Timed Essay One
Choose only one of the topics below.
You should prepare for it by identifying the passages from the texts we’ve read with
which you’d like to work, by creating an outline of the essay you intend to write, and/or
drafting your essay before submitting it.
The essay should be 600 words long, at minimum, though it can exceed this number. You
should take time, as always, to proofread carefully, as the clarity of your writing will
contribute to the grade you receive. You do not need to format your quotations for the
1. We’ve considered at some length John Wideman’s sense of the “forces arrayed
against” his brother in “Our Time.” These include those that members of his
community say killed Garth, those that drove the economic life out of
Homewood, and those that landed Robby in prison for life, as well as the life
Robby experiences in prison. And yet, Wideman is also careful to document
Robby’s own culpability in what happens to him. For your essay, citing relevant
passages where appropriate, discuss your own sense of Robby’s personal
responsibility in the lifestyle and crime that landed him in prison, and the relative
influence of his community, country, and culture in the life he chose. Be sure you
come up with a thesis for this discussion: in a short essay like this one, it may well
determine your level of success.
2. In John Berger’s essay “Ways of Seeing,” he writes, “A people or a class cut off
from its own history is far less free to act as a people or class than one that has
been able to situate itself in history.” How does this sentence resonate in John
Edgar Wideman’s “Our Time”? Wideman himself suggests that the people of
Homewood are “oppressed.” If this is the case, show us how, and show us how
powerlessness, or an inability by some to see how they are being manipulated, can
lead people to lose their freedom to act. Quote significant portions of either essay
in order to make your point.
3. Berger argues that the invention of the camera fundamentally changed the way
people see the world. Consider this concept specifically in the context of a single
area of looking at a single issue that is somehow connected with seeing
images. For instance, you could focus on war footage, and how photographs,
films, and videotapes of war have changed how people think about the prospect of
war. But that’s just one example. Any could work here, but you must stick with
only one for your entire discussion. Generate relevant examples from your
experience, as well as from your experience with looking at the world.
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