Introduction Notes for AP Essay

AP Essay
The introduction to your literary analysis essay should try to capture your reader's
interest. To bring immediate focus to your subject, you may want to use a
quotation, a provocative question, a brief anecdote, a startling statement, or a
combination of these.
Look to the information given in the essay prompt to help you devise your
commentary. You may also want to include background information relevant to
your thesis and/or the text and necessary for the reader to understand the
position you are taking.
In addition, you need to include the title of the work of literature and name of the
Create an introduction strong enough to earn a grade of 3 all by itself. That means
that students should learn ways to answer the entire prompt -- answer the prompt,
not simply repeat it -- in the introduction. This indicates to the Reader that the
paper could be heading into the upper-half zone.
O Introductions should contain five significant
sentences including your thesis statement.
Insignificant or empty sentences just to use
up space should be avoided.
O Insignificant statement:: Literature often
portrays characters who have conflicts.
O Empty Sentences: Toni Morrison is a good
author. She writes about former slaves and
women of color. Slavery was shameful.
Beloved is a good book that details with
many issues relevant to literature. (These
are all terrible sentences!)
Thesis Statement
The thesis statement tells your reader what to expect: it is a restricted, precisely
worded declarative sentence that states the purpose of your essay -- the point you
are trying to make. Without a carefully conceived thesis, an essay has no chance
of success. The following are thesis statements which would work for a 500-750
word literary analysis essay:
Gwendolyn Brooks‟s 1960 poem “The Ballad of Rudolph Reed” demonstrates how
the poet uses the conventional poetic form of the ballad to treat the
unconventional poetic subject of racial intolerance.
The fate of the main characters in Antigone illustrates the danger of excessive
The imagery in Dylan Thomas‟s poem “Fern Hill” reveals the ambiguity of humans’
relationship with nature.
Typically, the thesis statement falls at the end of your introductory paragraph.
O Write in an active voice using action nouns. For
Active: Toni Morrison mirrors the fragmentation
of her characters’ lives in the structure of the
novel itself.
Passive: Beloved, written by Toni Morrison, has a
fragmented format that mirrors her characters.
Try to be specific in the thesis:
Toni Morrison mirrors the fragmentation of her
characters’ lives through the novel’s non-linear
structure, specifically through her use of
flashback, stream of consciousness, and shifts
in point of view.
Additional Notes
O Remember your audience. Your audience here is specific: high
school teachers and college professors. Your awareness of this
should guide your writing. Avoid conversational language,
abbreviations, doodles, etc. Keep it academic and
— Avoid Point of View Shifts (don't use you your, we, us, our)
— Avoid Logical Absolutes (don't say "everybody knows," etc.)
— Do not use a word if you are unsure of its meaning.
— Use strong verbs. Instead of "The author shows how..." try
"The author demonstrates how..." or "The author illustrates
Try this!
O Experimental writers often subvert the
traditional form of the novel by refusing to use a
chronological plot line in favor of one less linear.
Toni Morrison’s Beloved is not narrated
chronologically from Sethe’s birth to Beloved’s
disappearance. Instead, it is told in a series of
seemingly unrelated pieces. Morrison mirrors
the fragmentation of her characters’ lives
through the novel’s nonlinear structure,
specifically through the use of flashback, stream
of consciousness, and shifts in point of view.
Example Introductions
Standard Example (Paper
In his epic poem, Paradise Lost,
John Milton retells the biblical
story of Eve's succumbing to the
appealing arguments of Satan. As
the story is slowly recounted, the
speech of both Eve and Satan
reveal their underlying characters
through a variety of literary
techniques. Through diction,
imagery, and tense shift, Eve is
exposed as a morally weak
individual and Satan is exposed
as a manipulator "replete with
Creative Example (Paper score=8)
Fidelity. A word one will never hear on the
modern-day Jerry Springer show for both its
ludicrous definition and polysyllabic nature.
Certain less-than-reputable areas of the
media will have people believe that
faithfullness and monogamy mean nothing,
and everyone falls "victim" to cheating on his
or her loved "one." John Donne, however, was
apparently centuries ahead of his time then,
endorsing such practices in "The Indifferent."
The narrator rallies for multiple partners for
all, while expressing his views on women —
that one is no different than any other (with
the exception of the naive faithful and the
realistic unfaithful) and men should therefore
love indiscriminately. Donne develops his
arguments using clever wit, a wide range of
knowledge and figurative language.
O What would one expect to be
the personality of a man who
has his wife sent away to a
convent (or perhaps has had
her murdered) because she
took too much pleasure in the
sunset and in a compliment
paid to her by another man?
It is just such a man—a
Renaissance duke—who
Robert Browning portrays in
his poem “My Last Duchess.”
A character analysis of the
Duke reveals that through his
internal dialogue, his
interpretation of earlier
incidents, and his actions, his
traits—arrogance, jealousy,
and greediness—emerge.
The first paragraph of Alberto Alvaro
Rios‟s short story “The Secret Lion”
presents a twelve-year-old boy‟s view of
growing up—everything changes. As the
narrator informs the reader, when the
magician pulls a tablecloth out from
under a pile of dishes, children are
amazed at the “stay-the-same part,”
while adults focus only on the
tablecloth itself (42). Adults have the
benefit of experience and know the
trick will work as long as the technique
is correct. When people “grow up,” they
gain this experience and knowledge
but lose their innocence and sense of
wonder. In other words, the price paid
for growing up is a permanent sense of
loss. This tradeoff is central to “The
Secret Lion.” The key symbols in the
story reinforce its main theme: change
is inevitable and always accompanied
by a sense of loss.
O The setting of John Updike‟s story “A & P” is
crucial to the reader’s understanding of
Sammy’s decision to quit his job. Even though
Sammy knows that his quitting will make life
more difficult for him, he instinctively insists
upon rejecting what the A & P represents in the
story. When he rings up a “No Sale” and
“saunter[s]” out of the store, Sammy leaves
behind not only a job but the rigid state of mind
associated with the A & P. Although Sammy is
the central character in the story, Updike seems
to invest as much effort in describing the setting
as he does Sammy. The title, after all, is not
“Youthful Rebellion” or “Sammy Quits” but “A &
P.” The setting is the antagonist of the story and
plays a role that is as important as Sammy’s.

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