AP English Language

Develop Strategies for Success


Introduction to the Analysis Essay

Writing the Body of the Essay

What Should I Include in the Body of This Analysis Essay?

Your strategy here should be the same as on the previous essay:


1. Present your analysis and your prompt-related points.

2. Adhere to the question.

3. Use specific references and details from the passage.

4. Use connective tissue—repetition, “echo words,” and transitions—to establish coherence.

For more detail, refer back to the first discussion of this subject, earlier in this chapter.

To understand the process, carefully read the sample paragraphs below. Each develops one of the elements asked for in the prompt and cited in the introductory paragraph. Notice the specific references and the “connective tissue.” Also notice that details that do not apply to the Alcott prompt are ignored.

This Paragraph Develops Diction

Throughout her account, Alcott’s diction manipulates emotional responses in her readers. Words such as “earnest,” “brave” and “faithful” establish John as a soldier worthy of sympathy, while “liberty and justice” rally the reader to his side with their patriotic connotations. Once the reader is involved, Alcott directs the tragic scene with words intended to bring forth more negative emotional responses: “suffering, tears, groans, and wept” emphasize John’s pain. Yet, when the author says, “very touching,” “fear vanished,” and “my heart opened wide,” the reader also wants to help John bear his pain. Alcott balances the negative side of death by using words that will make the reader more at ease during this uncomfortable passage. “Beautiful, gratitude and comfort” relax the reader and allow him to feel good about Alcott and her caregiving. Then, her direction changes as the young man is dying. He is now “cold, damp, white, and in agony.” When the reader’s heart is breaking, Alcott chooses words to lift the moment. The other men are “full of awe and pity,” like the reader. In this way, the diction unites the reader, John, and Alcott. She makes certain that her concluding choices are comforting and positive. The “hard hour” has been “lightened.” His expression is now “lovely and beautiful.”

This Paragraph Develops Selection of Details

Louisa May Alcott chooses very special details to include in her development of scene and character. Dialog is one of these details which provides tangible insights into the character of John. The immediacy and reality of John’s inevitable death is brought straightforwardly home to the reader in paragraphs 2 and 3. “You don’t mean he must die, doctor?” “There’s not the slightest hope for him.” John’s politeness and unassuming personality are observed when we hear him respond to the nurse in paragraph 6. And, his youth and sense of honor are heartbreakingly presented in the dialog in paragraph 7 and the end of paragraph 9. This sense of duty and honor is reinforced with his last words, “… tell them that I did my best.” Selection of details also help the reader to understand and feel the horror of war and its casualties. The pain and coldness of death is almost brutally punctuated in paragraph 5, where Alcott chooses to emphasize others not crying while John does. Alcott chooses to tell us about the letter from John’s mother that was not delivered until after his death to add more pathos and irony to an already tragic scene. And, to select the detail of her placing this letter into the dead soldier’s hands prior to his burial heightens the reader’s emotional involvement.

This Paragraph Develops Imagery

It might be easy to become dulled to pain in a war hospital filled with dying men. To prevent this and to personalize the experience, Alcott uses imagery to re-create the events of John’s death. The reader can feel that “every breath he draws is like a stab.” The image of suffocation tightens our throats as we read about his pain, but we, like Alcott, must learn to “bottle up our tears” as we envision through her simile the nurse as mother and soldier as child. The metaphor of “a gray veil falling that no human hand can lift” softens the death of the soldier while heightening the finality. The concluding metaphor reassures the reader of salvation as she, the writer, allows John into the “dawn of that long day which knows no night.”

This Paragraph Develops Tone

As a result of her selection of details, diction, and imagery, Louisa May Alcott creates a scene with a predominant tone of sorrow. Re-creating the death scene of this young soldier, the author chooses those details that emphasize that pain and sorrow, both in herself and in her patient. She chooses to tell of the undelivered letter prior to the soldier’s death, which further reinforces the reader’s sense of sorrow and pity. Words like “suffering,” “wept,” “cold,” “white,” “in agony,” help to convey and evoke sadness in the reader. And, the piteous situation is further developed when John’s face is described as “lovely and beautiful” after his death. Imagery is also employed to create this tone of sorrow or sadness. Images of suffering, loss, and grief throughout, together with the final metaphor of “a gray veil falling that no human hand can lift,” sadly portray the passing of this young Virginian blacksmith into eternity.


