Assignment: Literary Analysis

Here it is. The culmination of all of your hard work in this class, your final paper: Literary Analysis.  There is a helpful overview of the Literary Analysis assignment – click on “Week 5” to find that overview near the bottom of the week’s overview.  Also, be sure to read carefully the actual assignment linked to the words “Literary Analysis” under Week 5.

 

Your Literary Analysis assignment is meant to enable you to show how you have come to understand the idea of conflicts in literature and how to look at literary techniques in stories, poems, and/or plays to bring out that conflict.  This mid-sized paper assignment (1000 – 1250 word essay is approximately 4-5 pages of content, not counting title page and References page) is a good opportunity for you to show what you have learned in this class.

 

The Literary Analysis assignment is a major paper, requiring 1 or 2 primary sources (the stories, poems, or plays you are analyzing) and 2 scholarly sources (articles that you have found at the University Library about those stories, poems, and plays).  Obviously, this is not a “do-at-the-last-minute” type of assignment.

 

You are expected to draft your essay (your Week 3 Assignment) and then do extensive revising, editing, and proofreading to produce and submit a polished essay that supports your thesis statement (your argument).  It is essential that you meet all the assignment requirements and that you revise, edit, and proofread for grammar, punctuation, and mechanics.

 

Assignment Instructions

 

In this assignment, you will refine that thesis and essay even further and develop your argument. You are required to incorporate your instructor’s feedback in your Final Paper and to take peer feedback into consideration.

In your paper,

 

  • Create a detailed introduction that contains a thesis that offers a debatable claim based on one of the prompts on the list.
  • Apply critical thought by analyzing the primary source you selected from the approved List of Literary Works. Avoid summary and personal reflection.
  • Develop body paragraphs that contain clear topic sentences and examples that support the argument.
  • Write a conclusion that reaffirms the thesis statement and includes a summary of the key ideas in essay.
  • Apply your knowledge of literary elements and other concepts in your response to the prompt. Reference the list of literary elements found in Week Two of the course and discussion forums.
  • Incorporate research from the primary and secondary sources.
  • List of Literary Works
  • PROMPT 1.
  • “Interpreter of Maladies” (Jhumpa Lahiri, 1999)
  • “What You Pawn, I Will Redeem” (Sherman Alexie, 2003)
  • “We Came All the Way from Cuba so You Could Dress Like This?” (Achy Obejas, 1994)
  • “The Things They Carried” (Tim O’Brien, 1990) – 5.4 in Journey into Literature
  • PROMPT 2.
  • “What You Pawn, I Will Redeem” (Sherman Alexie, 2003)
  • “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” (Gabriel García Marquez, 1955)
  • “A Hunger Artist” (Franz Kafka, 1924) – 7.5 in Journey into Literature
  • “Everyday Use” (Alice Walker, 1973)
  • PROMPT 3.
  • “The Man of the Crowd” (Edgar Allan Poe, 1845)
  • “The Things They Carried” (O’Brien, 1990) – 5.4 in Journey into Literature
  • “A Worn Path” (Eudora Welty, 1941) – 5.3 in Journey into Literature
  • “Sonny’s Blues” (James Baldwin, 1957)

 

 

 

 

 

List of Literary Techniques Technique Description
Allusion A reference to a recognized literary work, person, historic event, artistic achievement, etc. that enhances the meaning of a detail in a literary work.
Climax The crisis or high point of tension that becomes the story’s turning point—the point at which the outcome of the conflict is determined.
Conflict The struggle that shapes the plot in a story.
Dramatic irony When the reader or audience knows more about the action than the character involved.
Epiphany A profound and sudden personal discovery.
Exposition Setting and essential background information presented at the beginning of a story or play.
Falling action A reduction in intensity following the climax in a story or play, allowing the various complications to be worked out.
Fate An outside source that determines human events.
Figurative language Language used in a non-literal way to convey images and ideas.
Figures of speech The main tools of figurative language; include similes and metaphors..
First-person point of view Occurs when the narrator is a character in the story and tells the story from his or her perspective.
Flashback The description of an event that occurred prior to the action in the story.
Foreshadowing A technique a writer uses to hint or suggest what the outcome of an important conflict or situation in a narrative will be.

