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Academic Writing Guide: Literary Essays

Literary essays discuss the main ideas from a literary text. However, it is not a mere re-statement of a text; it is an examination of how a text’s author has presented ideas concerning a particular narrative. As a result, the literary essay should display your grasp of a text’s style and perspective in order to present your analysis of its significance to real-life scenarios. A literary essay should contain a thesis statement in the introduction section. As with other types of academic essays, you should spend a little bit of time on this statement because it will form the basis for the rest of the paper’s arguments. In the case of a literary essay, the introduction must state the text you intend to discuss. For example, if you write a literary essay about a short story, you should explicitly state the author’s names and the title of the text (like, Toni Morrison’s Paradise). However, why would you determine the thesis statement while you may already have a supplied topic? Why would you not borrow the statement from the topic instead?

How to relate the essay’s topic to the thesis statement

First, an essay’s topic only serves to inform the reader of a text’s general content. Second, it is poor practice to write a wordy topic. It should be short and precise. Therefore, it is up to the introduction section to explain the essay’s intentions and state the literary text that it will examine. However, the essay’s primary source (the text it examines) is usually a book, and in the least a short story. Considering that the essay may be at most 2,000 words in length, you should therefore only state the major ideas that run through the primary source. The thesis statement will therefore indicate your judgment on how well the author communicated a message or tackled an issue in the primary source. The statement should go on and indicate the specific argument that the rest of the paper will examine.

How to formulate a thesis statement

Since the thesis is the essay’s base point, it should be interesting, straightforward, and definite. A well thought out thesis should display your command of the literary text. When you formulate it properly, it indicates that you understand what the primary author presented in the text and are now ready to offer your analysis. Remember, your thesis may be weak or strong. You should always aim to offer strong theses. A weak thesis describes your interpretation of the primary text superficially and generally. For example, concerning Morrison’s Paradise, you may state the author-examined relationships in a community. While this is true, it is too general as a thesis to show you understand what the author tackled in his work. What you should aim for is a concise description of the main issues in the primary text. For example, state that your essay will examine the propagation of racism in communities as regards to how the protagonists in Morrison’s Paradise first experienced it when they approached a community of fair-skinned individuals, but they also did the same to other individuals when they established their all-black community.

In conclusion, essays present your line of reasoning concerning a subject. Therefore, your introduction is one of the most crucial sections as it states the essay’s intentions and presents the thesis that the rest of the text will discuss.


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