Literature Essay Papers

Excellent Guide to Writing Literature Essay Papers

Literature is one of the most common subjects for essay papers. Literature topics refer to books, authors, critiques, and characters that may have become universal symbols of qualities, such as Hamlet. This requires intensive reading, understanding of the text read, and application of knowledge regarding literature and literary elements.

The literature essay papers could be of various types. You could be asked to describe, analyse an element, compare and contrast, or explore facets. Each of these, like for the general essay, brings into play certain qualities of writing and research.


  • Descriptive

This could ask you to describe the setting, plot, characters, or all of these of a literary text/s. You could describe a critic’s position on a text, or describe a literary theory. Sample topics: describe the effect of setting in Pride and Prejudice? characterization in An Old Man and the Sea; the use of symbols in Othello or Byron’s poetry as a modern dramatic monologue.

To write on such topics, you will have to read the text carefully for distinctive marks that help you base your description and its thesis on particular elements. For example, for the last topic, you would have to consider the following:

• What is the dramatic monologue?

• What are its characteristics: Victorian and modern

• Describe the poem and its dramatic monologue elements

  • Analysis

This involves analysing an element, a text, or certain parts of it. Sample topics: Analyse the role of setting in To Kill a Mocking Bird; analyse Hamlet’s character as that of a prince suffering from the Oedipus complex; analyse character and theme in The Yellow Wallpaper; analyse the use of language in Catcher in the Rye.

For these topics, your knowledge of the text alone will not help. You have to have a concrete understanding of the story, the plot, the writer’s techniques, use of language, variations on a theme, and many other such elements. For example, to analyse the Hamlet topic, you will have to first explore Oedipus complex as a psychological issue, apply it to Hamlet, and analyse whether Hamlet, the character, fits the bill. Questions would relate to what, why, and how.

  • Compare and contrast

These essays require you to compare different aspects of a text or across texts. Sample topics: Compare and contrast the central figures in A Dollar’s House and Hedda Gabler as rebels; compare the use of language and symbols in Sons and Lovers and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; compare To a Skylark and To a Nightingale as lyrical poems.

To write the first topic, you will need to know about the two plays, the two characters, the setting within which they find themselves, their rebellion and its causes and consequences, and its nature.

You write the literature essay paper in the third person and present tense. These papers need energy for reading and retaining information. They are dependent on the use of examples and references to books and critics.