Thomas Wolfe: Literary Analysis of The Lost Boy

Must be a literary analysis. 7 pages excluding works cited. 8th edition of MLA style. Times New Roman 12 pt font. 1″ margins. 5 to 7 quality sources by different scholars.
Before beginning your research project, you should review carefully the University’s “Academic Conduct Policy” at (pp. 83-85) as well as the “English Department Definition of
Plagiarism and Cheating” (Bb), my supplemental document “Principles of Documentation” (Bb). If you have any
questions as you incorporate outside source material into your discussion, just ask.
The Writing Center (located on the 3rd floor of Wiggins Memorial Library) can also provide editorial,
documentation, and manuscript style advice. To encourage you to use this academic support service, I will add 1 pt.
to your paper grade for each visit to the Writing Center (max of 2 pts). Reward points are contingent on your
various drafts reflecting an effort to implement the advice noted on the Paper Review Receipt(s) that I receive from
the writing coach.
A general requirement for this research paper is that it must be an analysis, breaking down the literary work
into parts in order to better understand the whole: “An analysis may consider only the functions of the setting in The
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, or the comedy in Hamlet, or the differences and resemblances between Willy
Loman [Death of a Salesman] and King Lear . . .” (Sylvan Barnet, A Short Guide to Writing about Literature, 5th
ed. [Boston: Little, Brown, 1985], p. 14). A biographical essay or a summary of a literary work is NOT a literary
analysis, and thus is not acceptable. Think of a literary work (story, poem, novel, play, essay) as a machine and you
want to understand how that literary machine works. Literary analysis is the act of dismantling the machine so that
you can study the intricate parts and their relationship to each other. Once you’ve done that you have a much better
understanding of that machine. Then you tell others what you have learned. Of course, with a 7-9 page paper, you
can’t analyze every element (cog, spring, shaft, belt, etc.); so you focus on learning how one part of the literary
machine works (how it functions) to bring meaning to the work.
Your paper must have a clearly stated, strong thesis that I can readily identify early in the essay (typically
at the end of your introduction)–no implicit theses. The argument you make (your thesis idea) must be strongly
supported by references to the text. Give evidence of your points by quoting directly and paraphrasing statements
and ideas from the literary work you are critiquing. You will also use some of the information you learned through
research to help you build the strength of that support.
General requirements
• a work by one of the authors we are studying (the work does not have to be on the syllabus) OR a
work by an author we have NOT discussed in class but that fits the parameters for this course (I
have chosen these optional authors and included them on the sign-up sheet; the full list is on Bb).
• The authors whose work you may write about are assigned on a first-come-first-serve basis. A
maximum of 2 students may choose the same author. So don’t wait until the last minute.
• minimum of 7 typed full pages, excluding Works Cited page: anything less than 7 pages will be
penalized a letter grade for each page short of the required minimum.
• 8th ed. of the MLA style
• Times New Roman 12 pt. font; 1” margins (make sure that your margins are not “default” set at
• white printer paper
• Stapled in the upper lefthand corner
• Make the style of the paper professional in tone by avoiding slang and conversational
idiosyncracies (unless, of course, when quoting). Limited use of the first-person pronoun (“I”) is
• The following must be put in a manila envelope (9×12 or larger if needed), not an open file
• a typed copy of the final draft for me to grade and return to you—print an extra copy of your
essay for your own safe-keeping before turning it in to insure that your final draft does not get
• all drafts of the paper—I expect a minimum of 3 drafts (1st, 2nd, final). I will not accept
your research paper without the working drafts. A comparison of the earlier drafts with the
final draft must show a progression of quality revision; in other words, substantial changes
(rearrangement of sections, fuller development of ideas, etc.). Otherwise, I will assume that
either 1) you did not write the essay yourself, or 2) you did not take the assignment seriously
as a writing project. Drafting an essay on a computer is NO EXCUSE for not having various
drafts that reveal substantive revision. Print hard copies of your essay at every major stage of
the revision process. This requirement also insures you against losing your material because
of computer malfunction.
• copies of your research material (critical articles and/or book chapters you used)— I will
not grade your research paper without clear photocopies/printouts of the secondary (research)
sources you use, indicating the quoted and paraphrased information you took from each
• To provide the context of your scholarly information, you must provide 3 pages for
each instance of cited information: the page which contains the quotation or
paraphrased idea, 1 page before it, and 1 page after.
• I will not read a paper submitted with an incomplete packet.
• Don’t forget to upload your final draft (with WC page attached) into Blackboard
Assignments. Until you have completed this step and I receive an originality report, I will not
grade your paper.
