How to write a novel essay
Choose the right question. For example, a question on techniques or
analysis of a specific passage would not suit our study of To Kill a
Mockingbird. Make sure you can answer all parts of the question. If you
choose a question that involves words like “think differently” or how your
“opinion has changed” make sure you clearly state what you thought before,
what you think now, and what made you change your mind. Remember
“analyse how” means “what methods has the author used”.
Plan. Do not start writing before you have planned how you will approach the
question. It is not a plot summary, it’s an analysis of an aspect of the novel.
You will need supporting evidence; jot down a few quotes while you
Write your essay. The introduction should include the title of the book (in
quotation marks, spelled correctly), the author’s name (that’s Harper Lee, not
Lee Harper, and she’s a woman so don’t refer to her as ‘him’), the key words
of the topic you have chosen, and the main points you are going to discuss in
* Use your resource booklet to help you, especially with supporting quotes
(pages 26-30), essay planning (page 33) and possible essay topics (page 35).
* You may wish to include a background statement. Think about this in
advance and memorise a brief summary of the story so that you don’t waste
time thinking about it in the exam.
* Remember to fully explain your ideas. You can’t just say ‘Tom Robinson and
Boo Radley are mockingbirds.” First you have to explain what the mockingbird
symbolises and how that is presented in the novel.
* Use the SEXIST structure for your paragraphs – statement, explanation,
example, author’s intention, links to society, themes.
Links to society means:
* How does Harper lee’s novel help us to understand American society in the
1930s? Why is this history important?
* How is the novel still relevant in the world today? Use specific examples,
such as facts or statitstics from
www.nacdl.org/public.nsf/defenseupdates/innocence240. This story is a real-
life example of a black man being wrongfully convicted of rape in the
American south; he was only released last year after DNA evidence proved
he didn’t do it. Don’t stop there; I’m sure you could find other examples of
racism and prejudice in today’s society to support your answer.
* Another thing to think about is what this novel shows us about New Zealand
society. Although this novel was set in America in the 1930s, it has parallels in
New Zealand in 2009. If a muscular, lower-class Maori man from south
Auckland was accused of raping a poor disadvantaged Pakeha teenager – he
even admitted to fleeing the crime scene - how many New Zealanders would
consider him ‘innocent until proven guilty’? and how many would mutter ‘well
he looks dodgy’?