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10.1: Assignment: Critical Analysis Essay

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    Assignment Sheet–Essay #1: Critical Analysis (700-1000 words)

    For this essay, you will be doing a critical analysis on any of the literary readings assigned for this class. The purpose of this assignment is to get you to move beyond the surface level meaning of a text and to analyze its deeper meaning.


    Learning Outcomes

    Students will be able to-

    • move beyond summarizing the story
    • assess or analyze what you read
    • offer interpretations and judgments about what you read
    • give evidence to support your evaluation

    A Successful Essay:

    • Will properly introduce the story and author
    • Will provide a clear thesis that makes a claim about a story and uses evidence to support that claim
    • Will thoroughly analyze a reading, not merely summarize it
    • Will properly integrate evidence from the reading in MLA format


    1.  Analyze the plot, the meaning of the sequence of events in one of the literary readings. When analyzing the plot, one should not simply list the events that occur but rather WHY they occur. You want to make your assertion arguable. Perhaps you want to argue about a cause or an effect of a certain event. Perhaps you want to show how an event changed a character or what the underlying message is behind the event. Why did the author make a certain event occur? What was the effect on the audience?
    2. Analyze an important symbol or motif (series of interlinked symbols), in one of the readings.  Tell us what you think a certain symbol in the story represents.   For example: In “A Good Man is Hard to Find” religion symbolizes____________ or In “Everyday Use” the quilt symbolizes____________ .  Be sure to use direct description from the text to describe they symbol and use examples to prove what it symbolizes. Remember that colors can also be symbolic.
    3. Analyze an important character in one of the readings. Why did the author represent a character in a certain way? What underlying message is the author trying to send? Is the character stereotypical or unusual in any way? Why would the author portray him/her that way? What are the motives of the character? What actions characterize him/her? Did the character have a change of heart? What caused it?


    A Checklist

    1.  Make sure your final version is in MLA format (Times New Roman, size 12, double-spaced) including in-text citations when referring to the reading and a works cited page.
    2. When referring to the reading, remember that the author isn’t necessarily the one telling the story. If it is fiction, it probably has a narrator. Thus, you would want to refer to the “narrator” or “speaker” when referencing the reading.
    3. Come up with your own title. The title of your essay should not be the title of the reading you are analyzing. The title should make it clear what your essay is about. Do not underline, bold, or italicize your title.
    4. There is no need to say “I think” or “I believe” as you are writing this essay. Because you are the writer, we inherently know that these are your beliefs.
    5. In the introduction, be sure to formally introduce the reading that you are analyzing it by mentioning the title and the author. Also, provide a brief summary of the story. For example:  In the short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor, we read about a family who goes on a road trip to Florida where a series of events leads to their eventual demise.
    6. The thesis should come at the end of the introduction. It should consist of a claim + evidence. For example: In “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” the grandmother tries to manipulate her son, her grandchildren, and the Misfit in order to get her way. Because of her manipulative ways, her entire family meets its end.
    7. When writing about literature, one must always use present tense.
    8. Be sure each body paragraph starts with claim and NOT summary.

    Claim: The grandmother tries to manipulate her son, Bailey, in order to get her way.

    Summary: In the beginning of the story, the grandmother and her son Bailey are sitting at the kitchen table. The grandmother is reading and newspaper and tells her son that they should not go to Florida because there is a misfit on the loose.

    You always want to start with a claim and then go to the story for evidence. i.e. The grandmother tries to manipulate her son, Bailey, in order to get her way. One example that shows how the grandmother tries to manipulate her son is when she tells him that they shouldn’t go to Florida because there is a criminal on the loose. She tells him that it would be dangerous to take his children there. She’s trying to manipulate Bailey by making him feel like a bad parent for putting his children in harm’s way when the real reason she doesn’t want to go to Florida is because she wants to go East Tennessee instead. Another way the grandmother tries to manipulate her son is when she…. So on, and so forth.


    A handout of this assignment can be found here.


    10.1: Assignment: Critical Analysis Essay is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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