Due Dates
Author selection: Feb. 2 (sign-up list is posted on my office door) by 6:00pm
Proposed research paper issue/question: Feb. 22 by 6:00pm
Research paper working outline (with thesis statement): Mar. 16 by 6pm
Complete research project: Apr. 6 by noon (any paper turned in after noon is late); place your packet in
crate outside my office door or leave with Mrs. West (Kivett #102).
Research Source Requirements:
You will research primarily literary scholarship. You are required to incorporate within your critical
essay information from 5 to 7 quality sources by different scholars. These are your secondary sources. In
addition you will cite, of course, your primary source: the poem, story, essay, or play that you are analyzing. Thus,
the minimum number of titles on your Works Cited page will be 6.
Unacceptable Sources: READ CAREFULLY!
The following types of publications (both print and electronic versions) are NOT acceptable because they
do not represent in-depth academic scholarship (NOTE: the following list is representative, not allinclusive):
• introductory material in textbooks (for instance, quoting or paraphrasing information from the
historical/biographical sections of Norton, though such info must be properly cited, does not
count toward fulfilling the scholarly source requirement)
• reference works
§ general encyclopedias and general dictionaries
§ collections of excerpts from critical articles (such as Bloom’s Study Guides, Short Story
Criticism, Literary Criticism from 1400 to 1800, the literary website called Modern
American Poetry, etc.). The proper use of these reference sources is bibliographic.
Therefore, if you discover an excerpted source in Short Story Criticism, Literary
Criticism from 1400 to 1800, or MAP, etc., find the full article in the original journal
publication or book-length critical study.
• Bloom’s Biocritiques series: talk to me BEFORE citing from this source
• such study guide publications as Master Plots, Cliff Notes, Magill studies, Monarch Notes,
Sparknotes, KnowledgeNotes, e-Notes, Book Rags, etc.
• personal and/or course websites, blogs, etc.
• book reviews
§ Book reviews cannot be used as a scholarly source. For one thing, a review of a novel
or collection of poems is a brief overview rather than a tightly, narrowly focused
critical argument. For another, a review of a scholarly source is twice removed from
the literary work itself; in other words, a book review critiques a scholarly book that
actually critiques the literary work. However, scholarly book reviews can lead you to a
good source. Example: Let’s say you are doing research on Gertrude Stein’s novel
Three Lives. While searching in JSTOR, you run across an article in a scholarly
journal by Michael J. Hoffman that reviews Janice L. Doane’s book titled Silence and
Narrative: The Early Novels of Gertrude Stein. You don’t want to use Prof.
Hoffman’s review in your research paper because it is an assessment of Doane’s book
(not of Stein’s novel that you are analyzing). What you CAN do, though, is use
Doane’s book which IS a critical study of GS’s novels (especially if Hoffman’s review
is favorable).
• Remember: Book reviews can help you FIND good, scholarly sources for
your research paper. They are NOT indepth scholarly sources themselves.
• student papers unless they have been published in scholarly journals
• Though you may quote from the Bible if appropriate for your analysis, the Bible is a primary
source and, thus, cannot count toward meeting the minimum secondary source requirement.
Acceptable Sources:
The following types of publications (hard copy or electronic versions) ARE acceptable (again, this list is
representative, not all-inclusive):
American Literature, Journal of American Studies, Modern Fiction Studies, Studies in American
Fiction, Studies in Short Fiction, Mississippi Quarterly, Southern Review, Women and Literature,
Black American Literature Forum, Studies in American Humor, Western American Literature,
James Dickey Newsletter, etc., and, of course, book-length studies
ATTENTION: The only acceptable online sources are complete articles (not mere excerpts) published in
legitimate scholarly journals or scholarly e-books that can be accessed through the following library databases:
Academic Search Premier, ATLA Religion, MasterFile Premier, MLA International Bibliography, JSTOR, and
Project Muse. Articles found through general search engines such as “GOOGLE” are not acceptable.
Precaution: Because occasionally a library database includes overviews or summaries (e.g., Literary
Research Center Plus includes general reference overviews from Magill’s Literary Surveys, one of the unacceptable
sources listed above) or links that send you to a site that does not provide in-depth scholarship, make sure that you
are using credible, scholarly sources by getting my approval on the articles you want to use in your research paper.
NOTE: Although you must use critical works to substantiate your own analysis, the critique must be
yours. In other words, use the secondary material appropriately: as support for your own argument. Relying
too heavily on your critics will mean that your paper will be nothing more than a summary or rehashing of what
someone else has said. I want to know what you think of the literary work, how you have interpreted it, and why.
