Conclusion: Larger Implications of Literary Analysis

Some of you may have been taught that the conclusion should "restate" the thesis. Instead, I'd suggest that the conclusion should advance the essay by reflecting on the stakes or larger implications of what you've argued.

Literary critics often conclude their studies by considering how their reading of a text enriches or complicates our understanding of a larger literary, social, historical, or cultural movement (the Enlightenment, neoclassicism, sensibility, Romanticism) or our appreciation of the status of a significant issue (reason, emotion, class, death, race, sexuality) in a particular cultural context.

By the time your readers get to your last paragraph, they will be ready to see the bigger picture, or pictures! By then, you will have told them what you think about one (or more) of the works of literature that you read for the course. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What issues did the course address?
  • How does your thesis about the work(s) you've discussed relate to the ways in which you and the other students in the class have thought about those issues?

Your answer to this last question is your conclusion!

In your conclusion, then, do not just repeat your argument! (What's the point of that?) Instead, use this paragraph to make it clear exactly how and why your thesis passes the "Who cares?" test!

This kind of a conclusion will make your paper feel less like an exercise and more like a meaningful contribution to an ongoing conversation!