In a clearly written, thesis-driven essay, interpret a short story of your choice from the list below. Analyze the story by focusing on how one component part, one element helps you to better understand what the story is about. Focus on the setting, or on the narrative point-of-view and the tone or attitude it takes towards its subject, or on a particular symbol in the story as a ‘way in.’ Also consider how its genre contributes to your interpretation. Do NOT focus on the plot. Be sure to use specific quotes as evidence to support your interpretation.
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Your job is to offer an interpretation of the short story. After summarizing the plot in a brief synopsis (making sure to identify its subgenre), pick about three specific passages where a particular element — the setting, the narrative voice (POV), the style and tone, or an important symbol — contributes in significant ways to the meaning of the story. Consider its underlying purpose as a short story. Then, explain yourself.
- Your thesismust identify the literary element you’re using as a ‘way in,’ and argue that the element is important and why. What’s the purpose of the essay? What direction will your argument take as you interpret the story?
- How does the story’s (sub) genre help you in interpreting its overall purpose or meaning? Explain (usually in the intro or the conclusion).
- You must use specific examples to illustrate your interpretive argument — 3-5 specific quotesfrom the story (a sentence or more long). Then interpret the quotes to support your thesis claim. Do NOT use quotes to re-tell the story.
- The logic of your argumentshould be placed as topic sentences in the body of the essay. Use these to underscore the reasons why your interpretation makes sense.
Stay inside the story. Don’t go off on tangents or free associate. Your job is to unpack what happens, what meanings emerge as you read. Please avoid making claims about what the author really means to say –!
- Address your essay to your classmates or imagine you’re explaining what the story means to a good friend to get them to read it. Go beyond writing an essay for the teacher.
- Read the story several times, noting key passages. Annotate the text. Consider the story’s genre. Does it help you understand its overall thrust? Then, figure out who’s telling the story and who the story is about – what’s the narrative POV and who is the protagonist? What’s the situation or the problem in need of resolution?
BEST BET is to focus on the setting, describing it clearly and in detail. Then explain in what ways the location — the WHERE of the story and its atmosphere– is important. Keep in mind that setting is a primary element in the science fiction genre. What themes or messages does the setting help bring to the forefront? What science fiction theme does it underscore? (See PPT Lecture “Science Fiction” on Unit One Module.)
- Or pick the narrative voice – the POV– or a symbol(s) for your focus, they’re often important elements in a science fiction story.
- If you focus on one or more symbols, explain why their physical presence resonates with you. Why do they come to mean more than just what they are? What important message or theme might they illuminate? CHARACTERS ARE NOT SYMBOLS.
- Compose a brief synopsis (summary) of the story for the introduction – what happens to whom, where? 2-3 sentences max!!! Re-telling the story and making interpretive comments as you move through itusually gets a C grade!
- MLA format, about 750-1000 words (3-4 pages).
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