I have been given an assessment in which we have to write an analytical essay on the novel To Kill A Mockingbird. I have chosen to do mine on racism. Because I am in year 10 English excellence, we...

I have been given an assessment in which we have to write an analytical essay on the novel To Kill A Mockingbird. I have chosen to do mine on racism. Because I am in year 10 English excellence, we are expected to already know the structure of an essay. I still don't understand it. Can you please help by explaining the proper structure for an analytical essay?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Do not worry because there are some helpful graphic blueprints online for the structure of an essay, particularly an analytic essay. (One link is listed below for you. This link uses the best structure for high school students: the five-paragraph essay.)

An analytic essay takes a smaller part of a whole (i.e. To Kill a Mockingbird) and examines how this smaller part affects the larger part. So, your topic of racism can be analyzed as a theme. The essay, then, will examine and explain how this theme affects the narrative (i.e. plot and characterization). The thesis of the essay will include this idea in a general statement. (The best format for the high school student is the five-paragraph essay as displayed in the link alluded to before.)

First, you write your introduction which presents an idea that piques, or "hooks," your reader's interest--perhaps you can reflect on Atticus's advice to Scout in one of the early chapters (use the quote about climbing into someone's skin), then you state the thesis. For example, you could write something like this as an introduction:

INTRODUCTION

In order to prevent his children from contracting what he calls "Maycomb's usual disease," Atticus Finch accepts the role of defense attorney for African American Tom Robinson against the charge of rape brought by Mayella Ewell. Atticus wants his children to learn the importance of figuratively climbing into another person's skin and viewing society from another perspective in order to better understand others. The failure to try another's perspective is what causes racism, a condition that runs through the narrative of To Kill a Mockingbird. THESIS: This failure to perceive outside one's own narrow scope of racism is what causes bias, injustice, and great social harm. 

Notice that there are 3 ideas to develop. Each of these should be the governing idea of the 3 topic sentences of the 3 body paragraphs. For example, with the first idea, a topic sentence about the bias that some of the white characters hold could point out how their bias and hatred keeps them from knowing and understanding black people (e.g. Mr. Underwood--even Scout tells Dill that Tom is "just a Negro").  Then, supporting details from the narrative should be given and quotations from the novel can also substantiate the point. After giving support for the point of the topic sentence, a final sentence that makes a transition to the next topic sentence will carry the reader smoothly into the next paragraph. 

Remember that the body of the essay is the most important part as it proves the thesis. After the completion of the body, there is a concluding paragraph that simply rewords the thesis. After this is done, the writer can compose a "clincher": this is an idea from the essay that can be extended to a broader sense. For example, a comment can be made about how the reader may have learned from Scout to stand on another's "porch" and view life from a different perspective.

Sources:

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