Literature Example for the SAT Essay


Download my e-Book about historical, literary, and personal examples to use for the SAT Essay, with quotes, impressive vocab words, and more!


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:

  • A brief summary
  • Two memorable quotes
  • Theme Analysis
  • 10 key facts
  • Related vocab words for your essay

That e-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.


1) Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare:

Romeo and Juliet make great SAT essay evidence


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:

Homer's Odyssey as SAT Essay example


 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:

Using "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:

Animal Farm by George Orwell as essay evidence


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:

Writing an essay about 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!

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!

9 Responses to Top 5 Literature Examples for the SAT Essay


    I seriously need to buy your book-Top 30 Examples to use for SAT Essay evidence.But I’m not allowed to pay with my credit card since I’m a Nigerian.But I will be most grateful if there is any other way I can pay for it because I NEED it DESPERATELY.

  2. Anon says:

    Thank you! This was really helpful. I had a lot of ideas for using literature as evidence, but I really needed a good strong list to help me.
    Your whole website was really helpful in general!

  3. russell hallmark says:

    Thank you so much! This is definitely helpful! I’ve been reading up and a lot of people say to make lists to help with essay examples. I was wondering, in your opinion, is it best to do the basic intro, three paragraphs with examples, and conclusion approach? or does it matter? And are conclusions extremely necessary? I never have time at the end to write a conclusion… and I’m stuck at about a 580 writing.. help please! My test is 6 days away!! I want the writing score to jump up! thank you very much


    • Christian says:

      Hey Russell, thanks for leaving a comment! Sorry I’m too late to respond before the test (I’ve been out of the country for a while) but, maybe I can still answer your question.

      There are unlimited ways to get a great score on the SAT essay – you can use 1 paragraph, 3 paragraphs, 6 paragraphs, and still get a 12/12, BUT as you have alluded to, I’m in favor of using a standard 5-paragraph approach because it’s simple and easy to repeat.

      I definitely favor the intro, body-body-body, conclusion model you’ve described; it’s the easiest to consistently use.

      Conclusions are not necessary, so don’t worry if you run out of time – just try to wrap up on a stopping point. However, I do like to write a conclusion if there’s time, especially if I can leave the reader with some kind of creative “thinking point” in my final sentences.

      Final thought for you and other students – if you want to improve your Writing score, your time is best spent studying the main grammar rules, because the grammar multiple choice contributes much more to your score than your essay does.

      If you want to study the grammar, I’d suggest going to my bookstore and purchasing the SAT Grammar Crammer and/or joining my free mailing list!

      Best of luck,
      – Christian

  4. tanvi says:

    this site proved fruitful, helped me improve my ways of approaching the essay..thank you

  5. kieuphuong says:

    hi , iam from vietnam and iam preparing for the sat .However,the problem is that i have a lot of examples in my hand but all seem so similar,then iam always struck when i read a prompt.Any advice? ;>

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About Christian

Perfect-scorer, pro tutor, entrepreneur, web designer, textbook author, motorcyclist, rock and roll guitarist, classical pianist, songwriter, wanderer, environmentalist, dog lover, cat lover, spicy food addict.


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