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Developing a Strong Thesis Statement for an Argumentative Essay: Requirements and Essay Topics

Essay Requirements

Develop a strong thesis statement from one of the following topics and write a well-organized argumentative essay, which analyses the literary work under consideration closely and carefully, in order to defend your thesis.  Be sure to make specific references to the work you are discussing throughout your paper.

Your essay must be typed and double-spaced.  Please number all pages on the top right-hand corner and include a separate title page containing your name, your essay's title, the topic number, the instructor's name and the due date. Follow the template given in the University of Regina Style Guide.  Remember also to include a properly formatted Works Cited page even if your only "source" is the New Wascana Anthology or a webpage. Finally, be sure to include an original title of your own devising, an introduction and a conclusion, and a clear, concise thesis statement at the end of the introduction. If you are confused, please consult the O.W.L. website as this source includes some useful examples of how to document sources.  Use the formats of .doc, .docx, .pdf, or rtf to submit your essay and please keep the similarity rate below 10% for

In this essay, errors in quotation integration or bibliographical citations or MLA formatting will receive deductions of 5%, so make sure you understand the MLA style! 

Your essay must include the following:

1) A properly formatted title page (following the template given on p. 35 of the U of R Style Guide) and a Works Cited page created according to the MLA method. If any of these elements are missing, deductions will be made.
2) An original title which is not the same as the heading on the topic sheet.  Essays without titles will receive an additional deduction.
3) A clear, concise thesis statement at the end of the first paragraph (i.e. your introduction).
4) A preview or outline of your argument in a sentence somewhere in the introduction (it should precede the thesis statement).
5) Focussed topic sentences at the start of every paragraph.
6) At least one short quotation per paragraph, and where possible, two per paragraph, to support your points. Avoid paraphrasing or summarizing the text, but instead make an interpretation based on the evidence.
7) Your quotations should be properly integrated according to the techniques discussed in class.  There should be no comma splices and no hanging quotations – mistakes such as these will receive extra deductions.

Writing a Clear and Concise Thesis Statement

Plagiarism:  Your essay should be made up of your own words.  All borrowing from secondary sources must be properly acknowledged, including electronic sources.  Any student who knowingly passes off another's work or ideas as his/her own is guilty of PLAGIARISM and will be liable to a range of very serious penalties ranging from failure in the class to dismissal from the University.  Please refer to the University of Regina General Calendar or speak to me if you have questions.

Please do not attempt to answer every question in the topics below; they are offered as guidelines to help you to know what to cover as you formulate your argument.  Just pick one question within a given topic to answer with your thesis and argument, or use the heading as your guide, or combine all of them and create your own unique question.

  Swift's target:  In the essay “A Modest Proposal,” Swift shocks the reader with the idea of eating babies to solve the problems of famine and poverty in Ireland; yet Swift was not aiming at creating outrageous humour. The overstated "proposal" intentionally shocks the reader, but certain passages in the essay seem to carry an undercurrent of real anger. How is this anger achieved and what is its purpose? In order for satire to function and be effective, there must be a target, or a set of targets, to critique and undercut.  So what are the targets of Swift's satire and how does he attack them? Which groups of people in “A Modest Proposal” are the primary targets who are singled out as special targets for Swift’s satiric attack? What traits do they have in common with each other, and what does he imply are their faults?

Orwell’s story about making the wrong choices: "Shooting an Elephant" chronicles an incident in which Orwell confronts a moral dilemma and abandons his morals to escape the mockery of the Burmese people. He kills an elephant which had ravaged a bazaar while in heat, even though it has calmed down and he says, "As soon as I saw the elephant I knew with perfect certainty that I bought not to shoot him." Why does he realize this?  Having come this realization, why does he shoot the elephant anyway, calling his actions tantamount to murder, even though he feels strongly 
that it is wrong? In addition, why does he tell us this story about this mistake? Throughout his narrative, Orwell also criticizes and condemns his own actions, and reveals to the reader his worst impulses and deepest regrets.  Is he feeling guilty, or does Orwell have a message for the reader in pointing out his own mistakes/ Why does Orwell set himself up as a target for the reader’s disapproval? 

Choosing an Essay Topic

Orwell’s audience: Who is Orwell’s primary audience in “Shooting an Elephant” and what does he have to say to them specifically about the nature of Imperialism?  Why is it harmful to this audience in particular and Orwell himself as well?  How is his attitude to Imperialism complicated by his situation and his own attitude to the Burmese people?  What is Orwell doing in this essay by illustrating so vividly his complex feelings and situation, and what is he trying to get his audience to recognize?

