The task for Essay #1 is to compare / contrast the choices or decisions made by
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The task for Essay #1 is to compare / contrast the choices or decisions made by characters in three of the short stories you have read. Gurov decides to seduce Anna for simple enough reasons—but why does he then choose to continue the affair? Sammy quits his job at the A & P because he wants to impress Queenie—but are there other, less conscious reasons that motivate him? Write about why each character makes a significant choice or decision—but also about the effects that result and the issues that are raised. What are the pros and cons of each decision? Does the character learn or realize anything of significance because of what he / she decides to do? What conclusions do you come to about each character and / or about one or another theme that an author seems to raise by telling a story about what happened? Both Gurov and Sammy seem to be male chauvinists, for example—what sort of gender issues might their stories get a reader thinking about?
So, I am asking you to begin with a kind of character analysis here. Your overall focus might be to explain what you think about, how you assess or judge, one or another of the characters: develop a thesis, a debatable opinion, about Sammy, for example—using a comparison with two other characters to help clarify what you think about Sammy. On the other hand, you might use your analyses of three characters to make a point about some theme that links them: use Sammy, Gurov, and perhaps bub as examples to explain your own thoughts about sexism; or Claudia Rankine’s speaker, Mama, and bub as examples to help explain your thoughts about prejudice.
Note that you do NOT need to retell an entire story. You can assume your reader is familiar with it and simply may need to be reminded of the details, the elements of a story, that provide illustration and evidence of your ideas. What does the irony in the plot of the stories by Chekhov and Updike and Carver contribute to your understanding of Gurov and Sammy and bub? How do the settings of “A & P” and “The Lottery” and “Everyday Use” offer insight into issues the characters face? Are the images of the “powder-blue Falcon station wagon” and the “black box” and the “quilts” symbolic in ways that help clarify what you think about the characters and the issues they raise in your mind?
The draft you write should include the following parts:
• An Introduction that focuses attention on your thesis—the primary idea or overall point you have come to, the conclusion (not to be confused with the end of your paper) that you have arrived at as a result of examining the motives and consequences of the choices of three characters.
• A comparison / contrast of what each of the three stories seem to express about a specific choice or decision made by a character and the issues it raises in your mind. This should include clear, detailed explications of HOW specific passages in each story convey this impression. What does the scene at the theater in Anna’s provincial town add to your understanding of her or Gurov? What does the scene where Henry dances with Susy add to your impression of him and Lyman? Why does bub agree to draw a picture of a cathedral with Robert and how does his description of their effort affect your thoughts about him and / or what sort of theme his story raises for you?
• Explanations of what you think about the choices the characters make and WHY you think it. Does your own experience—personal and intellectual—affect your thoughts in this regard? How do the stories themselves impact your thinking? How do you evaluate and understand Mama’s decision to give the quilts to Maggie or Lyman’s insistence that the red convertible belongs to Henry or bub’s decision to keep his eyes closed at the end of “Cathedral”? I want to know what you think about as a result of reading and comparing these stories. An essay is a description of how your mind processes a topic, of the steps or process you go through to reach a thesis, an opinion about a subject. Organize the essay to focus on your opinion and explain, step by step, how you arrived at it.
• A Concluding paragraph(s) that comments on your main point and perhaps suggests a direction for further thought on the subject. Don’t just repeat your Introduction. End with a question for the reader to think about, a hint at another way to think about your subject, a quote or an anecdote. Be creative.
What specific details in the stories you analyze in order to develop, illustrate, explain your ideas is your call. But try to maintain a unified focus, perhaps reflected in your title, and coherent transitions connecting one idea or illustration to the next. Include PARENTHETICAL PAGE REFERENCES to all passages, quotes, evidence, examples, research you cite. No additional research is necessary—but if you use secondary sources—a critical article about a story, biographical or historical information—you must document it properly using MLA Conventions.