A Lesson Before Dying and Fences Comparison/Contrast Essay

A Lesson Before Dying and Fences Comparison/Contrast Essay
Ernest Gaines’ novel A Lesson Before Dying and August Wilson’s play Fences both explore the conflicts,
tensions, and struggles of the African-American community before and after the Civil Rights movement. Each
text focuses on a prominent African-American male who must navigate the stereotypes he faces from the
outside white world as well as expectations from his own family and community.
Your ultimate goal is to compose an essay of 3-5 pages using MLA format in which you analyze one point of
comparison or contrast between the novel and the play. That specific point is completely up to you and
should demonstrate a depth of thought and level of sophisticated analysis characteristic of Advanced
Placement students. To help you out, you may consider any of the following topics, though you should not be
limited by them:
 The role of the women in each text
 The way in which each text frames the idea of manhood, specifically what it means to be an AfricanAmerican male
 The significance of specific “words,” and how these words are used as tools for humiliation
 The role of the tragic hero—and how each main character fits with the classical model of the tragic
 The role of faith and the significance of biblical allusions
 The theme of obligation and commitment
 The role of the white man and his influence on the African-American community in the text
 The significance of the setting—A Lesson Before Dying is set primarily in the jail and in the
church/school house whereas Fences happens almost exclusively in Troy Maxson’s front yard.
You will complete this assignment in several parts.
To begin, you and your group will meet once a week for three weeks to brainstorm various points of
comparison and contrast between the novel and the play. As we read through the play Fences in class and you
read through the novel A Lesson Before Dying at home, these brainstorming/discussion sessions with your
group members will be a chance to digest the content of each text, as well as to thoroughly analyze and
dissect points of comparison. Your group may find that you always gravitate toward a certain few issues, and
that is fine; the purpose is to maintain an ongoing conversation about the ways in which the two texts
compare. Your group will record its ideas on a Padlet page that you can add to throughout the week as you
are reading on your own.
Once we have finished each text, you will draft a precise thesis statement that clearly states a point of
comparison or contrast between each of the two texts. You will post that thesis statement to my blog, where
your classmates and I will provide you with feedback on your thesis statement.
Finally, you will use Google Docs to create and then access a rich, rough draft of your essay in class on the
school laptops on the designated Writing Workshop date, which is tentatively scheduled for November 20.
During this time, you will share your document with your classmates who will then use our focused writing
workshop to comment on and edit your paper for specific purposes. The final draft will be due one week later
and will count as a major test grade.