What is the best way to start an answer in literature questions?For example, how should an answer to a poetry question begin?

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that answer to this depends on the format.  If you are answering a question in literature through the form of a formal report, there are specific rules and guidelines in terms of research and presentation that have to be followed and these will guide your answer.  If it is a straight type of analysis question, I think opening with your answer to the question and then delving right into the support from the text is essential.  I think it is common practice to have at least three strong pieces of textual analysis to support your answer.  For example, if the question asks you about the meaning of a poem, I would open with a clear statement about what you feel the meaning is.  Then, I would support it with three specific and separate reasons why, all the while citing examples from the poem (Line numbers, facts or ideas about the poet or movement of poetry.)  I think it's important to not meander or wander off, which is why opening with your answer to the question will allow you to maintain focus throughout your response.  Again, you will find different takes on this, but this is the one that I find is most helpful in answering literature questions.

Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't think there's one "right" way to begin the answer to a question (as long as your full answer contains your own, personal voice).  For example, if I think a question is particularly interesting, I am happy to say so.  For example, a student asked yesterday about the reference to the decomposing dog-biscuit at Myrtle's party in Chapter 2 of The Great Gatsby.  It was honestly a question I had never thought about before and thoroughly enjoyed answering it.  That was one example when I answered with a, "What an interesting question!" or something similar.  If it's kind of a "blah" question, then I will often begin by restating it in some way.  Of course, there are other questions that are purposely meant to stump the student.  In those cases, I will often begin by saying, "That is a trick question."  Then I continue with the explanation.  Just make sure your answer has your own personal voice, and you can't go wrong!  Good luck to you with your eNotes answers!  : )

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In all poems there is a controlling metaphor.  If you can identify this controlling metaphor, your instructor will know immediately that you have an understanding of the entire poem.  Therefore, a good way to start a response to a question that involves either interpretation of the poem or analysis of the poetic devices is an assertion of this controlling metaphor.  For, all parts/devices of the poem contribute to this metaphor.

For instance, if you were asked a question about "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost, you could begin your response with a statement regarding the metaphor of choices as the controlling one and move from this into the analysis that is particular to your question. And, of course, as the other editors already have pointed out, provide as much support from lines in the poem that you can.

linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question should be on the discussion board so that you can get a wider variety of answers.

I've always found that one of the best ways to start an answer is to rephrase the question. For instance, in a test on the play Antigone, a question might be: Who does Antigone blame for her terrible misfortune? I would begin my answer by stating what that misfortune is, continue by describing how Antigone feels about it and herself, and then discussing who she blames for it and why.

More specifically to your question about how to answer a question about poetry, I would most likely start my answer this way: In the poem "XXXX," John Doe describes....

I hope this helps you.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I find this depends on the question and what it is asking.  If the focus is on a literary term like "imagery", then the imagery would be first addressed.  I do like Linda's answer regarding rephrasing the question, too.  This helps the readers of the answer better understand what is being asked as well as what to expect in a quality answer.  Always include the poem's title, the author's name, and then go right to the heart of the original question--"The poem "The Raven" by E.A. Poe uses the qualities of the supernatural to attain the overall effect of the poem.  Those qualities include,..."

Good Luck!

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Using part of the question stem is always a good idea. You could simply restate such as:The best way to start an answer about literature is too…. Another method would be to repeat the idea in the question stem such as: People will have differing opinions, but why not try starting answers like this….