Guide to Writing Argumentative Essays in Literature: Find the Necessary Words!

Writing guide
Posted on August 22, 2019

What is an Argumentative Essay

Any argumentative essay aims at presenting and persuading the readers regarding some point of view. However, in order to meet this goal, the writer, first of all, has to make a claim that would be the main argument of his or her future essay. Another important thing worth mentioning here is evidence and proofs that are used to support the claim and illustrate it. When it comes to literature, one should remember that there can be many different opinions on the same literary work, character, and even the author’s writing style. One of the most significant things about writing argumentative essays in literature is being familiar with the original text. That is, arguing for or against something is rather challenging without knowing the plot, storyline, and little details is undeniable.

Topics for Argumentative Essays in Literature

While talking about choosing the topics for your future argumentative essay in literature, it is necessary to mention that they can deal with literally anything beginning from the use of literary devices and ending up with the writer’s realistic representation of social issues of the period. When thinking about the arguments, you should also analyze the relevancy and originality of your theme. For instance, during the past few years, more and more students tend to choose topics related to feminism or discrimination as these issues are widely discussed in modern society. Undoubtedly, these themes are essential, but if some of your classmates choose similar problems for writing an argumentative essay, your writing risks to be undervalued. Another example of not-that-successful ideas for your work includes using widely known literary works and issues. That is, it is a bad idea to talk about religion and Harry Potter books because much has been already said on this issue.

On the contrary, you should think about some aspects of the writer’s style or the literary work that would be interesting to you. It can be both the daily life of the described people or community and analysis of Biblical allusions in a particular work. Another hint would be using modern literary works for writing an argumentative essay because you can come up with fresh ideas. Using Shakespearean play “Othello,” for instance, may be a mistake because there are almost no chances that you will discuss something new about this text. The following list of possible themes for writing an argumentative essay in literature will show you how to choose an idea for your future work:

  • The ‘Twilight Saga’ by Stephanie Mayer as a Realistic Portrayal of Modern Indian Reservations in North Western US;
  • Social Issues of 19th – Century England in Charles Dickens’ ‘Oliver Twist’;
  • Humor as a Tool in the Fight Against Evil in Joanne Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter and The Prisoner Of Azkaban’;
  • Flowers as Symbols of Love and Innocence in Shakespearean Sonnets;
  • End of Patriarchy and Rise of Feminism in Henrik Ibsen’s Play ‘Dollhouse’.

Pre-writing Tips

As it was already mentioned, before writing an argumentative essay in literature, you have to be familiar with the very literary work. Plot twists, dialogues, and even long character descriptions are all worth considering when one has to come up with an interesting argument. In addition, it is impossible to support this argument without detailed knowledge of the text. What is more, one should remember about cultural, political, social, economic, and even historical backgrounds of both the author and his or her work. That is, one should always consider these factors because, sometimes, it is difficult to understand the writer’s initial message and point of view without knowing his or her biography. It is a wide-known fact that in many cases, essay writers rely on their life events while writing and describing particular events and characters. For example, Charles Dickens is widely known for a detailed and realistic portrayal of the social life of the 19th – century England. Beginning from various dishes and ending up with living conditions, this writer talks about different social classes in his numerous works.

Another tip before writing an argumentative essay in literature is getting familiar with criticism about an author and a literary work. On the one hand, it is possible that critics’ opinions may influence and even distort your personal point of view. On the other hand, it is better also to analyze different sides of the argument to provide the necessary evidence and proofs. Thus, another recommendation to write an effective argumentative essay in literature would be to write down all the arguments and counterarguments. In such a way, you will be ready to refute any counterargument. Moreover, it is a great idea to include a couple of counterarguments and their rebuttals in your essay, so the readers can be sure that you have taken different opinions into account. Finally, you should look up all the necessary quotes to be used in your argumentative essay and connect them with your argument. As a result, you will already have a brief roadmap of your future essay with the most important points. Do not forget that it is beneficial to support every part of your argument with a direct quotation from the original text, so the readers see how you connect the ideas. Furthermore, such a structure will make your essay logical and coherent.

Structure of Your Argumentative Essay

Many students face difficulties when structuring their argumentative essays. Nevertheless, the key to success here is to follow the basic essay structure that includes such components as the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. However, one should not forget about such elements of any argumentative essay as an effective title and thesis statement. Even though the majority of students prefer short and understandable titles consisting of approximately five words, this is not the case with argumentative essays. Indeed, you should clearly state the argument in the title of your essay to show the readers what this work will be about. Sometimes, the title of an argumentative essay may even take two lines, especially if you are writing about literary work because you have to include both the name of the writer and the work itself. Here is a fine example of an effective title: ‘Mary Wollstonecraft’s ‘A Vindication of The Right of a Woman’ as first feminist manifesto.’


