Formalist Criticism Example Through the Analysis of Literary Works

This paper as being devised by me is a formalist criticism example towards the thorough analysis of ten pieces of literature wherein after having been read and reread them; I have been able to critically comment upon them on the basis of numerous well established criticisms of which I personally adhered to the formalist criticism approach. These central criticism have been based upon after carefully analyzing five major aspects that are significant in terms of the aesthetic appeal of the literary pieces of art, these themes are namely, physical depictions, historical facts, practical effects, the aesthetics of the literature and the source of inspiration that would have been from the context of the author.

'The Earthquake in Chile' by Heinrich von Kleist

The first piece of literature I grabbed my hands on was ‘The earthquake in Chile’. The earthquake in Chile is a saga depicting how destructive are the powers of nature by the virtue of setting a backdrop in the year of 1647, the year in which the great and devastating Santiago Earthquake unfortunately took away the lives of millions wherein a couple is insanely in love with each other. The author ensured that a parallelism exists in the story and this has been gracefully done by creating an imagery wherein the lovers who were on the verge of dying (irrespective of the earthquake being in existence or not) are somehow saved in the destructive earthquake. On meeting when they tend to talk for hours is what truly creates a beautiful imagery as how they would have felt after literally surviving from the hands of death and then gratefully meeting their lovelies. The analysis as being done from the approach of formalist criticism, it would be of due significance to applaud the author for the concoction of this literary work, as nowhere at any part of the report is the readers interest disrupted owing to existence of too much emphasis being laid on ironical elements of the story and drama being in full swing. The anonymous narrator of the story wherein the idea of two lovers committing a mistake from the perspective of society is seen to be a sin in the eyes of society, while the narrator finds nothing wrong in being in love. Likewise, to illustrate, right from the beginning of the story where the male protagonist is about to hang himself, to turning the plot of how an earthquake approaches, (the entire depiction being done in no time) is again appreciable.

“Death by Landscape”

Man is a social animal and throughout his lifetime he tends to make various relationships I the society and amongst them some are such that are an indispensible part of him. Death by landscape, a saga depicting the bonds that we create throughout our lifetime is the next short story I got my hands on. The short story tends to picturize the fact that how paring ways from someone very close to us could actually be very disturbing and the author herein laments over the incapability of the human beings to actually get over someone very precious to us. The story revolves around the central character Lois, an introvert at heart who is very fond of his friend Lucy. The innocence as displayed in their friendship and the adventures the two of them take together is very well portrayed by the author. However things change when two of them get parted during a climbing trip and Lucy somehow disappears. The story is full of dramatic emotions, inquisitiveness of the audience to find out what is happening next is what truly makes the story a must read. Analyzing it from the formalist approach, the author has managed to live up to the expectations as the sequence of incidents taking place is remarkable.

“To the Ladies” by Lady Mary Chudleigh

The idea of an ideal woman as portrayed by the society is primarily inclusive of looking after her husband, sending children to schools, taking care of her in laws- I short it is confined to the four walls of her house. In an attempt to add fuel to the issue of women empowerment and the unjust being done against them, ‘To the ladies’ is a wonderful short poem, by Lady Mary Chudleigh, wherein she has emphasized on presenting the plight of women with specific references being drawn to marriage. Making the use of various tools of literature like personification, similes and metaphors, the author has very well established the plight of women. From facilitating a comparison of women with servants to display of husbands as gods, the author very well has tried to capture the idea of how unworthy are women treated in the eyes of their male counterparts. Analyzing the context in terms of critical analysis, it can be said that the author has ensured that more and more use of literary devices is adopted, which indeed is vey appreciable and makes the poem all the way interesting .

