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How to Write an Essay About a Novel

by Kate Prudchenko, studioD

You should begin your essay about a novel by carefully considering what you want to say about the novel. For instance, you might want to analyze the novel’s theme or evaluate the novel's narrative style. Regardless of what the essay is about, your writing should present a point of view and make an argument for it. This argument, relayed in the thesis statement, will be the basis of your essay. The purpose of the rest of the essay will be to support the main argument.

Note the Details

When planning to write an essay on a novel, you should read the novel and take notes, paying close attention to certain ideas you find interesting. For example, if you notice the novel’s first-person point of view, you might want to consider the effects this point of view has on the novel as a whole. Why did the writer choose this particular perspective? What does this perspective allow the author to present or hide? These details will help you formulate your main argument, also known as a thesis statement. A strong essay about a work of literature should have a strong and distinct thesis statement.

Develop Your Thesis Statement

An literary essay is not a plot summary but a well-supported argument. The essay’s thesis statement should succinctly present your position about an element of the novel in one sentence. An example of a thesis statement might be: "In her novel 'To the Lighthouse' Virginia Woolf uses stream of conscience narration to show the fine line between reality and memory.” The thesis statement will be the foundation of the essay, and paragraphs that follow will support this statement by proving your position using evidence from the text.

Develop Your Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs of your essay should support the position of your thesis statement. For example, the first supporting paragraph in an essay about Virginia Woolf’s novel “To the Lighthouse” might focus on how she uses stream of consciousness convey a certain perspective of reality, while the second paragraph might focus on how this style of narration conveys memory. A third paragraph might compare the effects of the narrative style on the novel’s depictions of reality and memory.

Organize Your Essay

Your essay should have the same basic structure as any academic essay. It should have an introductory paragraph that includes the thesis statement, a number of supporting paragraphs organized by topic, and a conclusion. The conclusion should contain a brief summary of the essay's strongest points, and it may also go a step further, elaborating on the novel’s overall theme.

About the Author

Kate Prudchenko has been a writer and editor for five years, publishing peer-reviewed articles, essays, and book chapters in a variety of publications including Immersive Environments: Future Trends in Education and Contemporary Literary Review India. She has a BA and MS in Mathematics, MA in English/Writing, and is completing a PhD in Education.

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