Begin your research early. If Wiggins Library does not have sufficient sources for your paper, you will
need to place an interlibrary loan request. This process takes time. However, in most cases a thorough search of our
library databases and the online catalogue will be sufficient for your needs.
*Concerning the topic option: If you choose to write on a work that we have already discussed in class
by the time you turn in the research paper, you must take care that you do not turn in an essay that is merely a
reiteration of class discussion. In other words, a paper on a syllabus selection that we have talked about prior to
your submitting your analysis of that selection MUST offer a fresh interpretation or a more fully developed
interpretation based on an idea that was brought up in class. If it does not, it fails.
USEFUL SUPPLEMENTAL RESOURCE: For more instruction on writing about literature, especially the
literary research paper, visit the OWL (Purdue’s Online Writing Lab) at
Samples of Workable Issues and Effective Thesis Statements
based on the general research guidelines for my 204 class
For a statement to be a thesis, it must have what writers call an “argumentative edge”: something that must be
rhetorically argued (something that must be proved and/or explained to the reading audience). One way to
guarantee that you have a true thesis for your research paper is to remember that the purpose of a thesis is to tell the
reader basically two things: WHAT and WHY. It is the essential preview statement in an essay’s introduction of
what the writer is going to do AND why he/she is going to do it. Another way of understanding the two components
of a thesis statement is in the relationship between the what and the why: the why validates the what.
Craft a thesis that will answer one of the following questions:
• What does my literary work reveal about a historical moment or event?
• What does my literary work reveal about the culture of the time in which that work was written?
A research paper on The Scarlet Letter
Issue: What does The Scarlet Letter reveal about 17th-century Puritan society?
Thesis statement: In The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne created characters—particularly Hester, Pearl,
Chillingworth, and Dimmesdale—that demonstrate the destructive social forces lurking at the heart of
America’s Puritan era. [paper will do WHAT? Analyze Hawthorne’s four dominant characters WHY? to
criticize the Puritan community of 17th-century America] *
A research paper on The Jungle
Issue: How can The Jungle be read as a novel about the immigrant experience in the US?
Thesis statement: Although Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel The Jungle is typically associated with the topics of
animal rights and food safety, the main focus is America’s exploitation of immigrant workers, as shown through
the working conditions of Packingtown and the treatment of the Ruckus family. [paper will do WHAT?
analyze the working conditions and treatment of the Ruckus family WHY? to show that Sinclair’s novel may
be read as a political statement against the US’s mistreatment of immigrant workers at the turn of the 20th
A research paper on The Spy
Issue: What does the protagonist of The Spy suggest about Colonial America?
Thesis statement: In his novel The Spy James Fenimore Cooper uses the character Harvey—a representative of
the ordinary Colonial citizen—to portray the patriotism of the American settlers prevalent at the beginning of
the Revolutionary War. [paper will do WHAT? analyze a particular character WHY? to show how that
character is a symbol of Revolutionary American patriotism] *
A research paper on The Great Gatsby
Issue: What characteristic of the 1920s does The Great Gatsby criticize?
Thesis statement: Nick Carraway’s evolving perceptions of Jay Gatsby reflect the emptiness of life based on
the materialism that defines the Jazz Age. [paper will do WHAT? Analyze the first-person narrator’s changing
views of the title character WHY? to reveal the moral corruption of a generation of Americans who pursued
fame and fortune during the 1920s]
Although these literary works are not written by Southern authors, they do illustrate valid literary issues and
strong, effective thesis statements for literary argumentation.
Sample Research Project
A student in a previous semester of ENGL 204 submitted the following:
Research Issue: how Sarah Orne Jewett uses the character Sylvia in “A White Heron” as a symbol of spiritual
Another way to present your topic (issue) is as a Research Question: How does Sarah Orne Jewett use the character
Sylvia in “A White Heron” as a symbol of spiritual transcendence?
Eventually, this student developed this research issue into the following thesis statement that appeared at the end of
her introduction and which she developed (very effectively and convincingly) throughout her paper: “Through the
character Sylvia in ‘A White Heron,’ Sarah Orne Jewett shows that the flight to spiritual transcendence involves a
lonely struggle and a child-like faith.” The student’s paper follows as a model “A” paper in my sophomore English
courses. Note, however, that it uses the 7th ed. of MLA citation and formatting style, not the 8th which is now the
current edition.
