You are not logged in. Please login or register.
How to Write a Good Essay on English Literature in 5 Easy Steps
To write a good essay on English literature, you need to do five things:
1) Understand the purpose of writing essays about literature.
2) Understand how to understand a work of literature.
3) Define "English."
4) Focus your essay.
5) Write your essay.
Let's take these in order.
1) Purpose. There are two closely related purposes of writing essays about literature. Instructors have you write them to make you examine literary works more closely. These works deserve your attention. They have moved people to tears and express the greatest thoughts and feelings of humanity in the best-known writing. As a student, the purpose of writing such an essay is to demonstrate that you understand this work fully and deeply.
2) Understanding. But how do you get that understanding? You get it by reviewing the work closely and repeatedly, and by looking at content, form, and function. You might think of the process as taking an engine apart and putting it back together. In the process, you should come to understand this particular "engine" (literary work) well. To do so, examine each choice made by the author until you can explain how it relates to the whole. Slow down, and take all elements of the work into account: sound, shape on the page, structure (chapter length, number of chapters, etc.), point of view, and so on. Assemble a list and move through it, always keeping the larger purposes of the essay in mind.
3) English. Don't take the term "English" for granted. It's been the subject of a lot of debate over the centuries, and you want to know how you're using it. Research the work's historical period and the author, and take what you learn to define your use of "English." Where is the author from? How did that location define itself during this period in relation to England—and how does it show up in the work?
4) Focus. As you write a literary essay, you argue for a specific interpretation of the work. The essential focus of your essay should be expressed in the thesis statement. Though there are many ways to phrase a thesis statement, you should always be able to translate it to a statement like this: "In this essay, I will prove ___ about this work." Your focus must relate to the purposes of literary essays. You should always be proving that you understand this work on a profound level, but also that you understand the larger meaning of this literary form, this period of English literature, writing, and humanity. Focusing well requires a lot of reflection.
5) Write the essay. This is where most people start. Don't. If you start here, you're likely to find the process hard and the result mediocre. Instead, do the other steps first. Come to the writing stage with a pile of notes and a clear sense of your focus regarding the work. Then start your essay with a clearly defined introduction that hooks your readers' interest and ends with a clearly stated thesis. Write three or more body paragraphs, each of which makes points that support your thesis, points that you illustrate with specific evidence from the work itself and your outside research. Provide transitions between each paragraph that guide your readers to a conclusion that sums up the essay, expresses what you learned by writing the essay, and, in the best possible world, rewards readers for reading your essay by teaching them something new. However, before you give the essay to them, review it. Make sure it completes its functions. Then proofread it until the work is error-free. You want every line of your essay to quietly declare, "You can trust me. I understand this work."
Tips for a personal essay.
... I am a girl who sits on her back porch at midnight thinking about conflicts between determinism and free will, but I am also a girl who watches Buffy the Vampire Slayer religiously and can quote it word for word. I love my mother's pumpkin pie, talking late at night to friends about things that we'd never reveal during the daylight, and driving with the sunroof open and the stereo turned up.
These things are all a part of me, but not the whole story. In fact, ...
... I was rushing to feed the hissing baby owl when ... splat! The dish of quartered mice fell from my hands, its gooey contents scattering all over the floor of the infirmary. I grabbed a bottle of disinfectant and some paper towels, and fell to my knees to clean up the mess.
Two weeks prior, I had volunteered to raise three newborn American barn owls ...
... Everything parents do when you're 13 is humiliating because it's the age when kids are trying to define themselves and fit in. I knew I wanted to be independent and cool, and it just wasn't cool to have a 45-year-old dad who ...
... Yes, people do change. Michael showed me that people value different things, and people want different things out of life. He helped me to discover my true ideas and beliefs, two things I've never had to question. I still argue over abortion, religion and politics with my own opinionated friends, but I will never live life according to anyone's rules except my own. While what he became hurts, what he once was makes me smile -- over Goodnight Moon, chunky peanut butter or the Counting Crows.
... Music is the most ephemeral art. No piece of music is ever played the same way twice, and as soon as a sound, a note or a feeling has been produced, it is gone, no matter how valiantly I try to recapture it. Such is my desperation to hold onto Elgar's "Nimrod" from the Enigma Variations, played Feb. 26, 2000, in an All-State Orchestra rehearsal. That was the moment when I discovered music, or rather, discovered myself, the orchestra, my violin, my passion and my purpose in life. Under the baton of a brilliant conductor, who knew music's secret which had yet to reveal itself to us, the entire orchestra was swept away with this short but beautiful piece of music, which nobody had practiced beforehand because it looked too easy. The first time we ever played it as an orchestra was the most magical, and though all the violinists and cellists begged the conductor to spend more rehearsal time on it, "Nimrod" was never the same as when it had crept up on us, unknowing, and astounded us with its profoundness and simplicity.
