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Writing A Strong Literary Essay

Writing A Strong Literary Essay

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Writing A Strong Literary Essay

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  1. Writing A Strong Literary Essay The Thesis

  2. The Thesis • An essay without a thesis is like a car without a driver…it goes nowhere (and let’s be honest…it crashes and burns) • The thesis is your argument: • The entire essay is about that argument. The thesis is the message of your essay (the bumper sticker); • The thesis needs to answer the question if you have an essay topic. • A simple way to put together a thesis is Subject + Claim/Opinion + 2-3 points of support (how did you come to this conclusion or why should the reader believe you?) • Simple examples (without the support): • People should start eating cockroaches. • Golding argues that humans are naturally happy all the time. • The message of Flowers for Algernon is that mice are the best friend a person can have. • Contrary to popular belief, Spanish art in the Renaissance heavily influenced that of Italy and France.

  3. The Thesis • In a literary essay, your evidence comes from the book. Thus, your thesis must mention the book, the characters or the author. • In Flowers for Algernon, Keyes argues that mice will take over the world. • The message of Mr. Chapman and the Roman Holiday is traveling is one of the best ways to satiate one’s soul. • In SpongebobSquarepants, Patrick is actually less of a friend than someone who holds Spongebob back. • Not: • Girls are better than boys. • Friendship is the most important thing in the world. • Bears are one of the most cuddly animals

  4. The Thesis • In a literary essay, your evidence comes from the book. Thus, your thesis must mention the book, the characters or the author. • In Flowers for Algernon, Keyes argues that mice will take over the world. • The theme of Mr. Chapman and the Roman Holiday is “traveling is one of the best ways to satiate one’s soul.” • In SpongebobSquarepants, Patrick is actually less of a friend than someone who holds Spongebob back. • Not: • In the book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, Mark Bean argues that girls are better than boys. • According to Charlie Gordon, friendship is the most important thing in the world. • Based on the book Bears Are Our Friends, it’s clear that bears are one of earth’s most precious resources.

  5. The Thesis • Stay away from general theses that are really obvious or are, in a sense, almost impossible to “prove”—at least in an 800-word essay: • Humans are always going to change. • There are good and bad parts to every person. • Based on the novel, the reader can see that humans are evil. • Based on the novel, Charlie is amazing. • Don’t use the phrases like “I think” or “In my opinion” or words like “possibly” or “might” in your thesis—they weaken it • I think the theme of Flowers for Algernon is that mice should rule the world. • The theme might possibly be that six-year-olds should rule the world.

  6. The Thesis • Stay away from general theses that are really obvious or are, in a sense, almost impossible to “prove”—at least in an 800-word essay: • Humans are always going to change. • There are good and bad parts to every person. • Based on the novel, the reader can see that humans are evil. • Based on the novel, Charlie is amazing. • Don’t use the phrases like “I think” or “In my opinion” or words like “possibly” or “might” in your thesis—they weaken it • I think the theme of Flowers for Algernon is that mice should rule the world. • The theme might possibly be that six-year-olds should rule the world.

  7. The Thesis • Stay away from general theses that are really obvious or are, in a sense, almost impossible to “prove”—at least in an 800-word essay: • Humans are always going to change. • There are good and bad parts to every person. • Based on the novel, the reader can see that humans are evil. • Based on the novel, Charlie is amazing. • Don’t use the phrases like “I think” or “In my opinion” or words like “possibly” or “might” in your thesis—they weaken it • I think the message of Flowers for Algernon is that mice should rule the world. • The message might possibly be that six-year-olds should rule the world.

  8. The Thesis • Stay away from general theses that are really obvious or are, in a sense, almost impossible to “prove”—at least in an 800-word essay: • Humans are always going to change. • There are good and bad parts to every person. • Based on the novel, the reader can see that humans are evil. • Based on the novel, Charlie is amazing. • Don’t use the phrases like “I think” or “In my opinion” or words like “possibly” or “might” in your thesis—they weaken it • I think The message of Flowers for Algernon is that mice should rule the world. • The message of Lord of the Fliesmight possibly be is that six-year-olds should rule the world.

