Analytical paper

Essay #2: 800-950 words (3-4 double-spaced pages)


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Based on your close reading of either Kate Chopin’s The Awakening or Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, develop an argument that analyses a particular aspect of either of these novels. Due on 11/5


Choose one of the following questions to guide your essay:


What does the novel say about the way others see the protagonist (Edna or Lily) versus the way she sees herself? What is the significance of this perceived split between the outer self and the inner self?

How does the novel comment on gender relations in the United States during the nineteenth century?

How does the novel grapple with (pick one) social class/wealth/marriage/appearances/respect and reputation/morality?


Before beginning to write, examine your chosen theme as it is conveyed by the plot, the characters’ actions and words, setting, and symbolism. I recommend finding a number of key quotations that deal with the theme (for example, gender relations), analyze their language and then proceed to your thesis and composition of the essay.


The task in this paper is to show – through a detailed analysis – how the language used in the novel reveals something important about your chosen theme. Remember that unlike most argumentative or informative texts, such as newspaper articles, literary texts often rely on their composition and use of language to create and communicate meaning as well as create impressions (both sensual and intellectual) for their respective audiences.


Please choose one of the questions listed above to construct an effective thesis. Remember your thesis should make an argument about your chosen topic. For example, it’s not enough to give examples of morality in the novel. You have to argue that the novel suggests something specific about this theme and support your argument with specific textual evidence.


Things to remember:

Introduction – Avoid general first sentences in your introduction, such as “Women in the nineteenth century were very repressed” or “Since the dawn of time, people have pursued happiness.” If you can’t think of a “hook,” start by introducing the novel, one or two main details about the plot and characters relating to your topic, and gradually lead the reader to your thesis. Make sure the introduction flows smoothly, that your ideas are logically connected. The reader should not be surprised to see the thesis at the end, but should be prepared for it by the preceding sentences. Remember the known-new contract that we spoke about.


Body Paragraphs – Each paragraph should consist of a single point that supports your thesis. Introduce your point in the topic sentence and support it with the analysis of textual evidence (quotes and plot details) within the paragraph. Don’t simply insert a quote, hoping that your reader will see the connection it has to your point. Make the connection for us. Comment on the quote – analyze the language (word choice, metaphors, similes), imagery, particulars of characterization, characters’ speech patterns when analyzing a quote.


Close reading – involves choosing a key passage (a phrase, sentence, or few sentences) from a text, citing it, and then explaining in anything from a few sentences to a few pages what that citation means and what makes it interesting from a writerly point of view. Does it pick up on a resonant theme or topic? Does it use a startling image or turn of phrase? What kinds of words or language does the writer use? How does he or she convey information and meaning?

Citation – Be sure to cite your evidence properly following MLA citation format. Your Works Cited page should contain the novel and, if used, any secondary sources.

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