4. Use short quotations--only a few words--as part of your own sentence.
Example: In "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For," Thoreau states that his retreat to the woods around Walden Pond was motivated by his desire "to live deliberately" and to face only "the essential facts of life."
Example: Thoreau argues that people blindly accept "shams and delusions" as the "soundest truths," while regarding reality as "fabulous."
Example: Although Thoreau "drink[s] at" the stream of Time, he can "detect how shallow it is."
When you integrate quotations in this way, you do not use any special punctuation. Instead, you should punctuate the sentence just as you would if all of the words were your own. No punctuation is needed in the sentences above in part because the sentences do not follow the pattern explained under number 1 and 2 above: there is not a complete sentence in front of the quotations, and a word such as "says," "said," or "asks" does not appear directly in front of the quoted words.
Survival typically refers to enduring circumstances or situations that may challenge a person's well-being and life, or to persevering through trials and hardships. Natural disasters, violent conflicts, war and even economic hardships can trigger a human's survival instinct. Essays on survival can be written from many angles, but, no matter which angle he or she takes, the writer should identify the elements needed to survive the situation that is being examined.
1. Decide if the essay will be an analysis of a true survival story or a survival guide for a specific situation. This will dictate the set of circumstances about which you'll write.
2. Write a thesis statement to narrow your topic and to summarize what the essay will prove.
3. Conduct research on your topic. Consider the impact of the climate, geography, social and political problems, and regional wildlife have on your topic. Find true survival stories with similar circumstances to your problem. Investigate existing resources like survival guides and government resources.
4. Create an outline for the essay. Organize your ideas by listing them in order from most important to least important. Group similar or supportive ideas together, and take note of any research that will support the arguments.
1. Introduce your topic and thesis statement in the first paragraph.
2. Use the following paragraphs to support your thesis statement. Describe the landscape the essay focuses on, including details of the weather, terrain, food and water sources, and potential dangers. Analyze true survival stories that relate to your topic, focusing on what actions the people took and the outcomes of those actions.
3. Provide counter-arguments for your thesis, if any exist. This might include alternative survival techniques or stories from survivors who have put forth different information. Prove to the reader why your thesis is correct by using your supportive evidence.
4. Conclude the essay by restating your thesis and referencing the arguments and research that is presented in the essay.
5. Write a bibliography or works cited page for any research used in the essay according to your instructor's guidelines.
The UVic Writer's Guide
Essay Writing: An Introduction
Writing As A Process
Types of Essays
The Expository Essay
The Persuasive Essay
The Informal Essay
The Research Essay
The Literary Essay
Writing Your Essay: Getting Started
Narrowing Your Topic
The Statement Of Your Thesis
When You Don't Know Enough About A Subject To Form A Thesis
Writing Your Essay: Organizing It
Methods Of Organization
The Structure Of The Outline
Writing Your Essay: Getting It Down
Audience And Tone
The First Draft
The Structure Of An Introduction
The Length Of The Introduction
The Body Of The Essay
Proofreading and Presenting Your Essay
A Sample Title Page
Doing A Research Essay
Handling Contradictory Evidence
Doing Exam Essays
Before You Write
Common Problems Writing Essays
Summary Of Common Problems
Some Sample Essays To Look At
An Expository Essay
A Literary Essay
Literary Essay Sample
Hedda Gabler's Last Dance
One of the social issues dealt with in Ibsen's problem plays is the oppression of women by conventions limiting them to a domestic life. In Hedda Gabler the heroine struggles to satisfy her ambitious and independent intellect within the narrow role society allows her. Unable to be creative in the way she desires, Hedda's passions become destructive both to others and herself.
Raised by a general (Ibsen 1444), Hedda has the character of a leader and is wholly unsuited to the role of "suburban housewife" (1461). Since she is unable to have the authority she craves, she exercises power by manipulating her husband George. She tells Thea, "I want the power to shape a man's destiny" (1483). Hedda's unsuitability for her domestic role is also shown by her impatience and evasiveness at any reference to her pregnancy. She confides to Judge Brack, "I've no leanings in that direction" (1471). Hedda desires intellectual creativity, not just the procreative power that binds her to a limited social function. But because her only means of exercising power is through a "credulous" husband (1490), Hedda envies Thea's rich intellectual partnership with Eilert Loevborg (1484), which produces as their creative "child" a bold treatise on the future of society (1473-74, 1494). Hedda's rivalry with Thea for power over Eilert is a conflict between Hedda's dominating intellect (symbolized by her pistols) and the traditionally feminine power of beauty and love (symbolized by Thea's long hair).
