English Composition 2

Essay Assignment 1: Analysis of a Short Story

Wednesday, September 4: Draft of at least 1000 words due for peer critique.

Wednesday, September 11: Revised Draft of at least 1250 words due.

The Assignment

For Essay Assignment 1, you need to write an essay of at least 1250 words that helps readers understand and appreciate one of the following short stories:

You can assume that the audience for your essay has read the story you are analyzing, so you should not simply summarize it. Instead, you should give your audience an interpretation of the story, an insightful explanation that will help your audience understand the story's meaning and significance. Make sure that your entire essay is well focused on one thesis, on one main point that you want to make about the story.

Your paper should follow the conventions of MLA documentation. At the end of each sentence with a quotation from the story, you should include a parenthetical citation of the author's last name and the page number for that quotation, "like this" (Updike 439).

You also need to include a separate "Work Cited" page listing publication information for the story (note the singular "Work"). We have a "Preparing a Works Cited Page" section of the course to help you with Works Cited pages. However, the textbook shows how a story from the book should appear on a Works Cited page, so you could just copy that format. One example appears on page 56 of the book. Just copy that format from the book but change the name of the author, the title of the story, and the page numbers. 

A Few Suggestions

We will discuss all three of the stories, and our discussion should give you good ideas that you might explore in more depth in your essay. Feel free to use some of the ideas suggested by other members of the class, but be careful not to plagiarize from others. Plagiarism would occur if you copied sentences or even phrases from other class members and presented them as your own in your essay. On the other hand, if other class members bring up ideas about a story that you think are interesting or insightful, feel free to use these ideas as a starting point, presenting them in your own way and examining them in more depth in your essay.

You could take any number of approaches to analyzing the meaning of a story. Whatever approach you take, make sure that you can support your interpretation with specific evidence from the story. In other words, your paper must be both analytical and persuasive: you should analyze the story but also argue your interpretation with plenty of specific evidence from the story itself. You will not convince readers that you have a good interpretation unless you demonstrate that your interpretation is well supported by the facts, by the details of the story.

Note also that you should try to relate your specific approach to the story to the meaning of the story as a whole, or in other words, to a major theme of the story. The theme is the main point of a work of literature, or, more specifically, the "comment about life" revealed through a work of literature. Good short stories tell us something about life in general. Explaining a major theme and how it is developed in the story should be an important part of your essay.

Using Quotations

You will need to use quotations in your essay to help you support and develop your ideas. To avoid plagiarism, make sure to put quotation marks around any phrases you copy from the essay. Once you put quotation marks around material from the essay, make sure that the words within the quotation marks appear in your paper exactly as they appear in the original.

Make sure than none of the quotations in your paper is standing by itself. You should make every quotation a part of one of your own sentences. Please refer to the first part of the Integrating Quotations into Sentences Web page for ways to integrate quotations into your own sentences.


I hate to have to include a warning here about plagiarism, but it seems that one or two students each semester will submit plagiarized essays. Sometimes, these are essays that students have found on the Internet. It is easy for me to find these essays. I also have saved copies of essays that have been written for the course for at least the last ten years, so it usually is easy for me to find the source of a plagiarized essay if a student plagiarizes by turning in work that another student submitted in a previous semester. Plagiarism is a serious offense with serious consequences. The consequences for plagiarizing in this class are explained on the Course Syllabus.

Helpful Resources

The information below is important for all of the essays that you will write in the course, and you will need to demonstrate a familiarity with the ideas on the Web pages to do well on your essays. You should read the Web pages linked below carefully:

Sample Essay

The essay "Test of One Man's Faith" was written by a student in an ENG 1002 courses. It's an outstanding essay on "Young Goodman Brown" that should help you think about organizing and writing your own essay. It is not necessary to be familiar with the short story that is the subject of the essay to appreciate why the essay is strong, but, if you want to, you can read an online version of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown."

Remember . . .

Before you submit your essay, remember to


Please post any questions that you have about this essay assignment, and I will be happy to respond promptly.

Copyright Randy Rambo, 2019.