The following stories (links in this folder) are examples of contemporary fiction, published in the last year in The Sun magazine.
· “Man or Mouse” by Ann Wuehler
· “Murder Me Nicely” by Lucy Britsch
· “The Exact Moment” by Tim McDonald
Choose ONE of the stories and write a thematic analysis, a well-organized essay of three to five pages in which you discuss what you perceive to be the theme.
· In writing your analysis, identify and discuss how at least three of the elements of fiction ( e.g. characters, tone, plot, irony, symbols, etc.) contribute to the theme.
· Support your observations with specific reference to and evidence from the story.
· Do NOT use outside sources.
Theme is the central idea or meaning of a story. Remember theme is not the topic (i.e. innocence and experience, culture and identity, etc.). It is the point the author is making about the topic through the careful construction of the elements of the story – plot, characters, point of view, setting, symbols.
The reader’s task is to examine and evaluate the elements and reach an understanding of the work as a whole. For example, in determining the theme of “Young Goodman Brown,” it would be necessary to consider the setting (both place and time), the point of view from which the story is told, and the plot, particularly the climax and falling action. What often occurs is that a seemingly small detail, an early sentence, becomes more important in the larger context and with subsequent readings.
Always keep in mind that theme is not the same as subject nor plot. The theme of “Araby” is not a young boy’s first love; instead it “illuminates the painful loss of innocence we all endure.” All of the elements – plot, setting, characters, etc.- contribute to Joyce’s larger meaning.
It is the author’s task to construct those elements to convey meaning, but because literature is read “aesthetically,” it is open to multiple interpretations. However, that interpretation must be based on the elements of the story.
Consider the title. It might be straightforward, as in “The Lesson,” or it might have a deeper meaning, such as “Battle Royal.”
Look for factors that may suggest a larger significance. The names of characters in “Young Goodman Brown” obviously point to bigger ideas. But consider also such factors as the juxtaposition Nippers and Turkey in “Bartleby, the Scrivener.”
Does the protagonist change or gain insight in the course of the story?
In a sentence of two, express the point that is being made about the topic or subject. That become your thesis.
Include a title that gives some indication of your main idea and catches the reader’s interest. Do not use only the title of the work that you are analyzing.
Example – Adaptation versus Rebellion in “Battle Royal”
Craft your introduction to interest your reader. In addition, it must reference the title and author of the work.
Most important, your introduction should include your thesis statement. A thesis is a carefully and specifically worded statement of the central idea that your essay will discuss. Every thesis statement has a subject and a controlling idea (the point you are going to discuss about the subject). It tells your reader what to expect and serves as your guide to developing the essay. For this essay, it should be a direct statement of the theme that you have identified and will be discussing.
Body paragraphs each develop that central idea. Your ideas must be explained and supported with evidence from the text. The evidence may include:
Summary – If an action or episode supports a point you are making you may want to include a brief summary. Explanation is necessary to connect the summary and show its relevance to your point.
The lottery was overseen by the same person in charge of other community events, such as dances and holiday events. (summary) This suggests that the lottery was an accepted and normal part of the community. (relevance)
**Caution: Summary should be used sparingly, to support your ideas, not take the place of them. **
Paraphrase – When you need information from a work but not the author’s exact words, you may paraphrase; put the idea in your own words.
“The grandmother didn’t want to go to Florida. She wanted to visit some of her connections in east Tennessee and she was seizing at every chance to change Bailey’s mind.” (original)
The grandmother tried to convince her son to visit relatives in Tennesee, rather than go to Florida as planned. (paraphrase)
Specific details – Details from the text can give concrete support to the development of the ideas. Remember how the details in “Battle Royal” set the scene and tone: “a clarinet was vibrating sensuously,” the “magnificent blonde – stark naked..the small American flag tattooed upon her belly” (Ellison).
Direct quotations – Direct quotations can support your ideas and make your points clearer. Be sure, as with all evidence, to show the connection and explain the relevance to your point.
Conclusion – Your conclusion paragraph should clearly signal the end of your essay and give it a sense of completion.
· Be sure to follow MLA guidelines for formatting and citation.
· Use the present tense when writing about literature. Example:
o The narrator says, “And then she began to dance” (Ellison 357).
Common Errors students make when writing literary analysis essays:
Over-summarizing the story: Only briefly summarize parts that are relevant to proving the point you’re making. Unnecessary plot summary is one of the surest ways to earn a failing grade on an essay.
Identifying rather than analyzing. Identification of elements is important, but you must go one step further and analyze. So, for example, if you were to write a body paragraph in which you identified the symbols in “Battle Royal,” you need also to discuss how those symbols contribute to the theme.
Over-quoting – Using some quotations is necessary in a literary analysis essay. However, never allow quotations to speak for you. You must present the ideas, and then quote sparingly to support that idea. (A quotation is not always necessary; paraphrasing or summarizing is also fine at times). Turnitin identifies how much of the paper is quoted material, and it is a problem when an essay is 25% or more quotations.
When writing about characterization, students sometimes simply discuss the character but do not use any of the terminology associated with characterization: e.g., flat, round, dynamic, static. You must use those terms in a substantive way when you discuss characterization.
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