The Critical/Analytical Response to Text The Craft of Writing an Essay Part 1

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1 The Critical/Analytical Response to Text The Craft of Writing an Essay Part 1 PLANNING THE ESSAY WRITING A THESIS STATEMENT A Think Aloud Process

2 Deciding on your thesis statement: The first step to planning your essay The assumption is that you know your text inside out and have developed your own ideas in relation to the text For a literary essay, you are asked to make a debatable claim that demonstrates your insight on a specific topic (essential question). Your claim should strike the reader as an aha rather than a duh observation

3 Diploma exam For your Diploma exam, you will be given an essential question that can be related to a wide variety of texts. For example: Discuss the ideas developed by the text creator in your chosen text about the ways in which individuals struggle to restore honour and certainty.

4 STEP ONE Interpret the question (work the prompt) Underline the key thematic words (honour/certainty) and the key words (struggle to restore) develop your own interpretation: How will you describe honour How will you describe certainty How will you address the concept of restoration How will you massage your interpretations with your chosen text

5 STEP TWO Decide on a text and create the question Change the statement into a question (that you can answer) related to a specific text of your choice How/Why/When (under what circumstances) do / does (name character/s) struggle to restore honour and certainty in author s (name text)?

6 STEP THREE Brainstorm a subset of questions As you do so, think of possible answers. Let your imagination roam over all possible questions: How is honour and certainty compromised in the play? Which character s (or characters ) responses to this struggle intrigue me? How does / do the character/s display / interpret honour and does this interpretation change throughout the course of the text? How does / do the character/s display / interpret honour? How does / do the character/s display / respond to certainty? Which character s (or characters ) responses best demonstrate the struggle with compromised honour and / or certainty? What is the nature of the character s (or characters ) struggle (internal/external)? How does the character (do the characters) of your choice attempt to restore honour and certainty? Is honour and certainty restored in the end by the actions of your character(s) and if so how?

7 STEP FOUR Create your claim & blueprint your supporting arguments Look for a pattern (group your ideas) in your brainstorming that leads to a potential claim Think of an argument/claim (that contains potential for debate) Create at least three supporting arguments that support your main argument/claim Be specific have specific incidents from the play to back up your point

8 STEP FIVE Write your thesis A good thesis is not only a debatable claim, but also suggests the structure of the paper. The thesis allows the reader to imagine and anticipate the flow of the paper Your statement should: State the topic State your insight/interpretation/claim Refer the text if you have not already done so in your introductory paragraph State specific character(s) involved Suggest a sequence of points that logically prove the essay's main assertion Be expressed in the present tense

9 STEP SIX Test your thesis against the 5-part MTS (magic thesis statement) formula: 1. Identify what you are looking at (aspect of honour and certainty in character/s) 2. identify the situation you can see / are describing 3. State where that leads 4. Point out the significance 5. Be able to restate your thesis in other words literally write a sentence following your thesis that begins with in other words

10 FORMULA SENTENCE (When in doubt, try this) Think about it this way: By looking at, we see that (unique insight) which is significant because Write it this way: In (name of text), the author (name) develops the idea that Consider: whether your statement implies cause and effect (a leads to statement), makes connections or comparisons (an is statement) or comments on a theme related to the prompt

11 LAST STEP Test your thesis (CSSMI) Clarity: Use straightforward language avoid reference to philosophers/philosophies or anything esoteric Specificity: Is your thesis it too vague? For example, the statement "Shakespeare's characterization demonstrates his incredible insight as a playwright" is too vague because your reader can't be sure what you mean by "insight" or how it relates to "characterization" Strength: Make sure you have at least three arguments (in mind) that support your thesis Make sure you have evidence for each argument Each argument should be the material for future body paragraphs Manageability: Can you handle the topic within the time frame/space provided? Interest: Does it state the obvious ( duh )? If it's so obvious that nobody could fail to see it, it's probably not worth writing about

