Writing an Analytical Essay AP Literary Analysis Thesis statement focuses on HOW and WHAT: • How the author uses language… • • • • • • • Structure and organization Point of view (who’s telling the story) Diction (which words are used) Syntax (how words are put together) Tone (attitude of the narrator/writer) Imagery (how the words appeal to the senses) Figurative language (using words creatively, beyond their ordinary meanings) AP Literary Analysis • In order to do WHAT? Examples: • Express or reveal a theme (a main idea/message about life, society, human nature) • Develop a character (person in the story) • Describe the nature of conflict (central tension/problem) • Build a compelling plot (events and action) THESIS • The most important statement in the whole essay. • Usually one sentence in length. • Must be crystal clear. • Must be an opinion. • Is a statement of what you believe and want to argue using evidence. • Usually, the last sentence of the first paragraph. Thesis • Again, in 3 steps: 1) Clear and Specific 2) An opinion, not an established fact (“arguable”) 3) Possible to prove (or “show”) using evidence Check Your Thesis Is your thesis: • Arguable? • Specific? • Surprising/Interesting? • Provable through textual evidence? – Check: Could someone make a reasonable argument against yours? – Is your thesis interesting, or merely a restatement of the facts of the story? – Are you saying something specific about the story, or generally bringing up a topic? Examples: – In The Hunger Games, Collins reveals that the only way Katniss can be free within the oppressive system of the Capitol is by playing by its rules, at least to a point. – Through an elaborate and horrifying description of a society not so unlike our own, Collins’s The Hunger Games provides a clear warning about the dangers of governmental control. – Collins depicts the struggle of one girl to survive in a violent, fragmented society in order to reveal the depth of human resiliency. – In The Hunger Games, Collins characterizes a strong female as one who _____________. Good Thesis Statements • Question: In Romeo and Juliet, which is more powerful in shaping the lovers’ story: fate or foolishness? • Thesis: “Though Shakespeare defines Romeo and Juliet as ‘star-crossed lovers’ and images of stars and planets appear throughout the play, a closer examination of that celestial imagery reveals that the stars are merely witnesses to the characters’ foolish activities and not the causes themselves.” • Question: How does the bell jar function as a symbol in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar? • Thesis: “A bell jar is a bell-shaped glass that has three basic uses: to hold a specimen for observation, to contain gases, and to maintain a vacuum. The bell jar appears in each of these capacities in The Bell Jar, Plath’s semiautobiographical novel, and each appearance marks a different stage in Esther’s mental breakdown.” Question: Would Piggy in The Lord of the Flies make a good island leader if he were given the chance? Thesis: “Though the intelligent, rational, and innovative Piggy has the mental characteristics of a good leader, he ultimately lacks the social skills necessary to be an effective one. Golding emphasizes this point by giving Piggy a foil in the charismatic Jack, whose magnetic personality allows him to capture and wield power effectively, if not always wisely.” Thesis • Is the following a good thesis? – You will have 10 seconds to discuss with your partner, then you will need to be able to explain your answer. NO Collins uses emotions to reveal a theme. Thesis • Is the following a good thesis? – You will have 10 seconds to discuss with your partner, then you will need to be able to explain your answer. NO Collins uses diction to reveal a theme in her popular book, The Hunger Games. Thesis • Is the following a good thesis? – You will have 10 seconds to discuss with your partner, then you will need to be able to explain your answer. Collins uses simple, straightforward diction to develop a meaningful theme, hardship, in The Hunger Games. NO Thesis • Is the following a good thesis? – You will have 10 seconds to discuss with your partner, then you will need to be able to explain your answer. Collins uses stark, powerful diction to reveal how perseverance through hardships can lead to clarity and conviction. YES Thesis • Is the following a good thesis? – You will have 10 seconds to discuss with your partner, then you will need to be able to explain your answer. In The Hunger Games, the government is really controlling. NO • Is the following a good thesis? – You will have 10 seconds to discuss with your partner, then you will need to be able to explain your answer. In The Hunger Games, the government controls the citizens primarily through physical separation, fear, and control of information. YES… • Is the following a good thesis? – You will have 10 seconds to discuss with your partner, then you will need to be able to explain your answer. The society in The Hunger Games is similar to our society in the United States. NO • Is the following a good thesis? – You will have 10 seconds to discuss with your partner, then you will need to be able to explain your answer. Despite clear differences, the societies in The Hunger Games and United States are strikingly similar in values, organization, and entertainment. YES Your Turn! 1. Question: Why does Collins create the cruel world of The Hunger Games? 