Because Hedda lacks Thea's courage to leave her husband and risk ostracism, she tries to satisfy her intellect within society's constraints. First she seeks power through wealth and social status, marrying George on the condition she can "keep open house" and have "a liveried footman" (1464). But George's small means leave her frustrated by "wretched poverty" (1471), while her social aspirations oppress her with the fear of scandal. Secondly, Hedda achieves a balance of security and independence by marrying a dull academic, who is easily dominated and occupies himself "rooting around in libraries" (1466). But in doing so she shuts herself within a passionless marriage as tedious as a long train ride with a dull companion (1467-68). Finally, Hedda alleviates her boredom by turning to Judge Brack as a confidant: someone with whom she can flirt and speak openly as an equal. But Brack is not "a loyal friend" (1461); rather, just as Thea's husband "finds [her] useful" to take care of him (1458), Brack exploits Hedda's isolation and powerlessness for his own pleasure.
Hedda's oppressed desires become destructive, first to Eilert and Thea, and then to herself. In addition to envying Thea for her creative union with Eilert, Hedda hates her for taming a man she idealizes as a rebel for his past licentiousness, defying social mores. After taunting the reformed Eilert into a night of debauchery, Hedda imagines him returning as a Dionysian hero:
I can see him. With a crown of vine-leaves in his hair. Burning and unashamed! . . .Then he'll be himself again! He'll be a free man for the rest of his days. (1483)
However, Eilert's night of carousing ends sordidly in a brawl that ruins his reputation once again. Hedda then modifies her first ideal and urges him to defy life itself by suicide (1495). Her destructiveness to both Eilert's and Thea's creative potential is symbolized by her destruction of their manuscript: "I'm burning your child, Thea! You with your beautiful wavy hair! The child Eilert Loevborg gave you" (1496).
But Hedda's actions ultimately destroy her own limited freedoms and creative potential, symbolized by her unwanted pregnancy. Brack disillusions Hedda about the beauty of Eilert's death, revealing that her hero died meanly in another brothel fight rather than bravely defying a frustrated life (1504). Moreover, as a result of Eilert's death, Hedda loses her few cherished freedoms. Her power over her husband is usurped, as Thea and George devote their lives to resurrecting Eilert's manuscript from jumbled notes (1502-03); and Thea hopes to inspire George as she inspired Eilert (1506). Then Brack establishes power over Hedda through her fear of scandal, knowing that Eilert was shot with her pistol. With neither limited power nor illusions to sustain her, Hedda bows to Thea's beautiful hair and, after playing a last dance on the piano, admits defeat: "Not free. Still not free! . . . From now on I'll be quiet" (1506-07).
Hedda's tragedy is that she is denied the freedom to realize her creative potential, and so have the self-esteem that comes from personal achievement. Her attempt to retain her independence within society prevents her, through fear of scandal, from marrying the man with whom she might have had a relationship both individually satisfying and mutually supportive. In Hedda's suicide are seen the stifling of intellect and the emotional isolation caused by oppression, even within a commonplace bourgeois family where "People don't do such things!" (1507).
Ibsen, Henrik. Hedda Gabler. The Norton Introduction to Literature. Trans. Michael Meyer. Third Edition. New York: Norton, 1981. 1443-1507.
Personal Essay Sample
“Train to Nowhere” By Richard D. Bank
Sometime on 9 November 1938, under the cover of night, my grandparents boarded a train bound for nowhere. Or, more precisely, the train pulling out of an otherwise empty station in the German town of Odenbach did have a destination. It's just that my grandparents did not.
While the house where they had lived and raised a family was being ransacked by SA troopers, assorted Nazi thugs, and anti-Semitic rabble, my grandparents slipped away unnoticed. With few worldly possessions, they stole down the street glancing back only once to see a neighbor rummage through the clothing piled on the curb. My grandparents never saw their home again….
Using as an excuse the killing of a legation secretary in the German embassy in Paris by a Polish Jew named Herschel Grynzpan, the Third Reich unleashed the virulent throngs and added a new dimension to the persecution of Germany's Jews. When Kristallnacht, as the bleak hours of November 9th and 10th came to be known, reached a fiery end, Hitler had instigated the worst pogrom in German history: 500 synagogues were burned; seven thousand Jewish businesses were destroyed; tens of thousands of homes were invaded; 90 Jews were killed; hundreds of women were raped; and 30,000 Jews were arrested….
In the ten months following Kristallnacht, another 100,000 to 150,000 Jews fled the country that had been their home for centuries. Those who stayed behind did so for one reason only — they had nowhere to go; which is what made my grandparents frantic hours endured on a lurching train both symbolic and prophetic.
A sympathetic conductor, who knew my grandfather from his frequent business trips, cautioned them not to disembark in Mainz where they had family. It was much too dangerous, he whispered. They had no money to go any farther, but he allowed them to remain until late the next day when they scurried off in the city of Furth, skulking through alleyways to a temporary haven with other family members.
