ENC 1102 (Online)
Writing Assignment #1
Choose one of the following topics and write an essay of 800-1,200 words responding to it (please note that the word count is a ballpark figure; your essay will probably fall into that range, but it may be shorter or longer—just be sure you’ve supported your thesis and topic sentences as completely as possible). Please note that a serious, college-level essay should comprise AT LEAST FIVE paragraphs (though more will likely be better!). And please do NOT feel as if you must address every question I bring up in the prompts below—in other words, don’t use them as a literal prescription for ordering your essay. Use the questions to get your thinking on the story going.
NOTE: These questions below are meant to get you thinking and brainstorming about a way to analyze (examine, explain, discuss) the story. However, you are absolutely welcome to come up with a different approach to the story if you wish. Just make sure your thesis makes an opinionated claim (takes an analytical position) about the story. If you’re unsure, feel free to e-mail me your idea.
1) Analyze Sammy, the narrator of John Updike’s “A&P,” as a character. Explain what his observations about the girls, Lengel, the store, and/or his community tell us about this fictional character. How might the way he thinks affect the reader’s opinion of him? Do keep in mind that as readers we are getting unfiltered access to his thoughts, and that he only speaks a few words in the story. You may want to consider why he chooses to quit his job as part of your analysis of his character, too.
2) The contrasts between Maggie’s/Mrs. Johnson’s and Wangero’s views of heritage form the major theme of “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker. Explain how their views differ and why. Why do you think Wangero has changed her feelings about the objects in her mother’s home? Discuss the different values that each character places on the household objects Wangero now wants. NOTE: Be careful not to get too involved in judging Wangero as not having a “true” sense of heritage; doing so will require a LOT of support and analysis. You can compare the differing views without taking sides, but if you’re going to do so, be ready to present a high level of support.
3) How might “The Lottery” be read as an allegory (see the discussion thread for this story for a definition of allegory) regarding man’s innate drive toward violence and cruelty. How are aspects of ritual and tradition presented in the story, and how might ritual or tradition be used to hide cruelty or make it acceptable? What does story suggest about human nature, neighborliness, and/or maybe even American values? NOTE: If writing about this story, be very careful NOT to try to write a social science paper that makes an effort to discuss the Holocaust or WWII or other historical events in depth. I won’t mind a brief (very brief!) connection of the story’s themes to these historical events (maybe in the conclusion paragraph), but do NOT try to write a social science/history paper! I don’t want to hear simplistic histories of the Holocaust! Stick to analyzing the story.
Note that, as stated above, you are not locked into using the questions above to create a thesis. If, for example, you’d prefer to focus on the treatment/depiction of the girls (or ideas about women in general) in “A&P,” or the role of tradition and family in “Everyday Use,” or what have you, rather than the questions I pose above, that’s fine with me. I offer these questions to help those who are unsure how they’d approach the essay.
Your final draft must be submitted through Black Board and is due by midnight on Thursday, February 7. Papers turned in after 12:01 a.m. on the due date will lose ten points; ten more points will be deducted for each late day after that. Papers more than ten days late will not be accepted.
Integrate all quotes (see integration handout) and cite them by author’s last name in the parenthetical reference. For example, if writing about “Everyday Use,” you’d follow any quote you use with this parenthetical reference: (Walker). No page # is needed since you’re citing an online version of the text. Periods come AFTER the parenthetical reference, and ending quote marks come before, as in this example: Mrs. Johnson believes that Dee would prefer her to have “skin like an uncooked barley pancake” (Walker).
Include a full Works Cited entry in MLA 8 format for your story at the end of your essay. Here’s how (note where quotes and italics are used and be sure to mirror that!):
(For “A&P” and “Everyday Use”)
Lastname, First. “Story Title.” ENC 1102, CRN XXXXX. Canvas. Microsoft Word File. [Insert your class’s CRN]
(For “The Lottery”)
Lastname, First. “Story Title.” ENC 1102, CRN XXXXX. Canvas. Adobe pdf File.
Ensure that your essay, like all good college-level writing, comprises AT LEAST FIVE TOTAL PARAGRAPHS (an intro paragraph, at least three body paragraphs, and a conclusion; really, good papers will likely be longer). Certainly it’s great if your paper comprises more than five paragraphs, but it must have at least five.
Your introduction paragraph should be at least three sentences (like any good paragraph in a college-level essay). The thesis—stating the main analytical point you want to make about the story—should generally be the last sentence (or sentences—it can be more than one) of that paragraph. But your introduction doesn’t need to present analysis or quotes from the story—save your analysis and discussion of specific quotes for the body of the essay. Note that your thesis DOES NOT NEED TO LIST THREE IDEAS about the story that you’ll discuss in that order in the body of the essay. It’s best for you to ditch a lot of those formulaic ideas about essay structure they probably taught you in high school. Your thesis should present the main point you want to make about the essay.
Likewise, your conclusion paragraph should NOT bring up new ideas which you analyze. The purpose of the conclusion is to reiterate your main point (that is, remind us of your thesis—don’t literally restate it in exactly the same words) and offer some final thoughts on the story. You can offer a personal reflection on the story here, too. But the conclusion should be three or more sentences, like any paragraph.
DO NOT JUST RETELL THE STORY–organize your essay by ideas/claims about the story, not by the order of events in the story. Consider your audience to be like people in our class: they’ve read the story, but they don’t know what you think about it or why you think it. Though you have to refer to quotes and events and descriptions in the story for support, you don’t have to follow the story’s plot order in your essay.
Do NOT “announce” your thesis in an overly obvious way: an example to avoid is something like, “In this essay, I will discuss” or “This paper examines.” Allow your thesis to be an organic statement of your topic, purpose, and focus, like this: “Wangero defines her heritage in an academic and artistic way, while her mother and sister define their heritage in terms of the people and relationships they care about.”
Always remember that this is a persuasive paper; you must not only cite evidence from the story to support your claims, but also explain HOW those citations illustrate your point. Your goal is to ensure the reader understands why you interpret the story as you do, even if s/he doesn’t agree.
When referring to the title of the story in your paper, put that title in quotes, like this: In Shirley Jackson’s story “The Lottery,” . . . . Your essay itself should have a title, too, but that title DOES NOT GET PUT IN QUOTES (although if you reference the title in your own title you can put the story title in quotes).
Part of your final grade on this writing assignment will come from your full participation in a peer review. Thus, you must post a completed draft of your essay by midnight Saturday, February 2. Then you must read at least two of your classmates’ papers, answering some questions I will post to guide your suggestions to him/her on improving the essay; this must be done by midnight on Monday, February 4. You’ll also get at least two classmates’ analyses of your own essay, plus some comments from me.
If you do NOT upload a completed draft by the due date, you will lose ten points on your final grade for Writing Assignment #1; if you don’t post a draft at all (meaning you don’t even submit it late), you’ll lose 25 points. If you do not post commentary on at least two of your classmates’ papers by the due date, you will lose ten points. Also, if your commentary on your classmates’ papers does NOT specifically address the questions I pose in that peer review discussion thread, you will lose at least five points. Please follow all directions carefully.
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