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English Literature Essay Series #2:  How to Write Essay on a Classic Novel?

Hey there, students! Welcome back to episode 2 of our English Literature Essay Series. Last time, we talked about how to write a stellar essay on my favourite author. Today, we are going to talk about another common essay topic most literature students are assigned with: How to write an essay on a classic novel.

So, if you are curious to find out the strategies for writing an essay on a classic novel easily, continue reading this blog till the very end. Learn how to understand the various aspects of a novel and the best way to interpret it for your literary essay writing, along with examples of top classic novels you can write your essay on.

Sounds like a plan?

Let’s get started, then!

I. Understanding the Classic Novel

A.      What Exactly Is a Classic Novel?

First things first, what makes a novel “classic”?

Classic novels in English literature are some of the most treasured and influential works of art ever created. These are the pieces that have stood the test of time and continue to resonate with readers across generations.

Classic novels are often characterized by complex characters, well-developed plots, and timeless themes. They offer readers a window into different cultures, time periods, and ways of life while also exploring universal themes such as love, loss, identity, and the human condition.


B.      The Significance of Classic Novels

Why bother with classic novels in the first place? These literary gems provide us with insights into different eras, cultures, and human experiences.

They often tackle universal themes like love, morality, society, and the human condition. Reading classic novels enriches our understanding of history, culture, and the art of storytelling.


C.      Examples of Well-Known Classic Novels

Here are a few classic novels that you might already be familiar with:

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  • Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez


II. Preparing to Write the Essay

Before you begin writing your essay, follow these steps!

A.      Selecting Your Classic Novel

When choosing a classic novel to write about, it’s important to select a work you’re interested in and familiar with. You should have read it at least once and be able to discuss its themes, characters, and plot in detail.

If you’re not sure which classic novel to choose, here are a few tips:

  • Consider your personal interests and preferences. What kind of books do you enjoy reading? What genres or movements are you drawn to?
  • Choose a novel that you’ve read and enjoyed. You should be able to discuss its themes, characters, and plot in detail.
  • Choose a novel that has a significant impact on literature. This could be a novel that has won major awards, influenced other writers, or helped to shape a particular genre or movement.


B.      Analyzing the Novel

Once you’ve selected a classic novel to write about, it’s time to start analyzing it. This involves identifying the major themes, literary devices and quotes that the author states or explores.

Identifying Themes and Motifs

Identify the major themes and motifs that run throughout the story. Themes are broad ideas or messages that the author conveys through the story, including love, identity, or social justice. Motifs are recurring elements or symbols that have symbolic significance that enrich the narrative.

To identify the major themes and motifs in a novel, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are the main ideas that the author explores?
  • What are the recurring symbols, images, or ideas in the novel?
  • What do these symbols, images, or ideas represent?


Literary Devices and Techniques

Classic novels often employ a wide array of literary devices and techniques, such as symbolism, foreshadowing, and irony. Take note of these elements, as they can be crucial in building your essay’s arguments and analysis.

Some common literary devices include:

  • Symbolism
  • Metaphor
  • Simile
  • Personification
  • Foreshadowing
  • Flashback
  • Irony
  • Suspense

Incorporating Quotes and Examples

To support your arguments, you’ll need evidence from the novel. Select relevant quotes and examples that illustrate the themes, motifs, or literary devices you’re discussing. These quotes will add depth and credibility to your essay.


C.      Planning and Researching

Now it’s time to come up with a title, make an outline and research some more. Here’s how you can do it:

Brainstorming Ideas

Once you’ve analyzed the novel, brainstorm ideas for your essay. Consider the themes, characters, and literary elements you want to explore. Jot down your initial thoughts and observations.


Creating an Outline

Organize your essay’s structure by creating an outline. Decide on the key points you want to cover in each paragraph, ensuring a logical flow from one idea to the next.


Researching the Novel and Author

Dig deeper into the novel’s context by researching the author’s life, the historical period in which the novel was written, and any relevant literary criticism. This background information will add depth to your analysis.


D.     Developing a Strong Thesis Statement

What Is a Thesis Statement?

Your thesis statement is a concise, one-sentence statement that presents the main argument you’ll be making in your essay. It’s your essay’s roadmap, guiding both you and your reader.

Tips for Crafting a Compelling Thesis

A strong thesis statement should be specific, to the point, and clear. Avoid vague statements and ensure that your thesis can be supported with evidence from the novel. Here are a few examples:

Weak: “Love is a central theme in ‘Pride and Prejudice.'”

Strong: “In ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ Jane Austen uses the complex relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy to explore the transformative power of love in overcoming societal prejudice.”

Examples of Well-Crafted Thesis Statements

For classic novels:

  • “In ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ Harper Lee uses the innocence of Scout Finch to challenge the racial prejudices of her society and reveal the moral decay lurking beneath its surface.”
  • “George Orwell’s ‘1984’ serves as a chilling warning about the dangers of dictatorship and the erosion of individual freedom in a surveillance state.”


E.      Structuring the Essay

Following a standard structure for your essay is very important if you want your essay to be even considered for grading. The structure of a literary essay includes the following:


Your essay’s introduction is your chance to grab your reader’s attention. Start with a captivating hook, such as a thought-provoking quote or a surprising fact about your novel.

Provide background information about the novel and its author to set the stage for your analysis. Finally, present your clear and concise thesis statement, outlining the main argument of your essay.

Body Paragraphs

The body of your essay should be organized around the main ideas and arguments you’ve outlined in your thesis. Each paragraph should focus on one specific point, with a clear topic sentence at the beginning.

Use evidence from the novel (quotes and examples) to support your arguments. Remember to analyze and interpret the evidence to show how it supports your thesis.


Here, you restate your thesis statement and summarize the main points you’ve made in your essay.

Avoid introducing new ideas here; instead, offer final thoughts on the novel’s significance and relevance. Leave your reader with something to ponder or a call to action.


Editing and Polishing

Now, after you are done writing your essay, it’s time to move on to editing.

A.      The Importance of Proofreading

Once you’ve written your essay, don’t rush to submit it. Take the time to proofread carefully for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. These can detract from the professionalism of your essay.


B.      Seek Feedback

Consider seeking feedback from peers, teachers, or writing tutors. Fresh eyes can catch errors or suggest improvements you might have missed.


C.      Enhance Clarity and Coherence

Keep your essay flowing smoothly from paragraph to paragraph. Use transition words and phrases to guide your reader through your arguments. Check for overall clarity and coherence, making sure your essay is well-organized and easy to read.


III. Famous Classic Novels You Can Choose For Your Essay

Can’t decide which classic novel to write an essay on? Don’t worry we’ve got you covered with that, too! Here’s a list of some of the most popular classic novels you can pick for your literary analysis essay.

  • Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë: A gothic novel exploring themes of love, identity, and social class.
  • “Moby-Dick” by Herman Melville: An epic tale of obsession, revenge, and the battle between man and nature.
  • “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald: A story of wealth, decadence, and the American Dream during the Roaring Twenties.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee: A powerful commentary on racism and injustice in the American South during the 1930s.
  • “1984” by George Orwell: A dystopian masterpiece that delves into the dangers of totalitarianism and censorship.
  • Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen: A witty exploration of love and social class in 19th-century England.

Summing Up!

So, there you have it – a comprehensive guide to writing an exceptional essay on a classic novel in English literature. Did you like or was there something missing? Let us know your thoughts, along with what problem our next episode or series should be about, in the comments below.

Until then, let’s meet again with a new episode of this series!


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