  9. The Thesis • Don’t say in this essay: “In this essay I’m going to talk about…” • JUST TALK ABOUT IT!!

  10. The Thesis • Which theses are appropriate? Which ones aren’t? • In the book Charlotte’s Web, White argues that Charlotte’s model of friendship is one that everyone should follow. • In the book Charlotte’s Web, Wilbur is a great character. • A lot of people died in World War II. • The effects of World War II are still with us today. • Space is great! • Space needs to be explored further. • Space is a limitless place where anything is possible.

  11. Lion King Outline • Thesis: The theme of The Lion King is “Only by confronting your past can you move on from it.” • One way the movie shows this is by clearly differentiating between those giving good and those giving bad advice. • Mufasa: representing responsibility, always helping others—”you must take your place…” • Rafiki: friends with Mufasa, old, wisdom and tradition: “can either run…” • Timon: “When the world turns its back on you…”; often wrong, shown to be crazy • Scar: “Run away…” evil, Nazi march, murderer • Another way is by demonstrating the change in Simba’s confidence and “happiness” when he finally stops “running” from his past and when he confronts it. • Seems happy, clearly sensitive: gazing at stars; • Yelling at the stars • Smiles before he roars (“Remember…”) • Seems relieved, united…doing the right thing clearly brings prosperity to him and his family (lion cub at end) • In conclusion, the movie repeatedly drives home the point that facing one’s past is the best way to move past it.

  12. Lion King Outline • Thesis: The message of The Lion King is that only by confronting one’s past can one move on from it. • One way the movie shows this is by clearly differentiating between those giving good and those giving bad advice. • Mufasa: representing responsibility, always helping others—”you must take your place…” • Rafiki: friends with Mufasa, old, wisdom and tradition: “can either run…” • Timon: “When the world turns its back on you…”; often wrong, shown to be crazy • Scar: “Run away…” evil, Nazi march, murderer • Another way is by demonstrating the change in Simba’s confidence and “happiness” when he finally stops “running” from his past and when he confronts it. • Seems happy, clearly sensitive: gazing at stars; • Yelling at the stars • Smiles before he roars (“Remember…”) • Seems relieved, united…doing the right thing clearly brings prosperity to him and his family (lion cub at end) • In conclusion, the movie repeatedly drives home the point that facing one’s past is the best way to move past it.

  13. The Thesis • Adding the how/why: • Now that you’re older, a statement is not enough for your thesis. You need to show the how and/or why.In other words, you need 2-3 reasons why the reader should believe you. • Expand these examples: • People should start eating cockroaches. (Why do you think that?) • Golding argues that humans are naturally happy all the time. (How do you know that or how does Golding show that?) • The theme of Speak is that we should have more holidays. (How do you know that or how does Anderson/the book show that?) • Contrary to popular belief, Spanish art in the Renaissance heavily influenced that of Italy and France. (Why do you think that?)

  14. The Thesis • Adding the how/why: • Now that you’re older, a statement is not enough. You need to show the how and/or why. You need 2-3 reasons why the reader should believe you. • Expand these examples: • People should start eating cockroaches because they’re plentiful, they have great nutritional value, and they make people more attractive. • Throughout the novel Golding highlights the symbols of the crab and Jack’s nose, the contrast between the boys and the beast, and the laughter of Simon in order to argue thathumans are naturally happy all the time. • The theme of Speak is that we should have more holidays. This is shown by Melinda’s holiday flashbacks, the symbolism surrounding the apple and the easter eggs, and Melinda’s own thoughts. • By looking at the brush techniques, use of color, and subject matter, one thing is clear: contrary to popular belief, Spanish art in the Renaissance heavily influenced that of Italy and France.