Student Name
Dr. Gina Peterman
English 204
9 Nov. 2012
Fight to Flight: Spiritual Transcendence in “A White Heron”
“A White Heron,” one of Sarah Orne Jewett’s best known works, has been lauded for its
“heroic struggle, of dangerous adventure” (Mobley 53), “feminine conflict between
heterosexuality and selfhood” (Sherman 165), and “encounter between…psychological
and…historical development of America” (Hovett 170). Despite the varied interpretations of
Jewett’s story, critics all focus their attention on the struggle they see within “A White Heron.”
Jewett may comment on urbanization and critique gender roles in her story, but she makes the
most lasting impact on her reader through her depiction of a personal, spiritual struggle. Through
the character Sylvia in “A White Heron,” Sarah Orne Jewett shows that the flight to spiritual
transcendence involves a lonely struggle and a child-like faith.
While “A White Heron” is not merely a story of transition between urban and rural life,
the contact Sylvia has with nature does lay the foundation for her spiritual journey. Sylvia, a
nine-year-old girl who “had tried to grow for eight years in a crowded manufacturing town”
(523), feels surprisingly at home at her grandmother’s farm in the woods, quickly finding
companionship with the birds and even Mistress Moolly, her grandmother’s ornery old milk cow.
This transition between city and country life is a theme in several of Jewett’s other works; after
reading Harriet Beecher Stowe’s The Pearl of Orr Island as a teenager, she “sought…to acquaint
present with past and urban with rural” (Gidmark 214). In “A White Heron,” however, Sylvia’s
introduction to the rural scene is only the beginning; the real journey starts with the arrival of the
Piercing her world with a “whistle, determined, and somewhat aggressive” (523), the
tall, gun-toting stranger steps into Sylvia’s life armed with friendly conversation, presents and
promises, and just one favor to ask of her. As Sylvia listens to the sportsman explain “many
things about the birds” (525), she is almost ready to lead him to the white heron he longs to place
beside the “dozens and dozens” of birds already in his collection (525). Filled with “loving
admiration” for the stranger (526), flattered by presents, and tempted with promises of money,
Sylvia has all the reasons any nine-year-old would need to lead the young man to the object he
desires. “A White Heron,” however, does not narrate the actions of a typical nine-year-old child
but tells the story of an intense spiritual journey that transcends the limitations of time. In fact, at
the age of forty eight, Sarah Orne Jewett wrote, “This is my birthday, and I am always nine years
old” (Hovett 166). Jewett’s identification with the age of her heroine, coupled with her view of
age as a series of permanent spiritual landmarks rather than a temporal measurement of life,
shows that she has a message to share in “A White Heron” which is both intensely personal and
unquestionably spiritual.
Jewett’s unconventional view of age influences the way in which she portrays growth and
maturity. In contrast to the idea that “growing up” involves increased exposure to the world
through society, Jewett shows Sylvia’s journey of maturation through her intensifying connection
to nature. In Folk Roots and Mythic Wings, Marilyn Mobley describes Sylvia’s journey as “more
an upward than an outward one” (52), emphasizing the value of “spiritual knowledge…from a
communion with nature over more temporal ways of knowing and being in the world” (56).
Through these observations, Mobley calls the reader’s attention to the direction of Sylvia’s
relationship with the natural world. As the untamed energy and freedom of nature fills Sylvia
throughout the story, she is not anchored more firmly to the rural setting but rather is introduced
to a new perspective, an existence far above the trees and animals she loves. This wild beauty of
the world cries out to Sylvia with increasing volume and urgency until she is forced to choose
between elevating her relationship with nature in a spiritual flight or remaining forever
grounded in an impersonal admiration of the scenic place she calls home.
