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How to Write the Intro Paragraph of a Literary Elements Essay


Literary elements are the tools writers use to express their ideas. Students analyze these elements in essays to gain a better appreciation and understanding of a piece of literature as a whole. The introduction may not be the first part of the literary elements essay that students write, but it needs to be a strong paragraph that serves as a preview to the following analysis.

Literary Terms

Literary terms refer to the words people use when discussing literature, whether prose or poetry. A literary elements essay catalogs how different components of literature work in a piece. For example, you could describe characterization, or the character's personality, in relation to the conflict in a novel. Alternatively, the essay could function as a comparison between two literary works' use of imagery. Another option is to take a literary element such as symbolism, using an object to stand for something else, and relate it to a larger textual theme such as ideas about love or religion. Concentrating on one or two literary elements makes the claim manageable.

Hook

A strong introduction starts with an effective hook, or attention-getter. One option is to take a quotation directly from the story or poem; particularly moving words grab attention. Alternatively, writers can pose a rhetorical question that gets answered later in the essay. For example, in an essay about characterization, you could start with, "Why would a person choose to …," naming some action that relates to the conflict. If writing about how a literary element relates to the wider world, you could start with a startling generalization that you later support in the essay.

Thesis Statement

The essay builds on the strength of the thesis statement. To develop the thesis, consider the angle you are taking with the literary elements. Make one concrete statement related to that angle and consider its effectiveness as a thesis statement. The statement must be debatable, so evaluate your sentence to determine whether readers could argue with it. A thesis statement must also be narrow enough to verify within the confines of the essay; you'll support your thesis statement with evidence from the text. If supporting the statement seems overwhelming, it is too broad; keep narrowing down the angle until it feels manageable.

Structure

The introduction of an essay starts from the general and works to the specific. The paper starts with the hook. The introduction also includes the title and author of every pieces being discussed. Depending on the angle of literary analysis, you may need to include background information, a description of the period or even a brief summary of the piece. Give a brief preview of your main points, transitioning the reader from the broad context of the poem to the essay's specific point. The final sentence of the introduction is the thesis statement.

About the Author

Nadia Archuleta has a B.A. in English writing. She spent five years working abroad and has traveled extensively. She has worked as an English as a Foreign/Second Language teacher for 12 years.

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