  15. Lion King Outline • Thesis: The message of The Lion King is that only by confronting one’s past can one move on from it. The movie makes this clear by differentiating between characters giving good advice and bad advice, by comparing Simba’s happiness at the end with his sadness in the middle, and through the symbols of fire and the skull. • One way the movie shows this is by clearly differentiating between those giving good and those giving bad advice. • : friends with Mufasa, old, wisdom and tradition: “can either run…” • Timon: “When the world turns its back on you…”; often wrong, shown to be crazy • Scar: “Run away…” evil, Nazi march, murderer • Another way is by demonstrating the change in Simba’s confidence and “happiness” when he finally stops “running” from his past and when he confronts it. • Seems happy, clearly sensitive: gazing at stars; • Yelling at the stars • Smiles before he roars (“Remember…”) • Seems relieved, united…doing the right thing clearly brings prosperity to him and his family (lion cub at end) • In conclusion, the movie repeatedly drives home the point that facing one’s past is the best way to move past it.

  16. Thesis • Your thesis needs to pass these “tests” (ask yourself, does yours?): • Clarity test: If someone reads your thesis, they should know exactly what every one of your paragraphs will be. In other words, they should be able to outline your whole essay. If you have to explain it orally, it’s not clear enough. • Broad test: if 99% of the world agrees with the author’s message, then it’s too broad. • Question test: Does it answer the question—all of them? Does it mention the theme?

  17. Thesis • Clarity Test: Can you outline these essays based on the thesis? • In The Lion King, Disney argues that only by confronting one’s past can he move on from it. The movie makes this clear by differentiating between characters giving good advice and bad advice, by comparing Simba’s happiness at the end with his sadness in the middle, and through the symbols of fire and the skull.

  18. Thesis Thesis: In The Lion King, Disney argues that only by confronting one’s past can he move on from it. The movie makes this clear by differentiating between characters giving good advice and bad advice, by comparing Simba’s happiness at the end with his sadness in the middle, and through the symbols of fire and the skull. • One way the movie shows this is by clearly highlighting which characters are giving good adviceand which are giving bad advice. • Another way Disney stresses this is by showing that Simbais more confident and happier after confronting his past. • Finally, Disney does this through the symbols of the fire and the skull.

  19. Thesis • Clarity Test: Can you outline these essays based on the thesis? • The message of The Hunger Games is that liberty is more important than life itself. Collins shows this by highlighting the misery of District 12, the savagery of the games, and through the symbols of the mockingjay and Katniss’ dress.

  20. Thesis • Clarity Test: Can you outline these essays based on the thesis? • The message of Goldilocks and the Three Bears is that people should always lock their doors. The author makes this clear this through the devolution of Goldilocks, by highlighting the innocence of the three bears,and through the symbols of the porridge and the beds.

  21. Thesis • Clarity Test: Can you outline these essays based on the thesis? • By highlighting Wilbur’s negative attitude toward spiders, the loneliness of Charlotte, and the symbols of the egg sack and Templeton, E.B. White argues that friendship is a waste of time.

  22. Thesis • Broad test: Do you think 99% of the world would agree with these authors’ arguments? • Golding argues in Lord of the Flies that humans are both good and bad. • In Speak, Anderson asserts that girls are superior to boys. • Disney’s The Lion King attempts to convince us that murder is bad. • In “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” Grimm declares that generosity is an important quality. • In “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” Grimm declares that generosity is by far the most important quality one can have.

  23. Writing A Strong Literary Essay Outlining Your Essay/ Writing Effective Topic Sentences

  24. Outlining/Topic Sentences • Activity: • In your groups, sort the strips into a 5-paragraph essay: intro, conclusion, and 3 body paragraphs

  25. Outlining/Topic Sentences Students crying. Mountains of homework. Heaps of unfairness. This is what happens in Mr. Chapman’s class. Mr. Chapman is the worst teacher in the world for many reasons. One reason Mr. Chapman’s the worst teacher is that he locks kids in the closet. For example, one time Justin sneezed without covering his mouth and Mr. Chapman locked him in the closet with no food or water. Another time Antonio dropped his pencil and he was sentenced to three hours in the closet. Finally, when someone mentioned Justin Bieber she got locked in the closet all day. Another reason Mr. Chapman’s the worst teacher is that he gives too much homework. One time, for example, he gave twelve hours of reading in one night. Another time he gave us so many books to read that Vasilios collapsed from all the weight in his backpack. Finally, he makes us write four hundred pages a week in our writer’s notebooks! Lastly, Mr. Chapman’s the worst teacher because he plays favorites with his students. For example, one time he gave Ryan twenty gold cards because he said “bless you,” but he took away all of Daniel’s when he didn’t say “bless you” loud enough. Another time he made Isadora stand on one foot the whole class because she read only 44 minutes, but when Paloma read only 30 minutes he gave her a homework coupon. In conclusion, Mr. Chapman is the worst teach in the world because he throws kids in the closet, he gives way too much homework, and he’s unfair to students. He needs to be fired right away.