Jewett’s use of bird imagery in “A White Heron” shows even the most literal reader her
intention of documenting a flight through the character of Sylvia. When Sylvia struggles to the
top of the old pine, trying to glimpse the elusive white heron, her “bare feet and fingers…pinched
and held like bird claws” (527). Even the tree she climbs “caught and held her and scratched her
like angry talons…” (527). In Sarah Orne Jewett, an American Persephone, Sarah Sherman
observes that this “language suggests that Sylvia, pine, and heron share in some common
identity” (158). Before this moment, Sylvia is seen as a “companion” to her grandmother’s old
cow (523), a friendly provider to the birds (524), and a careful observer of all the animals,
including a hop-toad (525). Her grandmother even comments that “the wild creatures counts her
one o’ themselves” (524), but Sylvia is never described as acting or looking like one of the
animals. Jewett saves that association for the moment when Sylvia goes beyond doing what
simply comes natural to her; only when Sylvia dares to explore the place where “her
grandmother had warned her that she might sink…and never be heard of more” does she receive
this new identity (525). When Sylvia ventured out of her comfortable home in the woods to reach
a foreboding swampland and scale “a great pine-tree…the last of its generation” (526), she
experienced the personal struggle that Jewett hints to her reader is crucial to spiritual
When Sylvia does finally reach the top of the tree, Jewett poses the question, “…was this
wonderful sight and pageant of the world the only reward for having climbed to such a giddy
height?” (527). The very question implies that Sylvia’s experience is going to have a much more
far-reaching implication for her than momentary aesthetic gratification. Sylvia’s intense, personal
communion with nature, elevated by her new perspective of the birds and trees, leads her to feel
“as if she too could go flying” (527). This transcendent emotion is part of what Theodore Roszak
considers the “old and formidable tradition” of flying (355). He asserts that spiritual
transcendence in literature is part of a “vision-flight,” which is one of the “supreme symbols of
human culture” found in “thousands of religious and artistic expressions” (355). Roszak argues
that the statements “I flew” and “I felt as if I was flying” should not be distinguished from each
other because “the symbol (of flight) means the experience” (356). Jewett’s remark that Sylvia
feels “as if she too could go flying” (527), therefore, is not a clichéd expression of emotion but
rather a link to the timeless, universal desire to explore the mysterious beyond and reach a higher
plane of purpose.
The age-old quest for transcendence is always taken by a dreamer who is unable to
escape feelings of alienation and displacement. In her journey to spiritual transcendence, Sylvia
is no exception. Her struggle is a lonely one, not even shared by the young sportsman. Sylvia’s
friendship with the ornithologist and her close relationship to her grandmother, however, seem to
indicate that they are accompanying her on her journey. Sylvia’s one walk with the young
sportsman in the woods moves her from fearful acceptance to “loving admiration” to the
beginning of “a dream of love” (526). She feels this strong connection to the ornithologist
because he still fosters his childhood love of birds; he not only tells her the scientific
explanations of the birds but also speaks to her about “what [the birds] did with themselves”
(525), introducing her to them as his friends, full of emotion and life. Sylvia’s grandmother, on
the other hand, does not roam the woods with Sylvia, but she does express her love for nature and
for Sylvia within her “clean and comfortable…little dwelling” (524). Mrs. Tilley takes pride in
her neat house, but she speaks “affectionately” about Sylvia turning their home into a shelter for
all “the wild creaturs” (524). The communion Mrs. Tilley and the sportsman have with both
nature and Sylvia echo the compassionate relationship Sylvia herself has with the animals. This
tender-heartedness indicates that Mrs. Tilley and the ornithologist have the potential to fly with
Sylvia and suggests that they too may have already left the cares of this world and gone “flying
away among the clouds” (527).
The adults’ absence during the critical moments of Sylvia’s struggle, however, indicate
that Mrs. Tilley and the ornithologist are far removed from her journey to spiritual transcendence.
The distance between her and the two adults is first evidenced the night before Sylvia climbs the
old pine tree, taking her first deliberate ascension to a higher spiritual plane. Sylvia’s “great
design” (526), the plan to climb to the top of tallest pine tree to catch a glimpse of the heron,
keeps her awake all night; she is filled with a “new excitement” as she realizes that if she climbs
the old tree at the break of day, she will be able to “see all the world” (526). Her grandmother
and the guest, however, are not filled with her dreams and remain “sound asleep” (526).
Not only do the adults sleep through an opportunity to rise above the world they know
but they also wake with worldly cares immediately on their minds. When Mrs. Tilley rises,
startled by Sylvia’s empty bed, she is described as “the busy old grandmother” shouting Sylvia’s
name (528). The guest is shown waking up “from a dream, and remembering his day’s pleasure”
(528), eager to press Sylvia further for the location of the white heron. Full of worry and nervous
energy, they are “stand[ing] in the door together,” ready to “question” Sylvia when she returns
home, “her worn old frock…torn and tattered, and smeared with pine pitch” (528). The adults do
not await a story about her transcendent climb; they simply want the facts about the coveted
white heron. Mrs. Tilley does not even show concern about Sylvia’s ripped clothes but “fretfully
rebukes” her for going in search of the heron alone (528). The ornithologist does not speak, but
his pleading eyes show that he is aware of the pain he is causing Sylvia; he knows that he “can
make [Sylvia] rich with money…and [she is] poor now” (528). The guest seems so close to
spiritual flight at several moments in the story that the reader is left wondering, like Sylvia, “why
he killed the very birds he seemed to like so much” (526). Worldly ambition ultimately keeps
him from viewing nature as Sylvia does, just as Mrs. Tilley’s fear of the unknown holds her back
from fulfilling her spiritual potential.
