menu

How to Make a Strong Introduction for a Literary Analysis Essay


The introduction is the first thing your reader will encounter in your literary analysis essay, so it's essential that you write clearly and concisely. Literary analysis requires the writer to carefully follow a theme, motif, character development or stylistic element and examine its importance within the context of the book. Because literary analysis depends on the writer's interpretation of the text, it's often necessary to convince the reader of your point of view. Writing a strong introduction to your essay will help launch your reader into your main points.

Begin writing the introduction after you have completed your literary analysis essay. This may seem counter-intuitive, but once you have finished enumerating and explaining your main points, you'll be better able to identify what they share in common, which you can introduce in the first paragraph of your essay. You can also begin writing the introduction after completing your in-depth outline of the essay, where you lay out your main points and organize your paper before you begin writing.

Start your introduction with a grabber. In a literary analysis essay, an effective grabber can be a short quote from the text you're analyzing that encapsulates some aspect of your interpretation. Other good grabbers are quotes from the book's author regarding your paper's topic or another aspect relevant to the text and how you interpreted it. Place the quote in quotation marks as the first sentence of the introductory paragraph. Your next sentence should identify the speaker and context of the quotation, as well as briefly describing how the quote relates to your literary analysis.

Keep the body of your introduction relatively short. A paragraph in a literary analysis essay should be between eight and 12 sentences long. In the introduction, write three to four sentences generally describing the topic of your paper and explaining why it is interesting and important to the book you read. These three or four sentences will make up the bulk of your introductory paragraph. Use these sentences to sketch the main points that you describe in greater detail in the body of your essay.

Finish your introductory paragraph with your thesis statement. The thesis statement clearly states the main point of your paper as a whole. It can be one sentence long or span two sentences, but it should always be the very last part of the introductory paragraph. For a five-paragraph essay with three body paragraphs, write one sentence identifying your paper's main point. In the second sentence, called the blueprint, identify the three main topics of each body paragraph and how they support your thesis. For more advanced literary analysis essays, it's not always necessary to enumerate explicitly the main point of each body paragraph as part of your thesis statement. Focus instead on clearly and concisely stating the driving force behind your paper's organization and development.

Tip
  • It can be useful to finish writing your paper, including your concluding paragraph, before you tackle the introduction. The conclusion and the introduction should contain the same content, stated differently. In the conclusion, you can sum up the main points of your essay and explain how and why they are important to the book and to your interpretation of the text. Your introduction can then be a reworked paraphrasing of your conclusion, and you can rest assured that you haven't left anything out.
Items you will need
Word processor
Literary text for reference
About the Author

Goody Clairenstein has been a writer since 2004. She has sat on the editorial board of several non-academic journals and writes about creative writing, editing and languages. She has worked in professional publishing and news reporting in print and broadcast journalism. Her poems have appeared in "Small Craft Warnings." Clairenstein earned her Bachelor of Arts in European languages from Skidmore College.

Photo Credits
  • Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images