Literary Analysis

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Question Description

  • Choose any short story or poem in your textbook or online anthology that will not be covered in class. You may choose one outside the book, but it’s recommended that you get instructor approval to ensure that you know how to cite it. (I chose already for you)
  • After having carefully read the work, determine an argument that the work presents. Use the Chapter 6 or 7 as well as the Literary Analysis Thesis handout you’ve been provided to help you formulate your argument. Examine what evidence in the story supports that argument. Ordinarily, such arguments are not explicitly stated in the text.
  • Write a 750- to 1000-word essay in which you present the argument you have determined and discuss what evidence and literary devices the author employs to support that argument. Provide textual evidence for each example, which can be quoted or paraphrased. Use quotes sparingly. Should you use quotes, make sure that you provide a thorough analysis for each.
  • Format your essay to conform to the MLA Handbook, Eighth Edition. All examples you provide from the text must include properly formatted in-text or parenthetical citations in order to meet minimum standards. Use the Parenthetical Documentation handout to help. Never just guess.
  • Include a correctly formatted Works Cited page. Entries must have hanging indents. For this essay, you need only cite the story you are analyzing. An Essay submitted without a Works Cited page will receive a grade of F.
  • Seek instructor, librarian, or Center for Reading and Writing assistance if you are not 100% certain that you are citing correctly.
  • Proofread your work for grammar, usage, spelling, and clarity before submitting it.
  • Essay standards for the course are outlined in the syllabus.
  • Refer to the rubric for grading standards.

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LITERARY ANALYSIS THESIS A thesis in a literary analysis or literary research paper can take many forms. When given an assignment to analyze a work of fiction, poetry, or drama, you must first determine the requirements of the assignment. Make sure that you understand the nature of the assignment and that you follow the instructions of your professor. Useful Information: Literature is classified in categories, or genres, which have sub-classifications or forms of their own. Being familiar with the characteristics of the genre in which the work is classified will provide context for your analysis of that work. In the list below, which is not exhaustive, are common forms of literature with the genres they represent.  Fiction: myths, parables, short stories, novels (picaresque, romance, historical, gothic, science fiction, mystery, modernist)  Poetry: sonnets, ballads, epics, limericks, elegies, free verse, odes, lyrics, tercets, villanelles  Drama: tragedies, comedies, theatre of the absurd  Nonfiction (sometimes called creative nonfiction): slave narratives, personal essays, memoirs, biographies, travel writing Once you decide what work you will analyze, you will begin the analysis of the work and do any research required. As you think about your topic, be sure to construct a thesis that will guide your analysis as well as serve to focus and organize your essay. A good thesis is specific, limited in scope and offers a perspective or interpretation on a subject. A literary thesis should be clear and focused, setting up an argument that the essay will support with discussion and details from the work. SAMPLE THESIS STATEMENTS These sample thesis statements are provided as guides, not as required forms or prescriptions. #1 The thesis may focus on an analysis of one of the elements of fiction, drama, poetry or nonfiction as expressed in the work: character, plot, structure, idea, theme, symbol, style, imagery, tone, etc. Example: In “A Worn Path,” Eudora Welty creates a fictional character in Phoenix Jackson whose determination, faith, and cunning illustrate the indomitable human spirit. Note that the work, author, and character to be analyzed are identified in this thesis statement. The thesis relies on a strong verb (creates). It also identifies the element of fiction that the writer will explore (character) and the characteristics the writer will analyze and discuss (determination, faith, cunning). Further Examples: The character of the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet serves as a foil to young Juliet, delights us with her warmth and earthy wit, and helps realize the tragic catastrophe. The works of ecstatic love poets Rumi, Hafiz, and Kabir use symbols such as a lover’s longing and the Tavern of Ruin to illustrate the human soul’s desire to connect with God. Learning and Tutoring Center, Summer 2011 Page 1 of 4 #2 The thesis may focus on illustrating how a work reflects the particular genre’s forms, the characteristics of a philosophy of literature, or the ideas of a particular school of thought. Example: “The Third and Final Continent” exhibits characteristics recurrent in writings by immigrants: tradition, adaptation, and identity. Note how the thesis statement classifies the form of the work (writings by immigrants) and identifies the characteristics of that form of writing (tradition, adaptation, and identity) that the essay will discuss. Further examples: Samuel Beckett’s Endgame reflects characteristics of Theatre of the Absurd in its minimalist stage setting, its seemingly meaningless