our everyday life

How to Write the Intro Paragraph of a Literary Elements Essay

by Soheila Battaglia, studioD

A literary elements essay requires you to analyze a piece of literature utilizing elements in the text. Examples of literary elements include characters, plot, setting, conflict, point of view, symbolism, tone, structure and imagery. The first part of a literary elements essay is the introduction, and its function is to be interesting and to effectively communicate the essay's main idea.

Make It Interesting

If readers are committing to your essay, then you will need to pique their interest from the start to motivate them. The University of Maryland University College suggests starting the introduction with a surprising statistic, a rhetorical question, an anecdote or an interesting quotation. For example, if you are writing about the theme of perpetuating harmful traditions in Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery," then you can start with a rhetorical question such as "Have you ever knowingly participated in a tradition that was negative?" Whatever you choose to start with, make certain to reference and explain its relevance somewhere in the essay.

Provide Background

In some cases, you will need to provide the reader with context and background to better familiarize her with the issues you will be discussing in your essay. For example, if you are writing about Toni Morrison's novel "Beloved," you can include information regarding the history of slavery in the United States, pointing out important historical dates and giving an overview of the customary psychological, emotional and physical brutality that constitutes the setting of the story.

State a Thesis

Every essay needs a thesis statement. While you are examining the literary elements of a particular text, you are analyzing those elements in order to come to a single conclusion about the text. Your essay must have a main idea that incorporates the literature and uses literary elements as support to make its point. For example, if you are writing about Sherman Alexie's short story "Indian Education," the thesis statement of your essay can be, "Through the protagonist's resilience in the face of prejudice, poverty and neglect, Sherman Alexie shows that humans can always choose their futures."

Guide the Reader

Part of the function of the introductory paragraph of a literary elements essay is to show the reader which of the elements help to support the essay's main point. So, for example, you can write that Ray Bradbury's novel "Fahrenheit 451" employs symbolism throughout the text to convey the dangers of escaping reality and human connection. Whether the text uses metaphors, foreshadowing or allegory, mention those in the introduction without including analysis or specific examples, since those belong in the body of the essay.

About the Author

Soheila Battaglia is a published and award-winning author and filmmaker. She holds an MA in literary cultures from New York University and a BA in ethnic studies from UC Berkeley. She is a college professor of literature and composition.

Photo Credits

  • Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images