Literary Essay

First Essay Assignment – Literary Analysis of O'Brien 15%

We’ve read about the decade leading up to the 1960s, watched a documentary on the political events of the 1960s, and read much of Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried. This assignment will allow you to further explore one or more of O'Brien's stories.

You will create an argument and support that argument with ample textual evidence (close reading of details, specific lines, passages, and scenes form the book). Argument involves an idea about which reasonable people could disagree, in other words an idea that has to be proven.

The essay needs to be approximately four-five pages double-spaced, Times New Roman 12 inch Font. It will need to correctly cite and/or paraphrase passages from the text in correct MLA form.

For such a short essay, you will need to pay special attention to limiting your topic. You will want to choose a topic about which you are excited, one that intrigues you and that will hold your interest for the weeks that you work on this essay. Remember that the best essays attempt to answer questions; they don’t start with answers. You can choose your own question, a question we’ve discussed in class, or a question that grew out of the reading responses.

After choosing a topic or question that interests you, return to the text. Skim the text with this topic in mind, marking down relevant passages. Think of what your answer (i.e. your thesis) might be, marshal evidence from the text, and sketch out an essay draft for conference. Revise and submit a complete draft for revision suggestions. When you receive my revision suggestions on this draft, revise the essay for organization and argument support; be sure you cite specific details, lines, passages or scenes to support your claims and be sure you explain how they support your claims. Remember that revision is not correction, it is a re-seeing of your argument. Finally, edit the essay at the sentence level for style and grammar. The final version of the essay is due in a folder that includes 2 final copies and the first draft with my comments.

Grading Criteria:
A passing essay must:

  • have a clear, focused, and arguable thesis statement
  • develop this argument thoroughly
  • support this argument adequately with passages from the text
  • integrate supporting quotes and paraphrases smoothly and correctly into the argument (make sure quotes are accurate)
  • adequately address opposing evidence
  • conclude somewhere near the bottom of page four (or on a subsequent page)
  • demonstrate revision (there should be substantial differences between the first and final draft)
  • be submitted in a folder with all required components


  • have an introduction that adequately introduces the argument
  • have a conclusion that adequately concludes the essay
  • as a whole, be logically organized into well-developed, well-organized paragraphs
  • use transitions between paragraphs to make paper organization clear for readers
  • use transitions between sentences to make paragraph organization clear to readers
  • avoid unnecessary repetition


  • be clean stylistically, using concise and clear sentences, strong verbs and active voice, and sentence variety
  • be grammatically correct, avoiding “this” or “that” as a pronoun, using commas with an introductory phrases, using a comma and a conjunction to connect two independent phrases (phrases that can stand alone as sentences), using only a conjunction with compound verbs
  • employ a voice and tone appropriate for academic discourse
  • demonstrate conscientious word choice and diction
  • be formatted correctly? (1inch margins and Times Roman 12inch font)
  • include a works cited page, in correct MLA format, that lists the texts to which your paper refers
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