Good Thesis Statement Hills Like White Elephants

If it fascinated you, chances are you can draw on it to write a fascinating essay. Maybe you were surprised to see a character act in a certain way, or maybe you didn’t understand why the book ended the way it did.Confusing moments in a work of literature are like a loose thread in a sweater: if you pull on it, you can unravel the entire thing.

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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.

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.

Literary analysis involves examining all the parts of a novel, play, short story, or poem—elements such as character, setting, tone, and imagery—and thinking about how the author uses those elements to create certain effects.

A literary essay isn’t a book review: you’re not being asked whether or not you liked a book or whether you’d recommend it to another reader.

If you can find a way to explain a work’s contradictory elements, you’ve got the seeds of a great essay.

At this point, you don’t need to know exactly what you’re going to say about your topic; you just need a place to begin your exploration.

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.

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