EL 3500 Prof. Douglas-Pross
Literary Analysis Paper
Welcome to the thematic literary analysis paper. The writing assignment itself is quite similar to that of your previous
paper: choose a narrowly defined topic or set of topics within a set of stories, and describe and analyze them by
evaluating their function and effectiveness as communicative techniques. The assignment is about making
connections; choose stories that share valuable key features or that approach their topics in unique yet comparable
ways. Select a suitably narrow set of rhetorical elements or literary devices and use them as a “lens” through which
to analyze the stories you have chosen. You will need a thesis statement at the outset of your paper, in the
introductory paragraph, in which you posit your evaluation of the significance of a specific rhetorical strategy or set
of literary devices, effects, or authorial intention(s). Remember to introduce and briefly summarize the novel before
you actually begin your analysis. Remember, comparable does not mean the “same.” You should be looking for
similarities among difference. Identify how each story is unique and different, while at the same time, still noting
what common features or emphasis that the stories have in common. In order to support your line of thinking, it is
critical to cite a lot of specific examples from the stories. Textual evidence is the basis for your analysis. Your paper
will collapse if you do not have a strong thesis, textual evidence, and heavy literary or rhetorical analysis. You have
completed several Key Question assignments in this unit. Reread the questions and your answers to help focus your
thesis ideas; this may also help you to pick a prompt.
Keep in mind that I am not asking you to weigh in on the subject matter of Yamanaka’s writing: I do not want to
know, for example, if you believe she has created a faithful rendering of “real” Hawaiians Americans in the novel.
This is not a historical paper or a cultural critique: you may of course discuss relevant issues of race and class,
historical oppression, etc. in your analysis, but the focus is the literature. Your job in this paper is to look closely at
the writing and to examine Yamanaka’s storytelling up close in order to discover how she conveys meaning through
the medium of the novel.
Allow plenty of time to proofread your work and think about getting someone else’s help: often others can see
language and organization problems more clearly that you can. Successful papers will contain limited errors. There
should be no sentence fragments or errors in noun-pronoun or subject-verb agreement. Write your essay in the third
person present tense throughout, without contractions or clang speech. Editing your work is all the more important
to your overall grade.
Be specific in your argumentation: Develop a sound central argument in your introductory paragraph that revolves
around a single important point you wish to make about the short story collection in your opening paragraph.
Develop your body paragraphs by announcing a single supporting point, then by introducing and inserting a
quotation (textual evidence) to provide evidence of your point, then by explaining and discussing that evidence and
tying it back to the main point of your paragraph, which ultimately serves your thesis argument. Use parenthetical
citations following each quotation and follow all other formatting guidelines outlined in the MLA Mini Guide on
Blackboard. If you fail to cite the language used by another author, even if it is an accident and not intentional, it
will still be considered plagiarism and the paper will incur a failing grade and you may be subject to disciplinary
actions on behalf of the College.
Before uploading your paper, include your full name in the file name, like this: Last Name_First Name_ Assignment
Title.docx. Papers must adhere to MLA formatting, standard English writing conventions, and contain a Work Cited
page. A successful paper should range between five to six double spaced pages, not including the Work Cited page.
Papers are due Monday March 26, 2018 at 11:59 pm. All papers must be submitted as a Word document and
uploaded to the assignment page on Blackboard. I will not accept late and/or emailed papers.
1. Language is an issue difficult to avoid in Yamanaka’s stories, as she explicitly makes use of Pidgin as the primary
language of many characters, in contrast to the few characters who use Standard English. Yamanaka claims she
simply wanted to use her own “voice” to tell her stories. Reviewers seem to uniformly praise her use of Pidgin as
“vibrant” in addition to a slew of ethnically-charged adjectives, but are there more complicated ways to think about
it? What about Pidgin’s plantation origins? What is the a/effect of reading a work of fiction in which most readers
continually encounter language they do not fully understand?
2. Brand vs. Homemade—and the desirability of brand names—is an important distinction that Lovey makes a
number of time in the novel. Lovey’s preoccupation with brand names raises issues of American consumerism and
the influence of popular culture and advertisements. From the cultural references given throughout the novel, Lovey
would have been born around the time of Hawaii’s statehood—as was Yamanaka—making her a first generation
“native” American. Is Lovey simply a child consumer, or does her penchant for brand name goods and mainstream
popular culture icons speak to a larger more troubling issue?
3. Who’s to blame for all of this insensitivity, violence, cruelty, neglectful parenting, gratuitous bloodshed? Is
Yamanaka attempting to demonstrate issues of race, class, gender, ethnicity, authenticity, and imperialism specific
to Hawaii? How can we explain Larry’s cruelty, or Lovey’s cluelessness, for example? What values or systems, if
any, is Yamanaka critiquing? Are instances of barbarity strategic foils to the beautiful, tranquil illusion many
Mainland Americans have of Hawaii?
4. What are the imperial silences, strategic or otherwise of the work? That is the significance of the relative lack of
focus on the imperial origins of Hawaii in its annexation and eventual statehood—both the Plantation labor system
or of native Hawaiians and the sovereignty movements that have been active since the 1960s? Is the senseless
violence inflicted upon animals or their commercially motivated fates treated as a form of silence? Can this be
applied more generally to the work? To what extent can we have an eco-critical reading of the text?
5. Yamanaka’s novel places a great emphasis on Hawaiian food and food culture, featuring an array of Japanese,
Korean, Filipino, Portuguese, and Puerto Rican food. Why does the author detail the production—from slaughter,
preparation, to consumption—of food? Can the amalgam of foods featured in the novel be interpreted symbolically
for Hawaii’s ethnic hybridity and/or history of Hawaiian culture and traditions? On the other hand, Yamanaka also
references Spam on several occasions. What influence has mainland food culture had on Hawaii’s food traditions?