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Literature References For Sat Essay Format

Order 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:

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.


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!

Further Reading:
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

Additional Resources:
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 Stop by and check it out!

Christian is an independent, perfect-scoring professional SAT prep tutor. For over 3 years, he's run the Austin, TX-based tutoring company Love the SAT! After beating the SAT with multiple perfect scores, Christian used his knowledge and understanding of SAT prep to write books and create classroom games that can help any student get a higher SAT score. Unlike many tutors, he's made sure to stay well-rounded and up-to-date on the SAT. One way he accomplishes this is by choosing to ignore other tests such as the ACT, GMAT, and LSAT, and by not teaching any other subjects like high school math or physics, despite frequent requests to do so. Instead, Christian focuses entirely on how to efficiently crack the SAT and continually invests time into analyzing all 3 sections: Math, Critical Reading, and Writing. Also, despite his status as a sought-after SAT prep tutor in the Austin area, he emphasizes reasonable rates and affordability for the families he works with, and prizes efficiency and impact over pure profitability. In his free time Christian is a musician and an avid motorcyclist, and can often be found daydreaming about new business ideas to save the environment. He also runs an SAT prep website at

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