Like all German Jews after Kristallnacht, my grandparents were without assets, dispossessed of their home, and in fear of their lives. The Nazis created the greatest “Catch-22” of all time. In order to avoid death, the Jews must leave … but in order to emigrate, they had to have the funds to pay the exorbitant exit fees and be able to demonstrate to the country of their destination that they had capital and would not be a burden. Much as the German government wanted the Jews gone, they made it practically impossible for them to comply.
Only two weeks earlier, my grandparents had managed to dispatch their two daughters to the United States, not knowing if they would see them again. After Kristallnacht, they had even less hope of reaching America. Instead, my grandparents felt the way they did during those interminable hours spent on a train rambling through the night.
But this time there was not even the promise of dawn, and the next train that would come for them would have a destination beyond their most horrific nightmare. Somehow, it was a train they managed to avoid.
Personal Narrative Essay Beginning
Looking back on a childhood filled with events and memories, I find it rather difficult to pick one that leaves me with the fabled “warm and fuzzy feelings.” As the daughter of an Air Force Major, I had the pleasure of traveling across America in many moving trips. I have visited the monstrous trees of the Sequoia National Forest, stood on the edge of the Grande Canyon and have jumped on the beds at Caesar’s Palace in Lake Tahoe. However, I have discovered that when reflecting on my childhood, it is not the trips that come to mind, instead there are details from everyday doings; a deck of cards, a silver bank or an ice cream flavor.
One memory that comes to mind belongs to a day of no particular importance. It was late in the fall in Merced, Ca...
ANALYZING A PASSAGE
In writing about literature or any specific text, you will strengthen your discussion if you offer specific passages from the text as evidence. Rather than simply dropping in quotations and expecting their significance and relevance to your argument to be self-evident, you need to provide sufficient analysis of the passage. Remember that your over-riding goal of analysis writing is to demonstrate some new understanding of the text.
HOW TO ANALYZE A TEXT?
Read or reread the text with specific questions in mind.
Marshal basic ideas, events and names. Depending on the complexity of book, this requires additional review of the text.
Think through your personal reaction to the book: identification, enjoyment, significance, application.
Identify and consider most important ideas (importance will depend on context of class, assignment, study guide).
Return to the text to locate specific evidence and passages related to the major ideas.
Use your knowledge following the principles of analyzing a passage described below: test, essay, research, presentation, discussion, enjoyment.
PRINCIPLES OF ANALYZING A PASSAGE
Offer a thesis or topic sentence indicating a basic observation or assertion about the text or passage.
Offer a context for the passage without offering too much summary.
Cite the passage (using correct format).
Then follow the passage with some combination of the following elements:
Discuss what happens in the passage and why it is significant to the work as a whole.
Consider what is said, particularly subtleties of the imagery and the ideas expressed.
Assess how it is said, considering how the word choice, the ordering of ideas, sentence structure, etc., contribute to the meaning of the passage.
Explain what it means, tying your analysis of the passage back to the significance of the text as a whole.
Repeat the process of context, quotation and analysis with additional support for your thesis or topic sentence.
FROM JAMES MCBRIDE’S THE COLOR OF WATER
An important difference between James and his mother is their method of dealing with the pain they experience. While James turns inward, his mother Ruth turns outward, starting a new relationship, moving to a different place, keeping herself busy. Ruth herself describes that, even as a young girl, she had an urge to run, to feel the freedom and the movement of her legs pumping as fast as they can (42). As an adult, Ruth still feels the urge to run. Following her second husband’s death, James points out that, “while she weebled and wobbled and leaned, she did not fall. She responded with speed and motion. She would not stop moving” (163). As she biked, walked, rode the bus all over the city, “she kept moving as if her life depended on it, which in some ways it did. She ran, as she had done most of her life, but this time she was running for her own sanity” (164). Ruth’s motion is a pattern of responding to the tragedy in her life. As a girl, she did not sit and think about her abusive father and her trapped life in the Suffolk store. Instead she just left home, moved on, tried something different. She did not analyze the connections between pain and understanding, between action and response, even though she seems to understand them. As an adult, she continues this pattern, although her running is modified by her responsibilities to her children and home.
The image of running that McBride uses here and elsewhere supports his understanding of his mother as someone who does not stop and consider what is happening in her life yet is able to move ahead. Movement provides the solution, although a temporary one, and preserves her sanity. Discrete moments of action preserve her sense of her own strength and offer her new alternatives for the future. Even McBride’s sentence structure in the paragraph about his mother’s running supports the effectiveness of her spurts of action without reflection. Although varying in length, each of the last seven sentences of the paragraph begins with the subject “She” and an active verb such as “rode,” “walked,” “took,” “grasp” and “ran.” The section is choppy, repetitive and yet clear, as if to reinforce Ruth’s unconscious insistence on movement as a means of coping with the difficulties of her life.