2. Question: Who should Katniss pick: Peeta or Gale? 3. Question: How and why does Katniss change during the Hunger Games? Claims CLAIM 1 + CLAIM 2 + CLAIM 3 =THESIS Must clearly support the thesis. Must be specific opinions. CLAIMS • Once you’ve got a great thesis, it’s time to create claim supporting claims. • Remember, these also must be ideas (opinions). • They are also typically one Thesis sentence in length. • They also must be crystal clear. • They must be proven with claim well-chosen evidence and specific, developed commentary. • Ev. • Ev. claim • Ev. • Ev. • Ev. • Ev CLAIMS • Let’s say that this is your thesis: Though the Capitol tries to control the players in the Hunger Games, the players ultimately hold the power of free will, as shown in their strategies, their behavior towards others, and their willingness to sacrifice themselves. Now you need claims. How might you break down this idea into 3 claims? THESIS: Though the Capitol tries to control the players in the Hunger Games, the players ultimately hold the power of free will, as shown in their strategies, their behavior towards others, and their willingness to sacrifice themselves. Here are 3 possible claims/topic sentences: 1. The players are all forced to compete in the Games, but each is free to choose a strategy for survival. 2. The players demonstrate free will through their behavior towards others. 3. Perhaps most dramatically, some of the players demonstrate free will in the face of governmental control through self sacrifice. WHAT DO YOU NOTICE ABOUT THESE CLAIMS? Your Turn: Break Down the Thesis Into Claims! 1. Thesis: In The Hunger Games, Collins reveals that the only way Katniss can be free within the oppressive system of the Capitol is by going against her own values: appearing to value the Hunger Games, playing a character to earn favor with the audience, and lying to someone close to her. 2. What do you do when the claims aren’t directly in the thesis? Thesis: Collins’s view of a hierarchical, violent society presents a warning for our own society’s future. Concrete Evidence • Use primarily quotations • Make the quoted passages as short as possible • Introduce all evidence with context • Cite evidence. Example: – On the train to the Capitol, Katniss takes her first shower, which feels like “summer rain, only warmer” (27). Context: Introducing Quotes • You cannot just drop a quote into an essay, like this: – Katniss and Gale spend time together in the woods. “Every day we go hunting together, collecting plants and berries as we go” (Collins 12). – The people are forced to participate in the Hunger Games. “On Reaping Day, all the people have to go to the square” (Collins 17). You Must Introduce the Quote! – Like this: Katniss and Gale spend time together in the woods. While describing her morning with Gale, Katniss explains, “Every day we go hunting together, collecting plants and berries as we go” (Collins 12). – Or, even better, integrate the quote into the sentence: Katniss and Gale hunt daily together in the woods, “collecting plants and berries as [they] go” (Collins 12). • Notice the change from “we” to “they” is in brackets [ ]. Or…you can use a colon (with appropriate context): • After volunteering to take her sister’s place in the Games, Katniss feels torn: “I felt relieved and terrified all at the same time” (Collins 26). Context Bad context (no transition, little information): • Collins writes, “You fool!” (224). Okay context (some who/what/where/when but no transitions): • Katniss tells Peeta, “I’ve had worse” (225). Good context (transitions smoothly and places the evidence who/what/where/when): • Additionally, Katniss’s anger at being betrayed leads her to tell Peeta that she “couldn’t care less” if he lives or dies (237). Context But even bad context is better than no context at all. NO EVIDENCE CAN STAND ALONE! CONTEXT MUST INTRODUCE ALL EVIDENCE! Your Turn: Fix these quotes 1. Collins describes the Capitol as rich and out-of-touch with the poverty of the districts. “Excellent! You almost look like a human being now!” (Collins 62). 2. Katniss and Rue become allies during the games. “Rue has decided to trust me wholeheartedly” (208). 