Essay #1: Inductive Reasoning & Literary Analysis

Background: The theme of the first unit is “Fractured Communities.” In all of the stories and poems we will read in preparation for the first essay,

some aspect of the social order has broken down. Communities are at war with themselves; they become the agents of terrible violence; authorities

within communities become warped and oppressive; individuals are alienated from their own communities or dissatisfied with their roles within them.

Today, authoritarian regimes are gaining power throughout the world, our own society is violently fragmented, and social scientists have identified

a growing “epidemic of loneliness.” We need to think seriously about our own relationships to our communities. The stories and poems in this unit

will give us the opportunity to do so with more depth and nuance than our current media environment typically allows.

Main task: Write a 4-6 page (1200 words minimum) essay about a single story or poem from Unit One that answers the following question: What general

claim does the story make about fractured communities? Use inductive reasoning and analysis to identify what a specific story or poem suggests about

this general social phenomenon. In other words, what does the fictional text teach us about our own fractured communities in the real world?

Focus questions: Here are some more specific questions to help you narrow your focus. You can choose one of these, alter one to better meet your

needs, or come up with your own. You’re trying to figure out how the text answers one of these questions. You will use inductive reasoning to figure

out how the story or poem answers one of these questions indirectly.
1. What forces cause divisions within a community?
2. Why do communities exclude, abuse, or subjugate certain individuals?
3. What strategies do authorities within communities use to subjugate certain groups or individuals?
4. How do individuals cope with the experience of alienation, exclusion, or oppression from their communities?
5. What causes individuals to feel alienated from their own communities or dissatisfied with their roles within them?
6. What motivates people to conform to their communities when to do so is in conflict with basic human decency?
7. How does one of the following aspects of American society contribute to the fracturing of communities? — a) class, b) racism, c) materialism

To prepare: I have designed the daily reading responses in such a way that you should be able to use them as a starting point for the essay. You can

begin to develop ideas for your essay by developing the ideas in your reading responses. Similarly, all of our class discussions have been geared

toward uncovering answers to the above questions, so I recommend returning to your class notes for essay ideas as well. Finally, be sure to invest

time and effort in the writing-process assignments.

Don’t just summarize or describe the text—ANALYZE and INTERPRET: The most common mistake we make when we’re starting out with literary

interpretation is to provide detailed summaries or descriptions of the text. Figuring out the motives of the characters, coming to an understanding

of what’s really happening in the plot: these are important first steps. Your ultimate goal, however, is to figure out what claims are embedded in

the story about the world beyond the story itself. Figure out how a specific story is representing some more general truth about our own human,

social experiences.

• *A “descriptive” thesis (avoid): In Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, the villagers reveal that they are willing to sacrifice the rights and

lives of individuals in order to uphold their communal traditions and protect the well-being of the community. Moreover, they are willing to offer

themselves up for this sacrifice, such is the extent of their investment in the community.

• *An analytical, interpretive thesis (Note how this offers a response to Focus Question #2): Through its depiction of a stoning ritual,

Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery reveals the way in which societies require a designated outsider in order to maintain group cohesion. Jackson’s

parable reveals that communities exclude, or, in extreme cases, exterminate some segment of the population in order to achieve a false sense of


Notice how the first example is insightful, but only refers to what is going on in the story itself. In the second example, there is a clear

connection between the story itself and the more general truth or idea it points toward.


Essay Requirements: The requirements listed below will be the grading rubric for the essay. This is what you need to accomplish in order to write a

successful essay and receive a strong grade.

• 1) Strong critical thinking and persuasive use of evidence. Using inductive reasoning and analysis, link a close examination of the

specifics of the text itself with the text’s message or more general meaning. Support the broader claim of your thesis through a strong close

reading of the text. Interpret quotations in each proof paragraph to support the thesis. All general claims about the theme should clearly emerge

from your analysis of the text.

• 2) An introduction that adequately prepares the reader for the argument and does some, if not all, of the following: Introduces the text,

establishes the theme you’ll be exploring, defines key terms.

• 3) A thesis statement that is arguable and focused, answering the central question of the prompt, and previewing the rest of the essay. The

thesis must make an interpretive claim about what the texts says about the theme.

• 4) Supporting proof paragraphs that are well-developed and focused, using PIE structure. Each paragraph should begin with a topic sentence

that supports the thesis and makes an assertion about the text (POINT). Each proof paragraph should then provide evidence from the text supporting

the claim in the topic sentence (INFORMATION). Each proof paragraph should then conclude with analysis, explaining why and how the evidence proves

the claim (EXPLANATION).

• 5) A refutation that introduces another plausible interpretation of the text and demonstrates how this interpretation is less valid than

your own.

• 6) A conclusion paragraph that restates your position and also address the wider implications of your analysis. How could the meaning of the

text be applied to an understanding of contemporary issues?

• 7) Well-integrated quotations.

• 8) Language that is clear, grammatically correct, and appropriate to academic discourse.

• 9) Originality, creativity, thoughtfulness.

• 10) MLA style in-text citations and a Works Cited page.

Essay Formatting Guidelines for College Papers (MLA Style)

General Guidelines
o Type your paper on a computer and print it out on standard, white 8.5 x 11-inch paper,
o Double-space the text of your paper, and use a legible font like Times Roman. The font size should be 12 pt.
o Leave only one space after periods or other punctuation marks.
o Set the margins of your document to 1 inch on all sides. Indent the first line of a paragraph one half-inch (five spaces or press tab once)

from the left margin.
o Create a header that numbers all pages consecutively in the upper right-hand corner, one-half inch from the top and flush with the right

o Use either italics or underlining throughout your essay for the titles of longer works. Use quotation marks around shorter works, like

essays or articles.

Formatting the First Page of Your Essay
o Do not make a title page for your paper unless specifically requested.
o In the upper left-hand corner of the first page, list your name, your instructor’s name, the course, and the date. Again, be sure to use

double-spaced text.
o Double space again and center the title. Don’t underline your title or put it in quotation marks. Don’t write the title in all capital

letters. Don’t use bold font or font larger than 12 pt. for the title. Instead, capitalize all of the word in the title except for articles (a, an,

the), coordinating conjunctions (for, and , nor, but, or, yet, so), unless they’re the first word in the title.
o Double space between the title and the first line of the text.

Here is a sample first page of an essay in MLA style:


John Doe
Mr. Krasny
English 780
Postwar American Loneliness in the Work of Raymond Carver
The contemporary critical reception to Raymond Carver’s work was by and large sensitive and laudatory, but there was also a subtle undercurrent

of equivocation. Take, for example, the . . .

• For more detailed instructions on MLA paper formatting, please see the OWL at Purdue Website  “MLA Formatting and Style Guide.”