dialogue, and its apocalyptic or nihilist vision. A close look at many details in “The Story of an Hour” reveals how language, institutions, and expected demeanor suppress the natural desires and aspirations of women. #3 The thesis may draw parallels between some element in the work and real-life situations or subject matter: historical events, the author’s life, medical diagnoses, etc. Example: In Willa Cather’s short story, “Paul’s Case,” Paul exhibits suicidal behavior that a caring adult might have recognized and remedied had that adult had the scientific knowledge we have today. This thesis suggests that the essay will identify characteristics of suicide that Paul exhibits in the story. The writer will have to research medical and psychology texts to determine the typical characteristics of suicidal behavior and to illustrate how Paul’s behavior mirrors those characteristics. Further Examples: Through the experience of one man, the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, accurately depicts the historical record of slave life in its descriptions of the often brutal and quixotic relationship between master and slave and of the fragmentation of slave families. In “I Stand Here Ironing,” one can draw parallels between the narrator’s situation and the author’s life experiences as a mother, writer, and feminist. Learning and Tutoring Center, Summer 2011 Page 2 of 4 SAMPLE PATTERNS FOR THESES ON LITERARY WORKS 1. In (title of work), (author) (illustrates, shows) (aspect) (adjective). Example: In “Barn Burning,” William Faulkner shows the characters Sardie and Abner Snopes struggling for their identity. 2. In (title of work), (author) uses (one aspect) to (define, strengthen, illustrate) the (element of work). Example: 3. In “Youth,” Joseph Conrad uses foreshadowing to strengthen the plot. In (title of work), (author) uses (an important part of work) as a unifying device for (one element), (another element), and (another element). NOTE: The number of elements can vary from one to four. Example: In “Youth,” Joseph Conrad uses the sea as a unifying device for setting, structure and theme. 4. (Author) develops the character of (character’s name) in (literary work) through what he/she does, what he/she says, what other people say to or about him/her. Example: 5. Langston Hughes develops the character of Semple in “Ways and Means”… In (title of work), (author) uses (literary device) to (accomplish, develop, illustrate, strengthen) (element of work). Example: In “The Masque of the Red Death,” Poe uses the symbolism of the stranger, the clock, and the seventh room to develop the theme of death. 6. (Author) (shows, develops, illustrates) the theme of __________ in the (play, poem, story). Example: Flannery O’Connor illustrates the theme of the effect of the selfishness of the grandmother upon the family in “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” 7. (Author) develops his character(s) in (title of work) through his/her use of language. Example: John Updike develops his characters in “A & P” through his use of figurative language. Learning and Tutoring Center, Summer 2011 Page 3 of 4 OTHER RESOURCES  Refer to your literary textbook. The first chapter often includes information on writing essays on literary topics, and later chapters discuss elements of literature.  Use supplemental resources available in the LTC. Consider the following:  McKeague, Pat. Writing about Literature: Step by Step. 8th ed. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co. 2005.  Roberts, Edgar V. Ed. Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing. 4th Compact Ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2008.  Refer to this very reputable online resource: The OWL (Online Writing Lab) at Purdue:  “Writing in Literature: An Overview”: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/713/01/ This overview page includes links to pages that discuss how to write a thesis, how to read a poem, how to read a novel or short story, and how to read a play, among other topics.  Ask an LTC tutor to review drafts of your thesis statement for strength and coherence. FINAL NOTE: Conventions for Writing a Literary Analysis Essay or Research Paper Ensure that your essay…  makes an argument or claim or illustrates an engaging perspective on the work  includes a thesis which lists the key points the essay will discuss  provides evidence to support your claim  refers to the author(s) and the work(s) in the opening sentences. Use the author’s full name the first time and the author’s last name in all further references in the essay.  uses literary present tense to discuss events in the fiction, poetry, or drama. For information on this convention, see: http://humanities.ucsd.edu/writing/workshop/present.htm  uses strong verbs in the thesis statement and throughout the essay: demonstrates, uses, develops, underscores, accomplishes, strengthens, illustrates, shows, reveals, serves, emphasizes, identifies, suggests, implies, etc.  uses formal rather than informal language For more information on levels of formality, visit our website: http://www.gpc.edu/~gpcltc/handouts/levelsofformality.pdf  does more than simply summarize the work For more information on literary analysis, visit our website: http://www.gpc.edu/~gpcltc/handouts/literaryanalysis.pdf Learning and Tutoring Center, Summer 2011 Page 4 of 4 1 Honoré De Balzac A Passion in the Desert Translated by Ernest Dowson Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) was a French