Short Story Critical Analysis Paper
Minimum Length: 5 pages (MLA)
Assignment: For this paper, you should make use only of the story, your imagination and certain sources to help you cement your claim.
1. Select a theoretical perspective, or a lens through which you wish to explore as you perceive to be present in a short story. These can be family, marriage, quest, betrayal, supernatural, sin, death, love, the relationship, etc.
2. Choose a short story, or stories, from our anthology/reading list that deal with this theme. You may need to read each story several times, taking notes as you go. Remember, the theme is your “lens” through which you are now reading the story.
3. Go through each story and mark how the author explores the theme using narrative, character, setting, symbolism, etc., to convey its meaning. Then, write a critical response to the short story/stories; employ as many of the literary terms that we have studied as you legitimately can to present a thorough literary analysis of how the theme “works/doesn’t work” in the story/stories you have selected (as if to enlighten an educated reader about the important aspects of this particular short story.) You must select at least three of these techniques. Some of those literary terms are:
point of view
4. Construct a thesis that indicates a) your focus, and b) the relation of that focus to the story as a whole. For example, a thesis for “A Good Man is Hard to Find” might be: Characterization and irony help convey O’Connor’s theme that dictates that society should first be good before judging others. For “The Cask of the Amontillado,” a thesis might be: The narrator’s revelations of his own vices as well as the actions of Fortunato underscore the lesson in this short story: overwhelming pride leads to ruin. Though not as obvious as the first thesis, the second thesis will focus on narrative/POV and characterization. To use more than one story, you might argue: Lack of communication can lead to disaster in marriage, as it does in the stories “The Yellow Wallpaper,” “Story of an Hour,” and “The Jewelry.” Another one might be: “The use of foreshadowing in the stories “A Cask of Amontillado” and “A Good Man is Hard to Find” helps create tension and interest. Also note that there is some latitude in assigning meaning to a short story. What I see as the major theme may be different than what you see. The important criterion to keep in mind is: can you prove it? Therefore, you need a thesis because you are arguing for your interpretation of the story. The thesis should not be so obvious that your reader will say “so what?” Don’t settle for trite generalizations. Instead, make a statement which indicates thought and depth, and which requires support and proof. Your goal should be to illuminate for the readers some point that they might not have noticed upon first reading the story.
5. Find evidence in the text to support your thesis, and organize the rest of your essay around these quotations and examples. Don’t rely on generalizations about or paraphrases of the story to convince your reader, but provide specific evidence and discuss the importance of that evidence for your thesis. Please note: you should not insert huge chunks of quotes in your paper and count that against your minimum page length. Roughly 70% of the paper should be your own words and thoughts.
6. Conclude your paper by summing up your argument so that the readers see that your evidence does support your thesis.
It is important to write concisely. Do not just re-tell the story. DO NOT risk plagiarism – if you use information from our textbook, then you must cite that information correctly – the Anthology discusses how to write a paper, including how to document outside sources; DO NOT write a plot outline—this assignment is to critique: what is the author “saying” to the reader. Does the text support it? What literary techniques and conventions does he or she use to say it? What is the “point” of the story? Does the author/text show readers anything worthwhile about people or about life? Keep your discussion focused on analyzing how the THEME works within the short story to support your reading lens.
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