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
…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
…allows you, the writer, to provide your own
understanding of the literary work in a
properly structured format.
HOW IT LOOKS
In order to be complete, your essay
must include the following :
…states the main purpose of the essay
…is often stated in the LAST sentence of
…answers the question:
What will you prove/show through this
essay about the literary work under
…clearly introduces the topic, the literary
work, and the author.
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.
…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
Once a quote is cited, you must provide an
interpretation, not a summary, about how this
quote is relevant to the development of the topic
…is where you develop your ideas about the topic
DOES NOT USE FIRST PERSON
…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?
4. What is my understanding of the topic and the
5. How does the setting affect the development of
6. 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!
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 2 – 4 quotes from the literary work which will
develop/support this topic and establish a connection to
A linking sentence will reinforce what was stated in this
paragraph and connect it to the following argument.
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)
name and page
Quotes must be explored and explained in
order to be useful
This means for every quote you include, you
should include 2-3 lines of explanation. This
will help keep your essay free of summaries
Quotes cannot end paragraphs. They must be
explored for meaning and cannot stand on
The first sentence of the conclusion is a
restatement of your THESIS.
Do not introduce any new information in the
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!
Restates the thesis in a new way
Summarizes the main points of your
argument from each paragraph in a way that
shows they have been proven
Makes final concluding point that ends the
paper with authority
Alfredo, B. Critical Interpretations of To Kill A
Mockingbird. New York: Routledge, 1999.
Lee, H. To Kill A Mockingbird. Philadelphia: Warner
Use MLA format.
Include the literary work on the works cited page .
Use the correct title page format (shown on next
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
English 12, Blc Z
Here is a sample first page of an essay in MLA style:
Last Name 1
Ensure you have completed the following before
you submit your essay for assessment to your
1. Double -spaced your essay
2. Microsoft Times New Roman font size 12
3. MLA format throughout
4. Label each page, including page 1, with page
5. Include a Works Cited page
6. Cited the literary work in the Works Cited page and
referenced it properly throughout
7. Have an introduction, body paragraphs, and a
conclusion that are all connected to your thesis
8. Have not used the first person “I” perspective nor
9. Edited for spelling and language errors (be
careful of “typos”)
10. Stapled the essay in the correct order
11. Spelled the teacher’s name correctly
12. Indented each new paragraph
13. Underlined or italicized all book titles
throughout the essay