Senior English
Introduction Overview
The introduction to your literary analysis essay should try to arouse interest in your reader. To
bring immediate focus to your subject, you may want to use a quotation, a provocative
question, a personal anecdote, a startling statement, or a combination of these. You may also
want to include background information relevant to your thesis and necessary for the reader to
understand the position you are taking.
Include the following in your introduction:
1. Attention Getter/Hook. This may be the context of other writing by the author, social or
political influences at the time, and any number of interesting tidbits about your author,
novel, topic, or thesis.
2. Brief Context. This is a continuation of the hook.
3. Brief Summary. This should be no more than a sentence or two.
4. Thesis.
The following are satisfactory introductory paragraphs which include appropriate thesis
statements. Notice how they often go from general information to specific.
1. The properties of water make it an excellent literary device, especially when water
imagery is used to define the character of a woman. Water ebbs and flows, sparkles,
reflects, and evaporates. It can carry a vessel, or take the shape of any vessel that holds
it. Water can form deep pools, impenetrable and mysterious, or puddle into
shallowness. It wears many faces—snow, sleet, and ice and can fall from the heavens as
a light rain or a cold rain or a fierce, driving storm. Water falls from the eyes as tears; it
can mirror the self; it can quench thirst. As a method of defining character, Charlotte
Bronte uses many of these characteristics of water to capture the elusive Lucy Snowe in
the 1853 novel Villette.
2. The 19th Century was a difficult time for women. This was an era in which women were
denied access to the kinds of educating and occupations made available to men. If a
woman was not married to a man who could provide for her, and being barred from all
well-paid work, men were forced into a very small range of occupations, including
domestic service and unskilled factory work. In the novel, Lion Heart, Thomas Hardy
shows that a happy marriage in Victorian England was viewed in terms of economic and
material gain, and that if a woman was unhappy with her situation there was nothing
she could do about it.
3. Zora Neale Hurston’s “Sweat” is a short novel illustrating the plight of a Southern
Christian black woman in an abusive relationship with her husband. At the story’s heart
is a masterful depiction of the protagonist, a woman who after many years of abuse
finally refuses to subject herself to her philandering husband’s cruelty. Hurston achieves
the greater theme of “Sweat,” the triumph of the oppressed, through her use of three
basic Southern literary themes: folklore, oppression, and religion. A brief inspection of
these three basic themes will reveal how “Sweat” achieves its inspiring effect.
4. The setting of John Updike’s story “A & P” is crucial to our understanding of Sammy’s
decision to quit his job. Even though Sammy knows that his quitting will make life more
difficult for him, he instinctively insists upon rejecting what the A & P represents in the
story. When he rings up a “No Sale” and “saunter[s]” out of the store, Sammy leaves
behind not only a job but the rigid state of mind associated with the A & P. Although
Sammy is the central character in the story and we learn much about him, Updike
seems to invest as much effort in describing the setting as he does Sammy. The title,
after all, is not “Youthful Rebellion” or “Sammy Quits” but “A & P.” In fact, the setting is
the antagonist of the story and plays a role that is as important as Sammy’s.
5. What would you expect to be the personality of a man who has his wife sent away to a
convent (or perhaps has had her murdered) because she took too much pleasure in the
sunset and in a compliment paid to her by another man? It is just such a man -- a
Renaissance duke -- that Robert Browning portrays in his poem “My Last Duchess.”
Through what he says about himself, through his actions, and through his interpretation
of earlier incidents, the Duke reveals the arrogance, jealousy, and materialism that are
his most conspicuous traits.
6. The first paragraph of Alberto Alvaro Rios’s short story “The Secret Lion” presents a
twelve-year-old boy’s view of growing up -- everything changes. As the narrator tells
us, when the magician pulls a tablecloth out from under a pile of dishes, children are
amazed at the “stay-the-same part,” while adults focus only on the tablecloth itself (42).
Adults have the benefit of experience and know the trick will work as long as the
technique is correct. When we “grow up” we gain this experience and knowledge, but
we lose our innocence and sense of wonder. In other words, the price we pay for
growing up is a permanent sense of loss. This tradeoff is central to “The Secret Lion.”
The key symbols in the story reinforce its main theme: change is inevitable and always
accompanied by a sense of loss.