Critical Analysis Essay

Assignment Goal:  The purpose of this assignment is to learn how to read a text closely.  Any serious writing begins with close reading.  Before you begin on the critical analysis essay, you should read “How to Do a Close Reading” located in Files.

If you didn’t read all of Beowulf in Module One, you should read the entire poem closely before beginning this assignment.


Identify one symbol in the passage below.  If you are not familiar with symbolism, you should look it up in a handbook of literary terms.  Note that a symbol is anything of concrete value that can be used to represent an abstract idea.  After selecting a symbol, you should use it to establish a claim (thesis) that will enable you to do a focused interpretation (analysis) of Beowulf.   The aim of your essay is to enrich an understanding of Beowulf as an epic poem.  Your thesis statement (claim), therefore, should serve as an organizing principle for the essay.

Essay length:  At least 3 pages


 His parting from life

hardly seemed sad to any man

who examined the trail of that inglorious one,

how he went on his weary way,

defeated by force, to a pool of sea monsters,

doomed, put to flight, and left a fatal trail.

The water was welling with blood there–

the terrible swirling waves, all mingled together

with hot gore, heaved with the blood of battle,

concealed that doomed one when deprived of joys,

he laid down his life in his lair in the fen,

his heathen soul–and Hell took him” (Beowulf, lines 841-852).

Use your chosen symbol as a starting point for a close-reading analysis of Beowulf.  You must resist the temptation to use secondary sources.  In other words, you cannot use secondary sources.  This is a close-reading analysis.  Highlight your thesis in the introductory paragraph and highlight all supporting quotes in the body paragraphs.   No block quotes; short quotes only.

Grading Rubric

Your critical analysis should:

_____ Provide a suitable and inviting title;

____ Perform insightful syntheses, unveiling connotative value of chosen symbol;

____ Constructs body paragraphs that enhance the thesis (begin each paragraph with a topic sentence);

____ Draw and analyze specific examples from the text to validate general statements (include and highlight one quote–not more than a line– in each paragraph);

____ Uses attributive phrases to introduce quoted lines (provide line number in parenthesis);

_____ Uses concise and grammatically correct sentences;

_____Adhere to MLA protocol.

Format: You should double-space, use 1-inch margins, and Times New Roman 12 point font. Save your file as a .doc or .docx or as RTF file type.

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