Analyzing literature through examples and techniques.

Literature Essay Example

A good literature essay example will support your argument with evidence from the text. This evidence may come in the form of direct quotes, paraphrases, and summaries. It is important not to take this evidence out of context.

This sample literary essay analyzes the theme of disillusionment in John Steinbeck’s novel. This essay would be a great example to use when writing about how a character’s worldview is formed.

Thesis Statement

A good literary essay has a clear thesis statement that outlines the overarching argument to be made in the paper. Oftentimes, the thesis is an interpretation of the literary work or it may draw parallels between some element in the literary text and real-life situations.

A strong thesis statement clearly identifies the subject of the essay, takes a position on the issue that is debatable and makes a claim that is significant. The essay then demonstrates and proves this position throughout the writing with details from the literary work.

For example, a literary essay about Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn might focus on how the novel reveals the American democratic ideals of freedom by contrasting river and shore scenes. This sample English essay from a college tutoring service is a great model for how to develop a thesis statement. It also provides examples of how to use the quotes from the text to demonstrate and support your argument.


A good essay begins with a compelling introduction that grabs attention and brings immediate focus to the point that the essay will prove. This could be through a thought-provoking sentence, captivating statistics, or a relevant quote. A clear thesis statement should be included at the end of the introduction so that each point in the essay supports and relates back to this thesis.

This example high school AP English essay uses forceful commentary to discuss how the character Jay Gatsby represents America’s misguided approach to wealth and success. The author also includes short but significant textual references to support this argument.

This essay example demonstrates a well-organized structure by clearly establishing the literary text being discussed in the introduction, providing background information for this work of literature, and stating a clear thesis that will be proven in the body paragraphs. It also uses clear transitions to make it easy for the reader to move from one topic sentence to the next.

Body Paragraphs

The conclusion and final paragraphs of a literature essay serve to summarize the main points of your argument and restate your thesis. A strong conclusion is a powerful way to convince your reader that you have made an informed and persuasive argument regarding the literary work.

The first sentence of a body paragraph acts as the topic sentence, introducing what your argument will be about. Your supporting sentences should then expand on the topic and support your thesis with empirical data, logical deduction, deliberate persuasion or expert testimony.

It is important to use transitions between your support sentences, allowing the reader to follow your logic as you move from one point to the next. Also, your supporting sentences should include evidence that backs up your claim, including direct quotes, paraphrased facts and narratives.


After a lot of hard work, it’s finally time to write the final sentences in your essay. Your conclusion should restate your thesis statement and broaden the scope of your argument. This is a delicate balance; it’s easy to end up doing nothing more than simple summary and restatement.

A good conclusion should also make your audience want to think about the topic in broader ways. For example, it might prompt them to consider the significance of your argument or its implications in their own lives.

Eagleton explains that a definition of literature is elusive because people have different perspectives on what constitutes “literature.” For instance, one person might consider a novel to be “literature” while another might think it’s just plain writing.

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