As I mentioned in class the other day, you have a few options for this literary analysis paper.
Now, what is a literary analysis? A literary analysis paper (for our purposes) ignores everything except the text. So, you don’t need to rely on outside sources — your thoughts are just as valid as anyone else’s thoughts. That’s a good thing. Still, what is it? The main purpose of a literary analysis is to examine a text in order to explain and expand upon/deepen our understanding of the text. It is very often judgmental…but there’s a catch.
This is not a book review. You do not have to tell me whether you loved the book or hated it, so that kind of judgment doesn’t count. Instead, you examine the author’s craft. You judge how well (effectively) or how poorly (ineffectively) the author accomplished a particular goal.
What’s the goal, you may ask? The goal of most writers is to convey a theme (or themes) to the reader. Robert Heinlein is known for discussing certain ideas, certain themes throughout his fifty years of writing. Just about every idea/theme that he ever wrote about shows up in our novel. They include:
Individuality, individualism, and individual freedom, along with self-reliance and being a “competent” individual
Related: Libertarianism — which includes belief in individual freedom as well as a small, non-interfering-with-the-individual government
Government interference as well as surveillance
The disintegration of society, and true freedom is often found outside of the society at the frontiers
Religion and, usually, how awful it is
Marriage and belonging, but also free love, free sex, and open marriages
Prejudice and racism
So…your job is to pick ONE of these and discuss it. Okay, you may realize that some of these are really closely related. That’s true. So your job is to pick ONE of these or ONE group of interrelated ideas and discuss it/them.
How do you discuss them well while focusing on the literature?
First, choose an idea or set of ideas. Then brainstorm a list of instances when/where these ideas are expressed in the story. Then, choose ONE element (or perhaps two closely related elements) of fiction to narrow your focus on the theme. The choices of elements of fiction include:
point of view/perspective
style, tone, and/or language
Now, the example that I used in class today (for those who were absent) was this.
Let’s say we focus on the theme of “prejudice.” Important: remember that a theme is not a topic. Prejudice is a topic. A theme says something ABOUT a topic, such as “prejudice is terrible” or “prejudice is endemic to human society” or something like that.
In our example, we said that “Throughout the story of Friday, Heinlein shows that prejudice is awful and affects our protagonist in negative, dehumanizing ways.” Then we brainstormed instances of prejudice.
Being stood up on a date with another AP
The Tongan episode with her NZ family
Being divorced because she is an AP (has no soul)
Conversations with Georges and Boss on being an AP
Friday versus the other APs (Pete and Tilly)
Vicksburg, where normal people stay in upper Vicksburg and APs and human artifacts stay in lower Vicksburg
Friday’s argument why APs should not pilot the semi-ballistics
Now, we can choose “character” and examine how Friday develops as a character throughout these encounters with prejudice. Or, we could examine “language” and focus on dialogue and narration to see how these prejudicial situations are expressed. Or we could focus on symbols and how often, and why, she refers to her creation as “my mother was a test tube and my father was a knife.” Or we could focus on setting to show how setting affects or figures into the expression of prejudice. Or we could examine the plot and show how the focus on prejudice is throughout the story but rears its head in stronger or weaker episodes.
So, you see, while thinking about the theme of “prejudice is bad,” we can use one or more elements of fiction to show how well/poorly the author constructed the story to get that idea across.
There are NO RIGHT OR WRONG ANSWERS. The answers are all good as long as you can support them, back them up, and explain them clearly. Do not worry about showing your like or dislike for the book. That’s not the point here. Instead, show that Heinlein did a good job, a bad job, or an uneven job (sometimes good and sometimes bad) in conveying this theme to you, the reader.
I hope this helps.
Some other things to consider.
Is generally focused on one topic
A theme or symbol(s) or development, and so on.
Is supported by:
textual examples (either quotations or paraphrases)
It examines the text, and ignores everything outside of the text.
It may consider any of the following:
style, tone, language
symbols, allegories, allusions
If there is a summary of the text, it is extremely brief (perhaps a sentence or two, certainly no more than a paragraph) and at the beginning of the essay.
Remember that the narrator is not the same as the author.
Literature is crafted, so examine the craft
Remember that this type of essay is different from the previous one. In a exemplification essay, we have an emphasis on evidence (along with explanations of that evidence). In a literary analysis essay, the emphasis is reversed. You certainly have textual evidence, but the emphasis is on your analysis — your thoughts, insights, perceptions. You need to give judgment and show not only what you think but why you think that.
You essay must be :
Written in third-person narrative perspective
Use multiple (at least three) sources that are
From the novel, Friday (no outside sources are needed)
Follows MLA style and format
Four or more pages in length, plus a Works Cited page
NOTE: Sources such as spark notes, monkey notes, shmoop, e-notes, wikipedia, and other essay-helping sites are simply not acceptable. Your grade on an assignment will be a ZERO if you provide evidence from these types of sites.
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