Unlike Mrs. Tilley and the ornithologist, Sylvia is not restrained by inner fears or
worldly goals. She is able to achieve spiritual transcendence because she is confident and
comfortable enough in her wordless world to enter into the greater, mysterious silence of the
universe. In her article “Unanswered Questions, Unquestioned Voices: Silence in ‘A White
Heron’,” Lynn Dolberg comments on Sylvia’s reticence, asserting that “the great power present
throughout this story is the power of silence” (126). In the pages of “A White Heron,” Sylvia
takes a quiet flight, rising from a simple communion with nature to a more spiritual
understanding of the world; she speaks only when questioned by the stranger. In fact, she feels
tempted to verbally express her feelings only when she sees the ornithologist’s “kind, appealing
eyes…looking straight in her own,” “but Sylvia does not speak after all” (528). For Sylvia,
verbally expressing what she has experienced is not an option. She feels that she “must keep
silence” and that she “cannot speak” (528). She understands, unlike her grandmother and the
ornithologist, that spiritual transcendence must be achieved in isolation and is not the product of
even the noblest aspirations like hospitality or intellectual pursuit. Sylvia embodies the
“empowering and intimate silence” that Dolberg sees in all of Jewett’s works (124).
The secret to Sylvia’s silence is held in Jewett’s short but revealing description of the
early-morning climber as “small and silly Sylvia” (527). Full of expectations and naïve enough to
be free from worry, Sylvia approaches the tree not as a mature woman but as a curious child.
This attitude of expectant, innocent faith is the most distinguishing trait between Sylvia and the
two adults in her life. Jewett introduces Sylvia as a “little girl” in the very first paragraph of the
story and, at the end of the story, begs the reader, “Bring your gifts and graces and tell your
secrets to this lonely country child” (528). Sylvia’s simple, child-like faith empowers her to keep
climbing the towering tree without any assistance, but her grandmother’s worries and the
ornithologist’s aspirations trap them indoors, waiting for someone else to lead them to what they
believe can make them happy.
Jewett shows her reader that spiritual flight is possible for each person if he will
approach the obstacle between himself and transcendence with a hopeful innocence. Each of the
three main characters, Sylvia, Mrs. Tilley, and the young sportsman, share a love for nature,
partake in sincere friendship, and are not fully satisfied with their lives. These traits make each of
them a prime candidate for spiritual flight. Sylvia’s grandmother confides to the ornithologist that
“I’d ha’ seen the world myself if it had been so I could” (524), expressing the desire to follow her
son Dan in his journey from home. The ornithologist tells Sylvia that he has “been at it (bird
collecting) since [he] was a boy” (525), which shows that he has not yet reached his level of
satisfaction in his search for the creatures of flight. Sylvia, however, shares no words of remorse
or desire to continue the search; she knows what she needs, and she sacrifices physical comfort
and social acceptance to reach the plane of spiritual transcendence.
In the country setting of “A White Heron,” Jewett invites her reader to step back to view
the busy world and the people who live in it. In creating the character Sylvia, Jewett challenges
the reader not only to embrace nature but also to actively take flight, rising above the world in an
act of spiritual transcendence. Sylvia had to overcome the looming obstacle of distance, which
was embodied in the physical structure of the old pine tree as well as her detached relationship
with the two adults in her life. She overcame this barrier with the simple faith of youth and an
empowering silence. Jewett’s final scene of “A White Heron,” in which the reader is urged to
take an honest look at Sylvia’s life after her spiritual flight, does not conclude with wise words
from Sylvia but rather ends with the narrator’s perspective of the silent, thoughtful Sylvia. This
silence is Jewett’s gift to her reader, allowing him to question whether he stands at the doorway
of the house with a grandmother’s regret, waits with the ornithologist’s pleading eyes to be
fulfilled by another’s accomplishment, or is standing speechless before skeptics who want to
know just where he has been.
Works Cited
Dolberg, Lynn. “Unanswered Questions, Unquestioned Voices: Silence in ‘A White Heron’.”
Colby Quarterly 34.2 (1998): 123-132. OneSearch. Web. 10 Oct. 2012.
Gidmark, Jill B. “Sarah Orne Jewett.” Encyclopedia of American Literature of the Sea & Great
Lakes. Westport: Greenwood, 2000. OneSearch. Web. 13 Oct. 2012.
