Literary Analysis of a Play with Research, (the play is Fences by august wilson)

Essay 3: Literary Analysis of a Play with Research (4-6 pages)

 

The third essay combines elements of the first two essays in requiring you to write a literary analysis of a
play from our anthology and use primary and secondary sources as support.

A. Choose a character to analyze.

Step One: Find something that the character did, said, or thought that was unusual or caught your interest
in some way.

Step Two: Write out the answers to the following questions: What did the character do/say/think? How did the
character go about performing that action, making a statement, or explaining his or her thought? Why (your
theory) did the character act in the way he or she acted? The more sophisticated responses will locate a
theory for the character’s behavior that goes beyond the obvious one given in the story, using clues in the
story.

Step Three: Using your responses from Step Two, compose a 1-2 sentence long thesis argument containing all
the ideas your included in Step Two. This statement will be your “working thesis” for the essay and may be
revised after you develop your supporting points to better account for the body of the essay.

B. Choose a symbol to analyze.

Step One: Find a significant element in the story, like an object or color that seems to represent something
important in the story’s theme. (Note: a character may be analyzed as a symbol if that character’s traits
seem to stand for something important to the story’s theme.)

Step Two: Write out the answers to the following questions: What does the symbol represent or stand for in
the story? How is the symbol being used to represent that idea? Why (your theory) is that particular symbol
being used in that particular way? The more sophisticated responses will locate a theory for the symbol’s
use that goes beyond the obvious one implied by the story, using clues in the story.

Step Three: Using your responses from Step Two, compose a 1-2 sentence long thesis argument containing all
the ideas your included in Step Two. This statement will be your “working thesis” for the essay and may be
revised after you develop your supporting points to better account for the body of the essay.

C. Choose an anomaly in the plot to analyze.

Step One: Find a place in the story where the events seem not to occur in chronological order. The story
could be told with an unusual ordering of events or include flashbacks to earlier times in a character’s
life.

Step Two: Write out the answers to the following questions: What occurs out of normal chronological order in
the story’s narration? How is it presented in the overall narration of the story? Why (your theory) is the
story being ordered in that particular way at that particular point? The more sophisticated responses will
locate a theory that goes beyond the obvious one implied by the story, using clues in the story.

Step Three: Using your responses from Step Two, compose a 1-2 sentence long thesis argument containing all
the ideas your included in Step Two. This statement will be your “working thesis” for the essay and may be
revised after you develop your supporting points to better account for the body of the essay.

II. Develop your evidence:

Once you have a working thesis, you should locate four details within the story that could be used as
evidence to support the theory you have developed. Think about how you could use each of the details to
support your theory.

III. Write out your points:

For each one of the details you have located, write out a point statement that shows how that detail helps
to prove the theory from your working thesis statement. These point sentences will occur before your
evidence in the body paragraphs, so be sure to write them in a way that will naturally lead into the
evidence you present. We will go over examples in class on prewriting day.
Step Two: Completing Research

These sources may come from any of the library databases, but at least one needs to be on the play you have
selected from a source that focuses on literary criticism. The essay will require you to have four
documented sources, including the play itself (at least three articles and the play).

Step Three: Writing the Introduction

Begin your essay by introducing the topic from the play that you will be addressing with your analysis. Make
sure that you introduce the primary source (the play itself) by giving the name of the author and the title
of the work from our anthology that you are using. Any summation of the plot should move directly into your
topic and conclude with your thesis. Do not include a lengthy plot summary. Assume your audience has a
general familiarity with the play. You should be analyzing character, motif/symbol, or plot, according to
the guidelines given in the third prewriting exercise. Make sure that you omit generalizations and have a
complex thesis statement that shows what, how, and why.

Step Four: Writing Your Body Paragraphs

Each body paragraph should begin with a point that makes an argument to support your thesis. I advise you to
reverse engineer your body paragraphs by deciding upon your examples, or particulars, for each paragraph
first and then writing in a point/argument before the example that the example could be proving. Your
examples should come from either a primary or secondary source. You must use at least three secondary
sources in the body of the essay. You may find it useful to include examples from both the primary and a
secondary source within the same body paragraph to strengthen your claim. Follow the example with an
explication that develops the ways in which your example supports your overall argument and the point being
made in the paragraph.

Step Five: Concluding the Essay
To complete your essay, you need to write a conclusion that does not simply repeat everything you’ve written
in the essay thus far. There are many different ways to write a conclusion. These sub-steps should help you
if you’re struggling through a good conclusion. For literary analysis, you will most likely be using one of
the first three options (A-C).

A: Return to your introduction. You may realize that your essay has moved rather far from your initial
introductory statements. You may even see a new argument emerging. In this case, consider how to come full
circle in your essay by revisiting some of the ideas from your introduction and showing how the content of
your essay has built upon those initial thoughts.

B: Restating your thesis. Remember that argument you tried to make at the end of your introduction? You may
decide to use your conclusion to reiterate that thesis statement and further explain how you have proven it
in your essay.

C: Summarizing your main points. If you feel like the points in your essay went all over the place in
proving your thesis, the conclusion could be used to bring them together and restate them in a way that
better connects those points to each other and the thesis you were trying to prove with them.

D: Forecasting the future. You may find at the end of your essay that you have uncovered some nuance in
reading the story that could be useful to other readings of similar stories from our anthology. Your
conclusion can be used to forecast what other critical readings may come from the one you have just provided
and/or how such readings may change the way readers perceive a story.

E: A Call for Action. At the end of your essay, you may realize that you’ve gotten on the pulpit and done a
bit of preaching to your readers through your reading of the story. Perhaps, the story ultimately calls for
the reader to consider some specific part of his or her life or behaviors differently. You may use your
conclusion to call readers to action in their own lives based on your reading of the story. Just be careful
that such a call to action does not fall into the trap of “generalizations” that could weaken the strength
of your overall argument. Make sure you are calling the reader to some very precise action in his or her
life.
Step Six: Formatting the Essay

This essay should be formatted in MLA Style with parenthetical citations after quotes and paraphrases.
Quotes should be worked into your writing with appropriate introductions. Secondary sources need to be
introduced with title and author information before you use them. Do not include “naked quotes” that stand
alone as complete sentences. Do not begin or end a paragraph with a quote or paraphrase. Rather, you should
begin each paragraph with your own point about the play and end each paragraph with your own analysis. You
should have a heading with your name, my name, the course name, and the date in MLA Style. You should have a
header with your last name and the page number. Remember to correct the font type and size for the page
number header, so that it matches the essay. You should have a Works Cited page in MLA Style with all
sources listed in alphabetical order. See the link to MLA tips on Blackboard for help with formatting.

Step Seven: Revising for Mechanical Errors

Make sure you revise your essay for grammatical and spelling errors. When revising the essay, add
appropriate transitions between body paragraphs to make the essay read as a unified argument and not
separate arguments that loosely fit with one another. Make sure the essay is at least four pages long. The
additional source material will add additional length onto your essay, but your analysis should not be
limited because of quoted material.

 

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