Essay 1Specifications

  Aim for 1000-1200 words. You may exceed 1200 words, but you may not fall below the minimum. Essays below 1000 words will not be assigned a peer editor.

Topics are open and are very wide. You can choose to write on any literary work on the planet (earth only, pls). Alternately, you may write on a film.  You will relate the work on which you choose to write to one of three readings assigned for class (below).

The total number of works you will discuss in your essay will be TWO—the class reading choice and your outside choice.   Your essay should emphasize your outside choice; it will be your primary focus.  You should not write a complete analysis of either of the works you choose; pick two or three relevant passages/characters/speeches from your outside choice that exemplify a theme in one of the class reading choices. Key words here:  limit yourself!

Class reading choices (pickone):

  Plato “Allegory of the Cave”

  Singer:  “Gimpel the Fool”

  Jackson:  “The Lottery”

Quick recap: For your outside choice, decide on a novel, graphic novel, movie/film, video game, play or short story (poems are fine but probably will complicate your task somewhat) that contains thematic parallels to Plato, Singer, or Jackson . Most likely you will be analyzing a very small portion of the whole, so draw a good bead on your target. Then use one of the works above as a paradigm/filter/example/map/guide/lens, etc that will help you analyzeyour outside choice. You should not provide a side-‐by–side comparison of the two; your outside choice is the focus of your paper; the class reading choice will help you analyzeit.

IMPORTANT (this bears repeating!): You are not writing an interpretation of one of the class readings  (Plato, Gimpel or the Lottery).  Your essay should CENTER ON the outside work (short story, play, novel, movie, etc) that you choose. The ideas in Plato, Gimpel or the Lottery should be used only to help understand your chosen work.

Skills I’m looking for in thisessay:

  the usual: strong thesis, interesting intro, well-­‐developed ideas, thoughtfulness (admittedly this is a difficult one to self-­‐assess: “Am I thinking hard enough here?” but I’d like to see some digging beneath the surface beyond merely “These two works have a few of the same ideas!”), smooth segues between paragraphs, blockbuster conclusion (okay, but make it better than, “In conclusion, as you can see. . .”)


  ability to hone in on smaller sections of the works and choose passages that are relevant to a largertheme

  avoidance of unnecessary summary

  ability to use quotes from the texts to support your ideas and to incorporate quotes into your writing smoothly. You will use quotes from your class reading choice (Plato, Jackson, or Singer) as well as quotes from the outside work that you choose, including films or games. If you use a film, look for scripts online; if you cannot find it, you will need to quote directly from the film.  Use Writer’s Help for your in-­‐text quotations and works cited page.



The following suggestions are not a comprehensive list of possible choices; these don’t even scratch thesurface.

I mean for this list to be helpful rather than intimidating, but I realize that there’s such a thing as “too many choices.” If you find yourself overwhelmed by the options here, go back to square one: decide which class reading work you wish to use (Plato/Lottery/Gimpel) and then narrow your outside choices (below) to 2-3. Start jotting down general ideas about connections and see which seems to generate morematerial.

Note: You can search for the shorts stories listed below in Literature Portfolio, by name online, or, if you don’t have any luck, let me know and I’ll send italong.

I heartily suggest but will not insist:  If you’re choosing a novel, play or film, you will likely gain much more general enjoyment out of your life in the days before the paper is due if you choose one with which you are already somewhat familiar.:)


Relate Plato’s cave to another work of literature or film, drawing specific analogies between thetwo.

One concentration might be to show how a character’s path to enlightenment/epiphany follows the same general arc as does Plato’s released prisoner. You will show how a character begins as innocent or ignorant (in chains in the cave) and how the character metaphorically “sees the light” outside of the cave (revelation or epiphany).  The character will not necessarily try to convince others to see the world in a new way, but make sure that you clarify what the character has learned and how he/she haschanged.

Some short story suggestions:

“The Lesson” (Toni Cade Bambara)

most Flannery O’Connor stories,  specifically “Revelation” and “Good Country People”

“The Chrysanthemums” (John Steinbeck)

“A & P” (John Updike)

“Arturo’s Flight” (Judith Ortiz Cofer)

“Boys & Girls” (Alice Munro) 

“The Death of IvanIlych”(Leo Tolstoy) 

“Cathedral” (Raymond Carver)

“Barn Burning” (WilliamFaulkner) 

And plays and novels: 

A Dollhouse (Henrik Ibsen) (play)

Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky) (novel and film)

To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee) (novel andfilm)

Also: any work that implies or depicts alternate realities:

The Truman Show (film)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Truman_Show

The Matrix (film) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Matrix Inception (film) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inception Vanilla Sky (film) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanilla_Sky The Croods (animatedfilm):


eXistenZ (film)http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120907/

Avatar (film)http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0499549/?ref_=nv_sr_1

Big list of alt-reality-themed lit, film, games, etc: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simulated_reality_in_fiction

Many sci-fi and fantasy works deal in alternate realities, in fact, but keep in mind that the separate realities must be within the work, not between your “reality” and that of the literature/film. In other words, a character within the work must questioning, “what is real?”


  Analyze the idea of the “holy fool” in literature or film using Gimpel as a paradigm—-comparison/contrast. I found the definitions of “holy fool” online to vary rather widely; if you prefer, you may bypass the formal definition and define Gimpel and similar characters in your own way. Fantasy lit contains numerous examples of the wise fool.

  Also Forrest Gump (Winston Groom) (film and novel); Odd Thomas (Dean Koontz); Chauncey Gardener in Being There (Jerzy Kosinski) [also works for the Plato topic]


  Using Jackson’s “The Lottery,” show how a story, novel and/or film shows resistance to and/or acceptance of change. (The alternate reality topic above is very similar): Lord of the Flies (William Golding); The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins); To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee) (novel); Death of a Salesman (Arthur Miller) (play); Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe) (novel); Disgrace (J.M. Coetze) (novel) ; Blade Runner  (film);  Avatar(film).M

    Many multicultural works fit under this topic.

  You might also consider literature/film that involves a character who brings a new worldview to the masses. Many sci-fi stories/novels (especially dystopic lit) do so as well as works with a “messiah” type figure, such as Stranger in a Strange Land (Robert A. Heinlein)(novel).

  You are welcome to use a video game for the assignment, but I am not a big gamer, so you are very, very likely to be more familiar with the “narratives” of games thanI.

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