English Composition 1
Essay Assignment 2
Monday, September 25: Draft of at least 600 words due
for peer critique.
Monday, October 2: Revised draft of at least 800 words due.
Essay Assignment 2: Analysis of a Short Story
For Essay 2, you need to analyze and explain one of the following short stories by Katherine Mansfield:
Just click the links above to access the stories.
The minimum required length for the revised draft of Essay 2 is 800 words. Your essay should be written in a formal voice and needs at least five paragraphs, including an introduction with a clear one-sentence thesis statement and a conclusion with a restatement of that thesis. Your essay should have at least three body paragraphs.
You can assume that your audience has read the short story that you choose for your subject but has not studied or analyzed it. Your job is not to summarize the story but to help readers appreciate it and to understand its meaning. To help you go beyond a simple summary of the story, you should ask yourself what point the writer is trying to make. What is the author trying to tell us through the story?
You might start by thinking about the theme or themes conveyed in the story. "Theme" can be defined as the "main point" or, more specifically, the "comment about life" that an author conveys in a story (or other work of literature). In other words, what is the story telling us about life? With a possible theme in mind, you should then reread the story carefully, making notes on anything that seems to relate to the theme.
As you consider a possible thesis for your essay, it might be helpful if you come up with three or four important and related claims (or critical insights about the story) that you think you can support with specific evidence from the story. These claims could then be the bases for the different body paragraphs of your essay. From the claims, you could then formulate a one-sentence thesis statement. Each claim you present in your essay should be supported with ample evidence from the story itself.
Be an active reader. Read the story you are writing about several times. When you reread the story, you should have a pen or pencil in hand, making marginal notes to help you remember things you notice and to write down any questions that come to mind.
The Web page linked below provides useful information about writing a critical analysis of a story, and it uses Mansfield's "Miss Brill" as its example:
- Learning Lab Tips on Critical Analysis (from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College): This Web page presents many good suggestions for writing an interpretation of a short story. However, ignore the information on the page about judging the merits and faults of a story in your essay. While it is good to think about the strengths and weaknesses of a story, it can be awkward if the writer presents such judgments in an essay but does not have much experience reading short stories.
We will discuss each story as a class, and you should use some of the ideas we discuss to help you develop your interpretation of the story.
End of an Illusion"
an award-winning student essay on Mansfield's "Miss Brill"
Price of Pride"
an excellent student essay on George Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant"
- "Example of a Persuasive Paragraph" presents one of the body paragraphs from the student essay "The End of an Illusion," with parts of the paragraph highlighted to illustrate how the paragraph is organized and developed.
No Need for Citations and Documentation
Sometimes, an essay on a short story will include parenthetical citations for page numbers of quoted words and a separate "Work Cited" page listing publication information for the story, all according to Modern Language Association (MLA) standards. However, please do not include parenthetical citations or a "Work Cited" page with your essay. Understanding how to cite and document material properly can get somewhat complicated, and, at this point, I would prefer than you focus on developing and presenting your interpretation well without having to think about the proper citation and documentation of your subject. Later in the course, we will discuss MLA citation and documentation of sources.
Referring to the Narrator
Typically, essays are written in the voice of the author, whereas short stories are written in the voice of a narrator, a persona created by the author to tell the story. As you are writing about a short story and are referring to what the storyteller says, you should not refer to what the "author" says but to what the narrator says.
The Writing Process
As your work on your essay, it may be helpful to review the information about the writing process presented on our course pages. Although the Web pages linked below use a photograph as the subject of an essay, the same principles apply to an essay on a short story.
- Getting Started on Essays
- Evaluation and Grading Criteria for Essays
- Requirements for All Essays
- Formal Writing Voice
- Revision Checklist
- Checklist: Organization and the Support and Development of Ideas
- Checklist: Style and Mechanics
- Organizing and Developing a Persuasive Essay
- Organizing and Developing Persuasive Paragraphs
- Good Paragraph / Bad Paragraph: Effectively Developing a Persuasive Paragraph
- Integrating Quotations into Sentences
- Using Quotations Properly
The information on the Web pages linked above can help you with your writing.