'The Portrait of a Lady' by Khushwant Singh

One of the finest names in the Indian literature has to be that of Khushwant Singh. His concoction, the portrait of a lady is his tribute to his late grandmother who he loved immeasurably. This short story is oven around the grandmother-grandchild relationship, with his grandmother being the protagonist and the lead character. The author has done a tremendous job in making the use of imagery like situations in the short story pretty often. His portrayal of his grandmother by stating sentences like, ‘her hands continuously moving in inaudible prayers’, ‘she being so old that she couldn’t have been any older’, the use of ‘bedlam chirpings’ (instead of birds) when the grandmother died which is witnessed as a tribute by the birds she used to feed and various other alike phrases just add cherry on top, as these nuances are really depicting how carefully he observed his grandmother along with the reader actually being able to create full fledged scene of these depictions. The story being knit down by his personal experience really touches the readers and I became all the way emotional while approaching the end of the story where his grandmother eventually dies, reflecting on how drawn the reader is into the short story.

Odyssey Book 14 - the Loyal Swineherd

One of the most classic pieces of literature is surely inclusive of Odyssey book 14. That tends to arise in human beings the real essence of being generous and showcasing hospitality to people. The book being a true classic tends to draw the reader into all sorts of emotions which is a sign of a great book. Herein the main protagonist Odysseus is displayed to be the hero of heroes who encompasses the existence of major personalities; from being arrogant of his heroic deeds to being a sagacious leader, this champion tends to discover some of the strangest facts by disguising himself as a beggar and having conversations with people. While reading this literary masterpiece, so personally found the same to be a bit overrated, owing to the fact that the plot of the story was more drawn towards being little monotonous which perhaps was a major consequence of the language being used herein. Some of the sentences and words were difficult to interpret and the use of dictionary perhaps turned out to be a major pre requisite for interpreting the essence of the same. This mainly resulted into the loss of interest while reading the short story.

Lust Over Victory? “Helen Reviews the Champions”

This short poem tends to draw the readers and also makes them aware of the fact that how drawn too much into emotions arrogance, sensuousness and the hunger for pride and honor could actually land up one in devastating situations. Helen Reviews the Champions is inherently based upon the theme of the fact that to be successful it is pretty much important for one and all to possess an adequate amount of control over their feelings and emotions, and here specific reference is being made in terms of the male counterparts; and for depicting this the author deserves appreciation as the imagery created throughout the poem is indeed worth appreciation. The sexuality and sensuousness as displayed in the short poem that compels Paris to leave the battlefield and make out with the utterly gorgeous Helen, and the imagery that is created by the beauty of words and careful nuances makes this short a story one of the must reads. From getting aroused by Helen to their love making in the bed, to the Trojans the author has captured all the nuances in very subtle way. The concoction by the author and the existence of various emotions drawing trough words, with emphasis on the lustful attitude of Paris, symbolizing men makes it a masterpiece. In a nutshell the author by adhering to and laying emphasis on the various elements of literature and literary devices has presented a perfect concoction of this poem.

“Aeneas Visits the Underworld” by Virgil 

The short poem as under the head ‘Aeneas visits the underworld’ is a piece of literature as framed by Virgil and Aeneas visits the underworld is a segment of his volume VI of his book Aeneid. While reading Aeneas visits the underworld it would be no exaggeration that I almost drifted into some other world while reading the text owing to the strong use of imagery as a created by Virgil. The poem tends to encompass within it the existence of numerous elements pertaining to traditions, customs, sacrifices and deities and the presentation of the following of these traditions by Aeneas is worth interesting as the same is not usually found to be ample number of books and short stories and this kept on awakening my interest throughout. Virgil has laid emphasis on maintaining the language quotient of this creation pretty high and hence it may not be comprehensible to all the audiences. However the subtle nuances as displayed throughout the concoction, be it the interactions of Aeneas with the Trojans who lost their lives in Trojan War or the devotions with which she performs the various customs and traditions are all masterpieces and their portrayal through imagery is worth all the applause.

