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The Literary Essay is an insightful, critical interpretation of a literary work.

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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

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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.
…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


…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


…serves to PROVE your thesis


  • 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 howthis 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?

What is my understanding of the topic and the literary work?
  • How does the setting affect the development of the topic?
  • 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

1st sentence: General overview of the


2nd & 3rd 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







Quotes of four lines or less can be included in the body of your essay using quotation marks


“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.
Ensure you have completed the following before you submit your essay for assessment to your teacher:
  • Double spaced your essay
  • Microsoft Sans Serif , Verdana or Calibri, font size 12
  • MLA format throughout
  • Labeled each page, including page 1, with your last name and page number
Included a Works Consulted page
  • Cited the literary work in the works cited page and referenced it properly throughout
  • Have introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion
  • Clearly stated thesis
Edited for spelling and language errors (be careful of “typos”)
  • Stapled the essay in the correct order
  • Spelled the teacher’s name correctly
  • Indented each new paragraph 5 spaces to show its beginning
  • Underlined all book titles throughout the essay