The first paragraph of any essay is the introductory one. Nevertheless, many students are confused about what to include in this paragraph because it has to prepare the readers for the body paragraphs of the essay. When you are writing an argumentative essay in literature, it is clear that in the introductory paragraph, you have to mention the background of the literary work you will be discussing. It includes not only the name of the author and the very work but also short coverage of the main points of the text. In addition, you can also mention the writer’s biography and even peculiarities of his or her writing style. The last sentence of the introductory paragraph is your thesis. It states the main idea of the whole essay and should be precise and clear. Depending on the essay, you can use the next sentence templates to create your thesis:

– ‘In his literary work “Oliver Twist”, Charles Dickens argues that … ’
– ‘Therefore, on the examples of sonnet 67 and sonnet 78, it is evident that William Shakespeare uses flowers as symbols of love and innocence’.

The next paragraphs are called the body paragraphs and contain the most important part of the whole essay. In this part, you will be presenting and supporting your argument. Each body paragraph talks about one idea relevant to your argument. Without a doubt, the number of such body paragraphs varies depending on the length of the essay. However, you should remember that you can only talk about one idea in one paragraph. Consequently, for the readers, it will be much easier to follow your ideas. As it was already mentioned in the previous paragraphs, it is also recommended to introduce at least one counterargument and its rebuttal. As a rule, the counterarguments are discussed in the last paragraphs of the essay. If you lack space for a lengthy analysis of counterargument, you may join it with its rebuttal in one paragraph.

Every body paragraph begins with a topic sentence, which, in other words, contains the main idea of the whole paragraph. Another hint for writing successful body paragraphs is including direct citations. Considering the fact that you are analyzing a literary work, quotes are especially important to support your argument. They do not only show that you are familiar with the original text but also demonstrate your profound understanding of author’s writing style and the hidden message. In addition, by using direct citations, you are proving that you understand all the literary theories and can find a variety of literary devices if it is required by the topic of your essay. However, the trick here lays in effective presentation of a quote. That is, in one sentence, you prepare the background for the upcoming direct citation. In the next sentence, you provide the very quote. Then, you discuss how this direct citation is relevant to the main idea of the paragraph and your argument. Subsequently, the readers will understand why you have used this particular quote in a particular paragraph.

Finally, the last paragraph of your argumentative essay is the conclusion. The first sentence of your conclusion has to coincide with your thesis statement. That is, you highlight your argument using different words. In the next sentences, you have to mention the main ideas of every body paragraph briefly. As a result, you will have a chance to summarize the whole essay and remind the readers about its main point. In the last sentences, you may suggest some implications for future research or analysis that has to do with your work.

Post-writing Tips (Editing/Proofreading, Referencing, etc.)

Once your essay is ready, apply some post-writing techniques, which are also significant for receiving a high grade. That is, I am talking about editing and proofreading. Even though these two processes seem to be rather similar, in fact, they are entirely different and require many efforts and patience. Editing is the first thing that you should do after you have finished working on your argumentative essay. However, it is more beneficial to spend at least one day not working on your essay before starting editing. As a result, your mind will be clear, and you will be able to identify all the mistakes and even logical fallacies. To be more precise, the process of editing is making all the necessary changes to enhance the quality of your writing as a whole. As a student, you may double check the guidelines to your argumentative essay (if any) and make sure that you have met all the requirements. What is more, you can also check the word count, structure, and organization of your essay. Eventually, you will polish your essay, so that it will look perfect and devoid of serious mistakes.

Proofreading is similar to editing but focuses mostly on grammar and language use. That is, when proofreading, you are only looking for grammar errors rather than to organizational and logical mistakes. As well as with editing, it is recommended to spend some time away from your argumentative essay, so that you can notice all the mistakes during proofreading.

Last but not least, referencing is also a significant part of the post-writing process, even though it has nothing to do with the main text of your argumentative essay. As well as choosing reliable scholarly sources before starting your essay, providing correct references to these sources is also a factor that will impact your grade. Referencing is a quite tricky thing because even missing one dot or slash is already a mistake. Fortunately, nowadays, there are many online services, where you can double check both your references and even in-text citations. Among them are:,, and

Thus, writing an argumentative essay in literature is not that difficult but definitely requires patience, persistence, and even creativity. However, if you do all the necessary steps throughout the whole process of writing, your work will receive the highest mark.

“Editing vs Proofreading.” The Expert Editor,
Johnston, Ian. “10.0 WRITING ARGUMENTS ABOUT LITERARY WORKS.” Essays and Arguments, Section 10: Writing about Literary Works, May 2000,
Kearney, Virginia. “How to Write an Argumentative Essay Step by Step.” Owlcation, 10 Apr. 2019, Write-an-Argument-Essay.
Lewsen, Simon. “Writing about Literature.” Writing Advice,
Purdue Writing Lab. “Argumentative Essays // Purdue Writing Lab.” Purdue Writing Lab,

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