Could you please advise me on how to write a literary commentary?Hello, I am David and I just subscribed yesterday; and I hope this site will help me with my studies. I am French, and I am a second...

Could you please advise me on how to write a literary commentary?


I am David and I just subscribed yesterday; and I hope this site will help me with my studies.

I am French, and I am a second year student, preparing a bachelor degree in English.

I have, beside other classes,  literature studies. I am not very used to writing essays, and not very confident about it.

Now, I have to write a literary commentary on a few lines, taken from the book "The Master of Ballantrae".

What is the aim of a commentary? How should it be written?

Could you please, give me some tips and tools to help me writing a commentary?




Expert Answers
mitchrich4199 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A literary commentary is, I'm assuming, a literary analysis. There are any number of ways that you might do this. What you want to do is look at the specific text that you were assigned. In this case, you're going to do a "close reading" of part of "The Master of Ballantree." In the lines you are speaking of, look for everything you can find. What words does the author choose? What is the point of view? Who is the narrator? What do you see as the overall point? And finally, why is this important? Why are you, David, going to write about it?

Once you've figured that out, the rest will come fluidly. Not necessarily easily, but naturally. If you're writing a short essay, organize your thoughts using all the things you noticed in your close reading. Then go ahead and write the essay discussing all of these points. Make sure they all focus in on some element of the thesis.

The key element in essay writing is to make sure that you use quotations from the text to support what you're saying. Everything you think about this particular piece is based in the text. Therefore, when you write about it, you must use the author's words that made you think what you think. For instance, if you are going to say that the tone of the piece is "angry," illustrate that idea with a comment from the piece, such as: "Fear was struck in the boy as his father lambasted him for writing on the wall." This is a key point in writing essays about literature and creating literary commentary.

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A literary commentary is also called a critical discussion, a literary analysis, or a critical analysis (I think what it is called depends upon what country one is in). A literary commentary comprises analysis and discussion of all literary devices. These include literary elements and literary techniques.

Literary elements are things that are common to all works of literature and are not optional. These common elements are character, setting, tone, mood (or atmosphere), and structure. Structure includes chronology, climax, resolution, expository or inciting events, rising and falling events, and/or poetic structure. These structural components may be identified by different terms such as flashbacks or denouement.

Literary techniques are things that may be common in many works of literature but are optional at the discretion of the author. These optional devices include imagery, symbolism, and various tropes, which may include such figures of speech as metaphor and word schemes.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Basically, find something about the work that you want to analyze. Usually, you will focus on certain literary elements. You might choose themes, elements of the plot, literary devices or characterization details. It really is up to you what you focus on.