This time, look for key themes, make notes about what strikes you most powerfully, think about what message you see or how the characters make you feel. Feel free to highlight key passages and write in the margins as you go.
Think about the themes that you see in the story and consider your personal reflection on those themes. Can you relate to a character or situation that you see presented in one of the stories especially well? How so?
The following questions might help you explore themes and your feelings about the story.
•What do you think the author’s intention in writing this story were? What point do you think he was trying to make to readers?
•What is the most vivid impression you got from reading it?
•How did the story make you feel? Why?
•What situations or cultural expectations shaped characters or opinions?
•Is there a warning for readers hidden in the text?
•Try to finish this sentence: “This story is about …..”
3. Create a list of possible thesis topics
Create a list of possible thesis topics — strive for at least 5. Don’t worry as you brainstorm about which ones will work for this paper.
Your thesis is simply the point that you want to make in your analysis. For example, after reading one of the stories, you may realize that a character was struggling to find his or her place in the world. Your thesis for that story would sound something like this: “In ___ short story, the main character ____ struggles to find her place in the world.” Then, you will be responsible for PROVING that the character is struggling to find her place by using examples and direct quotes from the story itself.
Think broad and look for key themes like freedom, isolation, fear, control, the quality of relationships between characters, cultural norms and constraints, expectations, mental health, etc. Consider why the characters act the way that they do.
Only after you have written down at least 5 ideas should you go back and critically consider which one would work best for this assignment.
4. Choose a thesis
Choose a thesis that you can relate to and feel comfortable disclosing to others.
Other students will read your paper; make sure you choose a topic you want to share with them. Students have in the past written papers about very personal topics — medical conditions, for example, or coping with difficult personal issues. You may write about such a topic if you wish. But please remember that several others will read what you write, and you need to respect them by selecting an appropriate topic for a college audience.
5. Try clustering or free writing
Once you’ve chosen a paper topic, try clustering to come up with material to include in your paper. Free writing can be helpful, too, especially if you are trying to remember details. Visit the How to Get Started: Prewriting page under The Writing Process for clustering and free writing tips.
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