01 Nov Short Story Essay Assignment The assignment in a n
Short Story Essay Assignment The assignment in a nutshell: Write an essay that makes a claim about some element of one of the short stories we read for class. Support your thesis (claim) using logical reasoning and appropriate examples from the story in the form of direct quotations and paraphrases. Or you may compare and contrast two stories. Read Chapter 5, “Writing about Stories,” in Reading and Writing about Literature. Use the student essay “Good Husbands in Bad Marriages” as a model for your essay. Thesis Suggestions for Each Story You may explore ONE of the suggestions provided or come up with your own idea: “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” Raymond Carver 1. Carver’s story explores the nature of love through the conversation and interaction of two couples. One of the couples is married, Mel and Terri, but seem to have different ideas about what love is. a. Mel could be called a romantic. Explain how Mel defines love and make a claim as to how Mel’s own actions in the story both contradicts and supports his definition of love. b. Despite Ed’s abusive behavior, Terri claims Ed was in love with her. Make a claim as to how Ed’s behavior both mirrors and contradicts characteristics of “true love.” 2. Carver’s story employs symbolism and metaphor. Make a claim as to the meaning of one or more of the symbols or metaphors in the story, such as knights, cardiology, and the movement from day to night as the story progresses. “Cathedral,” Raymond Carver a. One theme of the story addresses vision or insight. Which character(s) in the story seem to possess some kind of vision, which character(s) seem to lack vision. How does stereotyping play a role in the story? Make a claim as to the nature of insight or vision and how its presence or absents seems to affect the characters’ lives. b. Each character in the story seems to have lost something. Describe and define those losses. Make a claim as to how loss affects the characters. “Sea Oak,” George Saunders 1. In the story, the narrator’s mother’s boyfriend, Freddie, who makes a living polling people by phone, makes a little speech about how life in America works. He says, “It’s the American way—you start out in a dangerous craphole and work hard to some day English 110 Prof. Mark Harrison live in a less dangerous craphole. And finally maybe you get a mansion.” Define the so-called American Dream. How do the life circumstances of the main characters fit into that dream? Make a claim about how Saunders’ story challenges and/or reinforces clichés about life in America and the pursuit of the American Dream. 2. Aunt Bernie’s attitude changes radically at the end of the story. She starts out polite and optimistic, but without ambition. She returns from the dead cussing like a sailor, cynical, realistic and driven to move the family up out of the socioeconomic gutter, but literally falls apart before she gets very far with her plan. Why does Aunt Bernie’s attitude change? How does her change of attitude affect her family? Herself ? Make a claim as to why Aunt Bernie’s attitude changes and how that change comments on the American Dream. 3. The narrator works at Joysticks, a kind of Hooters for women where male waiters put their goods on display. Aunt Bernie dies a virgin, but when she returns from the dead announces she plans to get herself “so many lover.” Jade and Min are both young single moms. Sex is portrayed as alternately ridiculous, necessary for a full life, and life altering when resulting in having a kid at a young age. Make a claim about the role sex plays in the story, and by implication, real life. 4. Saunders capitalizes many words and phrases, many of which he has invented or uses in an original fashion, such as Shirts Off, Pilot, Chronic Shyness Syndrome, Farewell Pen, Cute Rating, Knockout, Honeypie, Adequate, Stinker (and that’s just in the first few paragraphs). Make a claim as to how Saunders uses these words and phrases to satirize life in America. “Secretary,” Mary Gaitskill 1. The narrator, Debby Roe, seems conflicted. She seems to endure and enjoy her family as well as several erotic, sadomasochistic encounters with the lawyer who employs her as his secretary. Make a claim as to what the story might be about besides sex. 2. At the end of the story, Debby gets a call from a newspaper reporter looking for information on the lawyer, who the reporter claims has “an awful reputation” and “no business running for public office.” Why does Debby decline to speak to the reporter and thus protect the lawyer? What does the end of the story have to say about the connection between sex and politics? How do the narrator’s conflicted feelings about the lawyer complicate the use of sexual behavior to demonize politicians? 3. Make a claim as to whether or not Debby is a victim of her boss, the lawyer. Be sure to define the term “victim.” How might Debby be seen as a both a victim and a beneficiary of the relationship that develops between herself and the lawyer? English 110 Prof. Mark Harrison “Harrison Bergeron,” Kurt Vonnegut In the United States of America in 2081 everyone has been made literally equal by being required to wear various handicaps that impair people with exceptional skills and characteristics. Compare and contrast the notion of equality in the story with our usual understanding of equality in contemporary society. “Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway Make a claim as to the ways Hemingway uses analogy, simile, metaphor, and coded language to inform the reader how “the man” and “the girl,” Jig, each feel about possibly aborting her pregnancy. Be sure to quote specific examples from the dialogue between the characters. “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson Make a claim as to how Jackson’s story criticizes social conformity and blind adherence to tradition, and points out the dangers of superstition. Include real-world historical and contemporary examples of the harm caused by social conformity, blind adherence to tradition, and superstition. How might the story be a critique of religion? Suggestion for Comparing and Contrasting Two Stories “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” and “Secretary” Compare and contrast what each story talks about when it talks about love, lust, eroticism, romanticism, sexual abuse, victimization, and traditional vs. non-traditional sex. Image the characters from both stories in a room together talking about love, etc. What would they say to each other? What might they agree on? How might they disagree? Requirements • You are encouraged to use ideas from our class discussions and the suggestions above as the basis for your thesis. But you must support your thesis with evidence from the story in the form of multiple direct quotations (five or more) and paraphrases. • Your essay must conform to MLA format and include a works cited page, which cites the story. • Essay length: 5-6 pages (not counting works cited page).