Hovet, Theodore R. “America’s ‘Lonely Country Child’: The Theme of Separation in Sarah Orne
Jewett’s ‘A White Heron’.” Colby Quarterly 14.3 (1978): 166-171. OneSearch. Web. 13
Oct. 2012.
Jewett, Sarah Orne. “A White Heron.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Nina
Baym. 7th ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 2007. 522-528. Print.
Mobley, Marilyn Sanders. Folk Roots and Mythic Writings in Sarah Orne Jewett and Toni
Morrison: The Cultural Function of Narrative. United States of America: Louisiana State
UP, 1994. Print.
Roszak, Theodore. Where the Wasteland Ends. New York: Doubleday, 1972. Print.
Sherman, Sarah Way. Sarah Orne Jewett, an American Persephone. Hanover: U of New
England P, 1989. Print.
______ In your copies of the research sources listed on your Works Cited page, highlight quotations and
ideas that you included in your paper either as direct quotes or as paraphrases.
______ Make sure you have an appropriate and engaging title.
______ Underline (or use italic font for) your thesis statement.
______ Upload your final draft (with WC page attached) into Bb Assignments.
______ Place the following in an 8 ½ x 11 (or larger if necessary) manila envelope:
______ One printed, hard copy of your finalized paper, which I will grade and return to you. On
the first page of that paper, make sure that you have the following info. in the upper lefthand
corner (per MLA style):
Full Name
ENGL 204
Dr. Gina Peterman
Research Paper Final Draft
______ All drafts: minimum of 3 (1st rough draft plus 2 revisions—each draft labeled
accordingly and STAPLED: Draft 1, revised into Draft 2, revised into Final
______ Copies of secondary (research) sources from the Works Cited page (each source stapled
and clearly identified)
______ Put the following information on the front of your packet:
Full Name
ENGL 204
TTh 11:00 [or 12:30]
Spring 2018
Dr. Gina Peterman
REMEMBER: I do not read papers submitted with an incomplete packet.
Research Paper Grading Procedure
When grading your essay, I begin by first checking for the following problems that constitute an automatic
• Incomplete research packet
• Paper not uploaded to
• Does not meet research requirement
• does not include research or
• does not include minimum # of secondary (research) sources or
• does not include approved types of sources
• Plagiarism (which carries additional consequences)
If your paper does not make the above egregious errors, I then evaluate it according to the criteria listed
below. Note: successfully meeting the above qualities does not guarantee a passing grade; if your essay
meets those initial basic requirements, I then read it carefully to determine the quality of your presentation
by asking the following questions:
Contents, Organization, and Style
• Does the paper present
• a clear, narrowly-defined claim (thesis statement)?
• clear topic sentences that govern the paragraphs?
• topic sentences that present ideas to support/prove the claim?
• fully developed ideas?
• rhetorical logic?
• sufficient, selective secondary (research) support for your assertions?
• Is this paper clearly organized (unified and coherent)
• as a whole?
• within each paragraph?
• Does this paper flow smoothly with appropriate transitions and sophisticated sentence structure and
• Does this paper use current MLA documentation style correctly?
• Does this paper use quotation marks and/or blocking (for quotations of 4+ lines) to indicate direct
• Are paraphrases accurate?
• Are all quotations and paraphrases documented?
Grammar, Mechanics, Format, and Revision
• Is the paper free from errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar?
• Does the paper use MLA margins and line-spacing, and required font style and size?
• Do working drafts show substantive revision?
Research Source Requirements
• Does the paper include the minimum number of quality secondary sources? [if not, grade is docked one
letter for each number of sources below minimum; i.e., a B-quality literary analysis will earn a D if
paper included only 3 acceptable critical sources]
• A paper that does not meet the minimum length is docked one letter-grade for each page short of that
required length (e.g., at best a 6-page paper can earn only a B, a 5-page paper only a C, etc.)
Appropriate tone
structure variety
worthwhile idea
Precise diction
Honesty (not pretentious)
Logical organization
Logical emphasis
Thoughtful presentation
Major Mechanical Errors Other Issues
Comma splice or fused sentence Failing to fulfill assignment
Fragment Superficial ideas
Lack of agreement (subject-verb; antecedent-pronoun) Inadequately stating or developing thesis
Unclear pronoun reference Inappropriate digressions
Dangling modifiers Lack of coherence
Misplaced modifiers Shifts (tense; mood; pt. of view)
Erroneous punctuation Inappropriate diction or idiom
Frequent misspellings Immature style
Careless or slovenly presentation
The superior paper (A)–with its clear, logical, and thought-provoking ideas–shows originality and stylistic
maturity in stating and clearly developing a thesis (central idea). It has all of the positive qualities of good writing
(including meticulous grammar and mechanics). Directly quoted passages are smoothly and logically integrated into
the writer’s own text and are documented accurately according to current MLA (Modern Language Association)
style standards. It fulfills the requirements of the assignment.
