The lens paper requires that you find a
strong quote (not from the book) and use it
to analyze your novel. I have a long list of
quotes available under Class Documents as
Writing the
Critical Lens Essay
Revised from the
New York State English Regents Exam:
Session II, Part B (Task 4)
Example Critical Lens:
“The real hero is always a
hero by mistake…”
--Umberto Eco
Travels in Hyperreality, 1986
Critical Lens—Your Guidelines
Provide a valid interpretation of the quote
 Clearly establish criteria for analysis
 Indicate whether you agree or disagree
 Identify how the novel fits the
ideas/thematic connection
 Use specific and appropriate literary
elements for analysis
 Organize your ideas clearly
 Specify titles, authors and details
Introduce and state the quote
 Interpret the quote fully and in your own
words—what does this quote mean?
 Show agreement or disagreement (no
need to use the word I…avoid all personal
 State thesis or stance (you will use all
support to prove this statement)
Introduction (example)
Umberto Eco once said, “The real hero is
always a hero by mistake.” This means that
sometimes people or characters are faced with
tough choices that are unexpected. In these times
of tough choices, heroes can arise. This quote is
shown to be true through the novel, Of Mice and
Men by John Steinbeck, because George is forced
into difficult situations where he ultimately has to
make “heroic” choices which ultimately leads the
reader to a deeper understanding that a hero is the
one who makes the difficult choice in an impossible
Body Paragraphs
Include a topic sentence to introduce the
first main point
 Transition and include your literary
element (may be multiple sentences)
 Provide specific evidence (example does
not show use of great evidence).
 Connect back to the lens through
commentary (may be multiple sentences)
 Concluding sentence.
Body Paragraph 2 (example)
At the end of Of Mice and Men, George is forced to make
one last difficult, yet heroic decision, that demonstrates his
understanding of friendship and the impossible situation:
Lennie killing Curley’s wife. George feels a heavy
responsibility when he realizes the what Lennie has done
unintentionally. So when all the men from the ranch are out
for revenge, George has to think quickly, and make the
hardest decision of his life: he acts in Lennie’s best interest
by making sure that Lennie’s last breath is taken with words
and thoughts that are uplifting and optimistic. By sparing him
the unnecessary guilt, fear and pain that would have been
forced upon Lennie had the mob of men caught up to him,
George is, ironically, committing a heroic act by being the one
to end Lennie’s life. This situation gives an excellent example
of how heroes can emerge from unexpected and even
horrendous situations.
Wrap up
 Tie main ideas back to the lens and your
 Conclusion strategy
Conclusion (example)
Heroes truly come from accidental situations where
characters have been able to rise to an unfortunate
occasion. In unpredictable times, George from Of Mice
and was able to do what was right despite a devastating
circumstance. By doing the right thing even when it was
difficult, he was able to become a hero in one way or
another. This proves that true heroes can make difficult
choices and rise up even when they don’t necessarily
mean to. It is through this lesson that readers should be
able to understand that it’s not a cape and superpowers
that make someone heroic; it’s doing the hard thing, at
the right time without looking for recognition that makes
one a true hero.

Writing the Critical Lens Essay