  26. Outlining/Topic Sentences Students crying. Mountains of homework. Heaps of unfairness. This is what happens in Mr. Chapman’s class. Mr. Chapman is the worst teacher in the world for many reasons. One reason Mr. Chapman’s the worst teacher is that he locks kids in the closet. For example, one time Justin sneezed without covering his mouth and Mr. Chapman locked him in the closet with no food or water. Another time Antonio dropped his pencil and he was sentenced to three hours in the closet. Finally, when someone mentioned Justin Bieber she got locked in the closet all day. Another reason Mr. Chapman’s the worst teacher is that he gives too much homework. One time, for example, he gave twelve hours of reading in one night. Another time he gave us so many books to read that Vasilios collapsed from all the weight in his backpack. Finally, he makes us write four hundred pages a week in our writer’s notebooks! Lastly, Mr. Chapman’s the worst teacher because he plays favorites with his students. For example, one time he gave Ryan twenty gold cards because he said “bless you,” but he took away all of Daniel’s when he didn’t say “bless you” loud enough. Another time he made Isadora stand on one foot the whole class because she read only 44 minutes, but when Paloma read only 30 minutes he gave her a homework coupon. In conclusion, Mr. Chapman is the worst teach in the world because he throws kids in the closet, he gives way too much homework, and he’s unfair to students. He needs to be fired right away.

  27. Outlining/Topic Sentences • An outline is like a skeleton. Yes, there are other points that are important, but without an essay your essay is likely to look like a blob. • In other words, 5-10 minutes of planning saves time (you don’t have to think about how to organize after you start) and saves your essay from being a disgusting blob. • An outline should contain at the very least your thesis and your topic sentences.

  28. Outlining/Topic Sentences • The topic sentence is like the thesis of your paragraph: • Everything in that paragraph needs to be about that topic, and support that topic • If I say, “One reason the kids go over to Jack is because he instills fear in them,” what will that paragraph be about? What do I need to prove? • If I say, “One way Anderson furthers this theme is through the symbols of trees and mirrors,” what will my paragraph be about? What do I need to prove? • At the same time, your topic sentences must support your thesis! • The topic sentence is the first sentence in your body paragraph 95% of the time.

  29. Outlining/Topic Sentences • Your thesis is“In the novel Charlotte’s Web, Charlotte represents the epitome of friendship.” • Which of these topic sentences support it? • Charlotte also does almost everything Wilbur requests. • In addition, Charlotte is a great writer. • Finally, Charlotte saves Wilbur’s life. • Charlotte asks for very little in return from Wilbur. • Charlotte once sang Wilbur to sleep.

  30. Outlining/Topic Sentences • One of the ways to think of topic sentences is to think about why you believe in your argument/thesis or how the author accomplishes that theme. • How does the author further that theme? or • How do we know this to be true? or • Why do you think that? • How do we know the message of The Lion King is that the past will always be with us? • One way is… • Another way is… • Finally…

  31. Outlining/Topic Sentences • One of the ways to think of topic sentences is to think about why you believe in your argument or how the author accomplishes that theme. • How does the author furthers that theme? or • How do we know this to be true? or • Why do you think that? • How do we know the message of The Lion King is that the past will always be with us? • One way Disney argues this is by showing which characters to trust. • Another way is by highlighting which characters and advice are untrustworthy. • Finally, this message is furthered by the symbols of fire and the skull.

