Swimming Upstream

Choose one of the assigned topics and write a formal literary essay of 600-700 words in which you demonstrate your ability to analyze a work of short fiction focusing on the writer’s use of symbolism to convey some aspect of message/theme. Keep a couple things in mind: you will want to support your ideas with examples and details from the story; however, avoid re-telling the story. Second, this is a literary essay, not a sociology paper; as such, you will want to focus on the story itself and avoid generalizing about issues touched on in the stories such as alcoholism, racism, and homophobia.

TOPICS:
1. In Beth Brant’s short story “Swimming Upstream,” Anna Mae goes through a series of changes after her son dies; write an essay in which you analyze the process she undergoes. For example, she is described as a “ghost” walking around her own house, and she comes very close to giving up her hard-won sobriety. What exactly happens to her when she takes her unopened bottle of wine to the falls? Be careful not to simply re-tell the story. Some of the things you may wish to consider: the symbolism of Torn Fin; the significance of the circle (Is the circle a symbol as well?); water as a powerful yet contradictory force.

2. In her collection of stories entitled Traplines, Eden Robinson exploits metaphors of pursuit and entrapment. The title story in that collection,“Traplines,” is a powerful coming-of-age story that many readers find troubling because they see no realistic hope of escape for Will, the story’s protagonist. Using the idea that the title of the story is a metaphor for Will’s seemingly inescapable destiny, write an essay examining Will’s quest to find a safe place. If you wish you may include in your discussion an exploration of the parallels between Will and the “flawless” marten, which is said to be “rare in these parts” (378).
ASSIGNMENT STEPS:
1. Begin thinking about your essay and brainstorming as soon as possible.
2. NOTE: If you did not receive a passing grade on Essay #1, consult me and seek help at Student Success or at the Writing Center in the English Department. I want to emphasize, though, that all of you could benefit from extra help.
3. Write at least two drafts.
4. Use your “Essay Writing Guidelines” hand-out as a checklist.
5. Underline your thesis statement and each topic sentence.
6. Underline your re-worded thesis statement.
7. Include at least three direct quotations and a works cited list (use MLA format).
8. Follow all the rules relating to MLA format.
9. Since this is a formal literary essay, you will want to avoid using the first person.

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