EWRT 1A - De Anza College

J. Quigley
Winter 2015
Literary Analysis and Social Argumentation:
August Wilson’s play Fences
Develop a cohesive critical analysis of one central question or observation in August
Wilson’s play Fences. Decide if you want to focus your writing on a literary analysis of
the text (like metaphor), a critical analysis of the historical/social significance (like the
significance of 1957 in American history), or some combination of the two (like how
Troy’s generation works to define his characterization). A critical essay requires focusing
on a specific idea about the text and carefully building an argument (THESIS) to prove
this idea with the identification and analysis of textual elements. Your analysis must use
textual evidence (minimum of 4 quotes) to support your thinking. You will apply the
analytical tools and literary/critical terms employed in class discussion to establish,
structure, develop, and prove your argument. Remember, your THESIS should be
specific and focused, and all of your thinking and evidence will work to support it in a
unified and well-developed fashion. Use your voice and own style. Please be original and
creative. Think deeply about the text and your ideas to avoid general observations or
Topics Suggestions:
1. The historical significance of the setting of 1957 in American social and political
landscape (also consider 1965 in Act 2, Scene 5) in connection to
characterization, conflict, and/or themes.
2. Characterization (of any character, but especially Troy, “you gotta take the
crookeds with the straights”; think about his foils and doppelgangers. Or consider
the characterization of Gabriel or Bono or Rose or a collective, like the woman
characters or Troy’s 3 children)
3. Generational constructions within the play. 4 generations of an African American
family. Consider the exchanges between fathers/sons and how history
(slavery/post-slavery ideology, civil rights movement/tv generation) influences
character and understanding of the world, power/value systems.
4. Constructions of Voice. Consider how Troy uses voice, theme of
gossip/community, porch as setting, storytelling, politics, Naylor’s article.
5. Personification of Death (connections to Troy, baseball, St. Peter, Gabriel, power,
fear, faith, heaven/hell, devil/angel, savior/martyr, messenger, regret)
6. Develop your topic around a theme. Consider the following themes from our class
discussion: music, creating change, drinking/escapism, lies/secrets, racism, the
“American dream,” religion, work/labor, love as duty, responsibility, friendship,
generational pain, justice, agriculture vs. industrialization, socioeconomic class,
loyalty, love, driving vs. collecting, land as value, insider vs. outsider, betrayal
7. Develop your topic around a metaphor: fences, garbage, baseball, land
We’ll generate thesis statements in class to help give more detail and explanation
for each topic option.
1. 4-5 typed, size 12 font, double-spaced, stapled pages with minimum of 6 full
paragraphs (INTRODUCTION, CONCLUSION, and at least 4 PIEs)
2. THESIS makes an analytical or critical argument about the text(s) that
demonstrates cause and effect.
3. ORGANIZATION (relationship between the thesis and the analysis, relationship
between evidence and thinking, and paragraph cohesion). Consider both macro
organization (overall essay movement to prove thesis) and micro organization
(sentence to sentence flow and paragraph focus).
4. DEVELOPMENT (detailed analytical thinking in response to quotes and ideas
about and within the text; application of literary and critical terms; at least 4
quotes following MLA format)
5. WRITING (consider voice, style, sentence variety and construction)
Supportive Resources:
1. Quigley’s Office Hours (Tue and Thur 2-3 and by appt)
2. WRC drop-in tutoring (ATC 309)
3. Individual writer self-reflection. Review previous essay and consider how this
essay/process can be an improvement and opportunity for growth.
Writing Due Dates:
Typed outline: Thesis, 4 Points, and 4 Quotes OR 1 page typed Draft with working
Thesis: Wednesday (2/11/15) **failure to bring a outline or draft and participate in
peer review will lower your grade for your final essay by 10%
Final Draft: Wednesday (2/11/15)