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Sample Interpretive Essay Outline

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word “interpretive”? For me, a couple things come to mind—interpretive dance, language interpretation, and fortune telling.

Hear me out on the last one for a second.

Think about Professor Trelawney’s class—what was one of the first things they did? Read tea leaves. Those young witches and wizards had to look at the tea leaves in a different way to interpret what they meant.

And that’s exactly what you’ll be doing. No! Not reading tea leaves—interpreting literature. I’ll help you learn what an interpretive essay is and how to write one.

What Is an Interpretive Essay?

Before we get into the how, we have to figure out the what. You can think of an interpretive essay the same way you think about a literary analysis.

Like the name suggests, an interpretive essay is one in which you interpret a piece of literature—a book, essay, play, or poem. It doesn’t have to be, and actually shouldn’t be, about every element you can think of.

Instead, choose one or two elements of the piece to focus on, unless you’re given a specific prompt (in which case, just follow the prompt). If you don’t have a prompt, figuring out what to write about can be a little difficult.

My suggestion is to find something that’s interesting to you. The author’s use of foreshadowing or metaphors, or a certain theme, setting, or character. Once you have this broad topic picked out, you can interpret it by breaking it down into pieces.

If this still sounds a little too theoretical and not practical enough, don’t worry. We’re just getting warmed up.

How Not to Write Your Interpretive Essay

Before we get into how to write your interpretive essay, it’s important to know what not to do from the very beginning.

Don’t write a summary

If you’re working on an interpretive essay where you’re describing what Professor Trelawney’s impact is in Harry Potter, for example, you wouldn’t just tell your reader what Trelawney is like.

Describing her profession, visions, or personality is way too surface-level. You need to dig deeper and make connections as to why her visions are important.

Go big, go small, or go home

While most interpretive essays focus on the smaller aspects of a piece of literature, some students choose to focus on the broader meaning of the work as a whole. Keep in mind, though, that you should do one or the other, not both.

Writing about the big picture and small parts can make your work seem too jumbled. So pick one, and stick to it.

For ideas on what elements to look out for—big or small—check out this super-helpful list of various elements of literature.

What an Insightful Interpretive Essay Must Have

Now that you have a couple things to look out for as you write your interpretive essay, it’s time to talk about what you should do.

1. A thoughtful thesis

Like any essay you write for class, you’re going to want a thesis statement for your interpretive essay.

A thesis usually consists of one, sometimes two sentences that tell the reader what you’re going to write about. It clearly states your viewpoint and offers a summary of your supporting reasons for that viewpoint.

If I were to write my entire interpretive essay on the role of Professor Trelawney in Harry Potter, my thesis statement might look like this:

Though Professor Sybil Trelawney does not have many visions during her tenure at Hogwarts, the one she does have is crucial to the plot of the entire Harry Potter series. Her prophecy lets Dumbledore know how important Harry is to the fate of the wizarding world and allows Harry to find out what he must do to defeat Voldemort.

As you can see, this thesis statement describes what I’m interpreting—Trelawny’s importance to the plot—and offers the supporting points that I’ll be discussing in the body paragraphs.

2. Balance

Speaking of the body paragraphs, you want to make sure they all balance out. In fact, you want to make sure your whole essay balances out.

What I mean by this is that you should have a brief introduction that introduces what you’re going to write about, followed by body paragraphs of similar lengths, then a brief conclusion that nicely wraps it all up.

In my interpretive essay, my first body paragraph or section would discuss how Trelawney’s prophecy showed Dumbledore how important Harry is to the fate of the wizarding world, as well as the repercussions of this knowledge. This would include Dumbledore’s protection of Harry throughout the years.

The second section would discuss how the prophecy showed Harry how to defeat Voldemort and the responsibility that comes with that knowledge. “Neither can live while the other survives” means one has to die, which is pretty heavy stuff for a teenager to deal with.

Both sections should be roughly the same length (no need to count words exactly, just don’t make one super short and the other super long).

It’s also important to note that you do not need to follow a five-paragraph structure unless instructed to do so. That’s why I refer to these as “sections.” Each section can be one or several paragraphs, depending on the flow.