• Write the body of your essay. Time yourself.

• Allow 15–20 minutes to write your body paragraphs.

Here are two actual student essays with comments on each.

Student A



Student B



Rubrics for Alcott Essay


As we said previously in this chapter, you can view actual AP English Language and Composition rubrics by logging on to the College Board website.

High-Range Essay (9, 8, 7)

• Indicates a complete understanding of the prompt

• Clearly identifies and illustrates the author’s intended effect on the reader

• Presents various rhetorical strategies, devices, and elements used by the author to re-create her experience

• Clear, well-organized, and coherent

• Demonstrates a mature writing style

• Thoroughly cites specific references from the text to illustrate and support points being made

• Minor errors/flaws, if any

Note: A 7 essay which is rated in the high range makes the jump from the mid-range because of its more mature style and perception.

Mid-Range Essay (7, 6, 5)

• Refers accurately to the prompt

• Refers accurately to the author’s intended effect on the reader

• Presents a less thorough analysis of how Alcott re-creates her experience than the higher-rated essays

• Is less adept at linking strategies and devices to the creation of effect or re-creation of the experience

• Demonstrates writing that is adequate to convey Alcott’s assertion

• May not be sensitive to the more subtle strategies employed by Alcott

• A few errors/flaws may be present


• The 7 paper demonstrates a more consistent command of college-level writing than does the 5 or 6 essay.

• A 5 paper does the minimum required by the prompt. It relies on generalizations and sketchy analysis. It is often sidetracked by plot, and the references may be limited or simplistic.

Low-Range Essay (4, 3, 2, 1)

• Does not respond adequately to the prompt

• Demonstrates insufficient and/or inadequate understanding of the passage and prompt

• Does not clearly identify the author’s intended effect on the reader or does not illustrate or supply support for the intended effect

• Underdevelops and/or inaccurately analyzes Alcott’s re-creation of her experience

• Demonstrates weak control of the elements of diction, syntax, and organization

Note: A 4 or 3 essay may do no more than paraphrase sections of the passage. A 2 essay may merely summarize the passage. (NO MATTER HOW WELL WRITTEN, A SUMMARY CAN NEVER EARN MORE THAN A 2.)

A 1–2 essay indicates a major lack of understanding and control. It fails to comprehend the prompt and/or the passage. It may also indicate severe writing problems.

Rubrics for Student A Essay

This is a high-range essay for the following reasons:

• Indication of a mature writer [paragraph 2, sentence 3], [paragraph 3, sentences 2 and 3]

• Clear understanding of the author’s intended effect on the reader and applies it to a larger context [last paragraph]

• Strong integration of textual support with rhetorical strategies [paragraph 4], [paragraph 5, sentence 1]

• Strong topic adherence and connective tissue

• Interesting and appropriate insights derived from the text [last paragraph]

This high-range essay is well organized, with a strong, mature voice that has a clear point of view together with a well-developed analysis.

Rubrics for Student B Essay

This is a mid-range essay for the following reasons:

• Identifies the intended effect on the reader [paragraph 1, sentence 1], [paragraph 3, sentence 1]

• Adequately develops cited textual references

• Shows understanding of rhetorical devices [paragraph 4]

• Good transitions (“connective tissue”)

• Frequently uses awkward syntax [paragraph 2, last 3 sentences], [paragraph 3, last 2 sentences]

• Minor technical errors, such as apostrophes and commas

This mid-range essay is indicative of a writer who understands the text and the prompt. The student is able to choose the obvious rhetorical strategies and devices and relate them to Alcott’s purpose with less fully developed analysis in comparison with the high-range papers.