You have read Parable of the Sower. Your 4th paper will use Parable of the Sower but may incorporate other arguments (articles, books, and/or films, short stories, novels…).

You have two options.

One is more of a cultural analysis paper while the other is more grounded in science. Either way, you must present a clearly stated thesis and support it with specific, focused, relevant evidence, including at least four (4) credible sources (not counting Parable of the Sower). Your paper should be 5-6 pages long. Films, short stories… do not count as sources but should be listed in your bibliography. This essay is worth 200 points.

Remember to submit your paper to Canvas turn it in on time.

Option 1

Generally speaking, you want to identify some specific theme, image, plot pattern, image, reference, type of relationship, event or set of related events… and figure out how that specific thing relates to, or illuminates, or helps us understand the larger themes of the novel (and other texts, films… if you choose to include them). How might some specific set of incidents or explanations or comparisons or whatever… help a reader understand these texts’ quests for community, for safety and survival, for freedom from oppression and exploitation and control, for a better future, for hope…. The Book of Eli, The Road, The Road Warrior, and other post-apocalyptic films might be useful for comparison.

Your essay should not simply answer these questions as I have posed them. Use these passages as starting points for your own thinking and exploration, or go beyond them to find another relevant topic for discussion. In any case, make sure the topic you explore and the thesis you advance add to the reader’s understanding of the texts. Do NOT simply retell the stories.

Possible topics would include, but are not limited to, the following:

Leadership/Power. While slave owners and employers and the corporation that buys Olivar seem willing to exploit, control, dominate, or even enslave those without power, Lauren has a different approach. How does she lead, how does she inspire, guide, persuade, share governance, make decisions, and create a cohesive “pack”?

Difference. As much as some people seem to want a sense of community, they still see significant differences that may keep them apart. Consider the ways people react to racial/ethnic differences as well as gender differences, class differences, education differences, physical differences, even age differences. How do these differences, or rather people’s belief that they matter, affect or relate to larger themes of community, survival, building a future?

Caretaking. Who parents, and how? Who doesn’t? Who takes responsibility for children, and why? What does it mean to people to raise and protect children, and what does it mean to others to see them do it? Why are certain people so concerned with, so conscious of, how children are treated? How might the treatment of children relate to the overall point of the story, the overall movement of the community? Why are children apparently so important, even though they pose a number of problems? How far will people go for children, and why do some limitations exist on the level of sacrifice they’ll make for children? Is the treatment of children (or the sick, or the weak, or the elderly) a way to measure or evaluate characters? If so, how, why, and with what insights as a result?

Love, trust, community, interdependence. Who loves? Who gets trusted, and why? What criteria are in use? Who is not trusted, not a member, not included? Why, and with what consequences? Who relies on someone else, and with what consequences? Who won’t, who can’t? What makes a community? Who gets to join, and why? And how quickly? Who doesn’t, and why? Do the rules for who’s invited stay the same? Does everyone want to be in a community? Are there different kinds of communities? What are the purposes or advantages of communities? What does the nature of a community say about, or how does it relate to, or how does it offer insight into, the story as a whole, the situation presented in the book/movie? What might be the point the author is trying to make by representing the community (or communities) in this way? How does thinking about the community, and how it works (or doesn’t) illuminate the story as a whole?

Consumption. Environments get used up, people get eaten, structures get burnt, money runs out, space programs get cancelled, workers get used up, cities die, knowledge fades, families get destroyed, planets get poisoned. How do people seem to relate to their possessions, assets, resources, responsibilities, opportunities? If people relate differently, act differently as stewards or owners or employers or parents or consumers, what is the point being made? Who succeeds, who fails and why, whose methods are represented favorably?

Cannibalism. Who will, who won’t, and why? What point is being made about dying societies resorting to cannibalism? What point is made when some characters refuse to do so, or react in horror, or reject those who commit cannibalism? If cannibalism is symbolic, what is it a symbol of? What is it a measure of? How does it relate to other problems in these imagined worlds?

Metaphors. The novel uses a number of different metaphors or symbols to convey the narrator’s perspective of the brutal realities of her world. Explore the types of symbols she uses, the symbols she chooses, and what they convey or suggest about her world.

Option 2

In an organized essay of 5-6 pages, offer a specific thesis and explore it with discussion of specific examples from Parable of the Sower. (You can also incorporate films if you choose.)

You will be researching your topic and must include at least four (4) credible sources (not counting Parable and any films you might include). What “real-world” comparisons can you make to the phenomena you see in Parable?

You will identify a specific phenomenon in the novel, explore how it happens in the imagined future of the text, and explain how it really is now (or how it really was in the past).