3. The Gamemakers make the arena artificially cold. “So cold, so bitterly cold tonight” (279). Introductions and conclusions • Your introduction should state: – Text/author – Literal meaning (surface-level context for the thesis) • 5Ws: Who, what, when, where, why – Beyond the literal information transitioning to the thesis • What do we learn about characters/plot/theme/etc? – Thesis Introductions • A good literary essay intro: Irish author Oscar Wilde’s farce of the 19th century upper class criticizes a society in which people say everything and mean nothing. The main characters restrict their conversations to harmless flirtation and trivial, though somewhat cruel, gossip. Their society is one in which a title of nobility is rewarded more than intelligence and wealth is considered more important than kindness. Oscar Wilde crafts characters who reveal his satirical tone towards the absurd hollowness of 19th century high society. Conclusions • Your conclusion: • A basic conclusion is the restating of your ideas (thesis-claims). • An advanced conclusion goes beyond restatement to show how the use of literary techniques builds meaning. It may be a synthesis of your ideas and a statement of the ramifications (consequences) of your ideas. Conclusions • A good prose commentary conclusion: Oscar Wilde effectively uses ironic humor and mockery to criticize the Victorian upper class about their elitist attitudes in his play Lady Windermere’s Fan. He manages to make fun of the absurd aristocracy with a touch of humor than makes his satire less obvious and more palatable. Through this humorous style, modern readers from across the economic spectrum may recognize, laugh at, and question their own hubris and hypocrisies. Commentary Writing Claim claim claim claim. Context context, “concrete evidence” (author page number). Commentary commentary commentary “word from evidence” commentary commentary. Commentary commentary, commentary commentary, “word from evidence” commentary. Commentary commentary. Context context context: “concrete evidence” (page number). Commentary… Note that most of a good body paragraph is commentary woven with evidence. Commentary Writing Commentary must: 1.Show specifically how a particular piece of concrete evidence proves a particular claim. 2. Do #1 clearly and specifically 3. Do #1 without repeating information 4. Do #1 with unique evidence 5. Do #1 by using the evidence for what it does— not what we’d like it to do. Commentary Writing If the Duchess of Berwick makes the patronizing upperclass look awful, Lady Windermere does nothing to salvage the picture. Actually taking the Duchess’s self-important attitudes seriously, she represents the Ladies of London as simpering sycophants, ready to do the beck and call of their betters to be approved by and invited among the “right people” (Wilde 83). Lady Windermere not only reforms herself to fit the Duchess’s standards, but she ends up imitating the Duchess’s attitude towards men, specifically Lord Darlington, and society. She immediately humbles herself before the Duchess, making her ball seem smaller to become a mere dance and vowing that she will invite only the proper company, of which the Duchess approves. Towards the end she teases Lord Darlington in a similar manner to the Duchess’s, calling him trivial, and lightly reprimanding him about his “foolish insincerity” in a playful tone (167). Wilde mocks Lady Windemere’s attempts to impress the Duchess as he mocks the absurdities of the class system as a whole. Commentary Writing The adjectives and imagery which convey the poem’s mood also contribute to “Evening Hawk’s” extended metaphor for the passage of time – the central message of the poem. A hawk is an animal; it experiences no emotions and, in the poem, does not know that its flight is causing the “crashless fall of the stalks of time” (Warren 11). Like time itself, the hawk simply passes of its own accord. The bat is also stated as having “ancient…and immense” wisdom while the speaker alludes to the sagacious Plato while describing a star (13). The speaker describes the earth on its axis and metaphorically equates history to the steady leaking of water (14-16). All of the poem’s metaphors (the major literary device) implore readers to ponder the indiscriminate and slow and steady passage of time. Robert Penn Warren’s “Evening Hawk” provides readers with a clarification of the passage of time in life; it is as precise as the scythe, as regular as the passing of each day, as unconcerned with human interest as the hawk, and as steady as a leaking faucet. Commentary Writing Here’s an example section-by-section. • CLAIM: – In the first stanza, Keats establishes the relationship between the speaker and the “Bright Star.” • Context/Evidence: – Keats opens the poem with the apostrophe, “Bright Star,” accentuated with an exclamation mark (1). • Commentary: – In so doing, Keats creates a tone of admiration; indeed, the speaker appears awestruck as he addresses the beacon in the night sky. The speaker declares his desire to be as “steadfast” as the Star (3).