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What are some tips on how to write an interpretive essay?

Oct 16, 2020


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To begin with, let us define the term – an interpretive essay is a form of essay that focuses on interpreting (analyzing) somebody else’s piece of writing. The other name for this type of essay is a literature review. However, an interpretive essay can also focus on other subjects, such as a person, a work of art, or an event. Here we will provide tips on how to do a literature review as the most common type of interpretive essay in the academic world. 

To write a high-quality literature review, take care of the following:

  • Make sure you read and understood the subject of your essay well. Pay attention to the thematic content: the key theme, the main idea, development of the author’s thought (his lyrical hero/ the main hero), and emotional contents. Do not forget about artistic features: artistic techniques and their meaning, keywords, and images associated with the idea of the work, the rhythm of the work, poetic meter, rhymes, and their connection with the ideological intent of the author. Reading between the lines or guessing the meaning of skipped chapters is not the way to approach this type of assignment. Besides doing a thorough analysis, it is recommended to discuss this literature piece with someone who has also read it (your tutor, your classmates, friends, and family), get others’ opinions, and seek their feedback to your initial interpretation. Find out what place does this piece of work occupy among other works of the author.
  • Get to know the author well. It is no less important to understand the author of the writing work than the work itself. What epoch is he/she from? What other books/stories did he/she write? What is he/she famous for? Does he/she belong to any literature school of thought/participate in any prominent literature movement? In the essay, you may want to give some facts from the author’s biography or some interesting circumstances of creating this particular piece of literature.
  • In your analysis, provide the following:

– your perception of the work;

– your interpretation, i.e. your opinion on the author’s intentions, unravel the main idea inherent in the work;

– assessment, i.e. express your emotional attitude towards the work, dwell on what moved you, what surprised you, and what caught your attention in particular.

  • Instead of focusing on the entire literature work, you may as well look into any specific part of it, something that you find especially meaningful, e.g.: pick up a particular character, a scene, a chapter, or an event. There is no limit as to how broad or narrow your scope could be. At the same time, it would be better off targeting something unique or a certain feature that has not been analyzed thoroughly before you. Be ready to state the main idea of your essay in a clear and engaging manner. 
  • Do not forget about the basics of effective essay writing, in particular the structure: introduction, the main body, and conclusion. Tell the reader about a particular focus of your analysis (thesis statement) in the introduction or the main body parts, support your statement with arguments and tell about your findings and their meaning in the conclusion. Since this is a review of a piece of literature, you must use extensive citations throughout your paper.

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