Type: Critical thinking

Subject: Poetry

Topic: The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe

Style: MLA

Number of pages: 5 pages/double spaced (1375 words)

PowerPoint slides: 0

Additional: None

Number of source/references: 2

Order instructions:

Write an essay in which you identify a poem’s significant theme(s) and do a close analysis of reading of the poem to trace the theme through the literary elements.


THEME: Remember, a theme is an idea or topic that can be traced throughout the poem plus the speaker’s attitude towards that topic and that whole statement connects to some universal truth. Consider then that the story or poem is only one example of this truth rather than being the sole embodiment of that truth. In addition to the story or poem, there could be other stories or novels or movies or songs that convey this attitude.


SAMPLE: In “My Last Duchess,” Robert Browning demonstrates that tyrannical rulers are not just arrogant but dangerous as well and must be dealt with carefully. The theme is italicized. It has a topic—tyrannical rulers—but it also conveys the speaker’s attitude—that such rulers are both arrongant and dangerous—and it connects with a universal truth—that dealing with tyrannical rulers must be done carefully.


Then, the topic sentences are going to develop from that statement and address specifically how the literary elements are used to build that theme and convey that attitude.


SAMPLE: The following are potential topic sentences for the above thesis/theme:


The danger of tyannical rulers is conveyed through the imagery and plot of the poem.

These images also convey the theme through the tone that is established by the word choice and sounds.

Building on this tone is the structure and order of the poem that symbolizes the control with which tyrants rule.

Browning continues to build the theme by developing the setting and characterizations that demonstrate the danger of dealing with tyrants, and this danger is further underscored by other symbols within the poem.

Browning uses the literary elements in “My Last Duchess” to build his argument that the controlling nature of tyrants stems from their arrogance and what could also be a degree of mental instability, which, in turn, makes them extremely dangerous. (This is the conclusion paragraph topic sentence)

INTRODUCTION: A close reading of any work requires breaking it down into the most miniscule detail in order to see not just what the detail is but how that detail works together with the rest of the details to create the elements of the work. In poetry, close readings are essential because poems are very condensed, so they need to be “unpacked” to really understand them.


TASK: Conduct a close reading, like the ones that we have been doing in class, of a poem from The Norton Introduction to Literature or from Poets.org. Then, identify the poem’s central theme (or themes if several are working together) and write an essay that uses the close reading to analyze the literary elements of the poem as they develop the themes. You can and also should note any literary fallacies that occur–we will discuss these in class more.


Your thesis needs to state the theme and be at the end of the introductory paragraph. Your topic sentences need to analyze the theme in terms of the literary elements, but go beyond statements like (“The symbolism of the poem develops this theme.”) Instead say something akin to “Death’s inevitability is underscored through the symbolism in the poem.” Then identify and analyze the symbols and the ways they convey the inevitability of death. Motifs and other literary elements can also be related to this.


CONDITIONS: Make sure that the essay analyzes how the word elements (e.g.: symbols, allusions, metaphors), the structural elements (e.g.: synecdoche, meter, rhythm, rhyme, assonance), and the story elements (e.g.: narrator, characters, action) develop the theme throughout the poem. This essay must have a unifying thesis that takes a position about the central topic(s) of the poem, and the essay also needs to explain the overall effect/impact produced by the elements in the poem. Do not summarize or retell what is said in the poem; analyze thoroughly. I expect a clear thesis, supporting paragraphs that quote frequently and explain the nuances of the relationships between the literary devices used in the poem and the thesis. Include a Works Cited page and be sure the essay is in strict MLA format.


– Stay away from author intent

– [First source ]Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has to be one of the sources to help support the essay.

-[ second source] The Norton Introduction to Literature Portable tenth edition is where I’m getting the poem from. or use Poets.org.

– stay away from “In stanza 2” it’s considered just summarizing

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