Literary Response


Writing a literary response paper is one of the most competent ways of delving into the unfathomable themes and cultural explanations that literature has to offer. Establishing a single clarification of a book is just as important as taking possession of that interpretation, which a response paper is meant to have you do. You'll be able to show that it's not just the book that matters; what you think about it is just as important. Literary Responses are great exercises in developing assurance in your creativity and ability to think critically.
A literary response paper is your chance to recommend and preserve your unique interpretation of any text. Literary response paper writing is a response to the specific literary you have just read. It is your own understanding and knowledge that you have increased from the specific reading. While it is a summary of the reading, you also need to emphasize the main topics, themes, symbols and ideas presented to you. Literary response papers are usually 3-5 page papers (possibly longer in college) where the teacher asks you to explore a particular topic of a work in detail after reading the work. Literary response paper writing may not have the most interesting title, but researching into the world of literature may be one of the most fascinating academic activities you will ever do.

For example, if you read the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, you might be asked to discuss the characterization, theme, conflict, symbolism or some other literary element. You would provide quotes from the text to validate your points.

What is Literary Analysis?

When you write your response, you need to use facts and figures from the text and even at times do a little more research in order to let your audience know you understood the text. The purpose of a literary response paper is to examine a text using original thought but without certainly making an argument, as you would be doing in an essay. Understanding a passage of an author's work is often simple compared to communicating one's understanding, review the content, and develop written personal thoughts and views based upon the subject matter. Developing a unique analysis of a book is just as important as taking ownership of that interpretation, which a response paper is meant to have you do.  The writing piece typically has a certain stance that you may be in dispute for or against, but the overall theme is that you are able to give your own thoughts and in depth analysis using a certain literary piece.

In Literary Response Writing, you should:

  • Completely read the extract /novel/play/etc. at least twice before attempting to write about it.
  • Either read the prompt, identify sections of the piece that relate to it or create one of the themes of the work forming an opinion.
  • Start formatting your essay by creating your topic and argument relating to this topic. 
  • Create a rough draft of your thesis and then continue to lay out the rest of your paper. Ensure that each body paragraph contains evidence from the piece of literature.
  • Finish with your concluding paragraph ensure to restate the points that you cited in the thesis statement and end the essay by answering the "so what?" question.
  • Review, revise, and rewrite.

Important Literary Concepts

The Basics 

Other Key Concepts 

 Plot  Historical Context
 Setting            Social, Political, Economic Contexts         
           Narration / Point of View           Ideology
 Characterization  Multiple Voices
 Symbol  Various Critical Orientations
 Metaphor  Literary Theory
 Irony/ Ambiguity  

How to Write a Literary Response

In order to efficaciously write an essay in response to a text, you must have a strong point, and you must read and evaluate the characters, themes and language for support and confirmation.

I. Definition of literary analysis: 

Understanding the procedures and methods that make a literary work actual, identifying them in the books you read and writing a brief thesis explaining what you’ve identified.

II. Literary analysis for elementary students 

Three tasks:
  1. Read
  2. Summarize
  3. Learn basic terms of reference
    • Author: the person who wrote a poem or book
    • Anonymous: what we call the author when we don’t know who he/she was
    • Biography: the true story of a person’s life 
    • Fiction: a made-up story
    • Fable: a short made-up story that teaches a lesson (a moral)
    • Historical fiction: a made-up story that happens during a real time in the past
    • Novel: a long made-up story with chapters
    • Nonfiction: a true story
    • Poem: written in lines rather than in paragraphs
    • Rhyme: words that have the same sound at the end

III. Literary analysis for middle-grade students 

  1. Inspire student to begin to think about why literature works through conversation about discussion questions.
  2. Teach student to write short essays as answers to these questions.
  3. Reserve the student’s love of reading.
For a Novel or Story:
    • Who is this book about? (Central character[s])
    • What do the central characters want?
    • What keeps them/him/her from getting it?
    • How do they/he/she get what they want?
    • Do they have an enemy or enemies? Is there a villain?
    • What does the villain want?
    • What do you think is the most important event in the story?
    • What leads up to this event?
    • How are the characters different after this event?
    • Pick out the most important event in each chapter.
    • How many different stories does the writer tell?
For a biography:
    • What kind of family did the subject come from?
    • What were his parents like?
    • Where did he go to school?
    • What did he want the most as a child?
    • What did he want the most as a grownup?
    • Were they the same?
    • How did he get what he wanted?
    • Who were the three most important people in his life?
    • Did he get married? To whom? When?
    • Did they have children?
    • What was the most important event in his life?
    • Name three other important events in his life.
    • Did he get what he wanted in life? Why or why not?
    • Why do we still remember this person?
Evaluation questions:
    • What was the most exciting part of the book?
    • What was the most boring part of the book?
    • Did you like the character[s]? Why or why not?
    • Did you hope that he/she would get what he/she wanted?
    • Did any part of the book seem particularly real? Did any part seem unlikely?
    • Did you hope that it would end in another way? If so, how?
    • Would you read this book again?
    • Which one of your friends would enjoy this book?

IV. Literary analysis for high school students 

  1. Familiarize students with essential literary terms
  2. Allocate brief essays on literature.
  3. Preserve the student’s love of reading.