 

 

 

 
Imagery A distinct representation of something that can be experienced and understood through the senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste), or the representation of an idea.
Irony A contradiction in words or actions. There are three types of irony: verbal, situational, and dramatic.
Limited omniscient point of view Occurs when a narrator has access to the thoughts and feelings of only one character in a story.
Metaphor A figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between one object and another that is different from it.
Objective point of view A detached point of view, evident when an external narrator does not enter into the mind of any character in a story but takes an objective stance, often to create a dramatic effect.
Omniscient point of view An all-knowing point of view, evident when an external narrator has access to the thoughts and feelings of all the characters in a story.
Persona Literally, in Latin, “a mask.”
Plot A connecting element in fiction; a sequence of interrelated, conflicting actions and events that typically build to a climax and bring about a resolution
Point of view The perspective of the narrator who will present the action to the reader.
Resolution The outcome of the action in a story or play.
Rising action Conflicts and circumstances that build to a high point of tension in a story or play.

 

 

 

Situational irony When the outcome in a situation is the opposite of what is expected.
Simile A figure of speech that compares two objects or ideas that are not ordinarily considered to be similar, linked by using like or as.
Song A lyrical musical expression, a source of emotional outlet common in ancient communities and still influential in contemporary culture.
Symbol An object, person, or action that conveys two meanings: its literal meaning and something it stands for.
Third-person point of view Occurs when the narrator tells the story using third-person pronouns (he, she, they) to refer to the characters.
Tone In a literary work, the speaker’s attitude toward the reader or the subject.
Verbal irony When words are used to convey a meaning that is opposite of their literal meaning

 

 

 

Why Write a Literary Analysis?

 

Literature teaches us about the value of conflict. We experience conflict in our personal relationships and in our interactions with society. A literary analysis helps us recognize the conflict at work in literature; this gives us greater insight into the personal conflicts that we face. In addition, learning how to closely read, analyze, and critique a text is beneficial beyond a literature course in that it improves our writing, reading, and critiquing abilities overall.

 

How to Write a Literary Analysis

 

It is important to understand that some conflicts in literature might not always be obvious. Considering how an author addresses conflict via literary techniques can reveal other more complex conflicts or different kinds of conflicts that interact in multiple ways. Analyzing those more complicated elements can help you discover what literature represents about the human experience and condition. With this in mind, consider that your thesis might be a claim about how conflict is represented in a work, whether through character, setting, or tone. This is not a personal reflection on conflict in general or a conflict you face but an analysis of how literary elements are used to express a conflict in a given literary work—in this case, a short story.

 

The literary analysis should be organized around your rough draft and thesis statement. Your thesis is the controlling idea of the entire essay. In the Week One assignment you submitted a proposal in which you chose a topic based on the List of Writing Prompts. You also identified a short story to analyze from the List of Literary Works. In Week Two you compiled an annotated bibliography in which you identified your primary and secondary sources. In Week Three, you created a rough draft and revised your working thesis. You also incorporated research into this draft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

List of Writing Prompts

 

For students:

 

There are three prompts below each with four texts. For your literary analysis essay, choose ONE prompt and text pairing that interests you. Then, take a look at the guiding questions for the text you choose. You don’t necessarily need to answer all of these questions in your paper. The questions are there to help get you thinking in a direction that will be more likely to lead you to a successful literary analysis.

 

PROMPT 1.

 

Write an analysis of a key character in a literary work. Focus on two or three key actions of that character. Discuss the character’s motivations and decisions in terms you can support with clear evidence from a critical reading of the text. Consider whether this character’s actions fit together or contradict each other. You may also want to consider whether or not any other characters in the story are aware of this conflict, and if so, how they influence the character you are writing about.

 

Literary Works (choose one):

 

“Interpreter of Maladies” (Jhumpa Lahiri, 1999)

 

Guiding Questions:

 

  1. How does a new outsider community member like Mrs. Das influence Mr. Kapasi, who seems to have become bored with his life and his role in the community?

