What expectations does the opening of the paper set up for the reader?
So far in this quarter we have approached play analysis through a very specific methodology which we have referred to as “Description – Analysis – Interpretation.” As we have seen, this can be applied at the level of the whole play, but also in analyzing smaller component elements of the text, right down to the level of individual moments.
Select two “scenes” from Waiting for Godot, no longer than two pages of text each (and they could be considerably shorter). You may not select any scenes which we have discussed in depth in class. Apply the “Description – Analysis – Interpretation” methodology to each of the “scenes,” showing how your assessment progresses from direct observation of the text, through assigning meaning to individual events, to an interpretation of significance of the “scene” as a whole.
Your paper should have a clear and cohesive central argument (thesis statement) that is introduced in your first paragraph. This will be your “interpretation” which must be supported, in your paper, through evidence (description) and analysis. Please ensure that your assessment is clearly supported by specific references to the text, and that you offer concrete and unambiguous interpretations of the “scenes.” I encourage you to explore your original thoughts in regards to the play, not recap what I have said in class. To quote Pozzo – “THINK!”
— The paper should be approximately 4-5 pages long and written in MLA format.
— Please include your name and the page number on each page.
— The paper will be graded on originality of thought, strength of argument, and execution. Form and content will not be considered separately. In other words, if the writing is vague or grammatically awkward, the themes of the paper are not being clearly expressed.
— Don’t think of your rough draft as “rough.” Think of it as your final paper. Do your best work; be complete and thoughtful. You want instructor comments that help you rephrase your argument more compellingly, not comments about how the reader doesn’t understand what you’re trying to do.
Guidelines for Writing and Editing Papers
Could the first paragraph be dropped or is it necessary to the paper? (Avoid hype and wild generalizations.)
Is there a clearly stated thesis or question set up in the first paragraph? A paper should have one controlling focus, to which everything contributes. What expectations does the opening of the paper set up for the reader?
Does the rest of the paper fulfill those expectations set up at the beginning? (e.g. does it demonstrate the thesis, or answer the question?) Or does it seem to start in one direction and end up in another? (Hey! I thought this bus was going to Los Angeles, but we’re in Chula Vista!)
Are statements within the paper clear and supported with evidence from the text? Are there confusing phrases where you are not sure what the paper-writer meant? (This is much easier to catch in someone else’s writing than in your own. Get a friend to read your paper and tell you where you are unclear.)
What are the most important or interesting points? Are they presented persuasively? Could they be strengthened in some specific way? Can you think of counter-evidence or other objections to the point being made, evidence or objections which the paper needs to address as part of its strategy of persuasion? (Tip: avoid assertions that include “every,” “all,” “none,” “never,” or “always.” Your reader will immediately think up one exception, which is all that is needed to undermine your claim.)
If you include quotations or a bit of plot summary, do you use this material to make a point? Do you comment on it? Or is it just filling up space? (Avoid too much plot summary; you can assume we’ve read the play.) Just as arguments need supporting evidence, so evidence needs to be made part of an argument.
Does the paper wander off from its stated topic into irrelevant material?
Does each paragraph have a clear focus, or does it include material that does not belong there? Could that material go better in another place, or should it be cut?
Is there a logical order or reasonable flow to the series of points made in the paper? (Could you make an outline of this paper?) Or does it jump disconnectedly from one topic to another, piling up a random bunch of ideas, to the reader’s confusion?
Does the conclusion fit the paper? A conclusion should sum up but without repeating what you said at the beginning. Answer: “So what?” What have you shown, or what insight have you gained, or what does this help us understand? Again: avoid hype and wild generalizations, but do broaden out to address the significance or implications of what you have said.
Spelling, word usage, grammar, punctuation. Check the meanings of a word you are not sure about; wrong usage gives readers the wrong message. If you use another book or essay or website, make sure you cite your sources and use the correct forms. (Check any writing manual for footnote forms.) Proofread and correct careless errors.
Write as one normal person addressing another; avoid extra fancy or pedantic writing, as well as writing that is too slangy or “cute.” Also avoid a correct but awkward or dull style: e.g. repetition of a phrase or idea, or lots of sentences in a row with identical structure. It helps to read your paper aloud. If you can’t get through the sentence without a pause, there should probably be a comma where you took a breath. If something sounds clumsy or dull, make it sound better. Even silent readers are affected by what they “hear” mentally.