Critical Essay Exemplars


*Even if you don’t know the TEXT, a good critical essay should have you feel like you know it well enough – under the lens of the prompt. But notice that the strong critical essays do not just RETELL (say) of the plot; strong critical essays argue a strong opinion/idea/insight about the prompt – using the text as the examples to support their claims.
*Notice how the critical essays are really a psychological analysis of the character and their circumstances in relevance to the prompt.

Review Critical Essays by deconstructing others’ essays:
1) does the writer answer the prompt?
2) do they know the text well -with precise, specific, relevant examples?
3) do they explain how their examples are relevant to the prompt/their thesis?
4) what works?
5) how does their essay fit the outline, the template?
6) what is their thesis and topics?
7) How do they weave (embed) their evidence/quotes into the paragraph?
8) How do they offering MEANING and MATTER to the evidence – relative back to the prompt?
9) Does their essay have unified and coherent structure that flows?
10) Is their style of writing effective? Is there a variety of sentences? Do they weave strong images or symbols from the text into their analysis and style of writing – i.e. the “chess” reference in Shawshank Redemption, or light/darkness imagery?
11) How clean and correct is the writing with GUMPS?
12) Is the essay written with clarity – or does it get too wordy and confusing or lose its direction? – look under: Exemplars, examples of students’ writing and practice questions 30-1 (scroll through the PDF to find the E, Pf, S exemplars for each CRITICAL prompt)



Prompt: the role self-perception plays when individuals seek to reconcile the conflict between illusion and reality. (June 2014)

A Streetcar Named Desire – Ziyana

A Streetcar Named Desire (Blanche) compared to The Picture of Dorian Grey (Sybil) – Hope (but a comparison/contrast analysis)

Picture of Dorian Grey – Tarannum


Prompt: The role of honesty when an individual experiences tension between optimism and reality. 

A Streetcar Named Desire – Hijab

Dimming the Glare: Seeking Illusion to Remedy Reality – A Streetcar Named Desire Polished Critical

A Streetcar Named Desire – Ibukun

2. something thoughtful

A Streetcar Named Desire – Claire

Manipulation for the Sake of Safety (Polished Critical Essay)

Prompt: …the interplay between how individuals perceive themselves and are perceived by others

A Streetcar Named Desire – Sara

A Streetcar Named Desire Cold Critical: The Falsity of Perception

Prompt: the ways in which an individual’s resilience is shaped by empathy. (June 2015)

Frankenstein – Queeny

A Thousand Splendid Suns – Megan

Polished Critical: The Surmounting of Oppression by Means of Empathy Birthing Resilience

A Thousand Splendid Suns – Vanessa

Frankenstein – Siddharth

Frankenstein Polished Critical: Resilience and the Weakening Forces of Empathy

Richard III – Alissa

A Deformed Resilience Resulting from a Lack of Empathy

Prompt: an individual’s attempt to live unconstrained by convention or circumstance (June 2007)

Death of a Salesman – Maria

death to the salesman: a polished death of a salesman critical

Death of a Salesman – Abhay

Death of a Salesman – Nazeefa

Stop Dreaming, Willy!

Their Eyes Were Watching God – Luca

Something Unbound – Polished Critical

Their Eyes Were Watching God – Nimrat

Their Eyes Were Watching God – Petrina

from a spark to the sun: a polished critical

Death of a Salesman – Zaid

Birth of a Rancher – Death of a Salesman: Polished Critical

Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zaid

Their Eyes of Constraint – Their Eyes Were Watching God: Polished Critical

Pride and Prejudice –  (comparison 2 paragraph essay) – Claire B.

Prompt: ways in which individuals struggle to restore honour and certainty (Jan 2009)

Hamlet (Ophelia) – Alysha

Hamlet(Hamlet) – Lauryn

Hamlet (Hamlet) – Jieo

Hamlet (Ophelia) – Ziyana

Hamlet (Ghost) – Tarannum

Hamlet (Ophelia) – Hijab

To Break the Chains of Convention: Ophelia’s Story

Hamlet (Hamlet) – Carmen

The Victims of Uncertainty in William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” – Polished Critical

Prompt: …the role emotional courage plays when an individual experiences separation. 

Hamlet (Ophelia) – Maria

the saving grace of the emotional coward: a polished hamlet critical

Hamlet – Ophelia – Petrina

the courage within madness – a polished critical essay

Prompt: the significance of idealism and truth in an individual’s life (June 2009)

Frankenstein – Ziyana

Frankenstein – Rehman

Frankenstein – Shyla


Prompt: – the ways in which individuals take responsibility for themselves or others (June 2010)

Death of a Salesman – Shyla

Death of a Salesman – Alysha

Death of a Salesman – Jieo

The Great Gatsby – Yasmeen


Prompt: the role adversity plays in shaping an individual’s identity. (June 2011)

Night  – Ayisha

Night – Riya


Prompt: an individual’s capacity for self-sacrifice in the face of compelling circumstances. (June 2013)

Night – Sidra

 Prompt: …the nature of motivations that direct an individual’s course of action.

Frankenstein – Nimrat

the flames of motivation: polished critical


The ways in which individuals pursue or compromise their happiness. (Jan 10)

Their Eyes Were Watching God – Nazeefa

Desecrating the Pear Tree

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Helena) – Judy

Happiness and Love – Polished Critical Essay

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