How to Set Up an Explication Essay

How to Set Up an Explication Essay

If you enjoy analyzing and interpreting the written word, then you'll like writing an explication essay. In simple terms, an explication essay is a short essay that requires you to analyze, interpret and explain shorter passages such as sentences or verses in a longer literary work. An explication essay can be used when writing about several different genres including poems, short stories, novels and other pieces of literature that contain sections, characters and elements that are difficult to understand.

1 Introduction

The introductory paragraph of your explication essay presents the reader with your topic and thesis statement. If you’re writing your essay on a short story, state the title, author’s name, and give a brief overview of the essential elements of the story. Present your thesis statement -- the central argument of your essay -- as clearly as possible. Use the last sentence of your introductory paragraph to introduce your thesis.

2 Construction

An essential part of the explication process is analyzing and explaining how a specific text is constructed. Only after you’ve explained to your reader in detail and with careful observation how a piece is constructed will you be ready to accurately interpret the piece. For example, if your explication essay’s focus is a short story, the major plot points, themes and character objectives lead to the construction of the rising action, climax and other essential parts of the story. Without a paragraph that includes close analysis and examination of the story's construction, a successful explication essay is difficult to write.

3 Clarity

A successful explication essay contains a paragraph that outlines and clarifies sections of the focus piece that are difficult to digest. For example, if your essay focuses on the greed of the protagonist in a novel and it’s ambiguous as to whether or not the protagonist stole her money or earned it, you must use evidence from the text to prove to your reader that the protagonist stole money.

4 Interpretation & Conclusion

The examination and clarification of a text's construction and ambiguity offers your reader a developed understanding of the work as a whole, and once this has been achieved, your interpretations can be submitted. Several paragraphs in an explication essay should make assertions related to your thesis and provide supporting examples from the text. For example, if you’re arguing in an interpretation paragraph that the antagonist only loves herself, an example from the text where she’s pampering herself and ignoring her children will prove your point. After your interpretation paragraphs have been written, the conclusion paragraph should re-state your thesis and wrap up all of the ideas and points presented in your essay.

Jake Shore is an award-winning Brooklyn-based playwright, published short story writer and professor at Wagner College. His short fiction has appeared in many publications including Litro Magazine, one of London's leading literary magazines. Shore earned his MFA in creative writing from Goddard College.