Paper #2: The Short Story

Essay Prompt:

Choose just ONE of the stories we read by Bierce, Gilman, Ellison, O’Connor, or Kafka. Write an essay that critically analyzes the story’s deeper theme AND explains the story’s conclusion.  According to your interpretation, what is the deeper meaning of the story?  Make sure you don’t simply summarize the story’s plot or retell the entire story.  Imagine your highly intelligent friends read the story but did not understand anything but the basics of the plot.  Draw their attention to important textual details and provide a clear and smart explanation of what the author you believe was trying to say by writing this story.  Important things happen in the conclusion of each story, so also make sure you spend at least a paragraph explaining the ending.  A good place to start is to write a thesis sentence that directly makes an argument about the story’s deeper meaning.

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Paper format/requirements:

The paper should be 4 full pages of writing before the Works Cited page. You are expected to write a complete essay consisting of an introduction, thesis, body paragraphs, conclusion, and works cited.  Each body paragraph should have a strong topic sentence and focus on arguing/analyzing a single point. Try to use textual evidence such as quotations as much as possible to support your argument.  Always make sure to carefully explain and analyze the quotations afterwards.  No outside research is required or rewarded.



Your grade will be based on the insightfulness of your critical thinking and the quality of your writing.  In your interpretation of the story, be sure to make an argument that is clear, complex, and thorough.  Avoid stating the obvious, relying on cultural clichés, and reducing the complexity of the story’s ideas.  Especially avoid carelessly repeating what you may have found from online sources. Your essay needs to not only follow the rules of grammar but also demonstrate your control over style.  Although you may be incorporating many details and quotations from the story into your essay, you need to make sure the writing remains smooth and appealing.


On Avoiding Plot Summaries:

While your body paragraphs might be organized around particular scenes in the story (especially the story’s conclusion), you need to spend most of your essay analyzing what the story means.  You may need to refer to details about the plot that are necessary to support your argument, but do not let your paragraphs simply summarize or retell the plot.  Each body paragraph therefore should have a topic sentence that makes an argumentative claim rather than just summarizes the plot.


Bad topic sentences that are just plot summary:

Next, the narrator of “Battle Royal” dives for coins on an electric rug.

After Gregor scares his mother, his father violently pushes him back into his room.


Good topic sentences that make an argument:

The electric rug symbolizes the false promises of economic opportunity that the African American community received.

Gregor’s father not only financially exploits him but also treats him in a violent, unloving manner.


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