 

  1. How does Mr. Kapasi’s desire for Mrs. Das make him unable to understand Mrs. Das’ desires, leading to his failure to fulfill his role as the Interpreter of Maladies?

 

  1. How do the Das family’s actions surrounding their children show that their desires or interests do not accord with their obligations?

 

 

 

“What You Pawn, I Will Redeem” (Sherman Alexie, 2003)

 

Guiding Questions:

 

  1. How does the grandmother’s property at the pawn shop help to define the narrator’s desires and feeling of obligation to recover it? Why is it so important?

 

  1. How does the character accomplish his objective, and how is this surprising considering all of the unfortunate events and bad decisions he makes along the way?

 

  1. How do the other characters–the Aleuts, the pawn shop owner, the waitress, the police officer, the other Indians at the bar–each play an important role in showing how the

 

 

 

 

 

narrator is committed to an important mission he is worthy of completing?

 

 

 

“We Came All the Way from Cuba so You Could Dress Like This?” (Achy Obejas, 1994)

 

Guiding questions:

 

  1. To what conflicts does the title allude (social? Political? Cultural? others?)?

 

  1. The first-person narrator switches tenses (from present to future). How does this create tension in the story?

 

  1. How is the narrator’s internal conflict (“man v. self”) merely an internalization of political, familial, and social conflict?

 

 

 

“The Things They Carried” (Tim O’Brien, 1990) – 5.4 in Journey into Literature

 

Guiding Questions:

 

  1. The second paragraph of the story begins, “The things they carried were largely determined by necessity” (O’Brien, 1990). Were the soldiers truly able to carry everything they needed? What needs were left unfulfilled by these items, and what in the story suggests this?

 

  1. The narrator also lists specific items that each man carried. How do these items symbolize the emotions that they carried with them, and how does this understanding enrich our understanding of the characters?

 

  1. Often a comparative analysis can help us to notice elements of a story that we might not otherwise notice. Choose two or three characters and compare the things they carried. How does this comparison help qualities of each come to the surface?

 

 

 

PROMPT 2.

 

In some stories, characters come into conflict with the culture in which they live. Often, a character feels alienated in his/her community or society due to race, gender, class or ethnic background. The texts below all contain a character who is ‘outcast’ or otherwise disconnected from society in some way, reflecting important ideas about both the character and the surrounding society’s assumptions, morality, and values. Choose a text and consider the questions below as you critically read the text. Then, craft a working thesis that suggests how this alienation is expressed in the text and why it is significant.

 

Literary Works (choose one):

 

“What You Pawn, I Will Redeem” (Sherman Alexie, 2003)

 

Guiding Questions:

 

  1. What beliefs and values from Native American culture does the narrator consider important, based on ideas and actions in the story?

 

  1. What kinds of experience and values do characters share across cultural differences like Native Americans and whites, or even between different native groups in the story?

 

 

 

 

 

  1. How do the bisexual character, the narrator, and the homeless characters in the story all demonstrate and resolve different “outsider” identities?

 

 

 

“A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” (Gabriel García Marquez, 1955)

 

Guiding Questions:

 

  1. How is the supernatural made familiar and the familiar defamiliarized in the story? Is the angel made more human? Are humans made supernatural or less humane?

 

  1. How is the tension between supernatural and human resolved (or not) in the story?

 

  1. What doe the community’s treatment of this ‘outsider’ reveal about its culture, values, and beliefs?

 

 

 

“A Hunger Artist” (Franz Kafka, 1924) – 7.5 in Journey into Literature

 

Guiding Questions:

 

  1. What is the “hunger artist’s” art, and how does it challenge the understanding of the men who look after the artist as well as the audience that ignores him?

 

  1. Why does the artist have to explain so much about his “art” throughout the story– is he explaining it for others to understand or as part of his own self-definition?

 

  1. How does the young panther capture the audience’s attention so easily yet they ignore the artist– what does this say about “appreciating” what others value?