writer and is considered one of the founders of the realist movement in literature. He wrote a number of novels and short stories, collectively called La Comédie Humaine. His novels and stories depict life in France after the exile of Napoleon in 1815. They show the wide sweep of French life, from the salons in Paris to the poor in the countryside. His novels include Eugénie Grandet (1833), Père Goriot (1835), and Cousine Bette (1846). “A Passion in the Desert,” translated here by Ernest Dowson, was published in 1830. It was made into the movie Simoom: A Passion in the Desert (1998). “The whole show is dreadful,” she cried coming out of the menagerie of M. Martin. She had just been looking at that daring speculator working with his hyena,—to speak in the style of the program. “By what means,” she continued, “can he have tamed these animals to such a point as to be certain of their affection for—” “What seems to you a problem,” said I, interrupting, “is really quite natural.” “Oh!” she cried, letting an incredulous smile wander over her lips. “You think that beasts are wholly without passions?” I asked her. “Quite the reverse; we can communicate to them all the vices arising in our own state of civilization.” She looked at me with an air of astonishment. “But,” I continued, “the first time I saw M. Martin, I admit, like you, I did give vent to an exclamation of surprise. I found myself next to an old soldier with the right leg amputated, who had come in with me. His face had struck me. He had one of those heroic heads, stamped with the seal of warfare, and on which the battles of Napoleon are written. Besides, he had that frank, good-humored expression which always impresses me favorably. He was without doubt one of those troopers who are surprised at nothing, who find matter for laughter in the contortions of a dying comrade, who bury or plunder him quite light-heartedly, who stand intrepidly in the way of bullets;—in fact, one of those men who waste no time in deliberation, and would not hesitate to make friends with the devil himself. After looking very attentively at the proprietor of the menagerie getting out of his box, my companion pursed up his lips with an air of mockery and contempt, with that peculiar and expressive twist which superior people assume to show they are not taken in. Then, when I was expatiating on the courage of M. Martin, he smiled, shook his head knowingly, and said, 'Well known.' “'How well known ?' I said. 'If you would only explain me the mystery, I should be vastly obliged.' “After a few minutes, during which we made acquaintance, we went to dine at the first restauranteur's whose shop caught our eye. At dessert a bottle of champagne completely refreshed and brightened up the memories of this odd old soldier. He told me his story, and I saw that he was right when he exclaimed, 'Well known.'” When she got home, she teased me to that extent, was so charming, and made so many promises, that I consented to communicate to her the confidences of the old soldier. Next day she received the following episode of an epic which one might call The French in Egypt: 2 During the expedition in Upper Egypt under General Desaix, a Provençal soldier fell into the hands of the Maugrabins, and was taken by these Arabs into the deserts beyond the falls of the Nile. In order to place a sufficient distance between themselves and the French army, the Maugrabins made forced marches, and only halted when night was upon them. They camped round a well overshadowed by palm trees under which they had previously concealed a store of provisions. Not surmising that the notion of flight would occur to their prisoner, they contented themselves with binding his hands, and after eating a few dates, and giving provender to their horses, went to sleep. When the brave Provençal saw that his enemies were no longer watching him, he made use of his teeth to steal a scimitar, fixed the blade between his knees, and cut the cords which prevented him from using his hands; in a moment he was free. He at once seized a rifle and a dagger, then taking the precautions to provide himself with a sack of dried dates, oats, and powder and shot, and to fasten a scimitar to his waist, he leaped on to a horse, and spurred on vigorously in the direction where he thought to find the French army. So impatient was he to see a bivouac again that he pressed on the already tired courser at such speed, that its flanks were lacerated with his spurs, and at last the poor animal died, leaving the Frenchman alone in the desert. After walking sometime in the sand with all the courage of an escaped convict, the soldier was obliged to stop, as the day had already ended. In spite of the beauty of an Oriental sky at night, he felt he had not strength enough to go on. Fortunately he had been able to find a small hill, on the summit of which a few palm trees shot up into the air; it was their verdure seen from afar which had brought hope and consolation to his heart. His fatigue was so great that he lay down upon a rock of granite, capriciously cut out like a camp-bed; there he fell asleep without taking any precaution to defend himself while he slept. He had made the sacrifice of his life. His last thought was one of regret. He repented having left the Maugrabins, whose nomadic life seemed to smile upon him now that he was far from them and without help. He was awakened by the sun, whose pitiless rays fell with all their force on the granite and produced an intolerable heat—for he