Elements of Essays

In Unit 1, we learned how authors combine various short story elements to develop a theme. Similarly, essay authors also employ literary techniques and devices to develop their themes and draw you into their text. Being aware of what literary devices, elements, and techniques authors use in creating their works gives you a huge step forward in your analysis of essays. The following table will focus your attention on the elements authors may use in their essays and the effectiveness of their usage.

Analysis of Non-Fiction

  • What concept or issue is this text about?
  • How does the title relate to the text?
  • In what way is the author's life connected to the story? This aspect will not always be readily apparent which means researching the author will be important.
  • What is the time, place, and social environment within which the events occur?
  • Help you visualize what is being discussed.
Special Print
  • When a word is bold, in italics, or underlined, it visually draws your attention to its importance.
  • Provide an overview of what upcoming sections of the text will be about.
Methods of Development/
Methods of Development
  • How a non-fiction text is organized may depend on its type. For example, if it’s an autobiography or biography, the organization is likely chronological.
  • How has the author arranged the events of the plot? (chronological, spatial, flashback, flash forward, etc.)
  • If the work is divided into parts, do these parts reflect the development of the act?
  • How is the support selected and arranged? (induction, deduction, evaluation, narration, description, deliberate order, other)
  • Do the transitional devices, paragraph development, topic sentences, impact of the intro & conclusion lead toward a climax or turning point?
  • Is there a resolution of conflicts or a revelation?
  • Why does the work end as it does?
  • The text will follow a sequence of events which may be linear or non-linear, based on chronology or other factors.
  • The narrative will deal with real events and people and so must conform to what is true.
Point of View
  • It may be written in second-person, using “you” as the subject if it’s a how-to guide.
  • Reflects facts (statements that can be proven) and opinions (based on the author’s beliefs and feelings).
  • What is the author's attitude about the subject and reader? (admiring, ironic, mocking, condescending, candid, sincere, intense, serious, detached, etc.)
  • Diction: Are the author’s word choices formal, informal, colloquial, or a mixture?
  • Figurative Language and Allusions: How do figures of speech and allusions enhance meaning? 
    • supporting evidence, propaganda/common logical fallacies, denotation/connotation, repetition, hyperbole, understatement/litotes, sarcasm, satire, analogy, rhetorical question, metaphor, simile
  • Sentence Structure: What do sentence patterns indicate?
  • How have objects, gestures, or images been given symbolic meaning? What is the effect of conventional, universal and specific symbols?
  • If present, how have patterns of images and symbols (motifs) contributed to meaning? 
Theme and/or Thesis
  • What is the central idea of the text?