“Wherefore the Worm Universe” by Haruki Murakami

If one is looking for an entire reality based fiction, then wherefore the worm universe is perfect for him/her. A concoction by Haruki Murakami is unlike the ordinary, this short story is likely to keep you estranged in it after reading it. Starting from a very curious statement explaining the synchronization between dreams and reality, the author then and there captured the interests if the readers and I as a reader couldn’t help myself from not reading what lies next in the short story. It is very rare for me to get involved into real life fictions where the storyline is based upon or resembles reality, however as I stated earlier that this novel is unlike the rest, this short story which is woven in a tread like structure with dots connecting dots, is a perfect golden snitch. The realism of the novel along with the fantastical and fictional element created where dreams and reality are almost synchronized is what appeals the most to me. Apart from this, I’d like to congratulate Haruki Murakami for writing such a literature which involves the use of lucid language along with no compromising being done on the essence of the story and its impact.

'The Road Not Taken' by Robert Frost

We are often encountered by dilemmas and situations in which it becomes all the way perplexing for almost all of us to decide which is perhaps the best option out of a number of given alternatives. The human mind is strange indeed. This careful depiction of human mind where one is encountered with numerous situations has been well brought up by none other than Robert Frost in his creation “the road not taken”. The entire short poem is concocted with such thoughtfulness and inquisitiveness being aroused at each subsequent paragraph that I, as a reader, got compelled to think and rethink about the same at multiple times. The poet herein talks about the dilemma he is struck in of travelling through two opposite roads that would lead to different conclusions, unknown by him. This is symbolic of the various choices encountered by man in his daily life where he is to take a decision, which again is very difficult. The poem being written in a narrative contextual framework, helps the readers relate to it exceptionally well because of the realism being presented. It would be no exaggeration to state that the poet has made sure that the inquisitiveness of the poem is maintained throughout right from the beginning and even after till the end, as the author concludes the poem on the note that, “And that has made all the difference” . Here no clue exists that what difference did the road that had less travelers and was chosen by the author made difference in his life. This poem is one of such poems that are likely to leave an indelible imprint on the minds of readers and indulge them all in thoughtfulness for days.

'The Tale of Melon City' by Vikram Seth

After having been read numerous poems and short stories whose theme predominantly associated with sadness and injustice or perhaps intense situations, I wanted to get relaxed and free my mind of all the weight that came as a consequence of my prior readings. Therefore I grabbed my hands on Vikram Seth’s creation ‘The tale of Melon City’. From the name itself one could identify that it is more of a comic al poem and light hearted too as it is evident from the words Melon City. The storyline of the poem being really hilarious is actually identified at the end when a watermelon is made to be the king of a province after the death of its king. The use of literary devices like alliteration makes enhances the poetic appeal of the poem. Irony is another device owing to which the readers would get a smile on their face as a king who proclaimed him to be the fairest amongst the fair, actually turned out to be utterly foolish. The setting of impractical rules like asking a person entering the fort gate who would become the next king, to an insane entering and answering watermelon to be the king and actually making it the king, is utterly hilarious and the reader enjoys reading the poem.


On the basis of the above formalist criticism example story I conclude that the literary poems and short stories as analyzed from the perspective of Formalist criticisms approach have vary less to minimal flaws apparent in them. The entire analyses have been subjective in their essence and have something new to offer which of course deserves all the appreciation to their authors and poets.


  • Davis Larkin. Helen Review The Champions. 2013, p. 5.
  • Haruki Murakami. Wherefore the Worm Universe. 2009.
  • Khushwant Singh. The Portrait Of A Lady. 2007, p. 10
  • LADY MARY CHUDLEIGH. 'To The Ladies By Lady Mary Chudleigh | Poetry Foundation'. Poetry Foundation, 2003
  • Margaret Atwood. Death By Landscape. 2006, p. 8
  • Haruki murakami (2008). Wherefore the Worm Universe. pp.79-83.
  • Odyssey. The Loyal Swineherd. 2005, p. 18.
  • ROBERT FROST. 'The Road Not Taken By Robert Frost | Poetry Foundation'. Poetry Foundation, 2003
  • Vikram Seth. The Tale Of Melon City. 2017, p. 6
  • Virgil. Aeneas Visits The Underworld. 2004, p. 3.
10 October 2022
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