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The Literary Essay is an insightful, critical interpretation of a literary work. It is not a summary of plot, character or other elements of fiction in any given literary work.
…you provide your own formal interpretation and/or opinion of the topic …you use the literary work to prove or substantiate your understanding of the topic
…try to prove the plot – we know how the series of events unfolded because we read the book …need to prove that the characters, setting, or themes existed in the literary work
…provide an interpretation of the plot, setting, character, conflict, and themes as they relate to the topic you are discussing …develop elements that will prove your argument
…allows you, the writer, to provide your own understanding of the literary work in a properly structured format.
In order to be complete, your essay must include the following :
…clearly introduces the topic, the literary work, and the author. Example: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee presents prejudice and discrimination of black people. The introduction allows you to give the reader the clear and specific direction of your essay.
…states the main purpose of the essay …is often stated in the LAST sentence of your introduction …answers the question: What will you prove/show through this essay about the literary work under discussion?
…is divided into paragraphs …is composed of paragraphs which begin with a topic sentence that clearly introduces the topic in the paragraph and end with linking sentences that introduce the next paragraph
…serves to PROVE your thesis NOTE: In order to prove your thesis, you must develop and expand on the topic using examples and citations (quotes) from the literary work to substantiate your statements Once a quote is cited, you must provide an interpretation, not a summary, about how this quote is relevant to the development of the topic and thesis
…is where you develop your ideas about the topic …is where you provide your own ideas by answering the following questions: 1. What is the topic? How is the topic relevant? 2. How does the topic relate to the literary work? 3. How does topic affect the development of the literary work as a whole?
4. What is my understanding of the topic and the literary work? 5. How does the setting affect the development of the topic? 6. How do the characters assist in the development of the topic? You DO NOT, however, write your essay in a “question & answer” format. It must flow like the literary work itself.
Use the questions only as a GUIDE. They will help you to interpret instead of summarizing!
The first sentence of the conclusion is a restatement of your THESIS. Do not introduce any new information in the conclusion. Restate your most important points as a means of bringing your argument to a close. The conclusion is your last chance to prove your opinion to the reader!
Introduction : Paragraph One 1 st sentence: General overview of the topic 2 nd & 3 rd sentences: Introduction of the author and the literary work Additional sentences: Description and/or development of the literary work as it pertains the topic. It’s where you introduce your argument. Final sentence: Restatement of the thesis.
Paragraph 2 – Development of first argument Topic Sentence: Introduces only the argument in this paragraph. Development consists of ideas which support the topic sentence and thesis Choose 1 – 2 quotes from the literary work which will develop/support this topic and establish a connection to topic/thesis A linking sentence will reinforce what was stated in this paragraph and connect it to the following argument.
Paragraph 3 – Development of second argument Paragraph 4 – Development of third argument
Restates the thesis Summarizes the main points of your argument from each paragraph Makes final concluding point
HOW IT LOOKS INTRODUCTION BODY CONCLUSION ARGUMENT 1 ARGUMENT 2 ARGUMENT 3
Quotes of four lines or less can be included in the body of your essay using quotation marks Example: “He stood there until nightfall, and I waited for him. When we went in the house I saw he had been crying; his face was dirty.” (Lee 63) Author’s last name and page reference
For citations that are MORE than 4 lines long, centre and single space the quote as shown below: For reasons unfathomable to the most experienced prophets in Maycomb County, autumn turned to winter that year. We had two weeks of the coldest weather since 1885 (Lee 63) Indent 10 spaces
Alfredo, B. Critical Interpretations of To Kill A Mockingbird. New York: Routledge, 1999. Lee, H. To Kill A Mockingbird. Philadelphia: Warner Books, 1960. Use MLA format. Include the literary work in the works consulted list.
Do not make a title page for your paper unless specifically requested. In the upper left-hand corner of the first page, list your name, your instructor's name, the course, and the date. Be sure to use double-spaced text. Double space again and center the title. Don't underline your title or put it in quotation marks. Double space between the title and the first line of the text.
Here is a sample first page of an essay in MLA style:
Ensure you have completed the following before you submit your essay for assessment to your teacher: 1. Double spaced your essay 2. Microsoft Sans Serif, Verdana or Calibri, font size 12 3. MLA format throughout 4. Labeled each page, including page 1, with your last name and page number
5. Included a Works Consulted page 6. Cited the literary work in the works cited page and referenced it properly throughout 7. Have introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion 8. Clearly stated thesis
9. Edited for spelling and language errors (be careful of “typos”) 10. Stapled the essay in the correct order 11. Spelled the teacher’s name correctly 12. Indented each new paragraph 5 spaces to show its beginning 13. Underlined all book titles throughout the essay
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