3. Support

In essay-writing, you’re opinion is no good unless you can back it up.

How do you do that?

You use support from the text and outside sources. Supporting your argument gives you credibility and lets the reader not only know you understand the text, but also helps them understand it better too.

If you use support from an outside source, make sure it’s credible and not some meme you saw on Facebook. And always, ALWAYS cite your sources. If the idea isn’t yours, you have to give credit to the original source—even if you’re not quoting directly.

For my first body section, my support would include three points:

  • Dumbledore’s protection of Harry
  • Snape’s last memories that included his own protection of Harry at Dumbledore’s request
  • The fact that the whole reason Trelawney was hired in the first place was because that one prophecy was so powerful and important

4. Good transitions

The three “should dos”above will get you a decent interpretive essay. But we can do better than decent, right?

To have a truly great essay, you’ll need more than content—you’ll need the right kind of flow. And to get that flow, using using effective transitions is key. (You might also want to check out 97 Transition Words for Essays You Need to Know.)

Transitions are how you get from one idea to another. In elementary school, you might’ve learned using “first,” “second,” and “third” to introduce the body paragraphs. But you and your writing have both evolved since then. So it’s time to use some grown-up transitions.

Effective transitions are more conversational. Not to say that your essay should read like you’re chatting with a friend … just that it should go from one idea to the next with no abrupt stops or awkward pauses.

So to get from my first body paragraph to the second, I might write something like this:

Dumbledore was not the only one to see and be affected by Trelawney’s prophecy; it also impacted Harry by giving him the knowledge he needed to defeat Voldemort.

And then I would proceed naturally into my next point.

5. Personality

Your flow is also going to depend on how much fun you have when you’re writing.

I know, your essay probably isn’t on something like Professor Trelawney’s prophecy, but injecting some of your personality into your interpretive essay makes it read easier and stand out (in a good way) from the 20 or more other essays your teacher has to read.

Plus, it makes it much more enjoyable to write.

Last Step: Putting It All Together

Now that you know what to do and what not to do when you write your interpretive essay, it’s time to get to it. If you’re still a little unsure, check out some example interpretive essays for inspiration. Then get writing.

Many students find writing an outline before they begin can save them time and make the writing process easier. Doing so will let you organize your thoughts, so all you have to do is fill in the information.

And don’t forget, if you want to avoid making grammar mistakes or you want to know whether your support is okay, the Kibin editors are always here to help make sure you’re reading those tea leaves right.

Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.

Every author and poet have their own unique style that cannot be replicated. Based on how they think or what they are trying to portray, they create various poems to explore several ideas or theories that were on their mind.

Poetry analysis is simply . Normally, this review is conducted and recorded within the structure of a literary analysis essay. This type of essay writing requires one to take a deeper look at both the choices that a poet made and the overall effects of those choices. These papers require an in-depth analysis of all of the parts that were used to form a work of poetry.


Table Of Contents


Steps To Take Pre-Writing

In order to compose a poetry analysis essay, one must first read the poem carefully. It is definitely important to reread the literary piece several times so as to get a full grasp of the numerous ideas and concepts. This also gives you an opportunity to make note of the rhyme scheme (if there is one), the type of poem (Limerick, ode, sonnet, lyric, haiku, free verse, etc.) and other poetic techniques that the poet used (such as enjambment, meter, end-stopped lines, figurative language, etc.).

  • Limerick: Limerick is a stanza of five lines, with the first, second and fifth rhyming with one another and having three feet of three syllables each; and the shorter third and fourth lines also rhyming with each other, but having only two feet of three syllables.
  • Ode: Its structure - 10-line stanzas rhyming, with the 8th line iambic trimeter and all the others iambic pentameter
  • Sonnet: A fourteen-line poem written in iambic pentameter. Was made famous by non-other than Shakespeare! (Shakespeare invented the word "swag"... just saying)
  • Lyric: A lyric poem is a comparatively short, non-narrative poem in which a single speaker presents a state of mind or an emotional state. Rather than tell a story, the speaker talks about his thoughts using a specific rhyming style.
  • Haiku: Invented by the Japanese, a haiku is a three-line poem with seventeen syllables, written in a 5/7/5 syllable count.
  • Free-Verse: Rather simple, free verse is poetry that does not rhyme or have a regular rhythm.

