Literary Argument Prompt

ENG 102

Literary Argument Prompt



In a literary argument, the idea is to carefully create an opinion about a work of literature and then support it. One type that we have already seen is the literary evaluation. Other types include analysis or synthesis.

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In an analysis, we look at a component (or several components) of that work and investigate it in such a way that we can create an interesting, original argument about the text. For instance, you may want to show how a character’s dialogue or actions indicate how the character truly feels about another character or an experience in the story.


In a synthesis, we might take a work of literature and connect it to the world around us, integrating, or synthesizing, research about the work with something broader, like topics in current society and whether or not a literary work still resonates in today’s day and age.


With any literary argument, the investigation generally begins with a question. Examples of such questions can be found below.



In 1000-1200 words, write an argument (analysis or synthesis) about a literary work (poetry, fiction, or drama) we have covered or been assigned so far this semester.

  • Below are possible questions that might get you started on your literary argument. While you may use one of the questions below, you are welcome and encouraged to design your own question to answer (or apply similar questions to a different work than the one listed).
    • “Liberty Needs Glasses” (Blackboard)
      • This social justice poem was written in the early 1990s. Is it still relevant today?
    • “Where the Sidewalk Ends” (Blackboard)
      • Is this strictly a children’s poem, or does it offer insight for adults as well?
    • “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” p. 1032-1046
      • Is Connie to blame for her fate? What does the fact that some might blame her say about society and how women are portrayed in literature and the media?
    • “The Yellow Wallpaper” p. 233-246
      • “The Yellow Wallpaper” was written in the 1890s. Are there messages from this story that mental health professionals and society should still consider when working and interacting with those affected by mental illness?
    • “A&P” p. 482-487
      • Did Sammy make the right decision in quitting his job? Why or why not? Make sure you consider this with a deep consideration of Sammy’s internal conflicts with society and not just from a more external “should you quit your job suddenly” perspective.
    • “A Good Man is Hard to Find” p. 500-511
      • Grandmothers are usually good. Outlaws are normally bad. Many people believe that in this story, however, those roles are somewhat flipped. Choose either the Misfit or the grandmother and discuss how that person is not whom he or she first appears to be.
    • POOF! (p. 751-757)
      • Even though the play includes a sudden death/disappearance, it does not come across as sad. How are comic elements used to create humor in a possibly tragic situation?

Regardless of choice of work or question asked, your essay should contain an engaging introduction with a clear argumentative thesis; several body paragraphs that work together to create an interesting, developed, and well-supported argument; a counterargument that discusses an argument different from your own and then refutes it; and a smooth conclusion that neatly wraps up your essay.

Suggested Outline

  • Introduction
    • Try a funnel introduction–start general and transition down to a specific arguable thesis.
    • Create an evaluative, argumentative thesis–it should be something everyone may not agree with.
      • Poor example: The Misfit in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” should be admired.
      • Stronger example: Despite the fact that the Misfit is a hardened criminal, a murderer, in fact, he is the most admirable character in O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find” because he is the most self-actualized–he understands who he is and accepts his self-determined fate with grace.
    • Three Body Paragraphs
      • Use your body paragraphs to develop and support the main points from your thesis statement as well as introduce examples from your sources.
      • Start each body paragraph with a topic sentence.
      • Use transitions to connect your ideas.
      • Include in-text citations each time you quote or paraphrase a source.
    • Counterargument
      • Examine (minimum 6-8 lines of text) an argument that differs from your own. If possible, use a secondary source to support that discussion.
      • Refute the counterargument.
    • Conclusion
      • Restate your main idea in a new way (do not simply copy and paste your thesis). Bring the paper to a close.
      • Try mirroring the introduction in terms of content and structure.
        • Ex: If you start your paper with a statistic, remind the reader of that statistic at the end of your paper to bring your ideas full circle.

Research Requirements

  • 3 Direct quotes (at minimum) from your primary source (the literary work you are writing about).
  • 2 Direct quotes (at minimum) from 2 additional sources from the GTC databases or the textbook.
    • Database sources must be credible and appropriate for an academic setting.
  • Any borrowed material (quoted, summarized, or paraphrased) must be properly cited in-text and in the Works Cited page.
  • Note: While you are welcome to paraphrase information with proper in-text citations, paraphrased material will NOT count toward the direct quote requirements.

MLA Format

Your essay should be properly formatted according to the most up-to-date MLA standards discussed in class or located in course materials (your textbook or the MLA and Research Resources area of Blackboard).

Proper formatting includes the following criteria:

  • MLA General Format
  • In-text citations
  • Works Cited page that follows all MLA guidelines

Submission Guidelines

  • Submit your essay to the correct Blackboard Assignment folder before the due date and time discussed in class.
  • If you are using anything other than traditional desktop Word to create your essays (Office 365, Google Drive, Pages, etc.), you MUST create a .pdf of the document to upload. Blackboard will not read your document otherwise and you run the risk of not having your assignment submitted on time and earning a late penalty.

Additional Information

To be eligible for a passing grade, essays must meet the following basic requirements:

  • 1000-1200 words
  • Content is on topic
  • Meets all research requirements (number of quotes, types of sources, includes in-text documentation and a Works Cited page, etc.)
  • Has no issues with academic dishonesty (i.e. essay is original to this class this semester and includes no undocumented borrowed information)

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