Fall 2017 – Essay #1 Graded Assignment: On Literature & Response to Fiction
Due dates: Completed Rough Draft on Sep. 21; Final Draft on Sep. 28
Select one substantive work of fiction that you find interesting and want to explore further.
Limit your selection to a story in Ch. 1-4 in the Part 1: Fiction text. Although the work must be
in these chapters, your choice is not limited to those listed in Weeks 1-2 of the syllabus.
First, read the sections on Writing Effectively in Ch. 1-4 and study the Sample Student Paper in
Ch. 7 (pp. 272-4), as well as LSH W-11 (pp. 62-3), to better familiarize yourself with writing
about literature. Then, write an essay analyzing, interpreting, and evaluating the work you have
chosen. The purpose of this assignment is for you to deepen your understanding of and
appreciation for literature by devoting time and effort to “digging out” meaning and testing it
with evidence from the literary work itself. You will try to convince the reader that your
interpretation is valid.
After careful analysis of the work, you should be able to explain the meaning you discern,
support your interpretation with evidence from the work, and evaluate the effectiveness of
literary elements used by the author.
Focus on one element (such as character, setting, or theme) or the interrelatio nship of two or
three elements. Don’t try to include everything about the work.
You want to emphasize your response to the work. Although a brief summary of the plot is a
good beginning point, merely retelling the story is NOT a literary analysis.
Some questions to consider as you plan your essay:
What is your reaction to the story?
Who is the narrator or speaker? What is the point of view?
What is the setting (time and place)? How does it relate to the story? What mood or
emotional atmosphere does the setting suggest?
What is the language like? Is it informal or formal? Is there use of irony or figurative
language: imagery, metaphor, personification? Are there connotations in certain words?
How does the plot unfold? What overall form or shape does it take? e.g., joy yielding to
sorrow; conflict yielding to joy; or from problem to solution.
What are the characters like? Their personalities, traits, habits, and motivations behind
their actions. Do any of the characters change? How?
What are the external / internal conflicts? What is the central conflict?
What is the climax of the story? Is there any resolution?
Are there any important symbols? What might they mean?
What does the title mean?
What are the themes of the story? Are they universal (applying to all people everywhere
at all times)?
What other literary works or experiences from life does the story make you think of?
Minimum 2-3 pages (550-600 words) typed in 12-pt. serif font, double-spaced with
standard 1” margins (see p. 146 and the sample paper in Blackboard for formatting help)
MLA style format (see sample essays on Canvas and LSH MLA-e, p. 161)
You may use outside sources to support your statements, but they are not required for this
assignment. If, however, you decide to use outside sources, remember to document them
correctly in MLA format, with parenthetical in-text citations and a list of works cited. Note that
“common knowledge” information, easily obtainable from a dictionary or encyclopedia—e.g.,
the U.S. is comprised of 50 states—does not need to be documented.
A successful essay will:
Give clear opinion of the writer (you) in the thesis statement
Have coherent topic sentences that relate to the thesis
Have organized and focused paragraphs
Use effective sentences that have concrete subjects and active verbs
Use enough examples and supporting evidence to get your point across
Use strong, clear language and be relatively free from grammar errors
On Literature & Response to Fiction