FINAL CRITICAL ESSAY GUIDELINES for Children’s Literature
NOTE: Length is less important than QUALITY of your argument. It is possible to make an effective and well-developed argument in 3-5 pages (and you need not write more than that). But you might need more space to develop your argument. The important thing is that you make your point and prove it with developed, analyzed examples.
ASSIGNMENT: This final essay asks you to delve into literary
analysis OF THE SAME TYPE you did in your short critical responses. BUT in these
final essays you must USE YOUR ANALYSIS in order to MAKE AND PROVE A POINT.
You may try to draw out and analyze a theme, character, message, or issue
within a particular work of literature from class (or another comparably good
work of children’s literature that you have our approval to work on). Or you
may compare and contrast similar themes, characters, issues, etc. from two or
more of the works from class.
TOPICS from which you might develop a thesis (in each case
remember that you need to have an overall point – an original insight of your
own). There are many other possibilities. You are not limited to these.
Ø Symbolism and imagery have been important in many of our works. Examine a particular symbol or set of related symbols in one or more works and suggest why it was used and how it might connect to an overall message.
Ø Analyze the MESSAGE of a particular piece of literature (or compare the messages of two similar works) and discuss how that message is developed and communicated.
Ø The theme of heroism runs through many of our works. How are two heroes alike or different AND what does that suggest?
Ø Do other characters besides heroes contribute to the work’s impact (for instance villains)? If so how? (i.e. compare and contrast a couple of villains and their meaning)
Ø You might analyze a particular pattern in one or more works (like the number 3) in order to show or suggest how it adds to the work’s meaning.
You might discuss some stylistic elements of one of more works
(their lyrical or poetry nature for instance), again demonstrating how that
STYLE connects to, supports, or draws out the overall meaning or impact of the
Examples of possible theses You are absolutely encouraged to come up with your own topic and thesis (you shouldn’t copy these exactly). These are offered only to prompt your own thinking.
Ø The fairy godmother character in the Cinderella tales is symbolic of Cinderella’s need for motherly nurturing because her own mother is absent.
Ø Dorothy and Ozma are twin hero figures who demonstrate how heroes can help build and affirm their world.
Ø Harry Potter’s heroic nature is less developed than that of Omakayas, but both heroes work to strengthen their communities.
ENERAL TIPS FOR WRITING A SUCCESSFUL ESSAY
ENERAL TIPS FOR WRITING A SUCCESSFUL ESSAY
Part of what is expected of you (and thus part of what you are
graded on) is being able to formulate a specific topic and thesis of your own.
v You MUST have a THESIS. From the Greek, thesis literally means POSITION. This means your thesis must make a clear and effective argument (take a position on something). In a literary essay your thesis can persuade the reader of the validity of your analysis. But you still have to state your specific insight, interpretation or analysis of the work very clearly and boldly in the first paragraph, and then you need to spend the rest of the paper DEMONSTRATING (or proving) your thesis, with specific discussion/analysis of passages (literary analysis like we did in the short responses). You should be able to state your thesis in one sentence (= your argument plus a summary of the major examples that will support that argument). You should put that sentence toward the end of your first paragraph.
You might need to refine or change your thesis once you get
into the writing. But be sure that by the end, you have a clear thesis statement
in the first paragraph that
accounts for your entire argument.
You need not use outside sources (apart from the work of
literature you choose to write on). But IF YOU DO use information that you found
elsewhere (meaning any ideas about the literature that you are presenting that
did not come from your own brain), YOU MUST CITE the source of that outside
information. Your citation should be in standard MLA format (link for MLA
Be sure your interpretation / analysis / argument is logical and
convincing. Remember if it doesn’t make sense to you it probably won’t make
sense to your reader. Your ideas should be organized in a logical and convincing
fashion. For instance think about putting your strongest examples first, or
All paragraphs should support the thesis statement. If you don’t
know why a paragraph is there or if you can’t show how it supports the thesis,
then cut it out (or change your thesis to accommodate that paragraph). Also,
be sure to make clear how the details you give are actually connected to /
supporting your thesis. Don’t assume that if something is clear to you it will
be clear to your reader. Step back and analyze your own writing objectively to
make sure it communicates the whole argument / analysis clearly and effectively.
Write sentences that show the connections between supporting details and your
For example, if your thesis is that Cinderella’s fairy godmother
is really a substitute nurturer for her own absent mother, and you just analyzed
a passage from the story that shows this, be sure to include a sentence or two
after your analysis tying it back to the thesis, as follows: “This passage
show us that Cinderella is nurtured by the bush that she also spends time
nurturing. Clearly the theme of nurturing is strong here and it is important
that this nurturing leads to Cinderella’s reward. Nurturing is emphasized.”
Your interpretation / analysis (your ideas) should be the
central focus of your essay. Only use outside information (which is not
required) to support or demonstrate your ideas. Do not overuse quotes,
facts, expert testimony, etc.
Keep your essay interesting. Work on a piece of literature that
you enjoy and find stimulating, and about which you really have something
important to share. If you enjoy working on and writing your essay, that is a
good sign. Be sure your topic is useful and interesting to you and then try to
maintain that enthusiasm throughout the essay.
Make your essay as CLEAR, SIMPLE, and STRAIGHTFORWARD as possible.
Do not try to sound fancy or complicated. Bigger words are only better if they
are the best possible words for what you are trying to say. If you don’t
understand a word or phrase you are using, neither will your reader. Write in
language that is comfortable for you. Remember that writing is about
communication. If you communicate your ideas effectively and follow these other
rules, you will not be graded down because your language is “too easy.”
Simple can be the most beautiful as long as it is effective.
Proofread carefully. Incorrect grammar, spelling and mechanics do
detract from your overall message and make it seem as though you didn’t care
enough about your work to do your best.
v Writing is a PROCESS. Always be willing to consider your essay a work in progress that can be revised, edited, changed, updated, and improved. Be open minded and flexible and honest in your revisions and self-appraisal.
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