Essay #3: EWRT 1C: Response to the Novel
To Lean to Write a Clear and Cohesive Response to Literature using multiple strategies and skills
To Use Rhetorical Strategies: Analysis, Synthesis, Argument, Cause and Effect, Compare and Contrast
To Learn Critical Thinking Skills
To Learn MLA Documentation Style: Integrating quotations; Works Cited
The Writing Assignment
In a thesis driven essay of 4-7 pages, analyze one or more aspects of Elie Wiesel’s Night, Cormac
McCarthy’s Outer Dark, or Emma Donoghue’s Room. Consider using one extrinsic theoretical lens
(Feminist, Psychoanalytic, or Trauma theories), we have practiced this quarter to complicate your
argument. Aim to convince readers that your interpretation adds to the conversation among those who
read stories and write about them. Back up your analysis with reasons and support from the story. Use the
critical strategies or lenses that we have practiced this quarter.
Choose your focal point
• the author’s style;
• the author’s purpose in writing this particular work;
• the characterization;
• the symbolism used by the author;
• the figurative devices used by the author to tell the story and to bring out its deeper meaning:
simile, metaphor, alliteration, hyperbole, and so forth;
• A critical approach through theory.
• Something else?
In the particular area that you have chosen to be your focal point, you must ask certain questions:
• What is the major tension in the story?
• Are there weaknesses or strengths in the author’s treatment of these issues?
• Is there clarity or is it lacking?
• Does it bring enlightenment about similar issues today?
• Will a critical lens help me understand this story? (see questions asked by different critics).
• What do critics say about this text?
By asking such questions and doing whatever research is necessary to get the answers, you will be able to
develop a critical response to literature. Obviously, you can do this only if you have read the work with
attention to its detail and as you have grasped its message.
Formulate your Thesis
A thesis statement is a sentence (or sentences) that expresses the main ideas of your paper and answers
the question or questions posed by your paper. It is the place where you are the most specific about what
you will discuss in the paper, how you will organize the paper, and what significance your topic has (your
argument). You must have a specific, detailed thesis statement that reveals your perspective, and, like
any good argument, your perspective must be one that is debatable.
Generally, a thesis statement appears at the end of the introduction to an essay, so that readers will have a
clear idea of what to expect as they read. As you write and revise your paper, it's okay to change your
thesis statement -- sometimes you don't discover what you really want to say about a topic until you've
started (or finished) writing! Just make sure that your "final" thesis statement accurately shows what will
happen in your paper.
Some questions to help you formulate your thesis in a literary analysis paper:
• What is my claim or assertion?
• What are the reasons I have to support my claim or assertion?
• In what order should I present my reasons?
Write the Introduction
The introduction is where your reader will formulate their first impression of your paper. The introduction should
be interesting, provide enough information to tantalize your reader, luring them into reading further. It is not always
best to write the introduction first. After you have composed your paper, you will be more apt to write an
introduction that is interesting and focused.
A few ways to begin your paper:
• Begin with a quotation. Just make sure you explain its relevance
• Begin with an acknowledgment of an opinion opposite to the one you plan to take
• Begin with a very short narrative or anecdote that has a direct bearing on your paper
• Begin with an interesting fact
• Begin with a definition or explanation of a term relevant to your paper
• Begin with irony or paradox
• Begin with an analogy. Make sure it's original but not too far-fetched
• Begin with a scene or lines from the text you are analyzing.
Compose the body
The body of your essay will be where you present most of your analysis. Traditionally, this section consists of a
form of analysis of the text called close reading. Close reading is essential regardless of your extrinsic lens. We
close read a text in order to prove that it means what we say it does. As you proceed to the body paragraphs,
you develop your critique using the points that will support your argument. If you have four major points
that make up your critique, you should devote at least one paragraph to each one; in many cases making
your point will require multiple paragraphs. Provide supporting evidence for each claim that you make. In
this way, you prove your thesis.
Wrap it up
The conclusion is a good place to not only sum up the points made in the paper but to suggest the further
implications of your argument. You do not want to simply reiterate the points you have made in your introduction,
thesis, or body paragraphs. Instead, use the analyses that you have already presented to ask questions, or suggest the
possible next logical step in the argument. You can use the conclusion to draw connections between your chosen
text and its genre and historical or cultural contexts. You want to make sure that the claims you make in the
conclusion are not too far-fetched or wildly out of step with the rest of your paper. The conclusion should be the
final step in the progression of your argument.
Due Dates: See Syllabus
• Submission Requirements: Please submit an electronic copy to
• Format Requirement: MLA-style formatting and citations
• Length: Your finished text should be between four and seven pages, excluding the Works Cited
• Research Requirements: 3-5 secondary sources are required for this essay.
Works Cited Page
A Works Cited page names all of the sources that were used in an essay or research paper; it credits the
source or sources for the information you present, evaluate, analyze, and synthesize to support your
thesis. A Works Cited page also serves as a reference to the sources that were used so that a reader or
writer can quickly refer to the original text. The Works Cited page for this research project will include
the poem you are writing about. If you use other sources, including other primary or secondary sources
from class, please list those too.
Expected Student Learning Outcomes: This assignment can teach students to do the following
• Emphasize invention as part of the writing process
• Read critically
• Analyze the language of a text
• Use textual evidence to support ideas
• Sharpen their receptivity to language, heightening their own writing style
• Become more accepting and appreciative of complexity, subtlety, and ambiguity in
• literature and in other forms of art and discourse
• Practice writing and organizing an essay around a central thesis
• Gain insight into the ways writers use language and readers interpret meaning from it
• Write to influence readers and shape their opinions
Previously Learned Skills Required to Complete this Assignment
ü The ability to summarize sources
ü The ability to use multiple rhetorical strategies: Narration, Description, Exemplification
ü An awareness of plagiarism issues
ü The ability to write grammatically correct, clear sentences.
ü The ability to write a clear and concise thesis.
ü The ability to brainstorm material for an essay.
ü The ability to organize an essay
Ø As you (re)read the text, keep in mind the prompt and highlight specific words, lines, or images
that may support your argument.
Ø Write a thesis that helps readers understand both your argument and your reasoning.
Ø Include textual examples that illustrate your points.
Ø Avoid information that is not intrinsic to the piece: That is make sure it is “in the text.”
Ø Avoid telling the reader that something is “interesting,” or “exciting”; instead create images or
use examples that show it.
Ø Come to my office if you are unsure, confused, or behind.
Traps to Avoid:
Ø Choosing a topic that you do not understand or one not on the list that you have not discussed
Ø Failing to assert a clear and strong argument.
Ø Seeking to present the subject from memory or hearsay.
Ø Failing to support the argument with evidence from appropriate sources.
Citing Wikipedia (or other non-academic or unreliable sources) as a source for your paper.