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FICTION ESSAY ASSIGNMENT INSTRUCTIONS
You must complete the required textbook readings in preparation for the Fiction Essay
Assignment. This will equip you to objectively respond to the readings by compiling
information from a variety of sources in order to compose a persuasive analysis of a literary
work. You will also learn to follow standard usage in English grammar and sentence structure;
identify the theme and structure of each literary selection as well as the significant characteristics
or elements of each genre studied; and evaluate the literary merit of a work.
You will write a 750-word (approximately 3 pages) essay that compares and contrasts 2 stories
from the Fiction Unit. Before you begin writing the essay, carefully read the below guidelines for
developing your paper topic and review the Fiction Essay Grading Rubric to see how your
submission will be graded. Gather all of your information, plan the direction of your essay, and
organize your ideas by developing a 1-page thesis statement and outline for your essay. Format
the thesis statement and the outline in a single Microsoft Word document using current MLA,
APA, or Turabian style (whichever corresponds to your degree program); check your Perrine’s
Literature textbook, the Harbrace Essentials Handbook and/or the link contained in the Learn
section to ensure correct citation format is used.
Your submission must include a title page, a thesis/outline page, and the essay itself, followed by
a works cited/references/bibliography page listing any primary and/or secondary texts cited in
Guidelines for Developing Your Paper Topic
The “Writing about Literature” section of your Perrine’s Literature textbook (pp. 1–54) and the
“Writing” section of Harbrace Essentials (pp. 1–12, 15–16, 18–21, 22–28) provide helpful
pointers for writing your literary essay and for academic writing in general. Be sure that you
have read these sections before doing any further work for this assignment. Take particular
notice of the examples of fiction essays in the Perrine’s Literature textbook.
Choose 2 of the following short stories to compare and contrast in your essay:
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
“The Destructors” by Graham Greene
“The Rocking-Horse Winner” by D.H. Lawrence
“Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
“The Prodigal Son” by St. Luke
Also, at least 1 of these elements of fiction must be the focus of your essay:
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Point of View, and/
If you need help focusing your essay, ask yourself questions that correspond to your chosen
Conflict/Plot/Structure (This is not a summary of the stories)
What are the basic conflicts? How do these conflicts build tension and lead to major,
complicated incidents and climactic moment(s)?
What are the ways in which each major character experiences conflict (either with
self, with other characters, or with the social and/or physical environment)?
How are the conflicts resolved? Do the protagonists succeed in achieving their goals?
Which character receives your deepest sympathy and why?
Who are the main characters in the stories?
What are their outstanding qualities? Does the author give any indication as to how or
why the character developed these qualities?
What are the characters’ emotions, attitudes, and behaviors? What do these indicate to the
reader about the character?
Can the characters’ motivations be determined from the text?
Where and when do the stories take place (remember to include such details as
geographic location, time of year, time period, if the setting is rural or urban, etc.)?
Do the settings make the stories believable or credible? How does setting impact the plot
of the story, and how would the plot be affected if the story took place in another setting?
Are the characters influenced by their setting? How might they behave if they were in a
What atmosphere or mood does the setting create (for example, darkness may create a
mood of fear or unhappiness while light or bright colors may create one of happiness)?
Is the setting or any aspect of it a symbol, or does the setting express particular ideas?
Does setting create expectations that are the opposite of what occurs?
What is the major theme (or themes) of each story?
Are the themes of the stories similar or different?
How does the author convey the theme (or themes) to the reader?
How do the stories’ themes relate to the authors’ purposes (some examples of author
purposes are to entertain, to satirize, to realistically portray life’s problems, to analyze
emotions and responses, and/or to communicate a moral message)?
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What unique style, techniques, or devices do the writers use to communicate their
How would you describe the tone of the piece?
Does the tone correspond with the action occurring in the plot?
What style does the author use (for example, one way an author might satirize is by
including a lot of irony, hyperbole, and unrealistic scenarios)?
How might the story be different if the tone or style were to be changed?
Does the writer use irony or symbols to communicate the message?
Note: These questions are a means of ordering your thoughts while you collect information for
your essay. You do not need to include the answers to all of these questions in your essay; only
include those answers that directly support your thesis statement need to be included.
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