English Question


  • Demonstrate analytical skills
  • Construct an appropriately sophisticated thesis-driven essay
  • Understand how to utilize pre-writing and revising techniques


Compose an argumentative essay of at least 1,000 words in which you analyze one or more of the stories we’ve read. Your thesis should require an argument. In other words, it shouldnt be obviously true at first glance.

Use MLA formatting (including 12-point font, double-spaced lines, etc.). Include a works-cited page. See the sample essay for an example of correct formatting. MLA works-cited entries will be provided for you.

Your goal for this assignment is to offer a strong critical analysis of a literary text, which means that you should:

  • Make interpretive claims about the poem(s), rather than simply summarizing
  • Use specific pieces of evidence (quotations, summaries) to support more general claims, which ultimately support or illuminate your thesis (main argument)
  • Structure your argument (paragraphs within the essay, sentences within paragraphs) in a way that communicates your argument clearly, showing your reader how you analyze specific pieces of evidence to reach your conclusions.

Your essay should directly respond to one of the following prompts. Note that you don’t necessarily need to answer the “questions to consider” for each prompt. Those questions are designed to help get you thinking.

PROMPT 1: In The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World and “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings,” the characters engage in a kind of wishful thinking or self-delusion. Choose one of the stories and explain what it’s suggesting by having its characters accept a reality that doesn’t seem objectively true?

Questions to consider in connection with this prompt:

  • Are the characters’ beliefs harmful, helpful, or both? In what way?
  • Is this story allegorical? What is the storys theme? Is it saying something about religion, politics, art, imagination, etc.?

PROMPT 2: What point is The Lottery making about human nature? How do you know it is making that point?

Questions to consider in connection with this prompt:

  • Is the story allegorical? Is it satirical?
  • Is the story critical of the characters? How does it criticize them?
  • Does the story portray the characters in sympathetic ways? In what ways does the story encourage us to sympathize with the characters?

PROMPT 3: What lesson, if any, do you think Sylvia learns at the end of “The Lesson”? How do you know?

Questions to consider in connection with this prompt:

  • Does Sylvia change at the end of the story? If so, how?
  • What “lesson” was Miss Moore trying to teach her and the other kids?

PROMPT 4: In Everything that Rises Must Converge, with which character should our sympathies lie–Julian, his mother, both, neither? Explain your reasoning.

Questions to consider in connection with this prompt:

  • Is the story critical of the characters? How does it criticize them? How do you know its being critical of them?
  • Does the story portray the characters in sympathetic ways? In what ways does the story encourage us to sympathize with the characters?


Essays will be graded according to the following checklist. Each item in the following list is worth one point. The essay will either receive each point or not, depending on whether it satisfies the requirement for the item. The essay may be revised and resubmitted if it doesn’t meet all requirements, but expect it to take several weeks to be regraded. Its best to meet with the instructor to discuss the essay before revising it.

  • Student’s Position (1 point) — the essay argues for an explicit position (perspective/thesis) that addresses the prompt, requires literary interpretation, and takes into account the complexities of an issue. An essay that oversimplifies an issue will not earn credit a point for this item.
  • Explanation of Issues (1 point) — the essay critically states, describes, and clarifies the issue to be considered so that the reader’s understanding is not seriously impeded by omissions. The essay includes details, definitions, and other information so that the reader doesn’t feel like they’re missing any key points.
  • Use of Evidence (1 point) the essay takes evidence from source(s) with enough interpretation/evaluation to develop a coherent analysis or synthesis. It cites specific reasons and evidence for supporting or rejecting claims. The evidence and viewpoints in the essay are combined together into a coherent whole, meaning any areas of potential confusion or apparent contradictions are clarified for the reader.
  • Academic Essay Organization (1 point) — the introduction sets up a thesis (stated explicitly at the end of the introduction) that is clear, appropriate, and effectively introduced. The thesis statement directly responds to the prompt and accurately describes the main argument of the essay. Body paragraphs focus on distinct ideas that support or illuminate the thesis. Body paragraphs do not overlap much, if at all, in terms of content/focus (in other words, theyre about distinct main ideas) and they include evidence and reasoning tied to the main idea of the paragraph. Body paragraphs, in turn, support or illuminate the overall thesis of the essay. The wraps up with a conclusion. It’s okay if the organization is somewhat formulaic, but, ideally, it won’t be.
  • Sentence-Level and Formatting Concerns (1 point) — The essay contains only a few, if any, errors with MLA, grammar, mechanics, punctuation, or word choice. There are no patterns of major errors (citations, fragments, run-ons, capitalization, etc.). For the most part, sentences flow smoothly. Meaning is clear throughout the essay.

Outside Sources

No outside sources are required. You may use them if you wish, but doing so will increase your workload. If you use outside sources, you must document them using MLA formatting rules, which we haven’t covered in detail. Additionally, if you choose to use sources, remember that the purpose of your essay is to provide your thinking, not simply to report what sources think.

If you choose to use sources, do consider their ethos/credibility. Dont use Wikipedia, SparkNotes, other study” websites, or student papers from the internet. Consider using books and articles available through the college library website. You may also use articles and reference materials provided in class.


  • Start early and go through multiple drafts
  • Use English 1E (remember that it can take up to 14 hours–possibly longer on weekends–to receive feedback)
  • Meet with a tutor from the Writing and Humanities Tutoring Center (sign up on Corsair Connect)
  • Use instructor feedback from the On-Ramp Activity to guide you in the revision process
  • Sign up for a Zoom meeting with the instructor (click “Meet with Prof. Colmer” on our Canvas homepage)