The Literary Essay. Defining the Literary Essay. T he literary essay: a nalyzes literary works; e mploys an objective, scholarly tone; u ses formal, standard Canadian English; i s written in the present narrative tense; u ses the 3 rd person objective narrative. Essay Structure.
The literary essay:
Like all essays, the literary essay consists of:
1. an introductory paragraph
2. body paragraph(s)
3. a concluding paragraph
The introductory paragraph consists of compulsory and optional components.
“William Shakespeare is the greatest playwright in the history of the English language.” Unless your essay intends to prove this statement, it is off- topic.
Ambition is often perceived as an admirable trait; however, ambition without any regard for moral considerations can lead to destructive consequences.
In introducing the topic, the author’s full name, as well as the title of the work being analyzed must be included. This information must be naturally integrated.
For example: William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, explores the nature of uncontrolled ambition through the choices made by the main protagonist Macbeth.
Note that the topic, as well as the author’s full name and the title of the work are all included in this example.
The thesis statement in a literary essay states what you intend to prove about the topic in the Body paragraphs of the essay.
The thesis statement must answer the “so what” question. If it does not, your thesis lacks adequate substance.
The thesis statement may require a clarifying statement in order to adequately answer the “so what” question.
The destructive potential of Macbeth’s uncontrolled ambition is clearly revealed through his tragic downfall.
Ambition is often perceived as an admirable trait; however, ambition without any regard for moral considerations can lead to destructive consequences (lead-in). William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, explores the nature of uncontrolled ambition through the choices made by the main protagonist Macbeth (topic). The destructive potential of Macbeth’s uncontrolled ambition is clearly revealed through his tragic downfall (thesis).
A 3-point thesis is generally only effective when the three points you wish to make are easily defined such as in a character analysis essay. However, even a character analysis essay, requires an overall assessment of a character. Stating the character traits is an incomplete thesis.
An umbrella thesis states the argument you intend to prove in a comprehensive statement that your essay will conclusively prove by the last Body paragraph. It may require a clarifying statement to fully answer the “so what” question.
Nick Carraway’s objectivity, sense of responsibility and moral code, make him a trustworthy judge of the character of Jay Gatsby.
Atticus Finch’s work ethic, caring nature and integrity make him an ideal role model for his children.
Free will rather than fate leads to the tragic deaths of
Romeo and Juliet.
Macbeth’s character fits the definition of the
Shakespearean tragic hero.
People who have a good moral code are superior judges of character. X
This is an example of a generalized topic sentence. You are not in a position to judge people in general
Nick Carraway’s strong moral code makes him a more reliable judge of Gatsby’s character. √
This is an example of a specific topic sentence. You are just analyzing the literature.
Teenagers act impulsively in the passion of first love. X
This is an example of a generalized topic sentence. You are not an expert on adolescent love.
Romeo acts impulsively when he falls in love at first sight with Juliet. √
This is an example of a specific topic sentence. You are just analyzing how Romeo acts in the play.
A Body Paragraph may end with a concluding sentence that reinforces the topic sentence in a “fresh” way.