  32. Lion King Outline • Thesis: The message of The Lion King is that only by confronting one’s past can one move on from it. The movie makes this clear by differentiating between characters giving good advice and bad advice, by comparing Simba’s happiness at the end with his sadness in the middle, and through the symbols of fire and the skull. • One way the movie shows this is by clearly differentiating between those giving good and those giving bad advice. • Mufasa: representing responsibility, always helping others—”you must take your place…” • Rafiki: friends with Mufasa, old, wisdom and tradition: “can either run…” • Timon: “When the world turns its back on you…”; often wrong, shown to be crazy • Scar: “Run away…” evil, Nazi march, murderer • Another way is by demonstrating the change in Simba’s confidence and “happiness” when he finally stops “running” from his past and when he confronts it. • Finally, Disney does this through the symbols of the fire and the skull. • Seems happy, clearly sensitive: gazing at stars; • Yelling at the stars • , united…doing the right thing clearly brings prosperity to him and his family (lion cub at end) • In conclusion, the movie repeatedly drives home the point that facing one’s past is the best way to move past it.

  33. Lion King Outline • Thesis: The theme of The Lion King is “Only by confronting your past can you move on from it.” The movie makes this clear by differentiating between characters giving good advice and bad advice, by comparing Simba’s happiness at the end with his sadness in the middle, and through the symbols of fire and the skull. • One way the movie shows this is by clearly highlighting which characters are giving good advice. • The movie also makes clear which characters’ advice is not to be trusted. • Mufasa: representing responsibility, always helping others—”you must take your place…” • Rafiki: friends with Mufasa, old, wisdom and tradition: “can either run…” • Timon: “When the world turns its back on you…”; often wrong, shown to be crazy • Scar: “Run away…” evil, Nazi march, murderer • Another way is by demonstrating the change in Simba’s confidence and “happiness” when he finally stops “running” from his past and when he confronts it. • Finally, Disney does this through the symbols of the fire and the skull. • Seems happy, clearly sensitive: gazing at stars; • Yelling at the stars • Smiles before he roars (“Remember…”) • Seems relieved, united…doing the right thing clearly brings prosperity to him and his family (lion cub at end) • In conclusion, the movie repeatedly drives home the point that facing one’s past is the best way to move past it.

  34. Lion King Outline • Thesis: The theme of The Lion King is “Only by confronting your past can you move on from it.” The movie makes this clear by differentiating between characters giving good advice and bad advice, by comparing Simba’s happiness at the end with his sadness in the middle, and through the symbols of fire and the skull. • One way the movie shows this is by clearly highlighting which characters are giving good advice. • The movie also makes clear which characters’ advice is not to be trusted. • Mufasa: representing responsibility, always helping others—”you must take your place…” • Rafiki: friends with Mufasa, old, wisdom and tradition: “can either run…” • Timon: “When the world turns its back on you…”; often wrong, shown to be crazy • Scar: “Run away…” evil, Nazi march, murderer • Finally, Simba is more confident and happier after confronting his past. • Finally, Disney does this through the symbols of the fire and the skull. • Seems happy, clearly sensitive: gazing at stars; • (“Remember…”) • Seems relieved, united…doing the right thing clearly brings prosperity to him and his family (lion cub at end) • In conclusion, the movie repeatedly drives home the point that facing one’s past is the best way to move past it.

  35. Writing A Strong Literary Essay Adding Clear, Strong Evidence

  36. Outline for a Solid Body Paragraph • Topic Sentence • Evidence/Specific Examples/Quotes • Before and in between the evidence, make sure you give context to the evidence if need be • Link it back to the thesis. • Now that you’ve given me all this evidence, so what? Why does it matter? What does this evidence have to do with the thesis?

  37. Body Paragraphs • This is where you need to prove your case: • Pretend the reader doesn’t know you and they’re saying, “I don’t believe you. Prove it.” • All evidence needs to support your topic sentences • Use quotes when possible (I’d say 1-2 per body paragraph), but make sure you explain the quotes if they’re confusing • You don’t need to use the whole quote!

