A thesis is a claim about a work of literature that needs to be supported by evidence and arguments.
The thesis statement is the heart of the literary essay, and the bulk of your paper will be spent trying to prove this claim.
” “Why do pigs keep showing up in Lord of the Flies ? ” “How does Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter remind me of my sister?
” Once you know what question you want to answer, it’s time to scour the book for things that will help you answer the question.
Ask yourself why the author chose to write about that character or scene the way he or she did and you might tap into some important insights about the work as a whole. Is there a phrase that the main character uses constantly or an image that repeats throughout the book?
If you can figure out how that pattern weaves through the work and what the significance of that pattern is, you’ve almost got your entire essay mapped out. Great works of literature are complex; great literary essays recognize and explain those complexities.
When you read a work of literature in an English class, however, you’re being asked to read in a special way: you’re being asked to perform literary analysis.
To analyze something means to break it down into smaller parts and then examine how those parts work, both individually and together.
You can help direct your reading and brainstorming by formulating your topic as a question, which you’ll then try to answer in your essay.
The best questions invite critical debates and discussions, not just a rehashing of the summary.