FROM TONI MORRISON’S THE BLUEST EYE
#1 The negative effect the environment can have on the individual is shown in Morrison’s comparison of marigolds in the ground to people in the environment. Early in the novel, Claudia and Frieda are concerned that the marigold seeds they planted that spring never sprouted. At the end of the novel, Claudia reflects on the connection to Pecola’s failure:
I talk about how I did not plant the seeds too deeply, how it was the fault of the earth, our land, our town. I even think now that the land of the entire country was hostile to marigolds that year. This soil is bad for certain kinds of flowers. Certain seeds it will not nurture, certain fruit it will not bear, and when the land kills of its own volition, we acquiesce and say the victim had no right to live. (206)
Morrison obviously views the environment as a powerful influence on the individual when she suggests that the earth itself is hostile to the growth of the marigold seeds. In a similar way, people cannot thrive in a hostile environment. Pecola Breedlove is a seed planted in the hostile environment, and, when she is not nurtured in any way, she cannot thrive.
#2 One effect of the belief that white skin, blonde hair and blue eyes are the most beautiful is evident in the characters who admire white film stars. Morrison shows an example of the destructive effect of this beauty standard on the character Pecola. When Pecola lives with Claudia and Frieda, the two sisters try to please their guest by giving her milk in a Shirley Temple mug. Claudia recalls, “She was a long time with the milk, and gazed fondly at the silhouette of Shirley Temple’s face” (19). This picture of two young African-American girls admiring the beauty of a white American film star is impossible for Claudia to comprehend. Another character who admires white beauty is Maureen Peale. As Pecola and the girls walk past a movie theater on their way home with Maureen, Maureen asks if the others “just love” Betty Grable, who smiles from a movie poster. When she later tells the others she is cute and they are ugly, Maureen reveals her belief that she is superior because she looks more like a Betty Grable image than the blacker girls do. Pecola’s and Maureen’s fascination with popular images is preceded by Pauline’s own belief in the possibility of movie images. She describes doing her hair like Jean Harlow’s and eating candy at a movie. Rather than being transported into the romantic heaven of Hollywood, she loses a tooth and ends in despair. “Everything went then. Look like I just didn’t care no more after that. I let my hair go back, plaited it up, and settled down to just being ugly” (123). Admiring beauty in another is one thing; transferring a sense of self-hatred when a person doesn’t measure is another. At that point, the power of white beauty standards becomes very destructive.
TSITSI DANGAREMBGA’S NERVOUS CONDITIONS
Although Tambu recognizes the injustices she and Nyasha endure as females, she hesitates to act on her suspicion because of fear. First of all, she is afraid that she might not recognize and feel comfortable with herself in a critical role. She hesitates to pursue her critique, noting to herself, “I was beginning to suspect that I was not the person I was expected to be, and took it as evidence that somewhere I had taken a wrong turning” (116). Using other people’s perceptions rather than her own, she judges her thoughts to be wrong. Although she senses that her behavior as the “grateful poor female relative” was insincere, she admitted it felt more comfortable. “It mapped clearly the ways I could or could not go, and by keeping within those boundaries I was able to avoid the mazes of self-confrontation” (116). While she is somewhat embarrassed that she lacks the intensity she had when fighting against Nhamo and her father over the maize, she is reluctant to lose Babamakuru’s protection and fears experiencing the same kind of trauma Nyasha does in her struggle. Although she says she feels “wise to be preserving [her] energy, unlike [her] cousin, who was burning herself out,” she reveals that she fears losing a familiar sense of herself in order to battle injustices.
Sign up for a free account at the shmoop essay lab.
Now, not every piece of literature you've read is listed there, but the Shakespeare plays, classic novels, and popular American and British stories and poetry are well-documented.
In Pursuit of Thinness
Throughout history and through a cross-section of cultures, women have transformed their appearance to conform to a beauty ideal. Ancient Chinese aristocrats bound their feet as a show of femininity; American and European women in the 1800s cinched in their waists so tightly, some suffered internal damage; in some African cultures women continue to wear plates in their lower lips, continually stretching the skin to receive plates of larger size. The North American ideal of beauty has continually focussed on women's bodies: the tiny waist of the Victorian period, the boyish figure in vogue during the flapper era, and the voluptuous curves that were the measure of beauty between the 1930s and 1950s. Current standards emphasize a toned, slender look, one that exudes fitness, youth, and health. According to psychologist Eva Szekely, "Having to be attractive at this time . . . means unequivocally having to be thin. In North America today, thinness is a precondition for being perceived by others and oneself as healthy" (19). However, this relentless pursuit of thinness is not just an example of women trying to look their best, it is also a struggle for control, acceptance and success.
In attempting to mould their appearance to meet the current ideal, numerous women are literally starving themselves to death. The incidence of eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, has "doubled during the last two decades" (Comerci 1294). This increase is no longer limited to women in their teens and twenties, but is increasingly diagnosed in patients in their thirties and forties. "No doubt, the current sociocultural emphasis on thinness and physical fitness as a symbol of beauty and success has contributed to this age distribution" (Comerci 1294).
