Flannery O’Connor wrote, “A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is.When anybody asks what a story is about, the only proper thing is to tell him to read the story.”
Using the techniques of close reading (analyzing in detail how the elements of fiction function in a particular story), write a literary analysis essay of 3-6 pages on one of the stories we’ve studied this semester.
Your essay MUST have a clear and detailed thesis statement. A good literary analysis thesis statement makes an arguable claim about two things: 1. Meaning (what the story/poem/play is saying–in other words, themes) and 2. Literary elements (how the story/poem/play says what it says).
For this assignment, your thesis statement should contain both of these ingredients. In other words, make sure your thesis statement clearly states WHAT you think the story is expressing and specifically name two or three literary elements that contribute to that expression. Here are three sample thesis statements (which you can steal if you like):
In The Things They Carried, the detailed lists of military gear, personal items, and intangibles, along with the internal conflict of the protagonist, portray the Vietnam War as a dehumanizing burden.
The Cask of Amontillado dramatizes the lonely mania of revenge through its first person point of view, verbal irony, and dark setting.
The characterization of the mother and daughter in Two Kinds, and what the piano symbolizes to each, expresses not only generational conflict, but conflicting visions of what it means to be an American.
You’ll find that once you have a clear thesis, the structure of the essay will fall into place. For instance, if you used the first thesis statement, you would structure your essay like this: First, a one paragraph introduction that leads up to your thesis statement. The body of the essay would first have a section about lists of military gear and how that contributes to the sense of dehumanizing burden. Then a section on the lists of personal items and how that contributes to the same overall sense. Then a section on lists of intangibles and how that contributes to the sense of dehumanizing burden. Finally, you would write about Lt. Cross’ internal conflict, culminating with his burning of Martha’s letters. You would finish with a concluding paragraph that ties the main points together.
Likewise, if you used the second thesis statement above, the body of your essay would have three sections: one on the point of view, one on verbal irony, and one on the setting. In each section, you would connect your points to the theme of “the lonely mania of revenge.”
See how this works?
The final due date is by the end of Week 9. You must submit a rough draft no later than Wednesday of Week 7 for my feedback. The rough draft is required and will account for 25% of the essay grade (the draft will be graded by degree of effort, so turning in a complete rough draft–however much work it needs–will give you full credit for this portion of the assignment!). You may submit the rough draft via the assignment link (I’ve set it to allow for multiple submissions).
Make sure to use plenty of quotes from the story to illustrate your points. All quotes must have MLA style parenthetical citations. An MLA style Works Cited page must follow the essay.
Keep general summary to a minimum. This is not a book report or an author bio. Assume your audience has read the story. You are to analyze, not summarize.
The final draft must be in proper MLA format.