You have to write a 1,000 word (1 1/2- 2 pages using 12 pt font, which you should always use when writing academic papers) essay on the elements of plot, point of view, and characterization in a short story you select from the list in the syllabus. That is quite a lot of ground to cover in one, short paper. I highly recommend that you first choose a character, then analyze how the plot structure (not what happens) and the point of view serve to characterize that character. Don’t forget to upload your essay, due Sunday at midnight, to TurnItIn, under Week Two Critical Analysis Paper.
Review Chapter 3 “Plot” and Chapter 6 “Point of View” in the Bedford lit book.
Planning and organizing either with an outline or a web is critical to writing a successful essay. First, I strongly recommend that you re-read the story you are going to use, marking significant quotes and details that you plan to use. Writing about plot (see separate post on this) and point of view and a character is tricky in that you do not want a choppy paper that singularly addresses each. Instead, select a character and then analyze how the author employs plot and point of view to help characterize that particular character.
1) Begin with a short intro that includes the title of the work you’ve selected, properly documented (short story titles go in quotes in MLA), the author’s full name (once you mention the full name, then you only use the last name for the rest of the paper), some brief commentary on the central situation of the story (what is the story about…no more than 2 or 3 sentences), and your very important thesis statement.
2)A thesis statement is essentially what you plan to “argue” in your paper. It should include a topic (a provable “fact”) and your opinion on that topic (your opinion should be debatable). For example, “Kate Chopin uses several literary techniques to characterize Mrs. Mallard as a repressed housewife” would be a thesis statement for “Story of an Hour.” Here, my “fact” is that Chopin uses several literary devices (that’s true and provable), but my opinion, (interpretation), that she is a repressed housewife is open to debate and questioning. Remember, when you are writing about lit, and you are writing something with which everyone can agree, then you are probably in trouble because you are most likely writing plot summary and not analysis.
3) When discussing plot elements, remember to avoid plot summary–a re-telling of the story. That’s a non-productive exercise: we’ve all read the story, and plot summary is not an analysis of the text. Instead, focus on how the plot unfolds: chronologically, flashback, etc. and to what effect.
4) Sprinkle your essay with direct quotes from the story, with proper MLA documentation. Here’s an example:
Chopin posits Mrs. Mallard “facing an open window” after she learns of her husband’s death, providing a moment of liminality that points to her new thoughts that she is now “free, free, free!” (15). I have should have already established that this short story is by Chopin in my sentence, so I do not need to re-write the author’s name in my parenthetical documentation; my bibliography page will show it’s from the Bedford, so no need to put book title–all I need is the page number of my quote in parenthesis at the end of the sentence that contains the quote—not immediately after the quote like you would if this were APA.
5) Complete your essay with a conclusion that points to a big so what? Do not re-hash everything you have already written. Try to respond to what is the overall effect of the plot, pt. of view, and characterization choices the author has made on the meaning in the story.
The book that I am using is “The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature: Reading, Thinking, Writing” (9th Ed.). Meyer, Michael
The story A Secret Sorrow is located in it. The chapters are 11 and 12.
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