The Prose Essay

The Prose Essay
Types of prose
• A work of fiction or non-fiction
• Usually no more than a page in length
• Section from a novel, short story, drama,
essay, biography, autobiography, or article
• Understand the text
• Analyze those techniques and devices the
author uses to achieve his/her purpose
• Demonstrate your ease and fluency with
terminology, interpretation and criticism
• Demonstrate your ability to make connections
between analysis and interpretation (ie. find a
metaphor and connect it to the author’s
intended purpose or meaning)
Some example topics
• Analyze the narrative and literary techniques used for
• How does a narrator reveal character? (tone, diction,
point of view)
• Explain the effect of the passage on the reader
• Compare/contrast two passages concerning diction and
details for the effect on the reader
• What is the attitude of the speaker toward a particular
• Analyze style and tone and how they are used to
explore the author’s attitudes towards his/her subject
• 1-3 minutes to read and work the prompt
• 5 minutes to make notes and isolate
quotations (at least 2 that strike you)
• 5 minutes preparing to write
• 25 minutes to write essay
• 3 minutes to proofread
Example prompt
In the following passage from the short story
“The Dead” James Joyce presents an insight into
the character of Gabriel. Write a well-organized
essay in which you discuss various aspects of
Gabriel’s character that Joyce reveals to the
reader and to Gabriel himself. Refer to such
techniques and devices as imagery, point of
view, motif, diction, and syntax.
Reading and Notating the passage
• Read quickly to get the gist of the passage
• Reread using the visual and marginal notes
• Read slowly using highlighting and making
marginal notes
• Reread to confirm that you understand the full
impact of the passage
Writing the opening paragraph
• Sets the tone of your essay
• Make certain your topic is clear
• A suggested approach is to relate a direct
quotation from the passage to the topic
• Include the author and title
• Address the prompt
• Mention the techniques you will refer to in
your essay
Writing the body
• Present your interpretation of the points you
wish to make
• Use specific references and details from the
passage – quote and paraphrase
• Use “connective tissue”
– Ie. repetition of key ideas from your opening
– Echo words (ie. synonyms)
– Transitions
• Restate your thesis
• Draw a conclusion about the piece as a whole
• Aim for 3-5 sentences