One of the negative psychological side effects associated with eating disorders is the patient's distortion of their own body image,body image being defined as "the picture a person has in his mind of his own body, that is, the way his body appears to him" (Murray 602). For the anorexic this distortion is exaggerated, the patient feels fat even while emaciated, however, many women who are caught up in the relentless pursuit of thinness also experience some degree of disturbed body image. The experiences and practices of women who "simply diet" are not radically different from those who are diagnosed with eating disorders. For some women, achieving the "perfect" body form becomes the most important goal in life.
Feelings about body are closely related to a woman's sense of self; the "body is perceived as acceptable or unacceptable, providing a foundation for self-concept" (Orbach 78). It is alarming, then, that almost 80% of women think they're overweight (Kilbourne). Body image has very little to do with the way a person actually looks; many women who appear to fit the ideal body type are actually dissatisfied with their appearance (Freedman). Women with perfectly normal bodies see themselves as being heavy; so that the definition of "normal" becomes inaccurate and this perceived normalcy is represented by a very small percentage of women. It follows that if body image is so closely linked to self-image, it is important for women to learn to feel comfortable with the body they live in, despite any "imperfections". Consistently aiming for perfection is a "self-defeating goal that only sets you up for failure" (Freedman 218).
All evidence indicates that "our sense of our bodies develops in the process of learning, and these are social processes, not psychobiological ones given at birth" (Szekely 42). So why is it that during this process of development so many women become dissatisfied, self-critical, and judgemental about their own bodies? One of the reasons may have to do with the media and various forms of advertising. Ads sell more than just products; they present an idea of normalcy, who we are and who we should be (Kilbourne). Advertising is a major vehicle for presenting images and forming attitudes. The majority of ads incorporate young, beautiful, slender models to present their products and services. While individual ads may not be seen as a big issue, it is the cumulative, unconscious impact that has an effect on attitudes toward women, and in women's attitudes toward themselves. As women are consistently exposed to these feminine forms thorough both print and television, it becomes difficult to distinguish what is normal, and even more difficult not to compare themselves to this form. It is not just women who judge themselves, but also men who begin to liken these models to the women in their own lives and then make comparisons. Advertising creates an "ultimate standard of worth, so that women are judged against this standard all the time, whether we choose to be or not" (Kilbourne).
Throughout the media, there seems to be a "particular contempt these days for women who are fat or are in any way overweight . . . above all, we're supposed to be very thin" (Kilbourne). This notion of the ideal body that is propagated by the popular media can be linked with economic organizations whose profit is solely gained through products that enhance this image (Szekely 103). The images that are presented in advertising are designed to create an illusion, a fantasy ideal that will keep women continually consuming. Advertisers are well aware of the insecurities that most women feel about their own bodies. The influential power of the diet, fashion, cosmetic and beauty industries??and their advertising strategies??target this, their "profits are sustained on the enormity of the body insecurity" (Orbach 79).
The effect of many current advertising methods is that the "body is turned into a thing, an object, a package" (Kilbourne). In many ads, bodies are separated into individual parts: legs, breasts, thighs, waists; the result is that the body becomes separated from the woman. It then becomes acceptable for the woman's body to be scrutinized. Women's bodies receive large amounts of attention and comment and are a "vehicle for the expression of a wide range of statements" (Orbach 13). Judgements may be made and opinions may be formed about a woman by her appearance alone. A woman who is judged as overweight is often thought of as a woman with little self-control, and from this premise further assumptions may be made. This type of generalization occurs on a daily basis, by both men and women, and it affects the way we behave towards one another.
Our preoccupation with appearance affects much more that the image that is presented on the outside. Feelings toward our own appearance affect the choices we make and the goals we pursue; "more than ever, it seems we are constricted by beauty standards . . ." (Freedman 3). The recent emphasis on fitness, youth, beauty and thinness has caused many women to try harder than ever to attain the current body ideal. The tremendous increase in plastic surgery operations??liposuction, breast implants, tummy tucks, and face-lifts, to name a few??attest to the extreme adjustments that many women feel they must make in order to attain the body ideal, in turn making positive adjustments to their own self-esteem. "One object of women's hard work which, potentially is also a means of their success, is the body . . . women have been given the message that their efforts in improving and perfecting their bodies would be rewarded by success" (Szekely 191), on both a social and professional level. With that thought in mind, women have come to relate to their bodies "as their objects/tools/weapons in the marketplace of social relations" (Orbach).
Perhaps a woman's ability to control her own body size and weight can be seen as a metaphor, a substitution for control that may be lacking in other areas of her life. While women continue to struggle for equality on an economic scale and within their relationships, they still maintain control over their own bodies. It is important that women begin to accept themselves for who they are, regardless of their body type, and to feel comfortable with the body they live in. If women continue to pursue the "elusive, eternally youthful body beautiful" (Orbach 13) they'll only be setting themselves up for failure.
