interpretive Essay Examples

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Published: Friday 25th of January 2013

How to Write an Interpretive Essay Example


An interpretive essay is a paper where one critically analyzes or interprets a piece of literary work and offers its meaning or its alternative meaning. The fundamental objective of the literary analysis is to look at the fascinating segments of a literary piece of work. Interpretive essays are a common form of a research paper in arts and literature. Students often find this assignment too overwhelming. However, knowing where to begin, what literary components to analyze and interpret does not need to be an incomprehensible errand. When tackling such an assignment, it is best to pick a few literary elements of the work that you have been requested to analyze and focus on it. It could be the author’s use of foreshadowing, metaphors or a specific theme, or a character that fascinates you. Once you have your topics, you can analyze them by breaking them down into pieces and investigating them independently. Use various elements of writing to clarify the meanings and compare each part with other segments of the work. In addition to that, you should check the structure of the essay to ensure that it contains a brief introduction, well-formed paragraphs that focus on one thought and a short conclusion.

Writing the Introduction

Your introduction should contain the author’s name, the title of the piece of literature and the literary elements that you will expound on in your body paragraphs. It should also introduce the literary work and capture your readers’ attention. Using the following format: lead-in, thesis and proof points, you can convey your ideas effectively in the introduction section.
  • Lead-in
The lead-in consists of the words preceding the thesis statement. It merely states what the paper is about. Your lead-in should be captivating and should directly connect with your theme. Avoid using obvious phrases such as ‘The topic of the essay…’ or ‘the purpose of this paper is…’ because they may not effectively grab the reader’s attention. Instead, start with a surprising fact that the reader may not know about.
  • Thesis statement
A thesis statement appears after the introductory paragraph. It offers a brief synopsis of the main point or purpose of the essay. It is developed and explained in the course of the article using examples and evidence. Here is an example of a well-thought thesis statement on the role of Professor Trelawney on Harry Potter: “Despite the fact that Professor Sybil Trelawney does not have a lot of visions during her residency at Hogwarts, the one she does is essential to the plot of whole Harry Potter series. Through her prophecy, Dumbledore gets to know how important Harry Potter is to the destiny of the wizards’ world. It also enables Harry to discover what he should do to defeat Lord Voldemort.” This thesis statement depicts Trelawney’s significance to the plot. It also offers supporting points that will be expounded on in the body paragraph.
  • Proof points
State your proof points in the order in which you will develop them in your essay. Ideally, these points are stated each in their sentence. Ensure that you use transitioning phrases such as "first or finally" when writing your proof points so that the reader can differentiate them from the thesis statement. If you prefer not to list your proof points in the introduction, you can include them in the prior essay draft. Then, once they have accomplished their purpose of helping you cement and arrange your supporting ideas, you can go ahead and erase them from your final draft. Avoid supporting your thesis and proof points in the introduction. The introduction should essentially notify the readers of the points that you will make in your paper. At the same time, stay clear from writing a concluding statement on your introductory paragraph because it blurs the essay plan that you have painstakingly laid out.

Writing the Body

Though the introduction has familiarized the readers with the purpose of the laid out the essay plan, it makes numerous unsupported claims in the thesis statement and proof points. The goal of the body paragraphs is to provide evidence for these unsupported claims. The evidence should be relevant, adequate and specific. The paragraphs should begin with a topic sentence that makes a claim and continues to offer supporting evidence for that claim. You should be able to explain what each bit of evidence means and how it adds to the entirety. You can get your supporting statements from the text or outside sources. If you derive your support from external sources, make sure that the source is credible. Remember to give credit wherever it’s due by citing the source. Supporting your claims lets your readers know that you understand the content and are willing to help them comprehend it too. It also gives you credibility. Quotations and citations also help the writer to support their arguments by indicating precisely what the author has composed and include their particular understanding of the cited content. They additionally, help the essayist to build up a well-supported claim to the implications of the work that they are analyzing. The text citations should be in MLA, APA or the style that the lecturer suggests.
For instance, the first body paragraph to the role of Professor Trelawney in the Harry Potter series would talk about her prophecy about Harry's role in the Wizards’ world and the consequences of this knowledge. It would also include how Dumbledore protected Harry throughout the years. The second paragraph would talk about how the prophecy demonstrated to Harry how to conquer Lord Voldemort and the duty that comes with such knowledge. The prophecy “neither shall live while the other survives” meant that one of them had to die. The mission that accompanies this prediction is quite heavy for a teenager to manage.

Good Transitions

To write an outstanding essay, you need the right flow which can be brought about by using valuable transitional phrases such as "in like manner, additionally, equally or in spite of or in the first place". These are phrases used to link sentences and to ensure smooth progress from one idea to another. To move from the first body paragraph to the next, you might write something like: “Dumbledore was by all account not the only one to see and be influenced by Trelawney’s prophecy; it additionally affected Harry by giving him the knowledge he needed to overcome Lord Voldemort.”

Concluding the Essay

The conclusion should contain qualities of a well-written paragraph: organization, balance, unity, and coherence. It should reiterate your thesis and proof points without repeating them. One way to write a conclusion is to express the implication of the issue discussed in the article. Assume that your reader is thinking, “Truly, you have persuaded me that this thing implies what you say it implies, but so what? Why is it essential?” Your conclusion should seek to answer the above questions. Another strategy is to complete a story begun in the introduction. For instance, in Philip Murray’s essay “Garcia Marquez’s Soulless Religion” starts with a synopsis of “An old man with Enormous Wings” stopping abruptly before recounting how the story ends. The body clarifies the significance of the story. The conclusion picks up from where the synopsis in the introduction left off. “He flies away from the hypocrisy that runs deeply within people whose faith is fleeting and whose religion is soulless.” The purpose of a conclusion is to tell your thoughts on what a thing means. Your goal is not to introduce something new to the essay or to argue. The conclusion should relate the theme to the present reality or end with a quote from the author or text.

Common Pitfalls of Writing an Interpretive Essay

  • Writing a summary
When writing an interpretive essay portraying what Professor Trelawney’s impact on Harry Potters life is, you would not merely describe to your readers who Trelawney is. Writing about her dreams, job or personality is too superficial. You have to dig deeper and explain why her visions are essential.
  • Mixing elements
Whereas most interpretive essays focus on the smaller aspects of a written piece, some students choose to center on the broad meaning of the work. Remember, however, that you should do one or the other and not both of them. Expounding on the big picture and small parts in the same article can make your work appear to be disordered. So pick one aspect and stick to it.
  • Listing facts
Another grave mistake that students make while writing an interpretive essay is listing facts. They often record as many truths as they can without explaining how those facts support the thesis statement or their importance. This strategy is indeed pointless. Instead, describe each of them in paragraphs and produce supporting evidence.
  • Having no evidence
At the opposite end of the terrible analysis, a range is the no evidence analysis. It comprises of unsupported statements and guesswork, and that could make you lose marks in your essay. Therefore, always provide supporting evidence for your points and cite the sources that you got the evidence from.

Final Thoughts

When writing an interpretive essay, consider using proper grammar and writing styles since they provide clarity and make it easier for the lecturer to go through your work. It is also important to come up with fascinating and unique ways to interpret the literary work. Therefore, after you finish writing, proofread your work and correct any grammatical errors. You can also have someone else do it for you to ensure that you submit your best work. Additionally, ensure that you follow the format outlined here, follow the guidelines on writing the introduction, body, and conclusion as is required. Now that you are familiar with what is needed when writing an interpretive essay, it is time to get writing!