Writing a Response Essay

University / Undergraduate
Modified: 13th May 2020
Wordcount: 349 words

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“A response essay is usually requested to provide evidence of the writer’s response to careful reading of a piece in relation to an author’s biographical background and personal style.”

In a response essay, the reader is looking for the expression of your personal feelings about a piece of work and your ability to express these whilst maintaining reference to formal literary study by means of how you analyse.

Particular note should be taken of the linguistic features employed such as onomatopoeia, alliteration, metaphors, similes etc.; this is particularly important in the analysis of response to poetry. Structure should also be given detailed attention, as should characterisation and plot, especially in novels.

In a response essay, it is a good idea to jot down your initial feeling in response to a work. Ask yourself how the work made you feel, then try to find out how the use of language by the author did this. Often, simply by looking closely at a particular text you can see how it was a particular word, or even the placing of a word, that created the response. (It is interesting to look at how writers’ manuscripts are altered/qualified in this respect, as it emphasises the importance to the author of choosing precisely the right word and/or syntax to create the desired effect.)

You might also consider how the work affected you personally, in other words, could you relate to it? The response to this is often surprising as even in work as apparently remote from your life as Shakespeare’s Hamlet, points of empathy can be identified: you may not be Prince of Denmark but might well feel unsure about how to decide what to do about difficult problems in your life, for example, so its not as strange as it might sound! The response essay follows the same basic structure as other essays with the statement of the main response in the introduction, the main body containing the ideas and evidentiary support and a conclusion summarising the main points.


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