You’ll write three short analytical papers this semester. Imagine simply that you’re trying to help another student understand something about a story.
You are NOT necessarily trying to identify the single unifying theme in the story or to tie everything together. I’ve provided a link to sample essays below; read the essay about Hamlet and notice how it concentrates on the character of Gertrude. There are countless things to write about in Hamlet, but this paper doesn’t try to address them all. Nor does it try to tell us how understanding Hamlet requires us to understand Gertrude–she’s not the key to the play. Rather, the paper simply tries to enrich our understanding of the play by increasing our understanding of one part of it–that’s all you’re trying to do.
As you start thinking about the paper, you will need to identify at least one major theme in the story because the parts of the story you analyze will contribute to that theme. But you don’t have to know the theme in advance. Identify some part of the story that’s interesting to you–a specific allusion, a specific image, a setting, a character–and think about why you find that thing to be interesting. Then think about how it relates to other parts of the story.
If you have identified a theme in advance go back and look for evidence to develop an argument about that theme. Maybe you’ll find you were mistaken, maybe you’ll find it’s more complicated than you originally thought, but most likely you’ll find that you identify specific elements of the story that gave you a general impression the first time through. Tease them out and explain them.
It can be helpful to outline the plot, describe characters, identify conflicts and realizations, describe the setting, identify allusions to other fiction, list images and metaphors, and so forth. This is pretty easy to do and will help you immeasurably to make connections and discoveries.
Do not worry about researching other criticism about the story for the first two papers. For the third paper, you will either find some criticism to work with or use an article that I distribute.
Read more than once.
Annotate the story–circle, draw lines, make notes, look up words and references, and generally engage with it.
Take drafts to the Writing Center.
to make an argument (you must have a clear thesis and you must provide evidence from the story)
to explain/discuss any of the following:
narrative point of view
to relate your specific analysis to the work’s larger themes
to help another reader to a deeper understanding of the work
I will be considering the following when I grade:
the clarity and focus of your thesis
the logical progression of the argument
your ability to limit paragraphs to a single topic
your use of evidence/quotes from the story
transitions between paragraphs