Look closely at literature, and you may see a new world below the surface. In high school or college, a teacher may ask you to do this by writing a lens essay. A lens essay is a type of comparative paper that analyzes one text through the viewpoints expressed in another. Composing an effective one is difficult even for the most seasoned of writers. However, it is an incredible intellectual exercise through which you will not only improve your writing skills but your critical reading and thinking skills as well.
Read the Lens Text
Begin by reading the text you plan to use as your viewpoint. Take note of strong opinions, assumptions and justifications. Clear, concise notes about this section will help when using this text as a lens and when writing your final essay, so make sure your notes are accurate.
Read the Focus Text
Read the second work once, making note of its important details. Look back at your notes from the lens text, and read the focus text again with the lens text in mind. Use active reading skills such as writing questions in the margins and determining the purpose of each paragraph.
Take a Closer Look
Here are a few questions to consider when analyzing the content of your focus text: How does the lens text serve to shed light on the second text? Does it criticize it or support it? If the two pieces were written during different periods in history, consider the era in which the lens was written and how it affects the opinions or points made in the second. Consider the lives of the authors and how their differences might inform their writing.
Construct Your Thesis
With your notes in hand, construct your thesis statement. Using details from the both texts as context clues, determine how the author of the lens text would view the assertions of the focal text. Construct this view as a statement that includes the details expounded upon in the body paragraphs of your essay. At the same time, keep your thesis statement as clear and simple as you can. Your thesis statement is the roadmap to the rest of your paper. Its clarity and concision will help your reader understand what to expect.
Compose the Body of Your Essay
Write the body. A lens essay is typically constructed on a text-by-text basis. Concentrate on presenting the lens in the first paragraphs. In the following, present the second text as viewed through the lens. How do your points support the thesis? Make sure to include evidence for your assertions.
Sum Up Your Ideas
Write the conclusion. Restate your thesis first, then sum up the main points of your paper. Be sure to make what you have said meaningful. Don't let the paper fizzle out, but don't introduce new information either.
Revise and Edit
Read over your work at least once, first paying attention to content and inconsistencies in your argument. Make additions and corrections, and then proofread your work. Correct errors in style and grammar, and make sure your prose reads fluently. When in doubt, ask a friend to read your paper. Sometimes another set of eyes can catch mistakes that yours don't.