Humour and Horror in Poe: "The Cask of Amontillado" is a chilling story, but Poe also uses humorous elements as the narrator recounts his experience with Fortunato, particularly in the grim ironic humour that Montresor employs from time to time as he speaks to his victim. Identify the elements in the story that might be regarded as humorous and discuss what you think the humour adds to the story.  Is it linked to Poe’s ability to deflect the reader’s sympathy from Fortunato? How does it enhance the pervading atmosphere of gloom and horror in this short story?  
In particular, what does it contribute to the reader’s perceptions of Montresor’s villainy?  Alternatively, you can discuss the use of verbal and dramatic irony in "The Cask of Amontillado." How does it contribute to the horror theme of the story and to the dark atmosphere? 

Symbolism in Poe:  Write an analysis of the symbolism used in Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado.” As you write this essay, consider what specific symbols occur in this story, and how the function in that story.  Consider such issues as those following:   Explain the symbols of light/dark, wine and trowel, carnival/crypt, the costumes of the characters or the manner of the murder.  In “The Cask of Amontillado,” what do the character names symbolize?  How do the various symbols comment on the two main characters and how they are portrayed? How are we to interpret this story of cold-blooded murder and revenge, if we follow the clues offered by the symbols?   (When you write this essay, make sure that you do more than simply describe the symbols involved in your chosen story; remember to look at them together and interpret their overall significance in the story, the characters, the plot or the story’s overall meaning).

The Question of the narrators's triumph or defeat in "the yellow wallpaper": In your view, is Gilman’s narrator triumphant or is she defeated as she frees the woman hidden behind the wallpaper? Some critics argue that "The Yellow Wallpaper" is a story about a woman who is confined and silenced. In your opinion does she become completely dependent on her husband, being utterly lost and reduced to an infantile state as the story unfolds? Alternatively, a more feminist position is that the narrator at the end finally  evades the control of the patriarchy and achieves a personal triumph.  Do you agree that the narrator achieves a greater sense of self as she acts out her madness? If so, in what ways does she triumph over her husband and the male-dominated society here? If not, why not? 

Analyzing Literary Works by Swift

Coming of age in mansfield's "The Garden Party”: Some critics have read Mansfield’s story “The Garden Party” as a coming of age story, which is a story where a young character grows up due to his/ her experiences, or because this character learns a life lesson as a result of a conflict or struggle. Laura does appear to grow up and confront mortality when she visits the family of the dead carter, as well as to gain some insight into the larger world in this story, but she is also noticeably immature in some of her actions and choices as well.  What passages in the story suggest that Laura is on her way to becoming more mature, and what is their purpose in the story as a whole? What are we to make of her occasional lapses into immaturity? How do 
we understand Laura’s character through this mixture of maturity and immaturity that she shows in the story? Are there signs that she is open to more change and growth as she struggles to define who she is in her class-oriented society, or do you think she will eventually conform and adopt the narrow world view of her privileged family?

The Ironic viewpoint of "The Bear came over the mountain": The concept of irony has been defined as words or stories that have a double meaning, where the true meaning or deeper meaning is quite different from, and often opposite to, the surface meaning.  Munro’s story “The Bear came over the Mountain” abounds in irony, especially when it is compared with the more sentimental film version.  But where does the irony in this story reside and what is its purpose?  Can it be seen in the narration, in the wry and skeptical attitude of the unnamed third-person narrator to the characters? Or is it evident in the way that the story unfolds (and especially in changing response of Fiona to Grant)?  At the end of the story, Fiona seems to recognize and welcome her husband again – how is this change/restoration presented ironically, and why does this irony appear near the end instead of a happier ending?

Grant's lack of self-awareness:  Discuss the irony that arises from interpreting the main characters in the story and their behaviours toward each other. For instance, how is Grant presented ironically throughout and what are his blind spots? What degree of self-awareness does he possess and why does he seem to lack it (at least in key areas of his life)? Is he really the nice guy and good husband that he thinks he is, and does the reader ultimately see him in the same way that he sees himself? To what extent is he a reliable narrator? While on the surface Grant and Fiona seem to love each other and appear happy, is there evidence of a darker unstated reality in the way that their marriage is represented in the story? Although Grant believes 
that Fiona never knew about his multiple affairs, and that his choice never to leave her, even for a night, shows that they didn’t really matter, is it possible that she knew about them and was hurt by them?  Are there any indications that she, as he fears, is merely putting on a “charade”?   

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