Comerci, George D. Medical Complications of Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. The Medical Clinics of North America. Volume 74, No. 5. September, 1990.
Freedman, Rita. Bodylove: Learning to Like Our Looks??And Ourselves. New York: Harper, 1988.
Horne, R. Lynn et al. "Disturbed Body Image in Patients with Eating Disorders." American Journal of Psychiatry. 148:2, February 1991: 211-215.
Kilbourne, Jean. Still Killing Us Softly: Advertising's Image of Women. [Video] Cambridge Documentary Films, 1987.
Murray, Ruth L.E. The Concept of Body Image. The Nursing Clinics of North America, Volume 7, No. 4. December, 1972.
Orbach, Suzie. Hunger Strike: The Anorectic's Struggle as a Metaphor for Our Age. New York: Avon, 1986.
Szekely, Eva. Never Too Thin. Toronto: The Women's Press, 1988.
HALLMARKS OF A, B, C, AND FAILING ESSAYS
From guidelines for marking essays distributed to teaching assistants at Queen's
An "A" essay:
The hallmarks of a first-class essay are polished style, sound judgement, effective organization, and an argument of substance. A first-class paper often has a special flair, a something extra which distinguishes it from a competent B-plus paper: for example, originality or profundity, a special way with words, exceptionally sound research. Do not give first-class marks lightly; they should be reserved for exceptional efforts.
Some authorities maintain that the primary characteristic of the first-class paper is its rich content: it is "meaty," "dense," "packed." A reader has the sense of being significantly taught by the author, sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph. Stylistic finesse is another keynote: the title and opening paragraph are engaging; the transitions are artful; the phrasing is tight, fresh, and highly specific. Finally, an "A" essay, because of its careful organization and development, imparts a feeling of wholeness and unusual clarity.
A "B" essay:
The middle-B essay is typically competent but undistinguished: although basically sound in content, style, and organization, it lacks the stylistic finesse and richness of content characteristic of first- class work. You can expect it, though, to express sound ideas, and impart substantial information that is by no means devoid of interest. It will state a reasonably clear thesis or organizing principle early in the argument: subsequent points will support that thesis or principle, and be ordered logically. Diction will be much more concise and precise than that of the "C" essay, and the text will be relatively free of grammatical and stylistic errors. In fundamental respects, then, the middle-B paper is sound enough to win one's respect, but not one's unstinted admiration.
A "C" essay:
The middle-C essay will exhibit distinct lapses in style, organization, and content. One way and another the essay will have shortcomings which suggest that although it has something to say it has not fully come to terms with its subject or expressed its insights clearly enough. A number of papers fit the middle-C classification: those in which the ideas and information, though present, seem thin and commonplace; those in which the writing style falls clearly short of reasonable expectations; those that stray from the assigned topic; those which deal with the topic, but are too perfunctory; those that are rambling and disorganized; those that involve a good deal of padding; and so on. In essence, a middle-C paper leaves you feeling that it falls short of the requirements, but still does enough to merit a passing mark.
An "F" essay:
In failing essays the faults in style, organization, and content will be considerable. There may be glimmerings of an argument, but these will be obscured by faulty logic, garbled prose, frequent mechanical errors, and lack any discernible principle of organization. Papers that require the marker to guess at the meaning behind the writer's words belong in the failing category. So do papers which, although they may make sense of some kind, bear little or no relation to the topic. Other possibilities: slapdash papers which may make one or two points but are obviously superficial efforts with no serious thought behind them; papers which do little more than string quotations together with a few lines of introduction. Do not be afraid to fail papers of this kind—students should receive prompt warning that their work is not up to standard.
Avoid Plot Summary
The following two paragraphs discuss with equal accuracy and intelligence the same passage from Shakespeare's 1 Henry IV. Only one of these, however, would be considered acceptable in a university English essay. The other is merely a well-written plot summary and contributes virtually nothing to our understanding of the significance of the episode.
A. In the first scene, King Henry compares his own son unfavourably with Northumberland's warrior son Hotspur. He says that Hotspur is “the theme of honour's tongue,” whereas the wastrel Hal is stained by “riot and dishonour.” The king wistfully wishes that some fairy had exchanged the two in infancy so that he (and the nation) might now have a more suitable prince. Henry then asks his counsellors the meaning of Hotspur's withholding from the crown a number of Scottish prisoners recently taken in battle. Westmoreland replies that this apparent disloyalty is not the fault of Hotspur but of his malevolent uncle, Worcester, who has induced Hotspur to “prune himself” and “bristle up / The crest of youth against your dignity.”