12 EXAMPLE 1 (LEVEL 2-3) The struggle to restore honour and certainty Decisions can change a life. We do not know if anything graceful or miserable will come of our decisions. The choices that we make may cause death or fatal disasters. However, honour and certainty will also be established during the process of our decisions making. Inner conflict is one of the most important ways to develop our ideas about making choices. It provides the right direction to take actions and helps us achieve certain goals. In Shakespeare s Hamlet, Hamlet s decision to avenge his father s death helps him restore honour and certainty. Level 2-3 thesis needs clarification in other words and paragraph needs blueprinting

13 EXAMPLE 2 (LEVEL 4) The struggle to restore honour and certainty The definition of honour is laden with irony. In one sense, to be honourable is to find personal integrity or allegiance to moral principles ; in another sense, it is society that judges one s possession of the virtue. In fact religious and societal beliefs determine what makes an action honourable or not. In contrast, certainty is characterized the degree of security felt by an individual. The play Hamlet focuses on an individual plagued by uncertainty who finds himself forced to make several significant decisions despite the ambiguity around him, and realizes in the process that the faith in Christianity he held so strongly merely complicates his decisions, rather than showing him which direction to take. Throughout the course of the play Gertrude, Claudius, and Hamlet find that in order to restore certainty they must compromise their honour which, considering the time period in which was out of the question. In Shakespeare s Hamlet, the characters demonstrate that honour and certainty often conflict. Shakespeare uses Hamle to show that in order to achieve certainty, it is necessary for honour to be compromised. In other words, an individual must be able to reject societal beliefs in order to find truth. Level 4 a good claim but is this possible to demonstrate in the play? Does not address the struggle to restore. This paragraph would also be stronger if it contained a transition: This can be most clearly seen in Hamlet when.

14 EXAMPLE 3 (LEVEL 4-5) The significance of idealism and truth in an individual s life Materialism: the philosophical belief that a conclusive connection between material wealth and happiness not only exists, but is in fact the pathway to spiritual enlightenment. This belief was highly embraced by the Roman Catholic Church during the 15th and 16th century, much to the dismay of Protestants trying to establish their religious rights. Queen Elizabeth was responsible for nationally recognizing the rights of Protestants in England, and peace was found between Protestants and Catholics. William Shakespeare, a playwright adored by both Queen Elizabeth and James I, was a Protestant, and he portrayed these contrasting beliefs into his plays in subtle ways. Protestants believe in idealistic thought; idealism being defined as the opposite of materialism: the path to enlightenment is though the mind. Another related belief of theirs is that if one can find truth in life, they will discover salvation. Truth s definition is personal and different for everyone one is expected to define it for themselves. Shakespeare s play Hamlet juxtaposes these two beliefs between characters; both idealistic thought and the search for truth in life prove to be significant to the lives of King Claudius, Hamlet, and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern. King Claudius belief in an idealistic nation of Denmark leads him to killing his brother; Hamlet s search for truth in life allows him to come to conclusions about life, death and murder; and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern s idealistic and naive truthful outlook on life land them in mortal danger. Level 4 that is on its way to a 5 the thesis needs to make a claim not be an observation

15 EXAMPLE 4 (LEVEL 5-almost) The significance of idealism and truth in an individual s life Hamlet could be seen as an unorthodox medieval detective. He is preoccupied, almost obsessed with uncovering the truth: the truth behind his father s murder, and the truth of the ghost s identity and words. He is also struggling with ideals notions about how he should behave in the presence of his God, his peers and family, and how he should act to restore good to his kingdom in the wake of his father s murder. It is also important to note Hamlet s struggles with the contradictions between certain ideals. Hamlet could be accused of being indecisive, but this is a very superficial view. To ask: Why is Hamlet indecisive? is the more effective approach. By looking at Hamlet s character and his internal struggles, it becomes clear that his questioning of the truth, his own idealism, and his struggles with contradicting ideals result in his tragic hesitancy. Level 5 almost; thesis needs clarification

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