had had the stupidity to place himself adversely to the shadow thrown by the verdant majestic heads of the palm trees. He looked at the solitary trees and shuddered—they reminded him of the graceful shafts crowned with foliage which characterize the Saracen columns in the cathedral of Arles. But when, after counting the palm trees, he cast his eyes around him, the most horrible despair was infused into his soul. Before him stretched an ocean without limit. The dark sand of the desert spread further than eye could reach in every direction, and glittered like steel struck with bright light. It might have been a sea of looking-glass, or lakes melted together in a mirror. A fiery vapor carried up in surging waves made a perpetual whirlwind over the quivering land. The sky was lit with an Oriental splendor of insupportable purity, leaving naught for the imagination to desire. Heaven and earth were on fire. The silence was awful in its wild and terrible majesty. Infinity, immensity, closed in upon the soul from every side. Not a cloud in the sky, not a breath in the air, not a flaw on the bosom of the sand, ever moving in diminutive waves; the horizon ended as at sea on a clear day, with one line of light, definite as the cut of a sword. The Provençal threw his arms round the trunk of one of the palm trees, as though it were the body of a friend, and then, in the shelter of the thin, straight shadow that the palm cast upon the granite, he wept. Then sitting down he remained as he was, contemplating with profound sadness 3 the implacable scene, which was all he had to look upon. He cried aloud, to measure the solitude. His voice, lost in the hollows of the hill, sounded faintly, and aroused no echo—the echo was in his own heart. The Provençal was twenty-two years old:—he loaded his carbine. There'll be time enough, he said to himself, laying on the ground the weapon which alone could bring him deliverance. Viewing alternately the dark expanse of the desert and the blue expanse of the sky, the soldier dreamed of France—he smelled with delight the gutters of Paris—he remembered the towns through which he had passed, the faces of his comrades, the most minute details of his life. His Southern fancy soon showed him the stones of his beloved Provence, in the play of the heat which undulated above the wide expanse of the desert. Realizing the danger of this cruel mirage, he went down the opposite side of the hill to that by which he had come up the day before. The remains of a rug showed that this place of refuge had at one time been inhabited; at a short distance he saw some palm trees full of dates. Then the instinct which binds us to life awoke again in his heart. He hoped to live long enough to await the passing of some Maugrabins, or perhaps he might hear the sound of cannon; for at this time Bonaparte was traversing Egypt. This thought gave him new life. The palm tree seemed to bend with the weight of the ripe fruit. He shook some of it down. When he tasted this unhoped-for manna, he felt sure that the palms had been cultivated by a former inhabitant—the savory, fresh meat of the dates were proof of the care of his predecessor. He passed suddenly from dark despair to an almost insane joy. He went up again to the top of the hill, and spent the rest of the day in cutting down one of the sterile palm trees, which the night before had served him for shelter. A vague memory made him think of the animals of the desert; and in case they might come to drink at the spring, visible from the base of the rocks but lost further down, he resolved to guard himself from their visits by placing a barrier at the entrance of his hermitage. In spite of his diligence, and the strength which the fear of being devoured asleep gave him, he was unable to cut the palm in pieces, though he succeeded in cutting it down. At eventide the king of the desert fell; the sound of its fall resounded far and wide, like a sigh in the solitude; the soldier shuddered as though he had heard some voice predicting woe. But like an heir who does not long bewail a deceased relative, he tore off from this beautiful tree the tall broad green leaves which are its poetic adornment, and used them to mend the mat on which he was to sleep. Fatigued by the heat and his work, he fell asleep under the red curtains of his wet cave. In the middle of the night his sleep was troubled by an extraordinary noise; he sat up, and the deep silence around allowed him to distinguish the alternative accents of a respiration whose savage energy could not belong to a human creature. A profound terror, increased still further by the darkness, the silence, and his waking images, froze his heart within him. He almost felt his hair stand on end, when by straining his eyes to their utmost he perceived through the shadow two faint yellow lights. At first he attributed these lights to the reflections of his own pupils, but soon the vivid brilliance of the night aided him gradually to distinguish the objects around him in the cave, and he beheld a huge animal lying but two steps from him. Was it a lion, a tiger, or a crocodile? The Provençal was not sufficiently e ...
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Anonymous
Tutor went the extra mile to help me with this essay. Citations were a bit shaky but I appreciated how well he handled APA styles and how ok he was to change them even though I didnt specify. Got a B+ which is believable and acceptable.

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