Make sure that your paper explores both the reality and the fiction. Do not simply mention Parable in the introduction and then write a straight research paper; your essay should engage with Parable throughout, using it as a prediction for what might happen and how it would affect human life/society/well-being if a specific problem escalated beyond our present-day experience. Use Parable specifically, thoughtfully, and relevantly to frame your analysis of a specific present-day real-world problem and its possible effects in the future. (Do not just write a bland scientific explanation of climate change with a few quotes from Parable tacked on. This should be a deep analysis, using Parable as a projection of a present-day problem if it were to escalate and get much worse in the future.)

Possible topics would include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Loss of farmland (topsoil, water, the land itself…)
  • Lack of access to clean, potable waterIlliteracy and lack of access to public education
  • Lack of access to health care, including birth control/family planning
  • Company towns
  • Debt slavery
  • Exploitation (including sexual exploitation) of workers
  • Slavery (unpaid, unsafe work)The psychological effects of constant fear and hopelessness
  • Survivalists, bunker-builders, people who mistrust the government or fear its collapse
  • Communes, collectives who share resources and ideologies, who protect each other
  • Shared child-rearing
  • Polygamy, multiple wives, exploited women, bought women
  • Inflation, the collapse of trade, massive unemployment, monopolies
  • The effects of hunger, starvation, malnutrition… on people’s behavior, decisions, outlooks on life, and values

If the novel is making predictions, or projections, or exaggerations, based on real life, on real history or the actual present-day problems we see, you should be able to discuss the real-life phenomenon and the fictional representation together.

Offer a thesis, an insight, a comparison, a prediction, or another claim that specifically guides the reader’s understanding of this phenomenon as it is represented in the novel.

Whichever option you choose, your essay should be well-written, clear, focused, specific, and organized.

A successful essay will contain:

  • An interesting title (not Paper #4) and an introduction that gets the reader interested.
  • A clear thesis (claim, argument, position, idea, point), effectively expressed, insightful, and useful. Plot summary and general facts are not an argument. Go beyond telling me what happens, and provide something new: why it happens as it does, or how it’s similar or different in the novel and “real life,” or why it didn’t happen some other way, or how the novel is a realistic extension or projection based on what has really happened in history (or the present) ….A thesis statement should probably express an idea like “because,” “however,” “in contrast,” “as a result,” “similarly,” or “despite the fact that.”) A literary-analysis thesis will be a little different from a real-world-comparison thesis, but in either case your own insights should be expressed clearly, directly, not generally.
  • Logically ordered paragraphs, focused on specific points, using topic sentences to focus each paragraph and transition sentences to connect them. A new idea or example needs a new paragraph and topic sentence.
  • Specific evidence, quotes, and examples (drawn, for this paper, from the novel and your research, as well as any other science fiction films or novels you think are appropriate).
  • Clear discussion of what the evidence means, describing it for a reader who hasn’t seen or read it, explaining what it means, and tying it to your thesis. (Try to imagine, as you describe and explain your evidence, that I have not read the novel. It’ll help you be more specific about what happens and what it means.)
  • An effective conclusion that sums up and comments on the overall point you’ve made, ideally with some sense of its significance. Your significance might point to a specific comment on human society, in science fiction or real life.
  • Solid grammar, punctuation, and mechanics, including MLA format….
  • An appropriate tone, without sarcasm or vague generalities about how we “should” treat each other or the planet.
  • You might want to review some of the material we read in A Brief Guide to Arguing About Literature before tackling this project.

Please submit, with your final version, a SELF-TEST of your essay’s organization.

You will turn in this outline and any inked changes, stapled to the front of your essay, with your name and paper title at the top.

Re-read your draft and type a one-sentence paraphrase of the main idea of each paragraph. (If you find this difficult to do, it might be because a paragraph lacks a specific idea or has too many ideas for one paragraph.)

Printout your paraphrase of each paragraph’s point, double-spaced.

Then,on this printed paraphrase, indicate needed changes:

Break long paragraphs and unfocused paragraphs into smaller units of thought.

Delete paragraphs (or parts of paragraphs) that are off-topic or redundant.

Move paragraphs into a better order, if possible. Arrows would be useful to indicate where things should move.

Then, going back to your complete draft, Revise your draft to reflect the changes suggested by the paraphrasing exercise.

Review and Clarify the topic sentences in your essay.

Each topic sentence should focus and set up the subject and point and insight of the paragraph.

A general fact or vaguely stated idea makes for a poor topic sentence.

Develop clearer transitions and a stronger thesis that more clearly states your overall insight.

Proofread and re-read for content, clarity, and organization.

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