 

 

 

“Everyday Use” (Alice Walker, 1973)

 

Guiding Questions:

 

  1. How do we know that the protagonist is impoverished? Is she content with her class? Why or why not?

 

  1. How do we know that she is African-American? How does her alienation due to her race also connect with her education?

 

  1. The protagonist’s daughter, Dee, who has embraced her African roots, accuses her mother of not understanding her heritage. Why? What is the situational irony at the end of the story?

 

 

 

PROMPT 3.

 

Consider the role of setting, or context, in one of the works. For example, a story that takes place in a wild and natural setting might include characters struggling against nature to survive. A story set in a city might include themes of alienation and anonymity because of the impersonal crowds and busy city life. Cultural contexts can combine with both urban and rural elements to produce further meaning, as well. Consider the following questions as you critically read one of the texts below: Does the protagonist conflict with the setting or have particular interactions with it? Does the protagonist’s relationship with the setting connect with his/her development as a character? Does the setting reveal other themes and conflicts?

 

Literary Works (choose one from any of the lists below):

 

“The Man of the Crowd” (Edgar Allan Poe, 1845)

 

Guiding Questions:

 

  1. How does the city setting–busy streets, buildings with specific purposes, dark backstreets– produce a disorienting and confining experience for people in the story?

 

  1. How do all of the different occupations and “types” of workers in the city combine to communicate that no one is an individual person and no one really knows each other?

 

  1. What sorts of problems do the narrator and some of the other characters have as a result of this alienating city life? (Think of the narrator’s obsession with the man.)

 

 

 

“The Things They Carried” (O’Brien, 1990) – 5.4 in Journey into Literature

 

Guiding Questions:

 

  1. How does the story communicate the uncertain and frightening setting these soldier-characters experience? (Consider repeated phrases or other devices.)

 

  1. What sorts of emotions, such as stress or fear, does the Vietnam context cause the characters to experience? Give specific examples from the story, and consider how these emotions might be “told” to us in multiple ways.

 

  1. How do the soldiers in the story cope with their setting/context, whether through imagined escapes or other means, and are they successful?

 

 

 

“A Worn Path” (Eudora Welty, 1941) – 5.3 in Journey into Literature

 

Guiding Questions:

 

  1. Clugston suggests that “[t]he setting in this story is in a particular season — the Christmas season.” Why is this significant considering the plot?

 

  1. Clugston (2011) further writes: “The physical setting changes during Phoenix Jackson’s journey. How does each environment she encounters reflect her character?”

 

  1. Phoenix Jackson encounters many obstacles on her journey. To what non-physical challenges do they allude?

 

 

 

“Sonny’s Blues” (James Baldwin, 1957)

 

Guiding Questions:

 

  1. How do the characters’ interactions with the multi-faceted “local color” and communities of Harlem articulate the differences between those characters?

 

  1. What does the story suggest about a neighborhood’s cultural identity and the diverse life experiences possible, even when people seem to come from the same place?

 

  1. What aspects of the setting (the neighborhood, the school, etc.) could be characterized as liberating or oppressive, and how is this reflected in the characters?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

List of Literary Works

 

PROMPT 1.

 

“Interpreter of Maladies” (Jhumpa Lahiri, 1999)

 

“What You Pawn, I Will Redeem” (Sherman Alexie, 2003)

 

“We Came All the Way from Cuba so You Could Dress Like This?” (Achy Obejas, 1994)

 

“The Things They Carried” (Tim O’Brien, 1990) – 5.4 in Journey into Literature

 

PROMPT 2.

 

“What You Pawn, I Will Redeem” (Sherman Alexie, 2003)

 

“A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” (Gabriel García Marquez, 1955)

 

“A Hunger Artist” (Franz Kafka, 1924) – 7.5 in Journey into Literature

 

“Everyday Use” (Alice Walker, 1973)

 

PROMPT 3.

 

“The Man of the Crowd” (Edgar Allan Poe, 1845)

 

“The Things They Carried” (O’Brien, 1990) – 5.4 in Journey into Literature

 

“A Worn Path” (Eudora Welty, 1941) – 5.3 in Journey into Literature

 

“Sonny’s Blues” (James Baldwin, 1957)

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