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Want to know how to write a response essay?

The main purpose of a response essay is to provide one’s personal viewpoint in regards to a certain book, article, report, etc. Response essays are written in the first person. A thesis is also required for such a paper.

Want to know how to write a response essay? Here are the steps to follow:

  • read a literature piece/article carefully;
  • mark interesting parts;
  • record one’s thoughts on paper;
  • develop a thesis;
  • write an outline;
  • plan and write an essay.

A thesis statement should be outlined in the first paragraph of a response essay. One also needs to specify the work he or she is dwelling upon and its author. A strong introductory essay is the best way to attract a reader’s attention. The whole point of writing a response essay is to express one’s opinion. That is why one should not feel shy presenting one’s point of view, even if it is rather controversial. The following statements can be used to express one’s views:

  • In my opinion;
  • The images seemed;
  • I felt that;
  • The author seems to;
  • I was moved by;
  • This aspect did not work for me because;
  • My favorite part was;
  • I did not understand the connection between.

The task of writing a response essay presupposes providing one’s critique regarding a certain work. However, it is vital to back up one’s ideas, feelings, and thoughts with evidence from the text one is referring to. What is more, it is important to explain what caused such a reaction. There are several ways to write a response essay: to write a piece in which one agrees with the ideas in a text; to write a piece in which one disagrees with the ideas in a text; to explain how these ideas relate to one’s own experience; to dwell upon the relationship between the ideas in this particular text and other texts; to analyze the ways in which an author tries to convince a reader and to specify whether it is effective or not.

When one is writing a response to literature essay, one can focus on the following: the plot, themes, a character’s traits, or the moral of a story. Such essays include a brief summary of a book, an author’s opinion regarding a particular subject, and evidence to support one’s point of view.
Regarding the response essay format, such an essay should be formatted in MLA, APA, Chicago/Turabian.

In order to better understand how a response essay should be written, take a look at this response essay example to the novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde.

“The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde tells the story of a young wealthy man named Dorian Gray who makes a wish to always be youthful and witnesses it come true. Then, Dorian starts leading a hedonistic and rather reckless life which comes at a price. The most important question raised in the novel is whether making such a sacrifice is worth its rewards.

I would like to begin by saying that I was very moved by the novel. I think that the problem highlighted in this piece of writing is quite common. To put it simply, a lot of people are more interested in the cover instead of what’s underneath it. Being young, popularity was very important for Dorian Gray—so important that he wanted to remain youthful forever no matter the consequences. He was ready to sacrifice anything for it. Here are a few vivid quotes from the book that emphasize the importance of beauty for Dorian Gray, and his friend Lord Henry, who influenced him in a tremendous way:

“Beauty is a form of Genius—is higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation. It is one of the great facts of the world, like sunlight, or springtime, or the reflection in the dark waters of that silver shell we call the moon. It cannot be questioned. It has divine right of sovereignty. It makes princes of those who have it.” (Wilde)

The idea is rather simple: beauty is the most important thing in the world. It is even described as a genius creation that can only be compared to such phenomena as sunlight, moonlight, or springtime. No one questions beauty. It simply exists. It is understandable to everyone, as each person can easily say whether something or someone is beautiful or not. There is no need to explain what beauty is. It is divine. In a way, being beautiful means being superior to others because one possesses a gift not many people have. That is one of the reasons why Dorian Gray wanted to remain young forever. He already knew that he was handsome, but it would have been hard to preserve beauty as soon as he began to grow old. He wanted his beauty to last for the rest of his life, and he found a way to make that dream come true.

Another quote to illustrate the power of being young and beautiful is as follows:

“But we never get back our youth… The pulse of joy that beats in us at twenty becomes sluggish. Our limbs fail, our senses rot. We degenerate into hideous puppets, haunted by the memory of the passions of which we were too much afraid, and the exquisite temptations that we had not the courage to yield to.” (Wilde)

The main idea expressed here is that one will never get their youth back, which is why one should enjoy the most of it. Getting older is described as being ill, having less energy to enjoy life, as well as becoming more boring. Being old is also described as looking like a hideous puppet. When a person gets old, they are invited to social gatherings less and less often. A person’s friends tend to fade away. The only thing older people are left with are the memories of being young and enjoying themselves during those carefree years. Old people tend to regret not doing something when they were younger. In most cases, they cannot do anything about all these past opportunities they can no longer pursue. Dorian Gray was afraid of getting old and forgotten. He wanted to avoid such an outcome at all costs. That is why staying young forever was his only hope.

Here is one final quote to take into account:

“The ugly and stupid have the best of it in this world. They can sit at their ease and gape at the play. If they know nothing of victory, they are at least spared the knowledge of defeat. They live as we all should live– undisturbed, indifferent, and without disquiet. They never bring ruin upon others, nor ever receive it from alien hands. Your rank and wealth, Henry; my brains, such as they are– my art, whatever it may be worth; Dorian Gray’s good looks– we shall all suffer for what the gods have given us, suffer terribly.” (Wilde)

Even though beauty is viewed as a victory, the consequences of getting this “prize” will most likely be severe. Dorian’s friend Basil is convinced that nothing good comes from being beautiful and that a person will suffer from having this gift. Basil believes that beauty destroys life, which is quite true—especially when one takes into consideration the fate of Dorian Gray and a few other characters in the book. In the end, they pay a price for their beauty.

All in all, I feel that “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is an enlightening piece of writing, the moral of which is that a person living a life of excess will eventually get punished. Even though it may be tempting to have everything (looks, money, success), nothing good will come out of it. Each of the main characters of the story ends up being disappointed, unhappy, heart-broken, or even worse. Surely, the author of the book does not finish his piece of writing telling a reader what to do. Instead, he lets him or her decide whether the story told in the novel is going to have any kind of influence on their future actions. “The Picture of Dorian Gray” was a controversial piece of writing when it was first published. It remains one of the most important novels in the history of literature. In it, all the right questions are asked, but a reader is not provided with any answers. He or she needs to do some soul-searching to decide what his or her point of view regarding the main theme of a novel is, as well as whether this issue is relevant to his or her life or not.

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Works Cited
1. Wilde Oscar. “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. Penguin Books, 2012. 256 pages.

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