English Composition 2
Essay Assignment 1: Analysis of a Short Story
Wednesday, January 25: Draft of at least 700 words due for peer critique.
Friday, February 3: Revised Draft of at least 1000 words due.
For Essay Assignment 1, you need to write an essay of at least 1000 words that helps readers understand and appreciate one of the following short stories:
- Joyce Carol Oates' "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" (208-219)
- John Steinbeck's "The Chrysanthemums" (298-306)
- John Updike's "A & P" (440-445)
You can assume that the audience for your essay has read the story you are analyzing, so you should not simply summarize it. Instead, you should give your audience an interpretation of the story, an insightful explanation that will help your audience understand the story's meaning and significance. Make sure that your entire essay is well focused on one thesis, on one main point that you want to make about the story.
Your paper should follow the conventions of MLA documentation. At the end of each sentence with a quotation from the story, you should include a parenthetical citation of the page number for that quotation, "like this" (377). You also need to include a separate "Work Cited" page listing publication information for the story (note the singular "Work"). The sample essay on pages 67-70 of the textbook indicates the correct way to cite your source, and the sample essay includes a Work Cited page in the correct format, but please note that we are using a newer version of the textbook, with a new editor, so the sample Work Cited page on page 70 of the textbook requires a few changes to be correct for us.
A Few Suggestions
The first three chapters of the textbook provide valuable information about writing essays, so make sure to read those chapters carefully. I agree completely with everything that the authors say. Those first three chapters provide an excellent guide to help you through this first essay assignment.
We will discuss all three of the stories, and our discussion should give you good ideas that you might explore in more depth in your essay. Feel free to use some of the ideas suggested by other members of the class, but be careful not to plagiarize from others. Plagiarism would occur if you copied sentences or even phrases from other class members and presented them as your own in your essay. On the other hand, if other class members bring up ideas about a story that you think are interesting or insightful, feel free to use these ideas as a starting point, presenting them in your own way and examining them in more depth in your essay.
You could take any number of approaches to analyzing the meaning of a story, and page 114 of the textbook provide an excellent short guide to "Critical Questions for Reading the Short Story." Whatever approach you take, make sure that you can support your interpretation with specific evidence from the story. In other words, your paper must be both analytical and persuasive: you should analyze the story but also argue your interpretation with plenty of specific evidence from the story itself. You will not convince readers that you have a good interpretation unless you demonstrate that your interpretation is well supported by the facts, by the details of the story.
Note especially the good advice on page 15 of the textbook: "Devise a thesis that makes its point by relating some aspect of the work to the meaning of the whole--that is, to its theme." The theme is the main point of a work of literature, or, more specifically, the "comment about life" revealed through a work of literature. Good short stories tell us something about life in general. Explaining a major theme and how it is developed in the story should be an important part of your essay.
You will need to use quotations in your essay to help you support and develop your ideas. To avoid plagiarism, make sure to put quotation marks around any phrases you copy from the essay. Once you put quotation marks around material from the essay, make sure that the words within the quotation marks appear in your paper exactly as they appear in the original.
Make sure than none of the quotations in your paper is standing by itself. You should make every quotation a part of one of your own sentences. Please refer to the first part of the Integrating Quotations into Sentences Web page for ways to integrate quotations into your own sentences. The "Quoting from Your Sources" section of the textbook (on pages 26-27) explains
The essay "Test of One Man's Faith" was written by a student in an ENG 1002 course. It's an outstanding essay on "Young Goodman Brown" that should help you think about organizing and writing your own essay. It is not necessary to be familiar with the short story that is the subject of the essay to appreciate why the essay is strong, but, if you want to, you can read an online version of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown."
Remember . . .
Before you submit your essay, remember to
- include a correct "Work Cited" page .
- make sure that the final punctuation goes after the parenthetical citation, "like this" (298). And remember always to include a space in front of the parenthetical citation.
- review the sample essay on pages 67-70 and the sample student essay "Test of One Man's Faith." Note especially the effective use of quotations and the correct use of parenthetical citations.
Please just ask if you have any questions!