All of those elements of the poem are essential to know when one is writing a poetry analysis essay because they are a part of the poem’s structure and can affect the content.

After covering the technical aspects of a poem, it is best to learn about the background of the poem. This means that one may find it beneficial to look up the poet, the date that the poem was written, and the cultural context of the work. All of that information typically gives the reader a more in-depth understanding of the poem, and it seems self-explanatory that one who has an enhanced comprehension of the poem would have an easier time conducting an analysis of that poem.

The final element of writing a poetry analysis essay is a part of the composition dedicated to the subject matter of the poem. This can be analyzed during the reader’s quest to determine the theme, tone, mood, and meaning of the poem. The subject matter – and the thematic elements that support the intended message behind the subject – is often an interpretive minefield.

Often, people have different ideas about what a poet is trying to say by their use of a subject, so unless the message is implicitly stated, it is best to state about what the poet may have meant and include evidence for these theories.

However, it is important to generally pick a side among the various theories that you have created. Though the author could have tried to portray several different ideas in theories, .
The writer should be careful to not mistake this with choosing a favorite opinion or biased one. They should be defending the one that carries the most weight or offers the most validation! As the essay is to be an analysis, opinions are to be avoided in favor of facts and conjectures that are backed by evidence from the work.

How To Choose A Topic

A great way to choose a topic for a poetry analysis essay is to decide on a topic that would deal with information that one is already familiar with. For example, if the choice of the poem to analyze is up to the writer, then it may be beneficial for the writer to choose a poem that he/she has encountered before. If the choice is to be made between different subject areas within a poem, then the writer could find it easier to choose to focus on writing about an area that plays to his/her strengths, so that the statements made in the essay are conveyed

A poetry analysis essay may seem like a daunting writing assignment at first, but if the topic, outline, and paper are composed following the aforementioned steps, the paper will no doubt, turn out very well.

Poetry Analysis Essay Outline

An outline for a poetry analysis essay can be very simple, as it is just a guideline for the writer to build upon as the first draft is written. It would probably be best to put the title of the paper at the top of a page, then place a Roman numeral one (I) underneath, preceding the word “introduction”.

Under this, one can list brainstormed ideas for the introduction paragraph of the paper. The final portion of this section should be dedicated to the thesis statement of the paper.

After that portion of the outline is finished, one can move on to the body paragraphs. Each of the Roman numerals used to label this part of the outline should denote a different subject area with respect to the poem that will be discussed in the essay. Letters under these numerals may be followed by subtopics within each subject area that are to be dealt within individual paragraphs (or sentences, if it is to be a shorter essay) within the body of the paper.

The final section of the outline is where the last Roman numeral is used in front of the word “conclusion”. The conclusion of the paper should contain a restatement of the thesis, preferably in different, yet recognizable wording. It should also include an overall concluding statement about your summarized viewpoint of the analyzed piece.

Poetry Analysis Essay Example

Essay Writing Advice From Our Professional Team

Fabokid, tutor from EssayPro

When it comes to poetry analysis, the tricky thing is to pinpoint literary devices and explain their meaning. When you pinpoint a literary device used in the poem (e.g. an anaphora) you want to explain its effect in the poem, not simply state that the author of the poem used an anaphora. As the article articulates, the structure and background of the poem is very important, but in case of analysis, it is of utmost importance to stress how background, structure, and literary devices influence the overall meaning of the poem as a whole. What message is it sending and what is it trying to say? Other literary devices that you should pay attention to are diction, imagery, and allusion. The background of the author will not always be available to you. For example, while you are taking an AP exam, pay attention to specific images and words that they use or the cultural references they make can really help you pinpoint where the author is from and assist you in writing your essay.

Have A Poem To Analyze and Feel Stumped?

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