Introduction to Literary Analysis

Author: Jill Torrey Emmons
Editor: Scott McDaniel

Time: 1 class period
25 minutes
Materials: Copies of “A Daring Escape” excerpt from The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger, related articles on waves, film clip from “The Perfect Storm”, TV/VCR


Students will begin to explore the ways in which authors use specific literary devices to create interesting and realistic texts. This lesson examines both non-fiction and fiction writing to analyze the techniques authors use to create texts. We begin by exploring the “basic five” literary elements of plot, setting, characterization, mood, and point of view.

Purpose – This lesson will get students engaged in the topic of literary analysis with high-interest literature as the centerpiece of the lesson.

Students will be able to:
1. Identify basic literary terms in non-fiction writing.
2. Describe the affects of literary technique on the reader.

National English Education Standard
Standard 3: Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experiences, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, and graphics).

Standard 6: Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and non-print texts.

Teacher Background
The instructor needs to be aware of the various literary techniques which authors use in the crafting of both fiction and non-fiction. The focus of this lesson will be on the following terms: simile, diction, plot, setting, characterization, and mood.

Related and Resource Websites
Literary Terms http://www.virtualsalt.com/litterms.htm
Rogue Waves http://www.nswseakayaker.asn.au/mag/47/roguewaves.html
Waves Tracked by Satellite http://web.archive.org/web/20041030123915/http://www.rednova.com/news/stories/1/2004/07/22/story003.html
The Perfect Storm http://www.wwnorton.com/catalog/fall00/005032.htm




1. Before class begins, have copies of the two articles on rogue waves (you may present these articles in their entirety, or you may use only excerpts). Hand out the articles to students as they come in the classroom, and have them read the articles to gather background knowledge on the subject for today. Allow the class about 10 minutes to review the articles.

2. Ask students the following questions concerning their reading:

What are these articles about?
How would you define a “rogue” wave?
Where do these waves occur?
What has happened to ships that have encountered these waves?

Allow students to discuss their newly acquired information about rogue waves for a few minutes.

3.Ask the class to define the style of writing of these two articles. Some responses may be “factual”, “scientific”, and “non-fiction”. Ask the class what kind of techniques these authors used to write these articles. Some may respond that the authors had to research their topics and find accurate data and history. Ask the class if they found these articles interesting. What makes them so? Discuss and point out uses of powerful word choice (diction) and similes.

4. Have the TV/VCR set up for the class to view a short clip from the movie “The Perfect Storm.” The section you want the students to view is about an hour into the film which depicts the same scene in the book excerpt students will read.

5. After watching the clip, ask the students what just happened in the scene (identify this as the plot). Ask the class to describe where the scene takes place (identify this as the setting). Have the students describe the actions of the characters (identify this as characterization). Ask how they felt while watching the clip (identify this as the mood).

6. Explain to the class that these same techniques which are used in a film to create excitement and interest are used in writing for the same effect.

7.Handout copies of the excerpt from The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger, which gives a hair-raising account of the coast guard pilots who were forced to abandon their rescue helicopter off the coast of Maine during a terrible storm. Instruct the class to read over the account and answer the following questions:

  • What happens in this account? (plot)
  • Where does this event take place? (setting)
  • Who are the people involved and how do they behave? (characterization)
  • How does the story make you feel? (mood)

Have the class identify the following terms: plot, setting, characterization, and mood.

Students may finish reading the excerpt from The Perfect Storm for homework if class time runs short.

Embedded Assessment
Student responses to the four above questions may be evaluated for completion of lesson objective.


PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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