. You must use third person for this paragraph and may or may not directly quote from the story.

Paragraph 3: Analyze

Break down the work in order to examine the parts and relate those parts to the whole (theme or meaning). What words, phrases, or structures does the author use to convey his/her meaning? Identify key words or phrases, especially images or comparisons (metaphors, similes, and other figures of speech) and/or structural techniques. How do these things support the theme, message, or meaning you’ve stated in the previous paragraph? You must use third person and direct quotations in this paragraph.

Paragraph 4: Compare

Find another text (any text in the world—song, poem, film, short story, novel, TV show, etc.) to compare for theme or structure. Draw meaningful parallels—how are the texts similar in treatment of theme/message/meaning? How do they go about getting to this theme/message/meaning? If you can’t find a partner for your story, contact me and I’ll be happy to help you. You must use third person and could use direct quotations from both texts in this paragraph.

Paragraph 5: Personalize

Relate the work’s theme or message to your own life or contemporary life in general. What connections can you make to the work? How is this story relevant to today’s society/people/world? In this paragraph feel free to use first person (I, me, my, etc.) when you refer to yourself and your experiences. You may also find it helpful to use direct quotations in this paragraph, though they are not required.

Paragraph 6: Evaluate

Is this work worth reading? Why or why not? What are the main things that make you recommend this work or not? You are not a reviewer providing quips and quotes but a judge weighing the merits of the piece. This paragraph may include limited direct quotation and can be written in either first or third person.

The Result: Compile these paragraphs in the order presented here and a works cited page in one document. By writing these six paragraphs and then arranging them together with your works cited page, you will have completed a literary analysis of your story! Again, the six separate paragraphs should be submitted together as one paper. Also note: you are only turning in one paper (so you’ll write five paragraphs utilizing only one story, and one paragraph in which you compare that story to another text.


You must work with a short story or novel for your primary text. Only the comparison text can be any type. Essays submitted on topics other than short stories or novels will receive zeros.

You must include MLA style documentation in-text and a works cited page for this project. No secondary sources are required, but you should have two primary sources (i.e. your story and the comparison text).

Follow these steps to proceed with this assignment:

Select your story. Think about things you’ve read before and enjoyed or spend some time exploring the links above. Decide on a story to work with.

Pre-writing/Planning. Read your selected story. Then read it again. After you are very familiar with the story, do a five minute pre-write on your opinions about it. For your pre-write, you may do brainstorming, free-writing, clustering, or the alternate strategy of your choice. Be sure to consider the questions posed in each required paragraph..

Write Your Rough Draft. Compose the rough draft of your argument. Be sure to include your research in your essay and on a works cited page; no outline is required for this essay.

Participate in Peer Review and Revision. After submitting your outline and rough draft, complete the Peer Mark assignment. Once Peer Mark is complete begin revising, editing, and proofreading your essay.

Submit Your Final Draft. Your final draft should be properly formatted and fully documented.


Before you turn in your essay, make sure you can answer “yes” to the following questions.

â–¢ Does your essay have a specific title (other than Essay 3)?

â–¢ Does your essay include all six paragraphs listed above?

â–¢ Does the first paragraph concisely summarize the story?

â–¢ Does each paragraph (2 through 6) contain a topic sentence?

â–¢ Does each paragraph (2 through 6) contain specific evidence from the story to support your opinion?

â–¢ Does each paragraph (2 through 6) contain a reason (i.e. commentary) for your opinion?

â–¢ Is the essay written in third person where specified?

â–¢ Is your essay formatted correctly? (See MLA information on eCampus)

â–¢ Is your essay appropriately documented in MLA 8?

â–¢ Is your essay free of grammatical errors?

â–¢ Is essay at least two full pages before the works cited page?

â–¢ Does your final draft contain only the essay and works cited page?


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