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Write in the present tense. EXAMPLE: In Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," the townspeople visit Emily Grierson's house because it smells bad. NOT: In Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," the townspeople visited Emily Grierson's house because it smelled bad. Normally, keep yourself out of your analysis; in other words, use the third person (no I or you).
Examples of Point of View (person)
FIRST PERSON: I believe that the narrator in "Sonny's Blues" is a dynamic character because I read many details about the changes in his attitude toward and relationship with Sonny. THIRD PERSON: The narrator in "Sonny's Blues" is a dynamic character who changes his attitude toward and relationship with Sonny as the story progresses. SECOND PERSON: At the end of "Everyday Use," Mama realizes that Maggie is like her but has not received the attention you should give your daughter to help her attain self-esteem. THIRD PERSON: At the end of "Everyday Use," Mama realizes that Maggie is like her but has not received enough attention to build self-esteem.
The introduction to your literary analysis essay should try to arouse interest in your reader. To bring immediate focus to your subject, you may want to use a quotation, a provocative question, a personal anecdote, a startling statement, or a combination of these. You may also want to include background information relevant to your thesis and necessary for the reader to understand the position you are taking. In addition, you need to include the title of the work of literature and name of the author. The following are satisfactory introductory paragraphs which include appropriate thesis statements:
What would you expect to be the personality of a man who has his wife sent away to a convent (or perhaps has had her murdered) because she took too much pleasure in the sunset and in a compliment paid to her by another man? It is just such a man ± a Renaissance duke -- that Robert Browning portrays in his poem ³My Last Duchess.´ Through what he says about himself, through his actions, and through his interpretation of earlier incidents, the Duke reveals the arrogance, jealousy, and materialism that are his most conspicuous traits.
The setting of John Updike¶s story ³A & P´ is crucial to our understanding of Sammy¶s decision to quit his job. Even though Sammy knows that his quitting will make life more difficult for him, he instinctively insists upon rejecting what the A & P represents in the story. When he rings up a ³No Sale´ and ³saunter[s]´ out of the store, Sammy leaves behind not only a job but the rigid state of mind associated with the A & P. Although Sammy is the central character in the story and we learn much about him, Updike seems to invest as much effort in describing the setting as he does Sammy. The title, after all, is not ³Youthful Rebellion´ or ³Sammy Quits´ but ³A & P.´ In fact, the setting is the antagonist of the story and plays a role that is as important as Sammy¶s.
Include a clear thesis statement which addresses something meaningful about the literature, often about the theme. The thesis statement tells your reader what to expect: it is a restricted, precisely worded declarative sentence that states the purpose of your essay -- the point you are trying to make. Without a carefully conceived thesis, an essay has no chance of success.
What to do in the body of the paper« Well, avoid summarizing the plot for one!
(i.e., retelling the story literally). Instead analyze (form a thesis about and explain) the story in literary terms. Example of what not to do« PLOT SUMMARY: In Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," the mad narrator explains in detail how he kills the old man, who screams as he dies. After being alerted by a neighbor, the police arrive, and the madman gives them a tour through the house, finally halting in the old man's bedroom, where he has buried the man beneath the floor planks under the bed. As he is talking, the narrator hears what he thinks is the old man's heart beating loudly, and he is driven to confess the murder.
This is what you want to do«
ANALYSIS: Though the narrator claims he is not mad, the reader realizes that the narrator in "The Telltale Heart" is unreliable and lies about his sanity. For example, the mad narrator says he can hear "all things in the heaven and in the earth." Sane people cannot. He also lies to the police when he tells them that the shriek they hear occurs in his dream. Though sane people do lie, most do not meticulously plan murders, lie to the police, and then confess without prompting. Finally, the madman is so plagued with guilt that he hears his own conscience in the form of the old man's heart beating loudly. Dead hearts do not beat, nor do sane people confuse their consciences with the sounds of external objects.
Use Literary Terms to your advantage
Use literary terms to discuss your points (i.e., character, theme, setting, rhyme, point of view, alliteration, symbols, imagery, figurative language, protagonist, and so forth).
NON-LITERARY TERMS: To show that women are important, Adrienne Rich writes about Aunt Jennifer and the tigers that she creates in her needlework. LITERARY TERMS: The poem "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers" contains vivid images and symbols which reveal a feminist perspective.
Support your points with many quotations and paraphrases, but write the majority of your paper in your own words with your own ideas.
Since you have a research element, too«
When writing a research paper that includes literary criticism, make sure that you form your own opinion rather than merely restate those of the critics. You may, however, use the critics' views to support yours.
One final note on the body paragraphs«
The substance of each of your developmental paragraphs (the body of your essay) will be the explanations, summaries, paraphrases, specific details, and direct quotations you need to support and develop the more general statement you have made in your topic sentence. The following is the first developmental paragraph after one of the example introductory paragraphs. TOPIC SENTENCE«EXPLANATIONS« AND TEXTUAL EVIDENCE«TRANSITIONS (that is the crux of it)
Example body paragraph«
Sammy's descriptions of the A & P present a setting that is ugly, monotonous, and rigidly regulated. We can identify with the uniformity Sammy describes because we have all been in chain stores. The fluorescent light is as blandly cool as the "checkerboard green-and-cream rubber tile floor" (486). The "usual traffic in the store moves in one direction (except for the swim suited girls, who move against it), and everything is neatly organized and categorized in tidy aisles. The dehumanizing routine of this environment is suggested by Sammy's offhand references to the typical shoppers as "sheep,³ "house slaves," and "pigs." These regular customers seem to walk through the store in a stupor; as Sammy tells us, not even dynamite could move them out of their routine (485). This paragraph is a strong one because it is developed through the use of quotations, summary, details, and explanation to support the topic sentence. Notice how it relates back to the thesis statement.
Be sure your conclusion creates a satisfactory end to your essay and sends the reader away with a final point that you are making which relates back to your thesis, but reiterates your own original idea about the work. Cite prose, poetry, drama, critics, and any other sources used according to specialized MLA standards. (See the current edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.) You can also use OWL (Purdue¶s online writing lab² a great tool!)
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