B. King Henry's unfavourable comparison of Hal's “riot and dishonour” with the heroic virtues of Hotspur (“the theme of honour&'s tongue”) effectively introduces and interests us in the two main characters, even though they have not yet appeared on stage. It also establishes from the very outset the conflict between the King and his son and sets up an important structural feature of the play, the juxtaposed careers of Hal and Hotspur. We are, furthermore, alerted at once to the play's persistent preoccupation with the theme of “honour.” In this passage, then, Shakespeare has two different young men “bristle up / The crest of youth” against the “dignity” of the king and thus sets in motion at one stroke several of the central dramatic elements of this work.
Obviously B would receive a much better mark, as it analyses and interprets plot events rather than simply recounting them.
You should never drop a quotation into your paper unannounced and apparently unrelated to the ideas around it. The quotation must always be embedded into one of your own sentences.
A common way to do this is to use a ‘signal phrase’ that incorporates the quotation smoothly into your writing and, just as importantly, provides context for the material...
How to Write Thesis Statements (from shmoop.com)
Transitional devices are like bridges between parts of your paper. They are cues that help the reader to interpret ideas a paper develops. Transitional devices are words or phrases that help carry a thought from one sentence to another, from one idea to another, or from one paragraph to another. And finally, transitional devices link sentences and paragraphs together smoothly so that there are no abrupt jumps or breaks between ideas.
There are several types of transitional devices, and each category leads readers to make certain connections or assumptions. Some lead readers forward and imply the building of an idea or thought, while others make readers compare ideas or draw conclusions from the preceding thoughts.
Here is a list of some common transitional devices that can be used to cue readers in a given way.
and, again, and then, besides, equally important, finally, further, furthermore, nor, too, next, lastly, what's more, moreover, in addition, first (second, etc.)
whereas, but, yet, on the other hand, however, nevertheless, on the contrary, by comparison, where, compared to, up against, balanced against, vis a vis, but, although, conversely, meanwhile, after all, in contrast, although this may be true
because, for, since, for the same reason, obviously, evidently, furthermore, moreover, besides, indeed, in fact, in addition, in any case, that is
To Show Exception:
yet, still, however, nevertheless, in spite of, despite, of course, once in a while, sometimes
To Show Time:
immediately, thereafter, soon, after a few hours, finally, then, later, previously, formerly, first (second, etc.), next, and then
in brief, as I have said, as I have noted, as has been noted
definitely, extremely, obviously, in fact, indeed, in any case, absolutely, positively, naturally, surprisingly, always, forever, perennially, eternally, never, emphatically, unquestionably, without a doubt, certainly, undeniably, without reservation
To Show Sequence:
first, second, third, and so forth. A, B, C, and so forth. next, then, following this, at this time, now, at this point, after, afterward, subsequently, finally, consequently, previously, before this, simultaneously, concurrently, thus, therefore, hence, next, and then, soon
To Give an Example:
for example, for instance, in this case, in another case, on this occasion, in this situation, take the case of, to demonstrate, to illustrate, as an illustration, to illustrate
To Summarize or Conclude:
in brief, on the whole, summing up, to conclude, in conclusion, as I have shown, as I have said, hence, therefore, accordingly, thus, as a result, consequently
Example essay planner - shmoop.com style:
This baby needs a name!
Ready for this? Your introduction introduces your essay. Who knew, right? Most introductions have four parts:
A hook: some catchy information placed at the very beginning of an essay that grabs the reader's attention and makes them want to keep reading.
Background information: anything the reader needs to know in order to understand the thesis. We like to call it context.
Why Should I Care?: Shmoop asks it all the time, and your audience will, too. You don't need to hit them over the head with it, but they need to know why it's worth reading your paper.
The thesis. Plop that sucker right at the end of your intro.
Body paragraphs make up a good solid chunk of your paper. Their purpose? To expand on and explain the points you made in your thesis—with evidence, to boot.
Body paragraphs tend to follow this format:
Description of your point
Body paragraphs make up a good solid chunk of your paper. Their purpose? To expand on and explain the points you made in your thesis—with evidence, to boot.
Body paragraphs tend to follow this format:
Description of your point
Body paragraphs make up a good solid chunk of your paper. Their purpose? To expand on and explain the points you made in your thesis—with evidence, to boot.
Body paragraphs tend to follow this format:
Description of your point
The end is in sight. But don't zone out and just write "THE END" in all caps—your conclusion is just as important as every other piece of the puzzle. The point of this last little paragraph? To answer that terrifying question: so what?
Your conclusion should neatly wrap up all the ideas that you've already developed in your paper, but it also needs to add something fresh to the conversation. We've got tons of suggestions for how to bring it home, so head on over to the Shmoop Tips for more goodies about those pesky conclusions. Or, if you're ready to go, get writing.
Make sure the essay matches the prompt. (Turn the prompt into a question if it's not already, and be sure your thesis statement is an answer to that question.)