The Wiley Guide to Writing Essays About Literature
Buy Rights Online Buy Rights

Rights Contact Login For More Details

More About This Title The Wiley Guide to Writing Essays About Literature


This outstanding practical guide to writing analytical essays on literature develops interpretive skills through focused exercises and modeled examples. The program is tailored to meet the specific needs of beginning undergraduates.

  • Features unique, detailed guidance on paragraph structure
  • Includes sample essays throughout to model each stage of the essay-writing process
  • Focused exercises develop the techniques outlined in each chapter
  • Dedicated checklists enable quick, accurate assessment by teachers and students
  • Enhanced glossary with advice on usage added to core definitions


Paul Headrick teaches English at Langara College in Vancouver, Canada. He is a published novelist and short story writer whose works include That Tune Clutches My Heart (2008) and  a volume of short stories, The Doctrine of Affections (2010).


Preface ix

Acknowledgments xi

Chapter 1 Audience and the Literary Analysis Essay 1

The Importance of Audience 1

The Audience for the Literary Analysis Essay 2

Exercise Set 1.1 Understanding Audience 7

Chapter 2 Analytical Paragraphs 9

Initial Analysis 9

Analytical Paragraphs and Their Three Components 10

Claims 10

Exercise Set 2.1 Identifying Claims 13

Evidence 14

Exercise Set 2.2 Presenting Evidence 14

Analysis 15

Common Problems in Analytical Paragraphs 18

Awkward repetition 18

Confusion about what makes meaning 19

Working with Analytical Paragraphs 20

A sample analytical paragraph 20

Exercise Set 2.3 Understanding Analytical

Paragraphs 20

Exercise Set 2.4 Creating Analytical Paragraphs 21

Integrating Quotations from Literary Texts 24

Guidelines for integrating quotations 24

Exercise Set 2.5 Integrating Quotations 28

Chapter 3 Theme 31

Defining Theme 32

Debating Theme 34

Debating with the text: agreeing and disagreeing with themes 34

Debating about texts: agreeing and disagreeing about themes 35

Identifying Themes 36

Identifying themes in drama and prose fiction 36

Identifying themes in poetry 38

Identifying complex themes 44

Effective Statements of Theme 45

A checklist for effective statements of theme 45

Exercise Set 3.1 Identifying Statements of Theme 48

Chapter 4 Argument Structure 51

The Difference between a Logical Sequence and a List 51

Sample outlines 53

Exercise Set 4.1 Understanding Argument

Structure 55

Organizational Paragraphs and Titles 56

Introductory paragraphs 56

Working with introductory paragraphs 58

Exercise Set 4.2 Understanding Introductory

Paragraphs 59

Transitional paragraphs 60

Working with transitional paragraphs 60

Exercise Set 4.3 Understanding Transitional Paragraphs 61

Concluding paragraphs 61

Working with concluding paragraphs 62

Exercise Set 4.4 Understanding Concluding Paragraphs 63

Titles 63

Exercise Set 4.5 Understanding Titles 64

Chapter 5 Types of Literary Analysis Essays 67

Close Readings 67

Passage Analysis Essays 70

Introductions to passage analysis essays 70

The structure of passage analysis essays 71

Working with passage analysis essays 72

Exercise Set 5.1 Understanding Passage

Analysis Essay Structure 72

Comparative Literary Analysis Essays 73

The purpose of comparative literary analysis essays 73

Introductions to comparative literary analysis essays 74

The structure of comparative literary analysis essays 75

Working with comparative literary analysis essays 75

Exercise Set 5.2 Understanding Comparative

Literary Analysis Essays 76

Literary Analysis Research Essays 77

Literary analysis research essays using critical sources 77

Introductions to literary analysis research essays using critical sources 85

Working with critical sources 85

Exercise Set 5.3 Understanding the Use of Critical Sources 85

Literary analysis research essays using historical sources 87

Working with historical sources 89

Exercise Set 5.4 Understanding the Use of Historical Sources 89

In-Class Essays 90

Appendix 1 MLA Format 93

The Appearance of the Essay 93

Documentation: Works Cited List 94

Works cited entries: print sources 94

Works cited entries: online sources 98

Works cited entries: other non-print sources 99

Documentation: In-Text Citations 99

Formatting Quotations 101

Short quotations 101

Long quotations 102

Changing quotations 103

Appendix 2 Sample Essays 105

1 A Literary Analysis Essay on a Short Story 106

2 A Literary Analysis Essay on a Poem 109

3 A Literary Analysis Essay on a Play 111

4 A Literary Analysis Essay on a Novel 115

5 A Literary Analysis Essay on a Film 119

6 A Passage Analysis Essay 123

7 A Comparative Literary Analysis Essay 126

8 A Literary Analysis Research Essay Using Critical

Sources 130

9 A Literary Analysis Research Essay Using Historical Sources 137

Appendix 3 “The Yellow Wallpaper,” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman 141

Appendix 4 Selected Exercise Answers 157

Appendix 5 Glossary of Literary Terms 165

Appendix 6 Structure and Mechanics: Marking Abbreviations for Instructors and Peer Evaluators 183

Titles 183

Introductory Paragraphs 183

Thesis Statements 183

Analytical Paragraphs 184

Integrating Quotations 184

Index 187

Structure and Mechanics Checklist 195


“Overall Headrick has done the discipline of English a great service in tackling what we all know but seldom get round to saying to our students such comprehensive clarity or so courteously!.”  (The English Association Journal for Teachers of English, 1 October 2014