Step 2: Choose a Topic.
Step 1: Re-Read “Sonny’s Blues”
For this essay, you will have one primary source: “Sonny’s Blues.” You may also use one or two critical sources provided for you in the Literature Selection II: Modern Fiction page or via The Valencia Reader
Step 2: Choose a Topic
You have several options you can take in developing this essay. Choose one method/organizational structure and follow it. In addition to including properly cited quotes from the story, you may also include properly cited information from no more than two secondary sources (criticism on the story) from the library or credible websites (.edu, articles, or books found through Google Scholar).
Topic 1: Discuss oppression, race, and poverty in “Sonny’s Blues.” Alternately, you can discuss drug addiction, music, or family relationships in this story.
Topic 2: Analyze the story as an African American short story.
Topic 3: Choose three elements (character, conflict, setting, imagery, point of view, or symbols, dialogue, tone, irony) in the story and explain how those elements help communicate a specific idea about life (theme).
Topic 4: Discuss how the narrator’s perception of his world affects their interactions with others.
Topic 5: Choose one element in the story (setting, imagery, point of view, or symbols, dialogue, tone, irony) and explain why that element is important to understanding the characters, the themes, and the conflict of the story.
For help with the story, visit the Valencia Reader’s criticism sectionLinks to an external site.. Note: before opening this link in a new tab, click on the library link in our class to log into the library. Alternatively, you may access these resources using your VID as the borrower ID and the last four digits of your VID as your pin.
Step 3: Plan Your Essay, Identify Themes, and Write a Thesis
In week 3, you will plan your essay. You will create a thesis that identifies themes and that is supported by the use of evidence from the story (specifically evidence that comes from the study of the elements of fiction in a story). You can assume that your audience has read the story you are analyzing, so you should not simply write a plot summary of it.
Theme, Thesis, and the Literary Elements
The theme of a literary work is its underlying central idea or the idea it communicates about life. The theme is not a topic. The topic might be love, but the theme is some specific comment about love (love is blind, love is fleeting). Your thesis should identify themes and elements. In its simplest terms, a thesis might follow this template (these are ideas; please write your own thesis):
In (Title of Story), (statement of the theme) is illustrated through (element 1), (element 2), and (element 3).
In “Sonny’s Blues,” music as a spiritual experience is illustrated through Baldwin’s use of musical and religious diction, Sonny’s performance, and the narrator’s reaction to that performance.
Although the narrator in “Sonny’s Blues,” struggles to understand the nature of Sonny’s suffering, the suffering of the world, and his own suffering, by experiencing Sonny’s musical performance, he gains empathy for his brother and an understanding that while suffering is inevitable, a person can find a way to transcend it.
“Sonny’s Blues” represents the racial oppression experienced by African Americans in the 1950s and how some sought to escape, change, or transcend it.
Step 4: Organize and Develop your Essay
You should give your audience an interpretation of the work, an insightful explanation that will help your audience understand the work’s elements, meaning, and themes.
Use evidence from the text to support your analysis. You should draw from specific literary elements: character, setting, dialogue, point of view, symbols, figurative language, conflict, imagery.
Back up generalizations by specific references to the literary texts you are discussing. Rather than trying to cover everything (doing so will inevitably lead to superficial and overly general treatment), you will be better off focusing your analysis around a specific theme and a few elements that emerge in the text. Do not focus your attention solely on the plot.
Use direct quotes in your essay. Your quotes should be smoothly integrated and given appropriate context with signal phrases (Links to an external site.). They should be followed by an analysis of the language and the element or idea the quote is an example of. Finally, they should be cited properly in MLA format.
Write your work in 3rd person; this means you don’t use 1st person (I, me) or 2nd person (you).
Step 5: Get Feedback, Revise, and Edit your Essay
After organizing and writing your essay, participate in the workshop discussion, revise your work, edit it, and get feedback from the online writing center, SmartThinking, Professor Ojeda, or your CARE Coach.
Ensure that you have followed MLA for format and citations. Citation errors could earn the essay a zero (as not citing properly is a form of plagiarism).
Helpful Links and Examples
Refer to the class notes from Weeks 2 and 3 as well as The Wiley Guide to Writing Essays about Literature, Chapters 1-5 for more help. The following link will also provide you with help writing a literary analysis and examples.
Resources/Help for Writing your Literature Response
Sample Student Essay 1Preview the document
Sample Student Essay 2Preview the document
Sample Student Essay 3Preview the document
Student Survival Guide, Microsoft Word and MLA
MLA Documentation and Academic Honesty
This writing assignment must be written in MLA Format, with which you should be familiar by the time the work is due. Additionally, as you are referring to a primary source, a story, and possibly a secondary source or two, you will need to cite that story and article(s) in MLA format on a separate Works Cited page.
Your essays will be submitted through UniCheck, a tool that helps protect your work by adding it to a global database of papers submitted for courses, and that reviews your work for plagiarism. You can use this tool to review your use of outside sources, to ensure you are properly incorporating outside information, and to learn more about citing information correctly. To learn more about reviewing your Unicheck reports, visit the Unicheck help page. (Links to an external site.)
Checklist for Key Requirements
An original title
A precise and debatable thesis. A thesis answers the “So what” can I tell my readers that they don’t already know from reading the work of literature?
Not a plot summary
Do not write a biography of the author
Organized in essay form
Claims backed by evidence that is then analyzed
Properly integrated and cited quotes from the primary source
No grammatical errors
Use of the third person; avoid first and second person
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