Essay 3: Fiction Analysis
Your task in this assignment is to analyze a work of fiction. You have three works to choose from: “The Story of an Hour,” Smoke Signals, or “The Lottery.” Your analysis must be organized around a clear thesis statement. There are two typical approaches.
Theme analysis: examine and explore a theme that you see at work in the story. Make sure you can express the theme in a thesis statement!
Example, “The Lottery” explores the danger of unexamined belief.
The tradition in “The Lottery” dehumanizes the people of the town.
In “The Story of an Hour” Mrs. Mallard discovers that “self-assertion” is more important to her than love.
In the film Smoke Signals, we see how stories give meaning to our lives.
Character analysis: examine how a character is developed in the story. Explore what motivates or drives the character, or what conflicts they have to struggle with. Again, make sure you develop a strong thesis:
Ex. In “The Story of an Hour,” Mrs. Mallard experience an awakening and discovers that self-determination is “the strongest impulse of her being.”
In Smoke Signals, Victor’s rage and anger are healed when he learns how to forgive his father for leaving them.
The thesis: you must have a unified thesis that is drawn from the conflict in the story. You must not analyze the story as an exercise in identifying the elements of fiction. Your thesis is your argument, and your analysis fills in the details and defends your thesis. You are welcome to use any of the working thesis I have mentioned in this and other handouts.
Quoting from the story. The story you have chosen is the best evidence for proving your thesis, along with your commentary and analysis. If you turn in an essay with little or quotations from the story, you run the risk of being too abstract or to general. Another problem that arises is falling into summary of the plot. Plot summary is not analysis. Devise your essay around the main points you want to make, and which support your thesis.
Class discussion: as we discuss the stories in class, we are practicing making inferences and building an analysis. It is important that you reflect some of what we have discussed in to your own essay. I am trying to reinforce the deliberative process of exploring, discovering, and developing a theme and a thesis. You must reflect this in your essay. in other word, you need to show me that you have been present in class (in every sense of that word) and that you have absorbed ideas from our discussion.
Important points to keep in mind:
Write about the story in present tense, even when the story is told in past tense. (as an example, look at one of the thesis statements above).
Stay close to the story, but don’t spend time retelling the plot!
Back-up generalities about theme, character, or whatever point you are making with specific example.
Build up evidence to support a specific, clear thesis.
Explore or develop a chain of reasoning so that your reader will understand the logic of your argument.
Ask yourself, what am I trying to prove? What is my evidence?
An analysis essay should include:
An introduction which may include any of the following
A general sense of your subject.
Possibly, a brief introduction of the points you will develop in your essay.
An interesting “hook” that pulls the reader in, making them want to read more.
A statement of your thesis, your controlling idea, or at least an indication of the direction you intend to follow.
The body of the paper: well developed, well unified paragraphs that explore the main point you want to develop.
A conclusion which may include:
A general summation.
A final evaluation.
Final observation that bring a satisfying sense of conclusion to your paper.