“Nobody sees anyone as he is,” writes Virginia Woolf in Jacob’s Room. “They see a whole—they see all
sorts of things—they see themselves… It is no use trying to sum people up. One must follow hints, not
exactly what is said, nor yet entirely what is done…”
The purpose of this assignment is twofold; this essay asks that you demonstrate both your thoughtful
reflection on the concept (as we see it in literature) of defining identity/identities as well as your ability to
read a text closely and show your reader/audience how your close reading supports the thesis you
In an analytical, text-based essay, propose a thesis regarding varied and/or shifting identities as depicted in
short stories which depict relationships of marriage/partnership/friendship/love, drawing on your
interpretation(s) of one (or more) of the texts that we have read this semester. Pay special attention to the
contrasts between how characters define themselves and how they are defined by others as well as
analysis of conflicts that occur in the story and how these conflicts relate to the identity/identities of one or
more of the characters.
Consider the diversity of identities that may exist within individual characters. Look closely at characters’
identities from different perspectives: how do characters define themselves, how are they defined by other
characters, how does the author seem to define them as the story progresses and how might the reader
define them? Ask yourself what conflicts exist between the ways characters define themselves and the
ways they are defined by others—why do these conflicts exist, and what are the results of the conflicts?
What assumptions do characters make about each other (and themselves), and what assumptions might
the reader make about the characters? Throughout the story, does any shifting occur in characters’ selfdefinition(s), other characters’ perspectives, the way the author describes the characters and the way the
reader perceives the characters? Examine the text carefully to try and determine how the author
achieves/articulates these shifts.
Your essay does not have to include every single one of these points, of course. You can focus on a single
story or incorporate ideas on more than one story.
Your essay should be 3-5 pages in length (it can be longer if you like)
Word-processed and double-spaced using MLA format and in-text citations
No outside sources, please, I would like to see your analysis and thoughts. Only the class required texts
and supplemental materials are to be used: see the course reading list for short story. see the course
reading list for short story. – Alternative Formats
This assignment calls for an analytic and thesis-centered essay in which your original title signals your
thesis, your introduction clearly leads into and states your thesis, and your topic sentences indicate how
each of your body paragraphs will present a unified idea in support of your thesis. You will need to provide
ample evidence from the text (at least 3 citations, but probably more) along with your own reasoning to
create a coherent and logical flow of ideas.