Essay 1: Assignment

Due: Monday, Sept. 23, 2002


Length:4-5 pages

Objective:   This essay is an opportunity for you expand your ideas about how the formal elements of fiction writing work to create the overall meaning(s) of a short story.

Audience:   Someone who has read the short story you discuss, but is not a member of our class.

Format: Typed in a reasonable 12-point font,  double-spaced, and stapled if over one page. Please include your name, course, my name, the date, and "Essay 1" at the top of your first page.

Task:  1) Choose a short story from the list below and discuss how the author develops characterization through the use of other formal elements (plot, theme, point of view, setting, etc.).

2) In developing your argument, you must draw on at least one other story from our syllabus as well, using this short story to add emphasis or contrast to the points you're making about your main story.  Titles from which to choose your primary story:Hawthorne, "Young Goodman Brown"Poe, "Fall of the House of Usher"Faulkner, "Rose for Emily" Hurston, "Sweat"

Hint:  Your argument should ultimately answer the question "what's the significance of this characterization to the meaning of the story?" that  is, you must answer the "So what?" question. If you're arguing that Carver develops the characterization of the parents in "A Small, Good Thing" by contrasting their static emotional state to the activity of the plot, you must also suggest why this is so: perhaps because the contrast points to the alienating effect the hospital routine has on human emotions (or perhaps he's arguing that all professions are dehumanizing; we focus only on the work and not the client, in which case you'd want to talk about the baker, too). 

Remember that you're writing about characterization, not character; that is, instead of writing about what characters are like, you should focus on how the short story constructs character and what the significance of that mode of characterization is. So, phrases like "Carver uses setting to reflect the change in Ann's character" are more on target  than assertions like "Ann's character changes by the end of the story . . ."

Successful essays will include the following:
a thesis statement that fully answers the question
support—in the form of direct quotations from and references to the text—for that argument, with citations
synthesis of (drawing connections between) the two stories, not merely discussion about them separately in turn
few grammatical or sentence-level infelicities