English 2013: Introduction to American Literature
Analytic Essay Topics and Instructions



Write an analytic essay of 500-750 words on an approved topic. Your report will argue an analytic thesis that is, in effect, an answer to your assigned question. Your essay does not need to cite outside critical sources, but if you choose to do so, use MLA documentation style. Your essay should make specific references to the literature you are discussing. Use parenthetical in-text notes to indicate the pages from which quotations have been taken.


Review the list of topics to see what is available. You may select a topic on whihc you have written for a Discussion Post. Send me an email cbrucker@atu.edu in which you list your top three choices. I am going to let three people write about the same topic. I'll assign you to the highest choice that is still available.

Researching Your Topic.

Once your topic is assigned, reread the relevant literature. Formulate a thesis statement as an answer to the assigned question. You may redirect the topic somewhat to fit what you want to say about the story. The thesis statement, which will appear in your introductory paragraph, should state the idea that unifies your essay. Each of the following body paragraphs should begin with a topic sentence that supports your thesis. Your concluding paragraph should provide a sense of closure and may be used to briefly summarize the central point of your essay.

Writing the Essay

Your essay should be double-spaced. Unless you note otherwise, I will assume that in-text citations that follow quotations from the work you are discussing refer to the text we are using in this course.

Be careful to proofread your report thoroughly. Grammatical and mechanical errors should be avoided. If you need some help, contact me. During the fall or spring semester you can stop by the Writing Center in WPN 365 during its hours of operation (Monday-Friday 1:30 p.m.-5:00 p.m.) or make use of the Online Writing Lab at http:// and follow the self-enrollment instructions.www.atu.edu/etech/blackboard.shtml. Only th eonline service is avaiablet available during the summer terms.

Submitting the Report

When you have comnpleted your analytic essay select the Submit Papers button on the left side of this course's main page and follow the instructions to upload your report. Note that your report will be automatically sent to Turnitin.com to check for similarities with other sources, so be sure that you are not using other people's words as though they are your own.


Click the following links to read sample papers that were written last semester.

Sarty's Betrayal
What Emily Grierson Represents to the townspeople in Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily"
The Breakup of Richard and Joan's Marriage in Updike's "Separating"

List of Topics

Assigned Student(bo

What does T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" say about the difficulty of human communication (1917)?


How does the situation of the narrator in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" (1892) reflect contemporary concerns of women?


How is marriage portrayed in Washington Irving's "Rip Van Winkle"? (1819)


Why is the scene in which Sylvia climbs a tree important in Sarah Orne Jewett's story "A White Heron" (1886)?


What is the contrast between youthful and mature love in Nathaniel Hawthorne's story "The May-Pole of Merry Mount" (1835)?



How does the protagonist of Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861) use her sexuality to preserve some sense of independence?


yes What causes the mental breakdown of the narrator in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's story "The Yellow Wallpaper" (1892)?  

Why are Joe and Missy May able to preserve their marriage in Zora Neale Hurston's story "Gilded Six-Bits" (1933)?


At the end of Mary Freeman's story "A New England Nun" (1891), why does Louisa feel like a "queen" (p. 1628)?



How does Fitzgerald's "Babylon Revisited" (1931) portray the difficulty of escaping one's own personal history?



What about Dave Saunders' situation and feelings as portrayed in Richard Wright's story "The Man Who Was Almost a Man" (1939) transcends the specifics of time and place?


How are men characterized by the women in Eudora Welty's story "Petrified Man" (1941)?


Why does Joy Hopewell want to seduce manly Pointer in Flannery O'Connor's story "Good Country People" (1955) and what does she discover about herself when she tries?


What is gradually revealed about the character Neddy Merrell in John Cheever's story "The Swimmer" (1964).


How does James Baldwin's decision to tell "Going to Meet the Man" from the point of view of the white sheriff affect the story (1965)?



What does Alice Walker's story "Everyday Use" (1973) suggest about how we should relate to our parents and our family heritage?


What does the statue that Hugh Wolfe carves in Rebecca Davis's "Life in the Iron Mills" (1861) represent?


How does the death of her aunt many years previously in China relate to the Chinese-American woman who narrates Maxine Kingston's story "No Name Woman" (1976).


What does Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl" (1956) criticize about American society in the 1950s?


How does Sylvia Plath's poem "Daddy" use hyperbolic imagery?

How does Kate Chopin's "At the Cadian Ball" affect your understanding of her story "the Storm"?
How are characters' names used ironically in Flannery O'Connor's "Good Country People" (1955  
In what ways does Poe's "Annabel Lee" argue that love has transcendant power? J

What is the "simple operation" that the couple in Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White elephants" are discussing and what does their conversation suggest about their relationship

What comparison does Robert Lowell make in "For the Union Dead" between the American Civil War and the Civil Rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s?  


Thesis Statement

The following information is taken from Lynn Troyka's Simon and Schuster Handbook for Writers, Sixth Edition, 2002:...

A thesis statement is the central message of an essay. It's the essay's main idea. As a writer, you want to write a thesis statement with great care so that it prepares your readers for what follows in the essay. This means your thesis statement has to reflect with some accuracy the content of your essay.

Basic requirements for a thesis statement
  • It states the essay's subject--the topic you discuss
  • It conveys the essay's purpose--either informative or persuasive
  • It indicates your focus--the assertion that presents your point of view
  • It uses specific language--not vague words
  • It may briefly state the major subdivisions of the essay's topic (Troyka p. 37)
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Topic Sentence

A topic sentence contains the main idea of a paragraph. the topic sentence controls the content of the rest of the paragraph. . . . In academic writing, most paragraphs begin with a topic sentence (shown here in italics) so that readers know immediately what to expect.

To travel the streets of Los Angeles is to glimpse America's ethnic future. At the bustling playground at McDonald's in Koreatown, a dozen shades of kids squirt down the slides and burrow through tunnels and race down the catwalks, not much minding that no two of them speak the same language. Parents of grade-school children say they rarely know the color of the youngster's best friends until they meet them; it never seems to occur to the children to say, since they have not yet been taught to care.

--Nancy Gibbs, "Shades of Difference"


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updated December 29, 2021