For this assignment, you may choose one of the following four topics to address in a literary essay:

1. The novel presents an intricate mix of brutal violence and deep love. Dicsuss these two elements and how/why they are used and what purpose they serve. Make sure to address which one the author indirectly declares to be stronger. 

2. The book makes several references to the supernatural, beginning with the opening explanation of Fuku and Zafa. Write about these and other supernatural elements and how/why they continue to show up throughout the book. 

3. There are many similarities and differences that show up between multiple characters in the book. Choose two characters and write a compare/contrast essay on them, including an exploration of their relationship with each other if applicable. 

4. The novel explores masculinity from several different angles. Using the various characters (both major and minor), write an essay that seeks to explain the varying definitions the author presents on what it means to be a Dominican man.

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5. If there is something in the novel that stands out to you and you would like to propose a topic, you can present a developed idea to me via email for approval. This email should not just say something like “the role of sex” but instead should look very much like the above mentioned topic ideas. I will not approved half-developed ideas, and if I think your idea can be molded into one of the 4 I gave, I will make suggestions accordingly. 

Essay Specifications:

The essay should be between 3-5 full pages in length. (Full pages mean at least 3/4 of the way down the final page). You may only use 3rd person, do not use 1st or 2nd person. Use MLA formatting according to MLA 8th edition. You must use at least 3 quotes from the novel to support your claim. There is a sample paper on the modules.

How will it be graded?

25-Requirements met, MLA format, 3 pages, 3rd person only, reference the novel at least 3 times.

25-Grammar, spelling, capitalization, subject/verb agreement, punctuation use, and more!

25-Claim is made in a thesis statement, details and quotes from the novel support the claim, clear comprehension of the novel.

25-Organization, flow follows thesis statement, smooth transitions, makes sense, writing is orderly.

NOTE: You do not need a Works Cited page for this essay, unless you bring in a source other than the novel. However, you will lose 20 points if you fail to reference the novel at least 3 times within your essay. 

What is a Literary Essay?

Writing about literature is almost like having a great conversation about your favorite movie. The major difference is that in a book, there are no accidental boom mics or continuity errors, EVERYTHING is on purpose. My favorite example of this is Shakespeare’s choice to name his characters Othello and Desdemona. He could have chosen anything, but he picked two names with HELL and DEMON in them.

And as it turns out (spoiler alert), Othello is possessed by Desdemona’s love. It’s not by accident. Literary essays dive into literature in a to make connections between characters, to explore various developing themes, and to look at other literary elements such as symbolism, setting, plot, and many more. For those of you who like to over-analyze, you will be great at this essay. 

What makes a good Literary Essay?

A good literary essay is more than a book report. It does not simply summarize, but instead it shows your interaction with the text. Your understanding of it should be clear.

A good literary essay has support from the text. Referring back to the book does more than just prove you read it. It shows your ability to find and assemble the parts of the novel that support the claim you are making. 
A good literary essay “joins the coversation”. You are not the first person to read this book and write an essay on it, and you won’t be the last. By examining what others have said about the novel, you will find yourself entering into an academic conversation about the text.

It is fine to acknowledge what others have said, as long as you give them credit for it, and respond to those expressions and opinions. While you are not a literary critic, your thoughts on this novel are as important as anyone else’s. 
A good literary essay will dig into the text. Making sweeping statements about a novel does nothing to show your understanding of it. Instead, get specific, even on a word level if necessary. The more detailed your essay, the more it will help your focus.

Remember, the author chose every word for a reason, nothing is by accident. This mentality will help you seek to understand why the author made the choices they did. 


NOTE: Literary essays are very difficult for some people. If you find that you are having a hard time writing the essay, I would advise writing a comparison between two characters or two relationships and the way they evolve throughout the novel. Just do your best to show your grasp on the book!

Be careful not to rely on outside websites for this essay. It’s easy to plagiarize ideas on assignments like this one. Googling too much about the book will result in you using someone else’s ideas…it’s hard to get them out of your head once they’re in there!