The good paper (B) has a clearly stated central idea which is logically and adequately developed with ample
illustration. Although it is well written (strong organization and grammar), it may lack the degree of originality of
thought and style found in the superior paper, but in general is not derivative or clichéd. However, it lacks the
degree of sharpness and/or memorable traits of the A paper (that “wow” factor that stands out above the other essays
typical of writing produced in this course). Directly quoted passages are smoothly and logically integrated into the
writer’s own text and are documented accurately according to current MLA style standards. It fulfills the
requirements of the assignment.
The average paper (C) is an adequate college paper which states a central idea and develops it fairly well. It is
relatively free of mechanical defects. However, it is predictable in thought and expression, competent but ordinary
and maybe even trite. Its development of ideas might be somewhat vague or incomplete or the expression of those
ideas general and lacking effective illustration. Directly quoted passages are smoothly and logically integrated into
the writer’s own text and are documented accurately according to current MLA style standards. It fulfills the
requirements of the assignment.
The below average paper (D) is often little more than a skeleton of idea-development. It fails to state clearly a
main idea or to develop the main idea clearly, coherently, or adequately. It often has some serious mechanical
problems. It is usually vague in its points and awkward or confusing in its attempt at expressing those points.
Stylistically it is monotonous or linguistically or structurally immature. Directly quoted passages are smoothly and
logically integrated into the writer’s own text and are documented accurately according to current MLA style
standards. It fulfills the basic requirements of the assignment.
The failing paper indicates either confusion about the assignment or lack of thought and/or purpose. It usually fails
to state a main thesis and does not develop its ideas clearly, coherently, thoroughly, or otherwise effectively. It may
have no specific point, present no logical organization of ideas. It may fail to fulfill the assignment requirements, or
fail to avoid multiple errors in use of language and mechanics. The “F” paper does not fulfill the requirements of
the assignment. The most serious reason that fails a paper is plagiarism, which, of course, results in more
damaging consequences than a mere F on the assignment.
NOTE: Sloppiness will demote any paper by at least one letter grade. Always take pride in your work.
DESCRIPTION OF A SUPERIOR ESSAY (earns an “A,” as did the above sample paper)
I. Strong introduction
A. sets up the central idea (and clearly states that central idea in a thesis statement that is presented at the
end of the introduction)
B. sets up expectations for the paper–suggests what the major idea of the paper will be (reader
C. gets the reader’s attention
D. convinces the reader that the writing is significant (writer’s justification for essay)
II. Strong conclusion
A. is relevant to the topic
B. keeps interest; does not fizzle
C. does more than summarize; it either redefines the central idea, offers solution, ties everything together,
makes open-minded assumptions and recognizes implications, presents an unusual twist, or adds new
insight by showing a lesson learned
III. Organization and unity
A. strong sense of purpose: has a controlling idea; shows a clear reason for writing
B. essay stays on the thesis
C. each body paragraph states and develops one topic (main idea) that advances the thesis; each sentence
helps to develop the paragraph’s topic idea
D. paragraphs and sentences are fluid, moving without jolts or digressions
E. sentences flow together with clear transitions
F. paragraphs flow together with clear transitions
IV. Development
A. title sets up (previews) the paper
B. paper presents/focuses on narrowed topic
C. thesis (central idea) is fully developed
D. topic sentence of each body paragraph supplies key word or idea and paragraph breaks word or idea
into its component
E. concreteness: examples and details, imagery, definition
F. sense of completeness with each paragraph and with essay
V. Original expressions
A. avoids clichés
B. thesis and suppoprt points present a fresh approach to the general topic
C. exhibits careful thinking; is perceptive
D. shows imagination
VI. Strong sense of audience
A. reader can identify the audience
B. subject matter and examples are geared to a specific audience
VII. Strong sense of voice
A. writer assumes a clear identity
B. shows personality
C. avoids generic and empty writing; is individualized as a piece of writing
D. appropriate voice for presenting the ideas
VIII. Clarity
A. makes sense (coherent, logical)
B. is not vague
C. is grammatically accurate; maintains interest with sentence variety
D. is mechanically accurate
IX. Diction
A. appropriate
B. economical
C. vivid
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