Ms. Gokturk

Advanced Composition

Multi-Genre Essay Assignment:

For Camus’ The Stranger and The Misunderstanding, Israel Horovitz’ Line, The Matrix, and Stranger Than Fiction


YOUR TASK: Compare three of the five works we covered in class in an articulate and interesting essay.  Use evidence from the works to develop your controlling idea, and show how the author used specific literary elements or techniques to convey ideas.


Compare                                 with +  one play                      and + one film


The Stranger                          Line                                        The Matrix

                                                or The Misunderstanding      or Stranger Than Fiction



·        Your paper must analyze three works we read/watched. Use ideas from all works to establish a controlling idea that enables you to analyze the works in an interesting manner.

·        Your controlling idea must be arguable, specific, and interesting.

·        Use specific and relevant evidence from all three works to develop your controlling idea

·        Show how each author uses specific literary elements (for example: theme, characterization, structure, point of view) or techniques (for example: symbolism, irony, figurative language) to develop theme.

·        Be sure to have at least three categories that are developed to support the thesis.

·        Use PRESENT tense when writing about literature.

·        Use a variety of evidence from the works (direct quotes and paraphrase).

·        Use proper MLA parenthetical citing: Meursault says, “I could feel my fate sealed” (61). See below for more details.

·        Organize your ideas in a logical and coherent manner.  Be sure that each section is developed equally. Use language that communicates ideas effectively.  Follow the conventions of standard written English.


Idea Bank to Start Building Your Controlling Idea:


·       Why the author write this work?  Really think about that before you continue.  With what did you come away? 


  • Do the texts reveal that the human condition is without purpose, meaning, or value?

·        Do the characters find meaning in their lives?

·        What does waiting signify?

·        Analyze a common characteristic the characters share. (i.e., outsiders, criminals, etc.)

·        Explore how routines and breaking out of routine define “value.”

·        Analyze how personal philosophy dictates action/purpose/meaning.

·        Examine the theme of isolation.

  • Examine reoccurring motifs and how they shape the author’s message: free will, time, nothingness, waiting, death, blindness, judgment, etc.

·        Use Stephen Crane’s short poem as a critical lens. Analyze each part and apply to the works.

·        Choose a minor character from each work and analyze his/her role in illustrating the work’s message.

·        What do the characters do to create meaning in their lives?

·        Contrast the concrete with the abstract in the works and how this reveals meaning/theme.

·        How does the lack of meaningful relationships/connections serve to illustrate the human condition?

·        Critical Lens: “Life is for each man a solitary cell whose walls are mirrors.” – Eugene O’Neill

o       In this way, you can use a lens as the basis for your critical essay in which you discuss all the works from the particular perspective of the statement that is provided for you. In your essay, provide a valid interpretation of the statement, which implicitly agrees or disagrees with the statement as you have interpreted it and how it applies to the works. Support your opinion using specific references to appropriate literary elements from the works.

·        Find your own lens.

·        Other ideas? Be fresh, be creative. As long as you can support your thesis with specific evidence from the texts, everybody will be happy!


Quoting and Citing

The novel illustrates one man’s honesty towards himself. Lenny says, “I have to live with myself, and so I want to be fit for myself to know. I want to be able, as days go by, always to look myself straight in the eye” (17-18).


Notice that the quote ends, but that the sentence doesn’t. The page numbers are still part of the sentence. Keep them cozy! Also note that there is no p. or pg. or page or Page… just the number!


Within a sentence:

Holden Caulfield admits that he is a “terrific liar” (11). He fails at being honest not only with others, but with himself.


If the quote is more that five lines, then double indent and use NO QUOTATIONS MARKS unless they appear in the text; in other words, copy the text exactly. The essay text is double spaced and the quote is single spaced….


The novel illustrates one man’s dedication to his loves, his art and his wife. The two are intertwined as he ponders his existence while painting the portrait of his wife.

The yellows glimmered in the painting, catching Beatrice’s blond highlights. It reminded him of her childhood, of their childhood, when they laughed in the sun. Now he thought of how sad she looked all the time and had to wonder how much of it was his fault. He sighed and reached for the paints, deliberately choosing blues and browns to capture the tired expression weighing down the carefree yellows.   (28)


The paragraph continues to explain. Notice there’s no indent here. Guest illustrates how experience inevitably steals youth and joy.


Note that that page number is not before the period. This is because the indentations and single space create the break.



Follow the same format as above for short lines; or, preserve longer dialogue in the single spaced, indented style:


Camus contrast mother and daughter criminals when their crime is revealed.  Mother is horrified by her crime, while Martha still maintains a cold, indifferent state.  The only thing that matters to her is her mother’s love:


MOTHER: Oh my goodness, I have killed my son!

MARTHA: But you still have your daughter, don’t leave me, mother. (45)


Because Mother recognizes the truth, she cannot bear to continue living. Martha, however, gives no value to her brother’s life. Etc.



When making an argument, the structure is


  1. Assertion (your observation, your point) [don’t use “I” or “you”]
  2. Evidence (prove it from the work)
  3. Analysis (explain how the evidence proves your point) [many students omit this and their essays suffer – this is, after all, the most interesting part where you analyze and/or explain!]


When making an argument, three is the magic number. You need at least pieces of evidence to make an argument feel complete.


Be consistent in your structure.  How you analyze in one, follow the same for the others.  What you set up in the introduction is your template.


Rules of the Formal and Scholarly Literary Essay

* You will lose one point from your final essay grade for each incident for violating any of the following rules. Ouchie!


  • No “I.”
  • No “you.”
  • Use present tense in your writing.  Leave the authors’ tense as is.
  • Assume your reader is aware of the text – no plot summary is needed; however, you should set up quotes to “refresh” your reader’s memory.
  • All direct quotes are in quotation marks.
  • Cite all quotations.
  • Use correct punctuation. Do you know what this means?
  • Show who said what and often when.
  • Always analyze what evidence you present.  Don’t expect your reader to do the analysis.
  • New sentences start with a capital letter.
  • Develop each section of your essay equally. No orphans.
  • Alternate between direct quotes and paraphrases.  Use the author’s or character’s exact words when they are perfect to support your controlling idea; paraphrase when you can do as well to cover the material needed to support your controlling idea.
  • You are not allowed to use the word “existentialism” (or any of its derivatives) or “amazing.”
  • The first time you mention a work, cite the author’s full name.  From thereon, use ONLY the last name.  Also, there is no need to keep telling your reader who wrote what.  Once is enough.