What is an author criticizing about American culture in their story? How do they do this? Is an author asking us to feel sympathy or disdain for a main character’s behavior? How do you know?

Assignment Sheet for Paper #1

 

For your first paper, you will conduct a close reading of one of the stories assigned thus far in class. This means that you will examine the language and literary devices (symbolism, metaphor, imagery, characterization; etc.) within a narrative in order to arrive at a conclusion about an underlying theme, message, or effect. Your thesis should clearly state a) the main literary devices you will be examining in the paper, in the order you will be discussing them, and b) your conclusion about their larger significance within the story itself.

 

For example, you might ask:

 

  • What is an author criticizing about American culture in their story? How do they do this?
  • Is an author asking us to feel sympathy or disdain for a main character’s behavior? How do you know?
  • What kinds of behaviors is an author endorsing in a story? How do you know?
  • What warnings is an author offering to readers? How are those warnings revealed?

 

Purpose

  • To familiarize you with the process of close reading and to review basic literary devices
  • To enhance your appreciation and understanding of a text through in-depth analysis
  • To improve your interpretive reading and writing skills

 

Format:                     

  • 3-4 double-spaced pages plus Works Cited page in MLA style.
  • 12 point Times New Roman font
  • 1-inch margins on all sides
  • No extra spacing between paragraphs

 

Writing Guidelines (These will also be used as grading criteria):

 

  1. Employ a thesis statement in the introduction that states your interpretive argument (see above) and organizes your essay.
  2. Use the topic sentence of each paragraph to tie directly back to your thesis: tell the reader what that paragraph will be about, and how it connects to your overall argument. Use the language of your thesis to help craft your topic sentences so the reader is never confused as to how each paragraph supports your overarching claim.
  3. Support those topic sentences with specific evidence from the text through accurate and appropriate quotes.
  4. Make sure to carefully explain the significance and meaning of each quote you include; do not assume the reader will automatically follow your logic. In other words, each time you include a quote, you need to “unpack it,” describing its significance.
  5. Keep summary to a minimum; i.e. only incorporate details from the story that are relevant to your thesis.
  6. Integrate source(s) smoothly: avoid long block quotations, use attributive tags (“As the author writes,” or “As the character says,”) and cite using MLA style.
  7. Proofread!!
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