  38. Evidence • Every one of your paragraphs is an argument. It’s a court case. Ask yourself, what do you need to prove to the jury in this paragraph? • One way Disney shows this is by highlighting that Simba is happier after confronting his past. • In addition, Ralph maintains power through democracy. • Finally, the Charlie of the movie is much more aggressive than the Charlie of the book.

  39. Evidence Your goal is to convince the jury, to prove each one of your paragraphs.

  40. Evidence Ladies and gentleman of the jury…

  41. Evidence This is your thesis. Today I’m going to show you that the message of The Hunger Games is that liberty is more important than life.

  42. Evidence What am I trying to prove here? One way Collins shows this message is by stressing how miserable life is for the people of District 12.

  43. Evidence 3 strong examples later… So what? How does that show the message that liberty’s more important than life? One way Collins shows this is by stressing how miserable life is for the people of District 12. Now I’ve proven that the people of District 12 are miserable.

  44. Connecting back to thesis. Evidence One way Collins shows this is by stressing how miserable life is for the people of District 12. Because Collins paints such a clear picture of their hopeless, painful lives…

  45. Connecting back to thesis. Evidence …the reader can see that sacrificing their liberty to The Capital in exchange for peace wasn’t worth it for District 12—it only made things worse.

  46. Connecting back to thesis. Evidence One way Collins shows this is by stressing how miserable life is for the people of District 12. In other words, without freedom, the citizens suffer a fate that is even worse than death.

  47. Evidence • Don’t summarize the evidence in your body paragraphs: give specific events and evidence • Again, think about a court case. If I were trying to convict someone of murder, I wouldn’t say, “He’s murdered a lot of people” or “She’s been planning to rob the store for a long time,” and leave it at that. I’m going to give all the people he’s murdered; I’m going to give evidence that shows he’s been planning to rob that store. • Not: One way this theme is shown is through all the times Charlie is treated poorly. For example, the people at the bakery bully Charlie a lot. His mom also abused him. • One way this theme is shown is through all the times Charlie is treated poorly. For example, the people at the bakery bully Charlie a lot. At the Halloween party, Joe tricks him into getting drunk and keeps tripping him when he’s dancing. Another example is… His mom also abused him. For example…

  48. Lion King Outline • Thesis: The message of The Lion King is that only by confronting one’s past can one move on from it. The movie makes this clear by differentiating between characters giving good advice and bad advice, by comparing Simba’s happiness at the end with his sadness in the middle, and through the symbols of fire and the skull. • One way the movie shows this is by clearly differentiating between those giving good and those giving bad advice. • Mufasa: representing responsibility, always helping others—”you must take your place…” • Rafiki: friends with Mufasa, old, wisdom and tradition: “can either run…” • Timon: “When the world turns its back on you…”; often wrong, shown to be crazy • Scar: “Run away…” evil, Nazi march, murderer • Another way is by demonstrating the change in Simba’s confidence and “happiness” when he finally stops “running” from his past and when he confronts it. • Seems happy, clearly sensitive: gazing at stars; • Yelling at the stars • Smiles before he roars (“Remember…”) • Seems relieved, united…doing the right thing clearly brings prosperity to him and his family (lion cub at end) • Finally, Disney stresses this through the symbols of the fire and the skull. • In conclusion, the movie repeatedly drives home the point that facing one’s past is the best way to move past it.

  49. What’s wrong here? On the other hand, the movie makes clear which characters are giving bad advice. For example, after murdering Mufasa and placing the blame squarely on Simba, Scar tells his nephew to “’Run away! Run away and never return!’” Similarly, Simba’s friend Timon tells Simba after their first meeting that “when the world turns its back on you, you turn your back on the world.”

  50. What’s wrong here? On the other hand, the movie makes clear which characters are giving bad advice. For example, after murdering Mufasa and placing the blame squarely on Simba, Scar tells his nephew to “’Run away! Run away and never return!’” The reader knows not to believe Scar not just because he’s a murderer, but also because he has a secret, malevolent agenda behind his instructions: to take over the throne. Similarly, Simba’s friend Timon tells Simba after their first meeting that “when the world turns its back on you, you turn your back on the world.”