Written by: Helen Donohoe
***Helen Donohoe, M.S.Ed., is a teacher of English and French in the Hamilton/Burlington area. She holds practice SAT sessions on Saturdays on an informal, drop-in basis at Cedar Springs Racquet Club where she is a member, long-time tennis hacker and aficionado.
In this section of the website we will be publishing short paragraphs on various aspects of SAT. Please leave your questions/comments here, and Helen will be happy to respond to any specific concerns from students/parents***
Strategies for essay writing – incorporating themes from literature into your essay
Once you have completed your list of works you have read (see last week’s article about identifying the main themes), choose three which you feel you know best and which you enjoyed reading. It’s best to stick to the classics, as the readers/scorers of your essay will know the classics too. Remember too, that the readers of the essays are American, so they will be familiar with American authors. If you choose a novel or poem that you have read, but that few others have read, it will be more difficult to get your point across to the readers without going into a lot of detail, something that is not essential to the essay.
Let’s say you choose Macbeth, The Scarlet Letter and The Kite Runner. Have you noticed the balance I have created here – one each from British, American and non-western literature – a safe and sagacious (find the meaning!) choice. I’ve selected three essay topics from recent SAT’s (I have shortened them slightly):
1. Are we free to make our own choices in life, or are our decisions always limited by the rules of society?
2. Is honesty always the best policy?
3. Do we need knowledge of the past to fully understand the present?
Essay question # 1 – making choices. Can you apply a theme? Think of Macbeth as he listens to the words of the witches and decides to interpret them to suit his ambitions… He makes a choice… And sets off down the path of no return…
Essay question # 2 – honesty. Can you apply a theme? Think of the main characters in The Scarlet Letter. Who is honest and who is dishonest (dishonesty is also related to hypocrisy, another big essay theme)?
Essay question # 3 – knowledge of the past. Can you apply a theme? Think of the setting of The Kite Runner and how it switches from an “old” part of the world with centuries of tradition to a “new” part of the world with fewer conventions, and how the main character adapts…
I’ll continue on this thread next week. By now, the format of the essay question should be taking shape in your mind or on paper (or laptop, iPad, iPhone).