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Are your literary examples ready for the SAT Essay?
Many of my students complain about not having enough examples or about not having enough time to “think of stuff to say” when writing their SAT Essay.
If you need help with a similar problem, this post on literature examples for the SAT essay is a mini-preview of my e-Book on the best essay examples to use.
In the book, I give thirty examples to use, not just five, and provide, for each example:
That book can give you or your student some ideas if you worry about “not knowing what to say” when you see the SAT essay prompt.
Literary examples to write your SAT Essay about:
Although we won’t go as much detail in today’s post as in my e-Book, I think this will still get you started on developing your literary examples.
We won’t necessarily have the time to get into those interesting quotes, summary paragraphs, etc that are contained in the complete e-Book version, but you’ll get the basic idea.
Plenty of great books have been written to use for the SAT essay, but I like these five in particular – and you probably have heard of them already.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
1) Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare:
The classic love story – betrayals, broken friendships, family rivalries, and resistance to authority build up to shocking tragedy.
- Revenge: Think of all the revenge killings, e.g. Mercutio.
- Disobeying vs. following authority: Both Romeo and Juliet defy parental authority.
- Love, friendship, loyalty: This one’s pretty self-explanatory… these forces can consume us, redeem us, cause us to do things we wouldn’t otherwise do. Romeo abandons his old friends to be with his lover.
- Individual vs. society: Romeo and Juliet again, engaging in socially-forbidden love.
- Fate vs. deciding your own path: Is the lovers’ destiny already written, or could they have changed it?
2) The Odyssey by Homer:
One of the earliest epic stories that humanity has recorded – an series of amazing adventures by a daring hero, stranded with his fighting men, far from home, away from his wife and son.
- Duty vs. temptation: Odysseus and his men constantly indulge in minor distractions instead of continuing on their journey – e.g. eating the lotus fruit, or Odysseus strapping himself to the mast of his ship because he’s so curious about the song of the sirens.
- Faithfulness and trust: Odysseus’s wife, who is trying to wait for him to return; the men on the voyage and their loyalty to each other and their leader.
- Strength vs. cunning: The hero continually outwits his stronger enemies, such as the cyclops, and slays all of his wife’s rowdy suitors by disguising himself. Likewise, his wife Penelope delays her suitors by claiming to weave a burial shroud that she never intends to finish).
3) Brave New World by Aldous Huxley:
Science-fiction fantasy clashes with human individuality as a “perfect” society slowly crushes anyone who decides they’d rather not take the feel-good pills.
- Technology: Mainly used as an instrument of control; Soma and entertainment control the population, sleep conditioning controls the social system.
- Nature vs nurture: John, the outsider, lives more naturally and is able to appreciate Shakespeare’s poetry and see the flaws in the high-tech society, but the others around him are too shallow to understand what he means.
- Truth vs happiness: It seems that the happiest characters, such as Lenina, are the ones most out of touch with reality, while John, who sees the truth of the world, is bitterly unhappy.
- Authority vs. the individual: John rebels against and is eventually destroyed by an all-powerful authoritarian society.
4) Animal Farm by George Orwell:
Ever heard someone describe your government as “a bunch of pigs?” Orwell puts ownership of a farm in the hands of its animals, and imagines the consequences.
- Class in society: Despite mostly good intentions, the animals find themselves organized into higher and lower castes.
- Exploitation of team efforts: The animals expect their Soviet-style socialism to benefit them all equally, but learn very quickly that the system will be exploited by “pigs” with more power and cunning.
- Idealism vs. pragmatism: The most idealistic animals, like Snowball, are quickly taken advantage of by less-principled and more-practical animals like Napoleon who don’t truly believe in the rhetoric of the revolution.
- Questioning leadership: Boxer, for example, never questions Napoleon’s decisions, preferring to keep his head down and assume that all is for the best.
- Power and corruption: In Orwell’s view, power seems to inevitably corrupt those who hold it.
5) The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton:
A coming-of-age story that pits two rival gangs against each other. The wealthy kids seem to have it all, but the bonds of young friendship make the Outsiders strong.
- Honor and ethics: The Greasers, perhaps because they don’t fit in to the larger society, must create and follow their own code of ethics. For example, Dally once let himself be arrested for a crime that Two-Bit commited.
- Group identity: The Greasers identify them through their hair and clothing; the Socs set themselves with cars, rings, and nicer clothes. Each group speaks in a specific way. The clear social markers keep the groups seperate.
