The Things They Carried
Instructions for the Critical Essay Assignment
The Critical Essay is due Tuesday of Week Eight
Write you essay on one of the following stories. These are your only choices:
1. “The Things They Carried”
2. “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter”
3. “Sonny’s Blues” (If you choose this story, keep in mind that the narrator (not Sonny) is the main character. This story is about the school teacher brother. He is the one with the conflict, complication, and moment of change).
4. “The Chrysanthemums”
5. “Barn Burning”
Carefully review the sample essay in “Doc Sharing” before you begin.
Formatting: Your essay should be formatted like the sample essay in “Doc Sharing.” It must have a title that is not the title of the story. The title should not be in quotation marks. I’d also like you to put the number of words in your essay under the title (see sample essay). Unlike the example, I’d prefer you double space (1.5 is fine).
Length: Your essay should be at least 600 words.
Introduction and Thesis: Your essay should have an introductory paragraph that orients the reader. It should include the name of the story, the author’s name, a short introduction to the story, and a thesis statement. The thesis statement is usually the last sentence of the first paragraph (see sample essay).
Identifying the Conflict: In the modern short story, the “Conflict” is almost always internal. It is a problem or dilemma facing the main character. The conflict exists in the main character from the beginning of the story. It is not something that happens during the story (see sample essay).
In your essay, you are expected to identify and describe the “Conflict.” Be specific. Say something like “The conflict in the story is…” It is essential that you identify the element and not just describe it, thereby showing a grasp of the concept.
Identifying the Complication: The complication is something that happens in the story, an event that forces the main character to face and finally the resolve the conflict.
In your essay, you are expected to identify and describe the complication (see sample essay). Again, be specific. Say something like “The complicaiton in the story is…”
The Moment of Change: All short stories are about change. In your essay, you are expected to identify the moment of change and explain its significance to the main character (see sample essay). Be specific. Say something like “The moment of change in the story is…”
Grammar, Sentence Structure, Usage, and Prose: Take another look at the “Grammar and Usage Guidelines” in “Doc Sharing.” They all apply to this paper. I look for sentences that are clear and concise. I expect your paper to be free of proofing errors and misspelled words. I hope for graceful and elegant prose. At the very least, I’d like you to run a spell check before you submit your essay.
Appropriate Length: The length of your paper is determined by word count. Every word processing program that I know of has a word count feature. I expect a minimum of six-hundred words, but an “A” paper would more likely be eight-hundred to a thousand.
A Note on the Use of Quotations: Please keep quoted text to a minimum. Notice the amount of quoted material in the sample essay and use it as a rough guide. I do not want you to quote long passages at all. I’ve already read the stories; now I want to hear what you have to say about them.
Research: This paper does not require research, but you may employ research if you wish. If you do so, you must use APA guidelines for your citations and bibliography.
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