An explication essay is intended to analyze a poem, a play, a novel, or a short story to unfold its true (hidden) meaning and the author’s motivation and is usually assigned to undergraduate and graduate students. When writing an explication essay, one needs to follow a prescribed format while examining the chosen piece of writing line by line. Explication essays typically have no more than 1,000 words, making students stay brief while having a detailed analysis of a chosen idea.
The following steps are recommended for explication essay writing:
- Read the chosen (assigned) piece of writing (poem, play, novel, or short story) once or twice to make sure that you understand its general idea.
- Read it again paying attention to the details of its plot, setting, and characters. Make assumptions about the author’s hidden meanings.
- Read it line by line focusing on separate sentences and words, and the ideas they hide, as well as literary devices used (figures of speech, imagery, symbolism, hyperbole, metaphor, conflict, etc.). Make notes on a separate sheet of paper.
- Out of the author’s several hidden meanings, choose one that you consider the most important. Develop a thesis statement based on that point which should become the focus of your explication essay.
- Open your explication essay by introducing the main topic of the literary work and quickly shift to the thesis statement. Write in an engaging style. As you write the body of the essay, refer back to that thesis each time you make your analysis. Each paragraph of your explication essay should prove how the literary devices are used to express deeper messages. Conclude your essay logically with rephrased thesis statement. Explication essays should not have an introduction or conclusion as other types of essays, only a thesis and body paragraphs.
- Proofread the essay paying attention to the style, grammar, spelling, punctuation and word usage. Correct your style if necessary. Use active verbs, varied sentence structure, and concise expressions.
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