- Similarities between enemies: Ponyboy begins to realize that although they seem very different, the Socs and the Greasers both share adolescent trials such as sadness, loss, and love.
- Suffering, failure, violence: despite all the gang fights and shootouts, no group ever comes out “on top” – the cycle of violence merely causes losses, pain, and suffering for both sides.
Ready to keep preparing for the SAT essay?
These five literature examples can get you started on your SAT essay prep.
To go deeper into thematic analysis, supporting quotations, and broader selections of evidence, check out the e-Book with 30 more examples to use (the book goes way more in-depth on key vocab words and themes you can use in your own essays)!
Ideally, you should have between five and ten well-researched examples that you feel comfortable discussing.
You don’t want to get caught without something to say, panicking and freaking out while everyone else’s pencil scribbles loudly around you!
Now order your copy of Top 30 Examples to Use as SAT Essay Evidence to get the complete collection of SAT essay evidence, themes, vocabulary, and more!
Top 5 Historical Examples for the SAT Essay
Why You Should Use Essay Examples You Care About
The Top 10 Tips For Your SAT Essay
How to Write a Great 5-Paragraph SAT Essay
Top 30 Examples to Use as SAT Essay Evidence (e-Book)
Write the Best SAT Essay of Your Life (e-Book)
Conquer SAT Vocabulary (Video Course)
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I'm a professional SAT tutor and 2400-scorer on the SAT. Also, a blogger, website author, textbook-writer, musician, teacher, traveler, and environmentalist :) I love to beat standardized tests with students, because I think it's ridiculous to judge the value of a human being based on an SAT score - it's just a number! I also write for and run an SAT prep website and blog at www.eSATPrepTips.com Stop by and check it out!
Over-achiever alert: the new SAT’s essay is optional! If you choose to accept this challenge, you’ve come to the right place. If you’ve been keeping up with Magoosh’s in-the-know, breaking-news blog posts, then you already know that the new SAT uses real world essays, articles, and samples. Believe me, that’s the best thing you’ve heard all day. Why? Because you can read articles from the same sources the SAT gets material from.
Extra, extra! Read all about it!
The new SAT pulls articles from major newspapers and reputable magazines like The New York Times, The Economist, and The Atlantic. What do essays from all these different sources have in common? The articles the new SAT uses as prompts are all entering a bigger conversation, which means:
- They usually respond to another article, author, or major event
- They rely on statistics, articles, and other important people to help make a point
- They’re usually deep enough in perspective for solid analysis
Responding to the issues
Think about the context of the real world. Stuff is happening all the time! And writers are constantly publishing new material on current events. But, the new SAT isn’t likely to use breaking-news stories that are old by tomorrow morning’s bowl of corn flakes. Instead, the new SAT will use articles about big world issues with far-reaching effects. You might see pieces about climate change, or other environmental issues, like these articles:
Other events and issues the new SAT might use as essay prompts include new discoveries about disorders like autism, gender pay differences, or the recent discovery of gravitational waves.
Let’s agree to disagree
These are pretty big issues, but that means writers have a lot of different opinions about how to talk about complex problems. The new SAT asks you to analyze the excerpt or essay given to you. Analysis means you need to pay attention to the different ways authors build their arguments. What kinds of sources do the author rely on? What kind of language does he or she use? Answering these questions means you must look at the bigger picture. That’s why the new SAT likes to use editorials, or opinion-based articles, for essay prompts. They’re practically asking for analysis!
Some hot-button issues that might show up in editorial form on the new SAT include articles on the effects of natural disasters, college athlete compensation, and the problem of distractions in a digital age.
I bet you weren’t expected to see Sports Illustrated in that list, were you! Remember, the new SAT uses articles from all kinds of publications. Once you check out the articles linked here, browse around those publication websites! Don’t worry if some of the articles you come across seem long. Essay prompt articles won’t usually be longer than a page and a half, so some articles that you find in the LA Times or Scientific American might be abbreviated or adapted for the exam prompt. One of the best ways you can be prepared is to keep up with current events and read articles like these. For more on the what the prompts look like, read this Magoosh post.
And if you’re ready to practice, check out our New SAT Essay Example Passage and Prompt!!
About Emily Faison
An avid reader and art enthusiast, Emily has degrees in English from Florida State University and Southeastern University. When she's not editing web content for a local magazine, you’ll probably find her catching up on her Netflix queue or reading a novel with a fresh cup of coffee at a local cafe.
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