English 112
Essay 3: Critical Response to Drama

Plays to consider (found in “Materials”): Some elements to consider:
Trifles Conflict
Mulatto Setting
Los Vendidos Characters
Fences Stage Directions
Notes on a Marriage Symbol
Theme
Language
Actions

Assignment:
Select ONE of the options below as the focus of a 2-3 page essay (500-750 words), which supports a clearly stated thesis. Name the play(s) and the playwright(s) early in your essay, and give a brief synopsis of the play(s) so that the reader knows what you are going to discuss. Also, be sure to mention how each playwright uses at least some of these elements: /characters, setting, speech, action, structure, imagery, and/or symbolism in the plays effectively in your analysis. Remember, the options below are meant as a “starting point.” You must elaborate to analyze.

Your thesis should tell the reader these FOUR things: 1. what you are writing about; 2. which elements you will analyze; 3. why they are important to the meaning of the play/s; and 4. what you think the playwright(s) is/are trying to say about the human condition. DO NOT SPEND THE ENTIRE ESSAY JUST SUMMARIZING THE PLAY.

Think about the meaningfulness of these plays to help guide your analysis. Remember, plays are not to be read in a literal way. Plays are symbolic and meant to “represent” or symbolize something about the human condition. Your job is to analyze what the meaning is in your essay.

*Use at least 1-2 secondary sources to help support your thesis. At least one source should be an academic source (from the library databases). Proper MLA citation and effective integration of quotes from the secondary sources and the story are required. Write authoritatively in the third person; avoid editorializing and using terms such as “I think” and “I believe.” And, do not tell me what you “will do” in the paper. Just analyze the text.

According to DCCC policy, any plagiarized assignment will earn a grade of zero. No exceptions. Be sure that you check grammar and spelling before you submit the essay, too. There should be no fragments, run-ons, or comma splices in your essays, too. Finally, you should always use the Writing Center and “Smarthinking” during your drafting/writing process. View the English Rubric under “Materials” for a general guide for good writing.

OPTIONS (Select ONE):
1. Both Mulatto and Fences are plays that center on the problem of the “color line” and the conflicts dealing with race and representation in the U.S. How do these conflicts play out in each play? Are there any similarities? Are there any differences? What is meaningful about these similarities and differences? What is each playwright trying to say about race or ethnicity?

2. How does Los Vendidos treat the topic of “race and representation” (how race/ethnicity is represented in the plays) compared to Mulatto? What are the similarities and/or differences? You may discuss tragic elements and comedic elements as well as character, language, and dialect to analyze the topic of race/ethnicity and how it is represented in each play, respectively. What is each playwright trying to say about race or ethnicity?
3. Trifles presents us with the subject of gender (in)equality. How does the play do this and what are the outcomes? What do you think Glaspell is trying to tell us about gender roles? You may use an analysis of setting, character, language, action, and/or theme to address this option.

4. All four plays raise questions about human nature without providing clear answers. Choose TWO plays and discuss what aspects of human nature are explored, what the consequences are, and what the plays expect audiences to learn about human nature. What is the playwright trying to say?

5. All five plays explore the hardships of change (in our society, in our beliefs, in our culture, in our relationships, etc.) Choose TWO plays and discuss how the hardships of change shape the story. How do the playwrights explore these changes? Defend your choice with specific details and an analysis of some dramatic elements.

6. Discuss and compare the significance of stage directions and exposition in Fences and Trifles. How does each playwright use stage directions effectively to reveal meaning in both plays?

7. Discuss and analyze whatever element(s) you like about any one play. This option is open for you to interpret however you like, but your thesis must be clear.

*Remember, I DO NOT want to know what happens in the play(s). I obviously already know this. Instead, I want to know what you think the playwright is trying to say about gender and the human condition, about the “color line,” or race, and the human condition, about womanhood or gender, or change and the human condition, or anything else that analyzes (NOT summarizes) the plays in terms of what they say about the human condition.

*Consult the “English Rubric” posted in the “Materials” tab for a good idea of what constitutes an “Excellent” essay. Read the “First Draft Revision Checklist” handout.

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