Building an Argument in Literature

A good argument in literature depends on:

  • A narrowed focus. It is not enough to say that "Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice was very prideful in the beginning, but through his love of Elizabeth, learns to love." Instead, you should narrow your focus so that it's not too general or too broad of a topic.  Mr. Darcy's pride is something that needs to be explained. Why and how is he prideful? What does this mean to the story? Mr. Darcy's pride and Elizabeth and his relationship are also the whole of the novel. Is there a particular place in the story that details his switch from pride to love? What marks this instance and why is it important? Once you narrow it down, you will have a strong thesis and focus for your paper.
  • Going beyond the prompt. Although teachers give you a prompt to use, it shows critical thinking when you use the prompt only as a starting point. Show your instructor that you have actually read the work and that you've thought about it.  A well-thought out argument goes a long way.
  • Focus on the work, not on you. When you begin to deviate from your argument and start to talk about yourself, you know that you've lost track of the focus of your paper. Remember that you are not arguing about how you felt about something, but rather how the piece is. You are writing about literature, not about yourself.

For more information about writing a paper see:

"Arguments in an Essay on Literature." The Purdue OWL. Purdue U Writing Lab, 2010. Web. 12 June 2011.